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Mon, 29 May 2017
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Indigenous peoples around the world tell myths which contain warning signs for natural disasters - Scientists are now listening

© Photo by Taylor Weidman/LightRocket/Getty
Native knowledge - A Moken woman stares out to sea.
Shortly before 8am on 26 December 2004, the cicadas fell silent and the ground shook in dismay. The Moken, an isolated tribe on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, knew that the Laboon, the 'wave that eats people', had stirred from his ocean lair. The Moken also knew what was next: a towering wall of water washing over their island, cleansing it of all that was evil and impure. To heed the Laboon's warning signs, elders told their children, run to high ground.

The tiny Andaman and Nicobar Islands were directly in the path of the tsunami generated by the magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. Final totals put the islands' death toll at 1,879, with another 5,600 people missing. When relief workers finally came ashore, however, they realised that the death toll was skewed. The islanders who had heard the stories about the Laboon or similar mythological figures survived the tsunami essentially unscathed. Most of the casualties occurred in the southern Nicobar Islands. Part of the reason was the area's geography, which generated a higher wave. But also at the root was the lack of a legacy; many residents in the city of Port Blair were outsiders, leaving them with no indigenous tsunami warning system to guide them to higher ground.

Humanity has always courted disaster. We have lived, died and even thrived alongside vengeful volcanoes and merciless waves. Some disasters arrive without warning, leaving survival to luck. Often, however, there is a small window of time giving people a chance to escape. Learning how to crack open this window can be difficult when a given catastrophe strikes once every few generations. So humans passed down stories through the ages that helped cultures to cope when disaster inevitably struck. These stories were fodder for anthropologists and social scientists, but in the past decade, geologists have begun to pay more attention to how indigenous peoples understood, and prepared for, disaster. These stories, which couched myth in metaphor, could ultimately help scientists prepare for cataclysms to come.

Anyone who has spent time around small children gets used to the question 'why?' Why is the sky blue? Why do birds fly? Why does thunder make such a loud noise? A friend's mother told us that thunder was God going bowling in the sky. Nature need not be scary and unpredictable, even if it was controlled by forces we could neither see nor understand.

The human penchant for stories and meaning is nothing new. Myths and legends provide entertainment, but they also transmit knowledge of how to behave and how the world works. Breaking the code of these stories, however, takes skill. Tales of gods gone bowling during summer downpours seems nonsensical on the surface, but know a little about the sudden thunderclaps and the clatter of bowling pins as they're struck by a ball, and the story makes sense.

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Karajia: The unique and isolated Chachapoya sarcophaguses in Peru

In the north of Peru, just before the "gates" of Amazonia, there is the wonderful city of Chachapoyas. It is an isolated city and the capital of the Amazonas Region.

In a radius of 62 miles (100 km) of Chachapoyas, there are astonishing historical sites and monuments constructed before and after the Inca's conquest of the Chachapoya. Following the Inca's trail is a journey through the history of South America and one of the most beautiful sights on it is the Karajia archeological site.

The site is located 60 km northeast of Chachapoyas on 6798 miles (2072 meters) altitude. Unreachable, high above the path in the limestone cliff, are the funeral tombs of the "ancient wise men."

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Ten possible explanations for the 'ten plagues of Passover'

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The Plagues


Every spring, Jewish people the world over celebrate Passover, a holiday that recounts the Exodus, when, according to the Torah (the Old Testament of the Bible), the Jews left Egypt for Israel.

However, before Moses could lead the 40-year journey through the desert, he needed the Pharaoh's permission to free the Jews, who were slaves in the land of Egypt, according to the Torah. But the Pharaoh had a hard heart, prompting the Lord to send down 10 plagues until the Pharaoh changed his mind, the Torah reports.

Could any of these plagues have occurred through natural phenomena? Live Science looks at possible scientific explanations behind each of the 10 plagues.

