Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Water Wars: Coming to a Country Near You (Or Maybe Your Country)

China: As water demands grow sharply, supply is shrinking

China has 20 percent of the world's population, and 7 percent of its fresh water. As pressure mounts, officials are pushing conservation reforms such as reforestation and water taxes – and diverting water from the south to the north.

Christian Science Monitor

A 15-foot band of eroded red clay that surrounds Miyun Reservoir, one of Beijing’s largest sources of fresh water, serves as a stark reminder of the region’s severe water shortage.
Built 100 miles northeast of the capital in the 1960s, the reservoir has operated at less than a third of its capacity for years. A massive project now under way to divert water to Beijing from southern China will help alleviate demand, but protecting the reservoir from pollution remains a separate challenge.
China has 20 percent of the world’s population but only 7 percent of its fresh water – and it is quickly running out of the vital fluid.

Efforts to boost supply have provided temporary relief for major cities, but the central government is scrambling to preserve what water is left. Expanded conservation work, higher water prices, and new industrial regulations are on the table.
 
“The demand is growing but the supply is shrinking,” says Zhang Yan, program coordinator of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global environmental organization in Beijing. “There is just less and less water.”
 
Environmentalists and local authorities have promoted forest restoration as a key tool for conserving water. Trees and shrubs now cover upward of 70 percent of the Miyun watershed, a dramatic uptick from a half century ago, when forests covered less than 10 percent of the region. The plants help stave off erosion and improve the reservoir’s water quality by filtering out pesticides, fertilizers, and other toxic chemicals.
 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Human Sacrifice Alive and Well in - Nepal

Holy Hathor!

Nepal arrests 11 in suspected case of human sacrifice

AFP

Police have arrested 11 villagers on charges of murdering a 10-year-old boy in southwestern Nepal, an official said Sunday, in what villagers described as a case of human sacrifice.
 
Local media reports said the father of a sick teenager had last Tuesday lured away the 10-year-old, Jeevan Kohar, with a packet of biscuits and the promise of 50 rupees (50 cents).
 
The suspect then reportedly slit the child's throat on the advice of a shaman (traditional spiritual healer), who said his own son's health would improve if he committed the crime.
 
"We have arrested 11 people, including four women, for murdering a ten-year-old boy," said Nal Prasad Upadhyaya, police superintendent of Nawalparasi district where the incident took place.
 
"All the villagers say the boy was killed in a case of human sacrifice, because the suspects were superstitious and believed in witchcraft," Upadhyaya told AFP.
 
"But we cannot confirm anything until our investigations are completed," he said.
 
According to a report in The Himalayan Times, one of the suspects, who confessed to the crime, believed that his sick child was under the "spell of a ghost" who could only be "pacified with human flesh".
 
Shaman healers and mystics are a common presence in the Himalayan nation, especially in remote villages with poor access to healthcare.xxx

Monday, July 20, 2015

130,000 Year Old Neanderthal Eagle Talon Necklace

It just amazes me that this artefact gets a little blurb instead of the news-busting headlines it deserves. 

Source:  Archaeology Magazine

Neanderthal Necklace
Thursday, June 04, 2015
 
More than 100 years ago, eight eagle talons were excavated from a famous Neanderthal site called Krapina, and subsequently left in a drawer at the Croatian Natural History Museum in Zagreb. Davorka RadovĨic recently took over as curator, and she discovered the talons while reexamining the museum’s collections. She noticed several deep cut marks and evidence that the talons had been strung together as a necklace. The talons have been dated to about 130,000 years ago, predating the arrival of Homo sapiens in the area by about 50,000 years. The talon necklace is now thought to be the earliest known symbolic Neanderthal artifact.
 
Eagle talons from Neanderthal site, Krapina, Croatia
 
 
 

The Mystery of the Kitora Tomb

Source:  CNET

Mysterious ancient star chart shows foreign skies

The Kitora Tomb, located near the village of Asuka in Japan's Nara Prefecture, is known for gorgeous, colourful paintings at the four cardinal points of the compass. A black tortoise guards the north of the ancient tumulus, which has been standing since the seventh or eighth century. A red phoenix stands at the south, a white tiger at the west and a blue dragon at the east.

The ceiling of the tomb is decorated differently, with a map of the night sky, charting 68 constellations, with the stars picked out in gold leaf. Three concentric circles are drawn with vermilion, showing the movement of celestial objects, one of which is the sun.

