Friday, September 6, 2019

Feel Good Story! Follow-Up on 2010 Miracle Elephant Birth at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia

I was doing something totally unrelated (sort of - elephants are ALWAYS related to chess because of the game's ancient origins, both in one of the pieces (the Elephant, which became the Rook in some places in modern Indian chess and evolved into the Bishop in western chess), and the fact that early gaming pieces were often carved out of elephant tusks, when I came across this 2010 blog entry.

It was what started out as a tragic story of a 22-months long pregnancy that ended in a dead baby elephant, trapped inside its mother's womb and birth canal because it was a "feet first" delivery.  The veterinarians had determined there was no way for them to be able to turn the baby to try to deliver it, and a Caesarian section birth was determined to be too risky to the mother elephant.  But lo and behold, two days after the death of the fetus had been announced as determined by an ultrasound that did not detect a fetal heart beat, very early in the morning one of the zoo keepers doing a routine check on the elephants discovered that the mother elephant, Porntip, had not only been delivered after six days of hard labor, but the calf was alive!

See the second story listed, containing  citations to several articles about the declared death of the unborn baby elephant and its subsequent miracle birth, under "Isis Interregnum" posted in 2010.  You can find some early photos of the miracle baby elephant from later in March, 2010 at Zoo Borns

So happy to report that the little male "calf that could," whom zookeepers named "Mr. Shuffles" after he was born because he had a little trouble getting his gait straight at first, was named Pathi Harn (meaning "Miracle") after a naming contest and is now 9 years old!  

He's led a very interesting life thus far.  In October 2012 when he was just 2 1/2 years old, he pinned a female zoo keeper against a post, severely injuring her.  Interestingly, the injured zoo keeper explained in a later interview what had happened and it appears that she did not blame the "challenge" to any malice or bad behavior on the part of Pathi Harn.  Crushed Taronga Zoo Elephant Keeper Reveals Her Ordeal (November 23, 2012).  

In 2014, Pathi Harn along with his mother, Porntip, her sister elephant, Thong Dee, and Pathi Harn's bosom buddy, Luk Chai, another young male Asian elephant born a few months before he was, were transferred to a sister zoo in Dubbo from Taronga Zoo in Sydney.  The article disclosed that after the crushing incident of the zookeeper in 2012, tests done on Pathi Harn revealed an unusually high level of testosterone in his system. Taronga Zoo to relocate Four Asian Elephants to Dubbo to Ease Overcrowding (July 24, 2014).  

Senior elephant keeper Lucy Melo pictured back at work with Pathi Harn, the young male that pinned her to a pole. Picture: Jo Clow

Asian male elephants typically don't enter puberty until between 8 and 13 years of age according to this article from the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute:

Male elephants typically leave the herd when they reach puberty, between the ages of 8 and 13. This is often a gradual process, driven by the males' competitive and independent nature and the females' lack of tolerance for their aggressive behavior. Young males tend to form loose bachelor herds, sometimes following female herds or foraging alone. As males age, they typically become more competitive and spend more time alone.
Reproduction and Development
Wild males and females reach sexual maturity between 8 and 13 years of age. Females usually have their first birth in their mid-teens. Behavioral studies tell us that males are unlikely to father a calf until they are in their 30s, when they are best able to compete with older, larger males. By about the age of 30, most healthy males begin to experience a regular period of heightened sexual and aggressive activity called musth.
Musth is a massive rush of testosterone that makes males aggressive and competitive. It also makes them especially attractive to females in estrus. 

Now that is interesting.  It so happens that on the day the female zookeeper's authority was "challenged" by Pathi Horn, he had had an encounter with an older female elephant who happened to be in estrus.  It seems difficult to believe that at only 2 1/2 years of age he would be going into puberty, but what else explains the rush of testosterone in his system that led to his challenging and aggressive behavior toward both the older female elephant and his female zookeeper?  

