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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The mysterious past, October, 2009

Today:

  1. The mysterious glaciers that grew when Asia heated up
  2. Tiny ancient shells point to earliest fashion trend
  3. California's Channel Islands hold evidence of Clovis-age comets
  4. Winning the ultimate battle: How humans could end war
  5. A prehistoric ‘runway’ used by flying reptiles
  6. Europe’s oldest stone hand axes emerge in Spain
A very excitng post - especially articles 1, 3 and 5! Enjoy!

The mysterious glaciers that grew when Asia heated up

August 27th, 2009

Long ago a group of Himalayan glaciers grew by several kilometers even while Central Asia's climate warmed up to six degrees Celsius. BYU professor Summer Rupper's analysis attributes much of the glacial growth to increased cloudiness and wind. Rupper is lending her glacier expertise to a project that will forecast the Indus River system's water supply for the coming decades.

That's why a collection of glaciers in the Southeast Himalayas stymies those who know what they did 9,000 years ago. While most other Central Asian glaciers retreated under hotter summer temperatures, this group of glaciers advanced from one to six kilometers.

As Central Asia's summer climate warmed as much as 6 degrees Celsius, shifting weather patterns brought more clouds to the Southeast Himalayas. The additional shade created a pocket of cooler temperatures.

Temperatures also dropped when higher winds spurred more evaporation in this typically humid area.

The findings come from a framework Rupper developed as an alternative to the notion that glaciers form and melt in direct proportion to temperature. Her method is based on the balance of energy between a glacier and a wide range of climate factors, including wind, humidity, precipitation, evaporation and cloudiness. source

My comment: Ok, this article is here without any connection to global warming (though it offers some interesting insights). But if the glaciers gathered mass during the warm periods then imagine what happened when they finally melted! It's absolutely possible that the floods described in the Vedas really took place. This is so exciting!

Tiny ancient shells point to earliest fashion trend

August 27th, 2009 Shell beads newly unearthed from four sites in Morocco confirm early humans were consistently wearing and potentially trading symbolic jewellery as early as 80,000 years ago. These beads add significantly to similar finds dating back as far as 110,000 in Algeria, Morocco, Israel and South Africa, confirming these as the oldest form of personal ornaments.

A team of researchers recovered 25 marine shell beads dating back to around 70,000 to 85,000 years ago from sites in Morocco. The shells have man-made holes through the centre and some show signs of and prolonged wear, suggesting they were worn as jewellery.

Across all the locations shells were found from a similar time period from the Nassarius genus. That these shells were used similarly across so many sites suggests this was a cultural phenomenon, a shared tradition passed along through cultures over thousands of years. Several of the locations where shells have been found are so far inland that the shells must have been intentionally brought there.

"Either people went to sea and collected them, or more likely marine shell beads helped create and maintain exchange networks between coastal and inland peoples. This shows well-structured human culture that attributed meaning to these things," said Francesco d'Errico, lead author.

For scientists, beadworks are not simply decoration, they also represents a specific technology that conveys information through a shared coded language.

Curiously, shell beads disappear from the archaeological record in Africa and the Near East 70,000 years ago, along with other cultural innovations such as engravings on ochre slabs, and refined bone tools and projectile points. They reappear in different forms up to 30,000 years later, with personal ornaments simultaneously re-emerging in Africa and the Near East, and for the first time in Europe and Asia. This may reflect an entirely new and independent phase of population growth with previously unseen innovations allowing a more efficient exploitation of a wider variety of environments.

The temporary disappearance of cultural innovations could well be linked to population decreases during a long period of harsher climate conditions 60,000 to 73,000 years ago. source

My comment:That temporal disappearance is extremely interesting. I don't buy it that it's linked to climate conditions-at that stage of society every change is harsh. It simply doesn't make sense. We have this ornaments in the cradle of humanity and then they disappear until humans have spread everywhere? Mmm, that's not very logical. There is no reason why this ornaments won't follow the path of humans. And if they are missing, there must be very good reason for this. Like-we're looking at the wrong path?

California's Channel Islands hold evidence of Clovis-age comets

A 17-member team has found what may be the smoking gun of a much-debated proposal that a cosmic impact about 12,900 years ago ripped through North America and drove multiple species into extinction.