According to Kazuhiko Miyajima, a professor at Doshisha University who studied the chart after the tomb was discovered in 1998, this makes it possibly the oldest astronomical chart of its kind in the world. It has designations for the horizon, equator and ecliptic circles, as well as recognisable patterns of stars.

While older depictions of the skies have been found in the west (the 17,300-year-old Lascaux cave painting, for example, shows Pleiades, Taurus, Orion and Aldebaran), most do not contain recognisable star patterns, or diagrams of astronomical phenomena.

One thing that has baffled researchers, however, is the area of sky the chart depicts.

Researchers Mitsuru Soma, an assistant professor of astronomy at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, and Tsuko Nakamura, a researcher of modern astronomy with Daito Bunka University's Institute of Oriental Studies, teamed up with Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs and Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties to calculate the location, reports the Ashanti Shimbun.

The two researchers worked separately, and determined that the sky as depicted in the Kitora Tomb chart was seen from China, from locations such as modern-day Xi'an and Luoyang.

The chart as annotated by University of Iowa research fellow Steve Renshaw.Steve Renshaw

They also determined that the chart showed the sky as it would have appeared several hundred years before the construction of the Kitora Tomb -- although they didn't agree on the number of years. Soma said that it shows the sky as it would have appeared between 240 and 520, while Nakamura said it would have appeared so between 120BC and 40BC.

Miyajima believes differently, extrapolating that the chart shows the sky as it would have appeared in 65BC, either from Pyongyang or Seoul, the capitals of North and South Korea respectively. In his 1999 lecture, he had said that the chart had probably come from Korea, but showed the sky in China.

*****************************************************************
 
So, sometime between 600 and 700 CE, while the Tang Dynasty was ascendant in China and cultural exchanges and trade flourished between China and many countries and kingdoms of the known world at the time, someone painted a depiction of an old astronomical chart on the Kitora Tomb.  Did the tomb's resident have strong ties to China?  Sadly, we can never know because the tomb was looted, evidently in ancient times, and not much was left behind.  Here is what Wikipedia says:

Fragments of a lacquered wooden coffin, torn apart when the tomb was robbed, lay 5 cm thick on the chamber floor, mixed with grave goods and human bone. A gilded bronze fitting and sword decorations were discovered, both executed with superbly inlaid patterns. Based upon analysis of the bone fragments and items found in the tomb, it is believed the interred was a middle-aged or older male of aristocratic background.

Drought Stricken Farmers Turn to Water Witchers

Fascinating article.  The comments by readers afterward are even more interesting.  Evidently, many of them tried a form of "dowsing" at one time and claim to have been successful, not claiming to have any special ability for the practice.

Source:  Yahoo News

Amid epic drought, California farmers turn to water witches

Rejected by scientists, dowsing is an ancient tradition that’s dying hard in the Central Valley’s parched fields

Yahoo News 
 
LINDSAY, Calif. — Vern Tassey doesn’t advertise. He’s never even had a business card. But here in California’s Central Valley, word has gotten around that he’s a man with “the gift,” and Tassey, a plainspoken, 76-year-old grandfather, has never been busier.
 
Farmers call him day and night — some from as far away as the outskirts of San Francisco and even across the state line in Nevada. They ask, sometimes even beg, him to come to their land. “Name your price,” one told him. But Tassey has so far declined. What he does has never been about money, he says, and he prefers to work closer to home.
 
And that’s where he was on a recent Wednesday morning, quietly marching along the edge of a bushy orange grove here in the heart of California’s citrus belt, where he’s lived nearly his entire life. Dressed in faded Wranglers, dusty work boots and an old cap, Tassey held in his hands a slender metal rod, which he clutched close to his chest and positioned outward like a sword as he slowly walked along the trees. Suddenly, the rod began to bounce up and down, as if it were possessed, and he quickly paused and scratched a spot in the dirt with his foot before continuing on.
 
A few feet away stood the Wollenmans — Guy, his brother Jody and their cousin Tommy — third-generation citrus farmers whose family maintains some of the oldest orange groves in the region. Like so many Central Valley farmers, their legacy is in danger — put at risk by California’s worst drought in decades. The lack of rain and snow runoff from the nearby Sierra Nevada has caused many of their wells to go dry. To save their hundreds of acres of trees, they’ll need to find new, deeper sources of water — and that’s where Tassey comes in.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Ride, Ride, Ride, Hitching a Ride...