Porntip, Pathi Harn's mom, gave birth to her second calf, a female, in June 2018:  "Elephant Calf Birth Heralds Future Breeding Success." 

I expect at some point, if I remember to check, I'll be reading a story about Pathi Horn fathering his first calf!  

Thursday, September 5, 2019

New Genetic Research Information Released in India Stirs Controversy With Hindu Nationalists

There's "de Nile," and then there's denial, Denial and racist/bigot DENIAL that refuses to accept reality confirmed by independent evidence from elsewhere. 

From The Atlantic Magazine Online

A Burst of Clues to South Asians’ Genetic Ancestry
 A tiny ear bone from more than 4,000 years ago is shaping the story of migration and heritage in India. 

September 5, 2019

The climate of South Asia is not kind to ancient DNA. It is hot and it rains. In monsoon season, water seeps into ancient bones in the ground, degrading the old genetic material. So by the time archeologists and geneticists finally got DNA out of a tiny ear bone from a 4,000-plus-year-old skeleton, they had already tried dozens of samples—all from cemeteries of the mysterious Indus Valley civilization, all without any success.

Burial I6113 was the only one that yielded ancient DNA from the Indus Valley civilization.(VASANT SHINDE)

The Indus Valley civilization, also known as the Harappan civilization, flourished 4,000 years ago in what is now India and Pakistan. It surpassed its contemporaries, Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, in size. Its trade routes stretched thousands of miles. It had agriculture and planned cities and sewage systems. And then, it disappeared. “The Indus Valley civilization has been an enigma for South Asians. We read about it in our textbooks,” says Priya Moorjani, a computational biologist at the University of California at Berkeley. “The end of the civilization was quite mysterious.” No one alive today is sure who the people of the Indus Valley civilization were or where they went.
A pair of newly published papers use ancient DNA to shed light on the Indus Valley civilization and the entire history of people in South and Central Asia. The first study is a sweeping collection of 523 genomes—300 to 12,000 years old—from a region spanned by Iran, Russia, and India. By comparing the results with modern South Asians’ genomes, the study showed that South Asians today descended from a mix of local hunter-gatherers, Iranian-related groups, and steppe pastoralists who came by way of Central Asia. It’s the largest number of ancient genomes reported in a single paper, all made possible by an ancient DNA “factory” the geneticist David Reich has built at Harvard. (Moorjani completed her doctorate in Reich’s lab and is a co-author on this paper.)

The second study focuses on just a single genome from the Indus Valley civilization: I6113, a woman who died more than 4,000 years ago. Her skeleton was the only one—out of more than 100 samples the researchers tested from 10 different Indus Valley–civilization sites—that yielded ancient DNA, but even then it was contaminated and of poor quality. “We had to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze the sample really hard, more than we’ve done in any other sample we’ve ever tried,” says Reich, who is also a senior author of the second paper. The team ultimately tried to sequence DNA from I6113’s ear bone more than 100 times, each time yielding a tiny dribble of genetic data. That I6113 gets her own paper is a testament to both the technical difficulty of sequencing her DNA and the importance of the Indus Valley civilization. Even before publication, rumors were swirling in India about what the ancient DNA would show, and how it would play into the politics of the Hindu-nationalist ruling party.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Drought in Spain Reveals Ancient "Stonehenge-Like" Standing Stones

From Euro Weekly News (Spain)

5000-Year-Old Temple Emerges from receding waters in Spain

Christina Hogdson
August 26, 2019

Drought reveals long lost Spanish Stonehenge in Caceres CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons
Receding waters in a reservoir outside Peraleda de la Mata in Cáceres, Spain, have revealed an ancient Bronze Age stone structure dating to the second and third millennium BC and likened to England’s Stonehenge.
There are 144 standing stones in total, many decorated with carvings of serpents and some exceeding two metres high. The primary reason it resembles England’s Stonehenge, is that both sites are thought to have been temples of sun worship.
The sight was originally unearthed by the Romans but then greatly neglected until the 1920s when Hugo Obermaier, a German priest and archaeologist, dedicated two years to excavating the stones. However the site was submerged after a dam was built in 1963 during the Franco-era to create a new water reservoir.
This summer’s excruciating heat has caused the water level of the reservoir in Extremadura to recede more than usual, thus exposing the historic site of Guadalperal. Confirming to the locals the legend about buried treasure in the area.
There are now proposals to shift the archaeological wonder from its current spot on the bed of the River Tagus to the banks.
The Junta de Extremadura is currently deciding on the site’s future.