In a paper University of Oregon archaeologist Douglas J. Kennett and colleagues from nine institutions and three private research companies report the presence of shock-synthesized hexagonal diamonds in 12,900-year-old sediments on the Northern Channel Islands off the southern California coast.

These tiny diamonds and diamond clusters were buried deeply below four meters of sediment. They date to the end of Clovis -- a Paleoindian culture long thought to be North America's first human inhabitants. The nano-sized diamonds were pulled from Arlington Canyon on the island of Santa Rosa that had once been joined with three other Northern Channel Islands in a landmass known as Santarosae.

The diamonds were found in association with soot, which forms in extremely hot fires, and they suggest associated regional wildfires, based on nearby environmental records.

Such soot and diamonds are rare in the geological record. They were found in sediment dating to massive impacts 65 million years ago in a layer widely known as the K-T Boundary. The thin layer of iridium-and-quartz-rich sediment dates to the transition of the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, which mark the end of the Mesozoic Era and the beginning of the Cenozoic Era.

"The type of diamond we have found -- Lonsdaleite -- is a shock-synthesized mineral defined by its hexagonal crystalline structure. It forms under very high temperatures and pressures consistent with a cosmic impact," Kennett said. "These diamonds have only been found thus far in meteorites and impact craters on Earth and appear to be the strongest indicator yet of a significant cosmic impact [during Clovis]."

The age of this event also matches the extinction of the pygmy mammoth on the Northern Channel Islands, as well as numerous other North American mammals, including the horse, which Europeans later reintroduced. In all, an estimated 35 mammal and 19 bird genera became extinct near the end of the Pleistocene with some of them occurring very close in time to the proposed cosmic impact, first reported in October 2007 in PNAS.

In the Jan. 2, 2009, issue of the journal Science, a team led by Kennett reported the discovery of billions of nanometer-sized diamonds concentrated in sediments -- weighing from about 10 to 2,700 parts per billion -- in six North American locations.

"There was a major event 12,900 years ago," he said. "It is hard to explain this assemblage of materials without a cosmic impact event and associated extensive wildfires. This hypothesis fits with the abrupt cooling of the atmosphere as shown in the record of ocean drilling of the Santa Barbara Channel. The cooling resulted when dust from the high-pressure, high-temperature, multiple impacts was lofted into the atmosphere, causing a dramatic drop in solar radiation." source

My comment: Wow, that's what I call good science. It's absolutely fascinating how they had a theory, found evidences and confirmed the theory. Obviously North America was nuked ~13 000 years ago. That is extremely interesting, especially since there is no crater to be connected with the event. Which means that maybe the big rock (or whatever it was) went into the ocean or maybe near the continent. I can think of at least one VERY big (or should I say DEEP) crater near the land- the hole that is between Cuba and USA. It's just a wild guess, of course, but remember where they looked for Atlantis. Interesting, huh?

Winning the ultimate battle: How humans could end war

Just a few decades ago, many scholars believed that prior to civilisation, humans were "noble savages" living in harmony with each other and with nature. Not any more. The discovery that male chimpanzees from one troop sometimes beat to death those from another has encouraged popular perceptions that warfare is part of our biological heritage.

However, anthropologist Robert Sussman believes the popular focus on violence and warfare is disproportionate. "Statistically, it is more common for humans to be cooperative and to attempt to get along than it is for them to be uncooperative and aggressive towards one another," he says. And he is not alone in this view. A growing number of experts are now arguing that the urge to wage war is not innate, and that humanity is already moving in a direction that could make war a thing of the past.

Anthropologist Douglas Fry of Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland, agrees. In his book, Beyond War, he identified 74 "non-warring cultures" that contradict the idea that war is universal. His list includes nomadic hunter-gatherers such as the !Kung of Africa, Australian Aborigines and Inuit. These examples are crucial, Fry says, because our ancestors are thought to have lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers from the emergence of the Homo lineage around 2 million years ago until the appearance of permanent settlements and agriculture less than 20,000 years ago. That time span constitutes more than 99 per cent of the evolutionary history of Homo.