This is just about the coolest thing I've ever seen:

Bird photographer Phoo Chan was in the first place at the right time to capture the moment a crow took a ride
atop a bald eagle in flight. Photo: Phoo Chan/Media Drum World

I didn't believe it at first, figuring it must be some kind of Photoshop thing or computer wizardry used to create the image, but the photographer is legit.  Here's the article

Check out the entire series of photos in The Daily Mail June 30, 2015 article - incredible! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Celtic Prince - or Princess? Fantastic Chariot Burial in France

Leave it to The Daily Mail to write about archaeological discoveries in a way that appeals to the unwashed masses, like moi :)

Is it Victor - or Victoria?  Or evidence of an ancient cross-dressing trans-gender person?  Photos and a video at the online article.

I posted the story a few months back.

Does France's 2,500-year-old royal tomb belong to a prince or princess? Stunning Celtic find complete with chariot and jewels leaves archaeologists baffled


  • Lavish tomb filled with bronze, silver and gold found near Lavau in France 
  • Archaeologists are split over whether the skeleton was a prince or princess
  • An elaborate solid gold torque and bracelets were still on the skeleton
  • The grave shows 'signs of masculinity' but the skeleton appears feminine



The remains of an ancient Celtic prince or princess found still wearing a solid gold torque and lavish bracelets in a grave filled with riches has left archaeologists baffled.

The 2,500 year old royal grave, which is thought to date to the fifth century BC, was discovered in Lavau, near Troyes, is thought to have belonged to a member of a Celtic royal family.  Lying at the centre of the tomb, the skeleton had been laid to rest inside an ornate two-wheeled chariot with a 580g (1.2lbs) golden torque decorated with elaborate winged monsters around its neck.

The Hallstatt Celts were a early Iron age culture that spread across most of northern Europe.



Pandyas - Roman Ancient Trade

Hola everyone!

This is a fascinating article.  I know nothing about this culture/empire - the Pandyas - so I checked out some information at Wikipedia, I always find Wiki helpful!  When I read the article and saw Tamil, I knew it was located on the east coast of India at the south of the continent.  Here is a map of Pandya territories c. 6th century BCE to 1345 CE, from Wikipedia:


So, I am assuming most of the trade was by sea, not across land.  It's a long way to Rome, wow!

Here's the article, from The Hindu online:

Uncovered: Pandyas-Romans trade link

  • S. ANNAMALAI

Updated: June 18, 2015 09:15 IST  

An ongoing excavation of a Sangam period habitation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is poised to throw more light on the flourishing trade of the Pandyas with the west and their rich culture, which was the envy of the Romans.

The Bengaluru-based Excavation Branch VI of the ASI has taken up the excavation at Keezhadi village, 12 km south east of Madurai, in Sivaganga district.  Into the third month, the exercise has already thrown up very interesting antiquities – glass/pearl/terracotta beads; terracotta figurines; grooved roof tiles and early historic pottery.

“This is the ASI’s major excavation in Tamil Nadu after Adichanallur,” says K. Amarnath Ramakrishnan, Superintending Archaeologist and director of the current excavation.

It was found to possess archaeological wealth “that may provide crucial evidence to understand the missing links of Iron Age to early historic period and subsequent cultural developments.”

The excavation area, a mound, referred to as ‘Pallichandai Thidal,’ has a circumference of 3.5 km and spans 80 acres. It is contiguous to ancient settlements like Konthagai and Manalur. “We chose the mound raising about one to 2.5 metres above the ground level as it is relatively undisturbed,” says Mr. Amarnath. “We have found the finest variety of black and red ware bowls at the site,” says M. Rajesh, assistant archaeologist.
The most interesting findings in the 32 quadrants dug up so far are the damaged brick structures, including walls. The bricks are unique to early historic period and they measure 33 cm in length, 21 cm in breadth and five cm in height.

Noted epigraphist and domain expert for the excavation, V. Vedachalam, attributes the age of the remains to third century BCE to third CE. “The earthenware contains Tamil Brahmi script. The black and red pottery belongs to the Sangam period. The bricks belong to early historic period and similar ones were found in Kaviripoompattinam, Woriyur, Alagankulam and Korkai,” he says.

The Roman ware found at the site supplement the historical references to a flourishing trade between the Pandya kingdom and the Roman Empire. Historically, these settlements would have been part of Kuntidevi Chaturvedimangalam, named after a Pandya queen.

The first major excavation of a habitation undertaken by the ASI in south Tamil Nadu will go into 2016. “The Director (Exploration and Excavation), ASI, Syed Jamal Hasan, who visited the site on May 15, was impressed with the findings,” says Mr. Amarnath.