Investigatory Excavations in Preparation for Widening Roadway in Central France Reveals Menhir Arrangement

This is interesting.  I do wonder if the INRAP (l'Institut National de Recherches Arche'ologiques Pre'ventives) will be able to give us a better range of age for the arrangement of menhirs and also date the cairn burial that appears to be enclosed by two more or less matching "sides" of the menhir arrangement.

Story at The Connexion, French News and Views
August 27, 2019

Rare prehistoric stones discovered in central France

Around 30 prehistoric monolith stones and one human skeleton - which could date back as far as 6,000 BC - have been found in central France, with the discovery hailed as the first of its kind in the region.
The 150-metre-long area was discovered during routine preventative excavations ahead of the widening of the A75 motorway, near Veyre-Monton, between Clermont-Ferrand and Issoire, in Puy-de-Dôme (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes).
Source:  (Article translated automatically using Google translator)

The findings were confirmed as prehistoric by archaeological research body l'Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives (INRAP).
In a press release, it said: “This is the first time that such structures, [standing stones known as] menhirs, have come to light in Auvergne, and more widely in the centre of France.”
INRAP has said that there appear to be few traces left among the stones to help with dating them precisely, but the institute is now planning a series of analyses.
Early estimates suggest that the findings could date back to the Neolithic era (New Stone Age) or the Bronze Age - from anywhere between 6,000 to 1,000 BC.
The stones measure 1m by 1.60m, and are “spread out across 150 metres across the excavation, and likely beyond it”, researchers said. They are in a north-south formation, and are in the style of “large, megalithic, Armorican monuments”.
In the same way as those found in Carnac (Morbihan), the monuments have “an impressive layout”, with the largest stones at the top of the slope towards the north, and the smallest, closer together and more towards the south.
One stone is more “sculpted”, and is “largely anthropomorphic”, researchers added.
The statement said: “This ‘statue’ is the only example [of its kind] known in the Auvergne. It has a rounded head, placed on rough shoulders, and shows two small breasts.”
Source:  Um, not sure those
look like two "small breasts" to me - and I sure don't see even a suggestion of what appears to be a "head" anywhere - but if this is, indeed, the case, doesn't this point to some kind of link with a Goddess or fertility?  

The excavation also revealed a burial ground [My Note: stone covered cairn], with the remains of a tall man, which had been covered with stone that was 14 metres long and 6.5 metres wide.
The statement continued: “In the same way as other monuments, such as Belz in the Morbihan, the menhirs of Veyre-Monton were taken down, to make them disappear from the countryside. They were pushed into large pits, sometimes damaged or covered in soil…[and] deliberately erased from the countryside.
“They were the object of iconoclastic acts; a sort of condemnation that may be linked to a change of community or of beliefs.” [My Note:  I have a problem with this assumption that the menhirs and cairn were deliberately buried because "beliefs changed."  If that had been the case and the locals either no longer believed, or others who had come into the area and taken over never believed, that the site was somehow "sacred," why would they go through so much trouble to evidently CAREFULLY BURY THE SITE IN SITU other than placing the erect menhirs flat on the ground?  Why wouldn't they have not only knocked down the stones, but taken them out of their pattern and/or hauled them away to use in other buildings, etc.? And why was the cairn left intact if it was just an "old PAGAN burial" that had no special significance?  For all they (or we) know, the locals may have flattened and buried the stones at the site to hide them from encroaching invaders, or various religious cults or even the Roman Catholics, not wanting to upset the ancient Goddesses and/or Gods to whom the site was dedicated, nor disturb the spirit of whoever that tall man was who was buried in the cairn!  
The photos came from a Google-translated article (original is in French) from Franceinfo:culture updated August 26, 2019.  Despite the rather clumsy translation, I think this article gives a clearer picture of the importance of the site.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Sarcophagus of Queen Ta wisrt (Tausert) to Go On Display at Luxor Museum

