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  • richardmitnick 11:23 am on December 12, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Mysterious Patterns Span The Arabian Desert And We May Finally Know Why", , , Paleoarchaeology, , The V-shaped arrangements were first noticed by British air force pilots in the 1920s and for more than a century experts have debated why they were built., Today archaeologists working on these ancient stone patterns-sometimes known as 'desert kites'-think they were most likely used as mass hunting traps.   

    From CNRS-The National Center for Scientific Research [Centre national de la recherche scientifique] (FR) Via “Science Alert (AU)” : “Mysterious Patterns Span The Arabian Desert And We May Finally Know Why” 

    From CNRS-The National Center for Scientific Research [Centre national de la recherche scientifique] (FR)

    Via

    ScienceAlert

    “Science Alert (AU)”

    12.12.22
    Carly Cassella

    1
    Aerial view of a kite in the Khaybar area of north-west Saudi Arabia. New archaeological findings on ‘kites’ show the ingenuity and perhaps collaborative nature of the region’s peoples in the past. (Credit: Diaa Albukaai and Kévin Guadagnini, Khaybar Longue Durée Archaeological Project, RCU-Afalula-CNRS)

    The deserts of Saudi Arabia were once the lush and fertile homes of ancient people more than 8,000 years ago.

    Today, the remnants of these long-gone communities still stand – frozen, or rather, desiccated in time.

    Right across the Arabian peninsula, from Jordan to Saudi Arabia to Syria, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Iraq, researchers have identified thousands of huge stone structures from the sky.

    The V-shaped arrangements were first noticed by British air force pilots in the 1920s and for more than a century experts have debated why they were built.

    Recent satellite images and drone surveys in the ʿUwayriḍ desert of Saudi Arabia now support a commonly held suspicion.

    Today archaeologists working on these ancient stone patterns-sometimes known as ‘desert kites’-think they were most likely used as mass hunting traps.

    2
    Examples of desert kites found in the desert of Saudi Arabia. (KLDAP)

    Dozens of previously unknown desert kites found recently in ʿUwayriḍ all seem to be built with the same sort of function in mind.

    Some of the V-shapes point to a pit, others to a sudden cliff, and still others to an enclosure.

    All three designs suggest desert kites were once used to funnel herds of wild animals to death or captivity.

    “The purpose of the form of a kite is generally agreed: animals were driven (an ‘active’ kite system) or guided (a ‘passive’ kite system) into a restricted area by the structure’s walls,” the authors of a new study write [Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy (below)].

    “Hunting of animals, most commonly gazelle and other herbivorous ungulates, possibly ibex, wild equids, and ostriches, is now accepted as the most common use of these structures.”

    More excavations are needed to figure out what animals specifically were being herded into the recently discovered traps, but the fact that they show up in other parts of the Arabian peninsula suggests this was a popular and effective strategy for survival.

    Further south, for instance, archaeologists have found hundreds of stone kites and thousands of other stone structures dotting the desert.

    The desert kites further south tend to be more complex and concentrated than those in the ʿUwayriḍ desert. They sometimes combine multiple V-shapes together, as you can see in the image below.

    3
    Examples of more complex desert kites found in Saudi Arabia. (KLDAP)

    In the past, archaeologists have argued [Quaternary International (below)]these structures were used as hunting traps because they tend to show up in sandy regions that would have once hosted seasonal grasslands. The greenery would probably have supported migrating gazelle, goats, or other herding animals.

    Some ancient rock art images from this time also illustrate kite-like structures being used to funnel animals. The layout of some kites suggests they might have even been used to raise wild animals – one of the “first attempts’ at domestication found anywhere in the world.

    Another recent study [Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (below)] on desert kites, published in April 2022, points out that a mix of kites in one region is not uncommon. Some of these kites open to pits at the end and others open to enclosures.

    “Kites and open kites may have been in operation at the same time, defining related but different hunting techniques,” the researchers write.