The ASI is likely to extend the period of excavation by a year. The final report will be released after corroborating the antiquities with existing evidence and conducting various scientific analyses.  Research scholars from the University of Madras and Government Arts College, Krishnagiri, assist the ASI team in the excavation.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Chess Camp in Sheboygan

Hola!

On June 11th was the first one-day chess camp sponsored by Goddesschess and hosted by the Sheboygan Area Chess Club and Glas Coffee House.  It was a resounding success!

Here are some photos posted by my chess buddy, Ellen Wanek, who worked tirelessly to put together, organize and generally honcho the chess camp.  Thanks and gratitude to Ellen, the Glas Coffee House for providing lovely space for the chess camp, the Ulriches, Richard Martin, and all who provided invaluable assistance, time and effort in making this great event come together!

We made a special effort to attract chess femmes.  Space was limited and actually filled to over-flowing with parents and observers as well as the chessplayers of both genders who attended the camp, which was taught by National Masters Rachel Ulrich and Richard Martin.


Well, I'm not sure why some of the photos are looking a little wonky.  Above, front row on the right, is NM Rachel Ulrich, next to her is Ellen Wanek, and most of the femmes who attended the chess camp are gathered around.  Thanks for the cool photos, Ellen!



NM Rachel Ulrich teaching one of the sessions.
NM Rachel Ulrich's simul.
NM Richard Martin's simul. 
We hope to have a 2016 chess camp, we're working on it, fingers crossed it comes together!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mystery Group Forms to Track Down Looted Antiquities

Sounds like a Tom Clancy novel.  Where are Emily Thorne and Nolan Ross when we need them?

Mystery men hunt cultural past stolen by ISIL

Jonathan Gornall
 Updated: May 28, 2015 01:51 PM

ISIL’s destruction of antiquities in Syria and Iraq has prompted a secretive organisation to track and restore looted artefacts, while another international group wants to virtually recreate heritage lost to theft and vandalism.
It has no headquarters, no website, and no spokespersons prepared to see their real names in print or online. Even the title of the secretive private organisation that has recently sprung up in response to the grave threat posed by ISIL to the cultural treasures of Syria and Iraq, has an anodyne feel to it.
But there is nothing dull about the self-imposed mission of the Committee for Shared Culture (CSC), a group of like-minded people who have come together to track down and recover the ancient artefacts that are – they fear – disappearing from archaeological sites throughout Iraq and Syria every day.
“We are a group of individuals who share a common interest in the ancient world,” says John Smith, a former classics student who spent some years working in the UAE and spoke on condition of anonymity.
“I have to consider the safety of my family,” he says.

It's Settled (For Now)! Modern Man Left Africa Through Egypt

When we are still in the infancy of genetic research, it continues to amaze me the conclusions scientists are so eager to assert!  As far as I'm concerned, based on the evidence the verdict is still undecided.

Article at Phys Org (summary below)
May 28, 2015

Humans migrated north, rather than south, in the main successful migration from Cradle of Humankind


New research suggests that European and Asian (Eurasian) peoples originated when early Africans moved north - through the region that is now Egypt - to expand into the rest of the world. The findings, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, answer a long-standing question as to whether early humans emerged from Africa by a route via Egypt, or via Ethiopia.

 The extensive public catalogue of the genetic diversity in Ethiopian and Egyptian populations developed for the project also now provides a valuable, freely available, reference panel for future medical and anthropological studies in these areas.

 Two geographically plausible routes have been proposed for humans to emerge from Africa: through the current Egypt and Sinai (Northern Route), or through Ethiopia, the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Arabian Peninsula (Southern Route). Some lines of evidence have previously favoured one, some the other.

 "The most exciting consequence of our results is that we draw back the veil that has been hiding an episode in the history of all Eurasians, improving the understanding of billions of people of their evolutionary history," says Dr Luca Pagani, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and University of Cambridge. "It is exciting that, in our genomic era, the DNA of living people allows us to explore and understand events as ancient as 60,000 years ago."

The team produced whole-genome sequences from 225 people from modern Egypt and Ethiopia. In previous studies, they and others have shown that these modern populations have been subject to gene flow from West Asian populations, so they excluded the Eurasian contribution to the genomes of the modern African people.

 The remaining masked genomic regions from Egyptian samples were more similar to non-African samples and present in higher frequencies outside Africa than the masked Ethiopian genomic regions, pointing to Egypt as the more likely gateway in the exodus to the rest of the world.

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