Star of David

Closest allies? Newly declassified CIA materials reveal Americans hardly knew any Israeli secrets

Some 1 million papers show what the U.S. knew, or didn't know, about Israeli leaders' health, IDF maneuvers and Moshe Dayan's celebrity status

According to a legend believed by the public and even in the government's security branches, the Americans know - or can know - everything about Israel. They eavesdrop, they photograph, they spy. They have agents at the top - in the government and the army. They have ears and listen; they have eyes and see. This is bad because it's hard to hide things from them. And this is good if we want to inform them of something indirectly, as a fact or a bluff.

How incorrect that feeling is, or at least, how untrue it was in the pre-computer era - because today the situation may be different - can be discovered from thousands of classified documents of the Central Intelligence Agency that are related to Israel and which, in recent weeks, have become accessible to anyone who is curious and bored.

Almost 1 million such papers, which include everything in the universe, were discovered in the seam between the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama and new President Donald Trump.

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A wasteland of the dead: When Europeans first came to B.C., they stepped into the aftermath of a holocaust

© Dennis Garnhum/Calgary Herald
The ruins of the Haida village of Ninstints, abandoned after a smallpox epidemic in the 1880s. When George Vancouver first came to the Strait of Georgia, a 1782 smallpox epidemic had littered the area with abandoned, overgrown villages.
Everywhere they looked, there were corpses. Abandoned, overgrown villages were littered with skulls; whole sections of coastline strewn with bleached, decayed bodies.

"The skull, limbs, ribs and backbones, or some other vestiges of the human body, were found in many places, promiscuously scattered about the beach in great numbers," wrote explorer George Vancouver in what is now Port Discovery, Wash.

It was May 1792. The lush environs of the Georgia Strait had once been among the most densely populated corners of the land that is now Canada, with humming villages, harbours swarming with canoes and valleys so packed with cookfires that they had smog.

Comment: For a history of the horrific 1664 European plague, read the firsthand account by Daniel Defoe that speaks volumes of the pestilence at that time. Also: Pestilence, the Great Plague and the Tobacco Cure.


Arrow Down

Winston Churchill left a legacy of global conflict and crimes against humanity

© QuotesGram
"I am strongly in favour of using gas against uncivilised tribes, it would spread a lively terror."

--Winston Churchill
Sunday January 24th 2016 marks the anniversary of the death of one of the most lionized leaders in the Western world: Sir Winston Churchill.

The current British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has called Churchill "the greatest ever Prime Minister", and Britons have recently voted him as the greatest Briton to have ever lived.

The story that British schoolbooks tell children about Churchill is of a British Bulldog, with unprecedented moral bravery and patriotism. He, who defeated the Nazis during World War II and spread civilisation to indigenous people from all corners of the globe. Historically, nothing could be further from the truth.

To the vast majority of the world, where the sun once never set on the British empire, Winston Churchill remains a great symbol of racist Western imperialist tyranny, who stood on the wrong side of history.

The myth of Churchill is Britain's greatest propaganda tool because it rewrites Churchill's true history in order to whitewash Britain's past imperialist crimes against humanity. The Churchill myth also perpetuates Britain's ongoing neo-colonial and neo-liberal policies, that still, to the is day, hurt the very people around the world that Churchill was alleged to have helped civilise.

The same man whose image is polished and placed on British mantelpieces as a symbol of all that is Great about Britain was an unapologetic racist and white supremacist. "I hate Indians, they are a beastly people with a beastly religion", he once bellowed. As Churchill put it, Palestinians were simply "barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung."

In 1937, he told the Palestine Royal Commission:
"I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."
It is unsurprising that when Barack Obama became President, he returned to Britain a bust of Churchill which he found on his desk in the Oval office. According to historian Johann Hari, Mr. Obama's Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was imprisoned without trial for two years and was tortured on Churchill's watch, for daring to resist Churchill's empire.