Boy oh boy, as Isis often says, the guys sure do like to do the old switcheroo when it suits their purposes.  In this case, they sure did do a number when it comes to a female being the solely ruling Pharaoh.  One dude even changed the gender of Ta wisrt (Tausert) from female to male - not kidding!  Read on.

From "SEE Egy" online.

Ali Abu Dashish
August 31, 2019

More than two decades following its discovery, the Ministry of Antiquities will exhibit, for the first time, the sarcophagus of Queen Ta wisrt, the last queen of the 19th dynasty, at Luxor Museum after being transferred from the Tomb of Bay (KV13), where it was discovered.
Ta wisrt's sarcophagus.  
Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Mostafa Waziri, said that the transfer took place yesterday evening after the approval of the Permanent Committee of Ancient Egyptian Antiquities and amid security measures by the Tourism and Antiquities Police and under the supervision of a team of archaeologists.
Fathi Yassin, Director General of Qurna Antiquities, revealed that the sarcophagus is made of pink granite and is decorated with a collection of drawings depicting the four protective gods and the four sons of Horus.
The sarcophagus, discovered by German archaeologist Alten Müller in the tomb of King Bay, near Queen Twosret ‘s tomb, was reused by King Ramesses III’s son.
The sarcophagus is 280 cm long, 120 cm wide and 150 cm high. It weighs 6 tons.
This wonderful museum has a well-chosen and brilliantly displayed and explained collection of antiquities dating from the end of the Old Kingdom right through to the Mamluk period, mostly gathered from the Theban temples and necropolis. The ticket price puts off many, but don’t let that stop you: this is one of the most rewarding sights in Luxor and one of the best museums in Egypt.
Contributed by Basant Ahmed
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it.  Egypt honoring and acknowledging an ancient female Pharaoh who ruled during the time the Greeks were attacking Troy.
But but but --  let's talk about what was LEFT OUT from this presumably very important announcement regarding the actual HERstory of this female Pharaoh.
In other words, it pays to do supplementary research when you aren't familiar with the subject, in this case, the female Pharaoh I'd never heard of, Ta wisrt.  According to verifiable sources at Wikipedia, "Twosret" as she is called there, declared herself Pharaoh in her own name after the death of her assumed step-son, Siptah, who was 10 or 11 when he assumed the throne of Egypt after the death of Seti II.  It is not certain whether Seti II was Siptah's biological father. (Why not???  They have DNA tests in Egypt.  Don't they have the bodies of these Pharaohs?)  
Whoever Siptah's father may have been, Siptah died at about age 16.  He evidently had a severely crippled and deformed left foot as a result of surviving polio.  I tell you folks, I read over the Wikipedia entries on these people several times (predecessors and successors), and damn it, I haven't yet figured out who was descended from who or who was married to who and who may have been who's child!   In any event, Ta wisrt, the assumed "second wife of Seti II" and Setti II's Chancellor Bay were named as co-regents of Siptah.  
The question of who Siptah's mother was thus reigns supreme and it amazes me that even today, it is so often ignored when we KNOW that Egypt's rulers were chosen through matrilineal succession.  THAT'S WHY IT WAS SO IMPORTANT FOR MALE PHARAOHS TO HAVE CHILDREN WITH A CLOSE FEMALE RELATIVE - TO SECURE HIS LINE THROUGH HER!  Some researchers say Siptah's mother was a concubine from Canaan and he had reddish colored hair (presumably inherited from his mother?).  Being a foreign concubine presumably would have disqualified the concubine's son from assuming the throne (but did it, really???)   Another researcher claims nope, Siptah's mother was actually one of the wives of Ramses II (making Ramses II's presumed child, therefore, a legitimate successor to a childless predecessor).  Keep in mind that in ancient Egypt, the legitimacy of the Pharaoh was determined by who the mother was at least (I assume) until the conquest of the Egyptians by the Persians in the 6th century BCE.  Thus, it was not a favored son the reigning Pharaoh may have preferred who was always ultimately declared the successor.  Sometimes, however, bloody insurrections and wars arose when various factions among multiple queens, female relatives and even some concubines, backed by ambititious pretenders to the throne, took sides and sometimes advanced their own separate agendas - and son - as the next heir to the throne.  
Ta wisrt was said to have reigned for 6 or more years, but she evidently assumed to herself six years that her step-son Siptah reigned before his death at age 16.  The most recent archaeological finds suggest that she may have reigned in her own right for at least 2 years, and possible some months longer after that, before she either died from natural causes thus ending her reign - or presumably was killed during a civil war mounted by a challenger to her throne (or perhaps committed suicide after it became clear that her challenger was in sight of her last stronghold), and Seknakhte assumed the throne.  He didn't enjoy it very long however, HA!  
In true jerk style, Seknakhte and his heirs undertook some major reconstruction of the list of Egyptian Pharaohs (the King's List).  As Goddesschess's late Don McLean used to say, history is written by the victors.  No wonder none of this makes any fricking sense!
And the part about changing Ta wisrt's gender from female to male:  "She is recorded in Manetho's Epitome as a certain Thuoris, who in Homer is called Polybus, husband of Alcandra, and in whose time Troy was taken.[2] "  FN 2:   J. Tyldesley, Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt, 2006, Thames & Hudson.  