Fry does not deny that lethal violence probably occurred among our nomadic hunter-gatherers' forebears, but he asserts that hunter-gatherers in the modern era show little or no genuine warfare - organised fighting between rival groups. Instead, he says, most violence consists of individual aggression, often between two men fighting over a woman. These fights might occasionally precipitate feuds between groups of friends and relatives of the antagonists, but such rivalry is costly and so rarely lasts long. Humans "have a substantial capacity for dealing with conflicts non-violently", he says. One group might simply "vote with its feet" and walk away from the other. Alternatively, a third party might mediate a resolution.

Brian Ferguson of Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, also believes that there is nothing in the fossil or archaeological record supporting the claim that our ancestors have been waging war against each other for hundreds of thousands, let alone millions, of years. The first clear-cut evidence of violence against groups as opposed to individuals appears about 14,000 years ago, he says.

War emerged when humans shifted from a nomadic existence to a settled one and was commonly tied to agriculture, Ferguson says. All of a sudden, people had far more to lose, and to fight over, than their hunter-gatherer forebears.

So rather than being a product of our genes, it looks as if warfare emerged in response to a changing lifestyle.

Indeed, perhaps the best and most surprising news to emerge from research on warfare is that humanity as a whole is much less violent than it used to be .

War is not in our DNA. And if warfare is not innate then, surely, neither is it inevitable. source

My comment: Ok, the last article is not exactly history related, but I thought it extremely interesting since it offers a new idea of war as a way to live. And it puts a very interesting number for the beginning of wars-14 000 years ago. It looks like a lot of stuff has happened exactly at this time. And if you think about it, it's not like tribes before didn't have precious supplies that you could steal by killing them. Then why they didn't do it all the time? It's very interesting question.

A prehistoric ‘runway’ used by flying reptiles

By Charles Q. Choi
updated 9:04 p.m. ET Aug. 18, 2009

A prehistoric runway for flying pterosaurs has been discovered for the first time.

Scientists uncovered the first known landing tracks of one of these extinct flying reptiles at a site dubbed "Pterosaur Beach," in the fine-grained limestone deposits of an ancient lagoon in southwestern France dating back 140 million years to the Late Jurassic.

The footprints suggest the pterosaur — a "pterodactyloid" with a wingspan roughly 3 feet (1 meter) wide — flapped to stall its flight during landing, and then planted both of its 2-inch-long (5-centimeter-long) feet simultaneously at a high angle.
The reptile next dragged its toes briefly, took a short "stutter step" — perhaps a hop with both feet — and landed, settling its hands. It finally adjusted its posture and ambled off normally on all fours.

"If tracks from pterosaurs are going to get preserved, it's likely to be in the softest muds or finest sands, and it's unlikely even then, so to get traces of a pterosaur landing like this is very exciting," Hone noted. He added that the case the researchers make for the way the pterosaurs landed "is very strong and convincing."

The fact this pterosaur had the capability to stall during flight implies sophisticated flapping control of the wings, Padian said.

"There are hundreds of trackways in this big quarry," Padian said. source

My comment: I also agree that this is extremely exciting! I mean, these are almost like airports. It's interesting that they all used the same place, maybe there was something interesting for them in that region, but anyway, I find this so interesting. And my interest in dinosaurs grows and grows...

Europe’s oldest stone hand axes emerge in Spain

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Europe’s Stone Age has taken an edgy turn. A new analysis finds that human ancestors living in what is now Spain fashioned double-edged stone cutting tools as early as 900,000 years ago, almost twice as long ago as previous estimates for this technological achievement in Europe.

If confirmed, the new dates support the idea that the manufacture and use of teardrop-shaped stone implements, known as hand axes, spread rapidly from Africa into Europe and Asia beginning roughly 1 million years ago.

Other European hand ax sites date to no more than 500,000 years ago. In contrast, hand axes date to roughly 1.7 million years ago in eastern Africa. And age estimates of 1.2 million years and 800,000 years for hand axes from two Israeli sites indicate that this tool-making style spread out of Africa long before the origin of Homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago. Excavations in southern China have also yielded 800,000-year-old hand axes. Fossils from ancient human ancestors have not been found with the Israeli and Chinese artifacts. source

My comment: That is also veeery interesting. Note, if it wasn't Homo sapiens that spread the axes, then who did it? And why there are no fossils from humans (or whatever) into that places...It really looks very odd.


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