    “They may also have followed each other in time, with one technique leading to the emergence of the other, forms of ‘proto-kites’ predeveloping the sophisticated and standardized forms of desert kites.”

    4
    Drone images of recently discovered desert kites, with relatively simple structures. (Royal Commission for AlUla and AAKSAU project/reproduced in Repper et al., Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 2022)

    Further research is needed to differentiate between these two possibilities. The snapshot of Neolithic society could ultimately reveal how early humans first began hunting and domesticating animals.

    Perhaps getting up close and personal with wild herds is what first allowed our species to breed and raise them as our own.

    But not every aspect of these desert kites is necessarily functional.

    Some kites have been found embedded in even larger stone structures called ‘mustatils’, which can go for kilometers. Mustatil is the Arabic word for a rectangle, and from above, a block pattern of mustatils looks sort of like a gate.

    5
    The gate-like structure of mustatils found in the Saudi Arabian desert. (D. Kennedy, Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy)

    Despite finding several hundred mustatils in the Arabian desert in recent years, archaeologists don’t yet know what they were used for.

    They might have been spiritual or cultural monuments for animal sacrifices or feasts, and yet their association with desert kites suggests they could also have been used for corralling animals or storing water.

    Whatever they were used for, these stone structures must have been highly effective or cherished. They riddle the region, and initial dating efforts suggest they were in use on the Arabian peninsula for thousands of years.

    “Almost nothing is known about mega-traps users in the kite distribution area,” write the researchers of the study, published in April.

    “More dating is required as well as the excavation of related sites in order to clearly associate them with a cultural facies.”

    The desert kites of Saudi Arabia have been known about for decades, but they have received surprisingly little attention from the scientific community.

    For years now, archaeologists have been calling for more research on the remnants of these ancient communities, and the ball is finally starting to roll.

    At the start of 2022, archaeologists working in Saudi Arabia uncovered a 530-kilometer-wide network of lost highways in the nation’s northwest.

    These ancient roads were lined with thousands of spiraling, stone burial chambers that seemed to lead from one oasis to another.

    At many of these oases, desert kites were also found.

    5
    An ancient road in the Arabian desert marked by tombs and monuments. (AAKSAU/AAKSAK and Royal Commission for AlUla)

    The archaeologists who uncovered the highways think they were used by ancient nomadic peoples who were chasing after the best lands and climates.

    Thousands of years later, archaeologists are attempting to retrace their steps.

    The paper that identified the unknown desert kites was published in Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy [first citation below].

    The review on desert kites was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports [last citation below].

    Science papers:
    Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy
    Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy
    first attempts
    See these science papers for instructive material with images.
    Quaternary International
    Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports

    See the full article here.

    Comments are invited and will be appreciated, especially if the reader finds any errors which I can correct. Use “Reply”.

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    CNRS (FR) campus via Glassdoor

    CNRS-The National Center for Scientific Research [Centre national de la recherche scientifique](FR) is the French state research organization and is the largest fundamental science agency in Europe.

    In 2016, it employed 31,637 staff, including 11,137 tenured researchers, 13,415 engineers and technical staff, and 7,085 contractual workers. It is headquartered in Paris and has administrative offices in Brussels; Beijing; Tokyo; Singapore; Washington D.C.; Bonn; Moscow; Tunis; Johannesburg; Santiago de Chile; Israel; and New Delhi.

    The CNRS was ranked No. 3 in 2015 and No. 4 in 2017 by the Nature Index, which measures the largest contributors to papers published in 82 leading journals.

    The CNRS operates on the basis of research units, which are of two kinds: “proper units” (UPRs) are operated solely by the CNRS, and “joint units” (UMRs – French: Unité mixte de recherche) are run in association with other institutions, such as universities or INSERM. Members of joint research units may be either CNRS researchers or university employees (maîtres de conférences or professeurs). Each research unit has a numeric code attached and is typically headed by a university professor or a CNRS research director. A research unit may be subdivided into research groups (“équipes”). The CNRS also has support units, which may, for instance, supply administrative, computing, library, or engineering services.

