(Left to right): Jon Cairns; Donald Bliss and Sriram Subramaniam, NIH; ARCTIC IMAGES/Alamy Stock Photo

Top stories: The fate of the Canaanites, lava’s likely origins, and the hidden history of old books

Ancient DNA reveals fate of the mysterious Canaanites

When the pharaohs ruled Egypt and the ancient Greeks built their first cities, a mysterious people called the Canaanites dominated the Near East. Yet the Canaanites left no surviving written records, leaving researchers to piece together their history from secondhand sources. One of those is the Bible’s Old Testament, which suggests a grisly end for many Canaanites: After the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, God ordered them to destroy Canaan and its people (though other passages suggest some may have survived). Now, ancient DNA recovered from five Canaanite skeletons suggests that these people survived to contribute their genes to millions of people living today.

Sci-Hub’s cache of pirated papers is so big, subscription journals are doomed, data analyst suggests

There is no doubt that Sci-Hub, the infamous—and, according to a U.S. court, illegal—online repository of pirated research papers, is enormously popular. But just how enormous is its repository? New findings indicate that Sci-Hub can instantly provide access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles. For research papers protected by a paywall, Sci-Hub’s reach is greater still, with instant access to 85% of all papers published in subscription journals. For some major publishers, such as Elsevier, more than 97% of their catalog of journal articles is being stored on Sci-Hub’s servers—meaning they can be accessed there for free.

What can science learn from a child who has controlled HIV without drugs for more than 8 years?

An HIV-infected child in South Africa who is controlling the virus without antiretroviral (ARV) drugs has reinvigorated the push to find ways to allow people to control the virus for prolonged periods without treatment. The child was born to an HIV-infected mother and was given ARVs starting at 8 weeks old; the treatment was stopped at 40 weeks as part of a controlled clinical trial. Now, more than 8.5 years later, the virus hasn't rebounded and the child is doing fine, researchers reported this week at an international AIDS conference. That doesn't mean the HIV infection has been cured, but the case may offer fresh clues to what makes long-term remission possible.

Goats, bookworms, a monk’s kiss: Biologists reveal the hidden history of ancient gospels

At Oxford University's historic Bodleian Libraries, books are such privileged objects that scholars are forbidden to bring in pens, purses, sharp objects, or drinks. But scientists have recently figured out how to sample books for ancient DNA and proteins without damaging them. Such studies are revealing the organisms that interacted with ancient books, from the animals whose skins are preserved as parchment to the bookworms and people who once lingered over the pages. Researchers can even isolate the microbes spewed on manuscripts when people kissed, coughed, or sneezed.

A molten puddle deep under Iceland may reveal where volcanoes get their lava

On the boundary between Earth’s core and its mantle sit 10 to 20 blobs of rock that are nothing like the rest of our world’s subterranean realm. For more than 2 decades, scientists have pondered the nature of these mysterious regions, called ultralow-velocity zones. Now, researchers examining one nearly 3000 kilometers below Iceland finally have an answer: They may be the partially molten roots of plumes of hot rock that slowly rise through the mantle to feed volcanoes.