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Stone block with mysterious 12,000-year-old engravings discovered at prehistoric hunting site

Archaeologists in France have uncovered a mysterious carved stone block at a prehistoric hunting site.

The stone was found during excavations at Angouleme in southwestern France.  A number of engravings have been carved into the sandstone, including horses, deer and an aurochs, an extinct species of wild cattle.

Drawings on the stone block. (Denis Gliksman, Inrap)

Drawings on the stone block. (Denis Gliksman, Inrap)

“The most visible engraving, that of a headless horse turned to the right, occupies half the surface,” according to a translated statement from French national archeological research organization Inrap. “The rump and the saddle follow the curves of the natural edge of the stone. Very fine incisions may suggest the coat”.

The area where the stone was found was used as a hunting site by the prehistoric Azilian culture. Other items discovered at the site include tools for stripping carcasses.

Side face of the sandstone block.

Side face of the sandstone block. (Denis Gliksman, Inrap)

Experts think that the stone is about 12,000 years old. More research will be done to precisely date and gain more information from the artifact.

Other mysterious stones have been grabbing attention in France. A village in Brittany, for example, recently offered a reward to anyone who can decipher a strange inscription on a centuries-old rock.

Last year, archaeologists announced the discovery of 12,000-year-old cave drawings in Eastern France.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and Madeline Farber contributed to this article.  Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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NASA releases first Pluto flyby images

NASAPlutoSurface.jpg

Closeup image of Pluto. (NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI)

NASA has released the first images taken during New Horizons’ historic flyby of dwarf planet Pluto.

“We have got a whole bunch of high-resolution observations safely on the spacecraft,” said New Horizons’ Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team Leader John Spencer, during a press conference at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, which is managing the mission. “We’re now focusing on small details on this amazing world.”

Related: New Horizons spacecraft makes historic Pluto flyby

NASA released its first closeup image of an area near Pluto’s equator Wednesday, which contains a range of mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet above the dwarf planet’s icy surface.

“These mountains are quite spectacular,” said Spencer.

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern compared the range to the Rocky Mountains, adding that they provide clues about Pluto’s geology. “The steep topography means that the bedrock that made these mountains must be of H20, water ice,” he said. “We can be really sure that the water is there in great abundance.”

The image was taken about an hour-and-a-half before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto, when the craft was 478,000 miles from the planet’s surface.

NASA also released an image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon, which clearly shows a swath of cliffs and troughs stretching about 600 miles across its surface.

“Charon blew our socks off when we had this new image today,” said New Horizons Deputy Project Scientist Cathy Olkin, during the press conference. “We have just been thrilled.”

Imaging obtained by New Horizons and transmitted to Earth early Wednesday morning also sheds light on Pluto’s outermost moon Hydra. Since its discovery in 2005, Hydra has been known only as a fuzzy dot of uncertain shape, size, and reflectivity, according to NASA, although New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) reveals the moon’s irregularly shaped body.

The spacecraft made its flyby Tuesday, passing within 7,750 miles of Pluto’s surface, roughly the distance between New York and Mumbai.

Confirmation of the successful flyby came late Tuesday, when New Horizons contacted scientists back on Earth, 3 billion miles from Pluto.

Pluto has fascinated astronomers since 1930, when it was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh using the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz. Some of Tombaugh’s ashes are aboard New Horizons.

New Horizons is the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far away from Earth, according to NASA.

The spacecraft’s flyby of Pluto and its five known moons provides valuable insight into the solar system’s Kuiper Belt, which contains icy objects that range in size from boulders to dwarf planets, NASA said. Kuiper Belt objects, such as Pluto, can preserve evidence about the early formation of the solar system

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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Futuristic cargo vessel looks to revolutionize shipping

  • Vindskip2.jpg

     (Copyright Lade AS)

Norwegian ship designer Lade AS has unveiled a futuristic new design for cargo vessels, which uses the ships’ hulls as a sail.

Inspired by sailboats and aerospace, the ‘Vindskip,’ with its hull shaped like a symmetrical air foil, is designed to use the wind for propulsion.  Lade AS says that the ship’s hull will generate aerodynamic lift, giving a pull in the ship’s direction.

The hybrid merchant vessel will also use a Liquid Natural Gas electric propulsion system, which takes the ship to the necessary speed to generate aerodynamic lift on its hull. Additionally, the Vindskip will employ a specialized computer program to analyze meteorological data and calculate the best sailing route based on available wind energy.

Terje Lade, manager of Lade AS, told FoxNews.com that the Vindskip concept is being tested using wind tunnels and computational fluid dynamics. Testing of a model in a water tank is scheduled to begin in April, he explained in an email. Lade AS plans to eventually license the Vindskip concept to shipping companies, ship consultants, and shipyards.

The Alesund-based company has already been awarded two patents for the hull’s ability to generate aerodynamic lift, which it describes as its Wind Power System.

Lade told FoxNews.com that the Vindskip development project will be finished by the fourth quarter of 2015, and estimates that engineering and construction will take approximately 2 to 3 years. “Our estimate is that it should be sailing in 2019,” he added.

The project has already attracted the attention of at least one shipping industry heavyweight. A spokesman for Wilhelmsen, one of Norway’s largest shipowners, told FoxNews.com that the company’s technical department has been involved in brainstorming related to the Vindskip, although there has been no formal involvement or investment in the project. “Some years back, our technical team developed our concept vessel (Orcelle) — and based on this we were invited into the Vindskip project,” he explained in an email.”Our vision is ‘shaping the maritime industry,’ and we value sharing some ‘futuristic’ thoughts and ideas on how shipping can develop some years ahead.”

LadeVindskip

Lade AS estimates that the Vindskip design could generate fuel savings of 60% and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% compared to a traditional ship. The designer says that the design is particularly well suited to a number of passenger and container vessels.

However, Chris Cheetham, founder of Soter Advisors, a fuel and energy risk management consultancy specializing in the shipping industry, said that a number of factors could impact potential savings. “What these designs will come down to is ‘how much does it really cost?'” he told FoxNews.com. “You have to relate that to the cost of building and charter rates for shipping.”

Cheetham cited the huge pullback in oil prices and the “inventory” of traditional ships that are already scheduled to be built as factors that companies will need to consider before licensing a revolutionary design such as the Vindskip.

Story updated from Jan. 19 with comments from Lade AS, Wilhelmsen, and Soter Advisors.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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