    In 2016, the CNRS had 952 joint research units, 32 proper research units, 135 service units, and 36 international units.

    The CNRS is divided into 10 national institutes:

    Institute of Chemistry (INC)
    Institute of Ecology and Environment (INEE)
    Institute of Physics (INP)
    Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (IN2P3)
    Institute of Biological Sciences (INSB)
    Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (INSHS)
    Institute for Computer Sciences (INS2I)
    Institute for Engineering and Systems Sciences (INSIS)
    Institute for Mathematical Sciences (INSMI)
    Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU)

    The National Committee for Scientific Research, which is in charge of the recruitment and evaluation of researchers, is divided into 47 sections (e.g. section 41 is mathematics, section 7 is computer science and control, and so on). Research groups are affiliated with one primary institute and an optional secondary institute; the researchers themselves belong to one section. For administrative purposes, the CNRS is divided into 18 regional divisions (including four for the Paris region).

    Some selected CNRS laboratories

    APC laboratory
    Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy
    Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements
    Centre européen de calcul atomique et moléculaire
    Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur l’Océanie
    CINTRA (joint research lab)
    Institut de l’information scientifique et technique
    Institut de recherche en informatique et systèmes aléatoires
    Institut d’astrophysique de Paris
    Institut de biologie moléculaire et cellulaire
    Institut Jean Nicod
    Laboratoire de Phonétique et Phonologie
    Laboratoire d’Informatique, de Robotique et de Microélectronique de Montpellier
    Laboratory for Analysis and Architecture of Systems
    Laboratoire d’Informatique de Paris 6
    Laboratoire d’informatique pour la mécanique et les sciences de l’ingénieur
    Observatoire océanologique de Banyuls-sur-Mer
    SOLEIL
    Mistrals

     
  • richardmitnick 9:03 am on November 15, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Scientists Say These Mysterious Rocks Are The Oldest Evidence of Life on Earth", A new analysis by an international team of researchers provides strong evidence that these formations really are biological in origin and not the result of non-living processes., A set of 3.48 billion-year-old rock formations from the Dresser Formation in Western Australia is an example., , , , Currently the 3.43 billion-year-old stromatolites from another site in Western Australia-the Strelley Pool formation-are the oldest widely accepted traces of life on Earth., , , Paleoarchaeology, , , Smoosh a bunch of microbes between layers of rock and let them ripen for billions of years; what you end up with is going to resemble rock more than an ancient life form., Stromatolites dating back billions of years are found scattered around the world., The Natural History Museum-London (UK), there are numerous structural elements integral to stromatolites that allow us to identify their processes of formation and decode their origins.   

    From The Natural History Museum-London (UK) Via “Science Alert (AU)” : “Scientists Say These Mysterious Rocks Are The Oldest Evidence of Life on Earth” 

    1

    From The Natural History Museum-London (UK)

    Via

    ScienceAlert

    “Science Alert (AU)”

    11.14.22
    Michelle Starr

    1
    A stromatolite sample from the Dresser Formation. (James St. John/Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

    Tracking down the oldest traces of life on Earth isn’t easy. Smoosh a bunch of microbes between layers of rock and let them ripen for billions of years; what you end up with is going to resemble rock more than an ancient life form.

    It takes a real eye to then distinguish one from the other, and even then debates are rarely settled.

    Take a set of 3.48 billion-year-old rock formations from Western Australia for example. Speculated to be the fossilized remains of microbial metropolises known as stromatolites, ruling out the possibility they are purely geological is easier said than done.

    Now a new analysis by an international team of researchers provides strong evidence that these formations really are biological in origin, and not the result of non-living processes.

    “If an archaeologist discovered the foundations of a ruined city, they would nonetheless know it was built by people because it would bear all the hallmarks of being built by people – doorways and roads and bricks,” explains paleontologist Keyron Hickman-Lewis of the Natural History Museum in the UK.