Comment:


Archaeology

Silk-covered body discovered at Inner Mongolia cemetery

© Silk Road Volume 14
This dynasty, which reigned from A.D. 386 to 534, controlled much of northern China and Mongolia, giving the dynasty control over some of the silk roads.
A silk-covered body inside a coffin and a silver bowl depicting Greek goddesses are among the discoveries at a 1,500-year-old cemetery in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in China.

The findings demonstrate the riches that were being traded at the time along so-called "silk roads," or trade routes that crisscrossed Asia and Europe, said the archaeologists involved in a series of digs excavating the cemetery between 2012 and 2014.

The archaeologists, who described their findings in the current issue of the journal Silk Road, said they suspect the cemetery belonged to a family of aristocrats, possibly the tribal chief of the Gaoche people, who, historical records say, fell under control of the Northern Wei dynasty. [See Photos of the Silk Road Cemetery and Coffin] This dynasty, which reigned from A.D. 386 to 534, controlled much of northern China and Mongolia, giving the dynasty control over some of the silk roads.

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14,000-year-old settlement in Canada could rewrite North American history

© Keith Holmes/Hakai Institute
The settlement discovered on Triquet Island confirms the Heilstuk Nation's oral history of their ancestors arrival in the Americas.
The ancient stories of the indigenous Heiltsuk Nation people say that their ancestors sheltered on a mysterious strip of coastline in Canada during the last Ice Age. Thanks to a recent discovery of a 14,000-year-old settlement, science is now confirming those claims.

The discovery was made last year along the Central Coast of British Columbia on Triquet Island, CBC News reports. Teams of archaeologists from the Hakai Institute, University of Victoria, and local First Nations found the remains of charcoal, tools, fish hooks, spears used to hunt marine mammals, and even a hand drill used for lighting fires.

Based on the analysis of charcoal found, it's estimated the settlement was established around 13,613 to 14,086 years ago. This makes it one of the oldest human settlements in North America. It also means it's twice as old as the invention of the wheel, three times older than the Pyramids of Giza, and thousands of years before all of the ice age megafauna went extinct.

There is also evidence to suggest that the sea-level around Triquet Island has remained remarkably stable for 15,000 years throughout the end of the last Ice Age. This again confirms that this area acted as a haven of stability over the millennia, just as the Heiltsuk Nation have said all along.

Archaeology

2,300-year-old aqueduct, believed to be Rome's oldest uncovered by workers on new Metro line

© Archaeological Superintendency Rome
The 32-metre stretch was likely part of the Aqua Appia - the oldest known Roman aqueduct, which dates back to 312 BC.
A 2,300-year-old aqueduct uncovered by workers on Rome's new Metro line has been hailed as "a sensational discovery of enormous importance" by the city's Superintendency for Archaeology.

Archaeologists first stumbled across the impressive ruin at the end of 2016, though it was not publicly announced until Sunday. On Wednesday, the team presented the results of analysis of the structure, along with that of other recent finds, at a conference hosted by Rome's Sapienza university.

Simona Morretta, who led the team of archaeologists, said the 32-metre stretch was likely part of the Aqua Appia - the oldest known Roman aqueduct, which dates back to 312 BC.

It measures two metres tall, and is made up of equally-sized blocks arranged in five rows. As for location, it lies 17-18 metres below Rome's Piazza Celimontana, slightly to the south-east of the Colosseum in the historical centre.

Archaeology

Earliest dated rock art in Southern Africa depicts shamans' journey to the world of the spirits

© Bonneau/Antiquity
Example of fine-line Later Stone Age paintings studied by the archaeologists
For years, archaeologists have known that southern Africa is home to very rich and well-understood rock art produced by hunter-gatherers in the Later Stone Age, but they had been unable to date these creations precisely.

Using an innovative approach, researchers have now come up with new dates, which suggest that in south-eastern Botswana, rock art was created as far back as 5723 - 4420 cal BP - the oldest such evidence found to date in Southern Africa. Their complete findings are now published in the Journal Antiquity.