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Chess Bling! Bling Bling Bling! And Yet More Bling!

Okay, so I was looking for some information regarding Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee in 1977 (I didn't find what I was looking for) when I came across this article and these knock-your-socks-off chess sets!  HOLY HATHOR!

From - I kid you not - "The Richest," an actual website.

10 Sets for the Rich
Christine Correctti
March 6, 2014

Scroll through and feast your eyes on the beautiful and unique chess sets in the article while watching the moths fly out of your wallet.

Here is the "cheap" version of the Silver Jubilee set, produced by Geoffrey Parker, "manufacturer of high end luxury goods, including games," made of sterling silver at a mere $77,880 back in 2014.  I've no idea what a set like this might be worth now, let alone the original which was stated in the article linked above as "priceless."  But, using the information below the image from the Geoffrey Parker website, the value of 50,000 GBP today is about $60,775 - a bargain compared to the 2014 price!

At the Geoffrey Parker website, you can find this set produced in sterling silver as well as other materials, ranging in price from 4,420 to 50,000 GBP.  I confess, I found the description confusing and am not sure if the price include the pieces, or merely one of several different options for the playing board!!!

The most expensive set in "10 Sets for the Rich" article was valued at $9.8 million called the Jewel Royale Chess Set, but no photo of the set was in the article.  It stated at the time that "a limited number of replicas" would be offered for sale in the near future at $26,000.  Sure, my monthly allowance.

So, now I'm having a good hearty laugh at the things people waste their money on.  Of course, if you can spend millions for a chess set, I guess you have money to burn on a cold winter's night - literally.  Here's the Jewel Royale Chess Set - by the way - this comes courtesy of an article at the appropriately named website Money Inc dot com (not joking).  Geesh.

Jewel Royale Chess Set
Jewel Royale Chess Set by Boodles for Jewel Royale.  
From "The Five Most Expensive Chess Sets Ever"
Nat Berman

Berman explained that the hoo ha about the set being worth $9.8 million was based on an error as to the value of one of the King pieces.  The actual cost of the set, custom-ordered, is $1,327,515. 

Personally, I like Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee set by Geoffrey Parker much better :)

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