    “In very much the same way, there are numerous structural elements integral to stromatolites that allow us to identify their processes of formation and decode their origins. We can almost be archaeologists in deep time.”

    Stromatolites dating back billions of years are found scattered around the world. They consist of laminated, or finely layered, rock that could be produced either by mineralized layers of microbial matting or by non-living chemical reactions between the rock and its environment.

    The job of the paleontologist is to try to work out which is which – not always easy, as seen in 3.7 billion-year-old stromatolite-like layers in Greenland, which were first declared the world’s oldest fossils and then found to be just plain old rocks.

    But the identification of the oldest fossils on this marvelous, 4.54 billion–year-old blue marble of ours isn’t just an exercise in breaking records. It’s of deep interest to all of us when, and where, life first developed on Earth – the ancient origins of humanity, and all the life that thrives today.

    Currently, the 3.43 billion-year-old stromatolites from another site in Western Australia, the Strelley Pool formation, are the oldest widely accepted traces of life on Earth. Now Hickman-Lewis and his colleagues have subjected 3.48 billion-year-old stromatolites from the Western Australian Dresser Formation to new and rigorous study.

    They used multiple techniques to examine the two- and three-dimensional microstructures present in the Dresser stromatolites, including optical microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, laser ablation inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and laboratory and synchrotron computed tomography.

    None of these tests revealed microfossils or organic materials, but they did show structures and characteristics consistent with a biological origin.

    1
    Dresser Formation stromatolite sample showing clear lamination and dome structures. (Hickman-Lewis et al., Geology [below], 2022)

    Once upon a time, the team concluded, the stromatolites were photosynthetic microbial mats thriving on the floor of a shallow marine lagoon. As sediment settled on the mats the microbes pushed upwards, away from the sediment and towards the sunlight to form dome structures resembling the cups in an egg carton. These shapes were what were preserved in the fossil formation.

    The team also observed pillar-like “palisade” formations, consistent with patterns in rock known to be created by the growth of microbes. Like the dome structures, these were probably the result of organisms moving towards sunlight, the researchers claimed. Small voids in the rock are consistent with degassing or desiccation of decaying organic material.

    Taken together, these clues constitute strong evidence in favor of the biological origin of these ancient layers of rock, making them the oldest evidence of life on Earth – which has implications for the search for life elsewhere.

    When the Dresser Formation was a shallow lagoon, the Jezero crater on Mars was likely a very similar environment. So it’s possible that life was emerging on Mars at the same time, a Martian period known as the Noachian. Identifying fossilized life of a similar age and environment here on Earth could help us identify such fossils on Mars, if the Perseverance rover finds any.

    “Occurring within the stratigraphically lowermost sedimentary horizons of the Dresser Formation, these stromatolites are the oldest direct evidence for life on Earth,” the researchers write in their paper.

    “Their paleodepositional setting, polyextremophilic biology, and taphonomy make them ideal analog biosignatures for Mars, reflecting the type of morphological fossils one might expect to encounter in altered Noachian carbonates.”

    The research has been published in Geology.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 7:29 pm on August 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Spike in Wildfires Contributed to the End-Permian Extinction", An upward trend in fossilized charcoal indicates that wildfires may have contributed to extinctions during the "Great Dying"., , , , , , Paleoarchaeology, ,   

    From “Eos” : “A Spike in Wildfires Contributed to the End-Permian Extinction” 

    Eos news bloc

    From “Eos”

    AT

    AGU

    8.2.22
    Jackie Rocheleau

    An upward trend in fossilized charcoal indicates that wildfires may have contributed to extinctions during the “Great Dying”.

    1
    During the end-Permian extinction event, vast wetlands across what is now Australia suffered increased numbers of wildfires and saw the extinction of small therapsids, such as Lystrosaurus (right). Credit: Victor O. Leshyk, CC0.

    Around 252 million years ago, volcanic eruptions set off a geologic domino effect culminating in the largest extinction event in Earth’s history. The end-Permian extinction (EPE), also known as the Permian-Triassic extinction or the Great Dying, wiped out 96% of ocean life and around 70% of terrestrial species.

    According to a new study published in the journal Palaios [below], the eruptions may have led to a spike in wildfires that might have been an EPE driver in eastern Gondwanan forest mires, in what are now Australia and Antarctica.
    By studying charcoal remains from the EPE, the scientists found evidence that wildfires turned the wetlands into a scorched, sparse landscape.

    A Change in Charcoal

    Scientists believe volcanic eruptions [Science Advances 2021 (below)] in the Siberian Traps ultimately caused the end-Permian mass extinction by creating or enhancing extinction drivers like polluted soil and acidic rain. Wildfires have been suggested as drivers too, but no work has analyzed fires before and during the EPE.

    To quantify this prehistoric fire activity, Chris Mays, a paleontology lecturer at University College Cork, and coauthor Stephen McLoughlin at the Swedish Museum of Natural History looked at charcoal content preserved in samples from three mid- to late Permian peat deposits in the southern Sydney Basin, the northern Bowen Basin, and eastern Antarctica. Using microscopy techniques to count the remains of burned, charcoalified plants, they found evidence that wildfires were a regular feature of the region before the EPE. “Then, what we discovered is leading up to the mass extinction, there was a great increase in the amount of charcoal being preserved,” said Mays.

    A rise in charcoal levels around the EPE suggested that fire activity spiked during the peak of the Siberian Traps eruptions. But looking at rock from the beginning of the Triassic (after the extinction event), researchers were hard pressed to find charcoal, signaling that by that time, wildfire activity may have declined significantly.

    Mays said one possible explanation for these results could be that warming from the greenhouse gases released by the Siberian Traps eruptions led to extreme seasonal temperature and precipitation changes. These shifts could have created dry seasons in the wetlands, which, combined with high atmospheric oxygen levels, would have helped wildfires flourish. “Then, after the fact, because [the wildfires] burned off those high-vegetated areas, the fires couldn’t get a good hold in the postextinction realm,” said Mays.

    But that hypothesis still needs confirmation. “All we can really say is that on average, the amount of charcoal being produced [during the EPE] was much higher, probably 2 to 3 times higher than preextinction levels,” Mays said. The samples don’t allow researchers to see whether there were seasonal changes in fires from year to year, nor do they show whether the charcoal spike represents an increase in fire frequency or intensity.

    David Bond, a professor of paleoenvironments at the University of Hull, said this work represents an important advance in the field. “This is a good study that takes a long-term view, looks at the background conditions,” said Bond. “It’s based on a relatively small number of samples, but that’s the nature of this kind of study.”

    Wildfires Then and Now

    Today’s wildfire threats are different, and so are the flora and fauna. Although intense fires in fire-adapted areas are common to both the EPE and today, one notable difference between then and now is that modern fires are also tearing through non-fire-adapted areas. “It’s quite difficult to tell how modern ecosystems will react and whether [their response is] going to be similar to what happened back in the day,” said Mays.

    Another major difference is the rate of climate change. Today, temperatures and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are climbing at a faster clip compared to the Permian, on the scale of hundreds of years rather than tens of thousands. But, Mays said, it’s not too late. “We’re still in the early, early stages of that increase in CO2. So we can definitely turn the ship around.”

    Science papers:
    Palaios 2022

    Science Advances 2021

    See the full article here .

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    “Eos” is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:44 pm on July 11, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The First Mass Extinction Event Explained: End-Ordovician", , , , , , How long did the Ordovician period last and what caused the Ordovician mass extinction to wipe out 85 percent of life on earth 445 million years ago?, , Paleoarchaeology, ,   

    From “Discover Magazine” : “The First Mass Extinction Event Explained: End-Ordovician” 

    DiscoverMag

    From “Discover Magazine”

    Jul 11, 2022
    Gabe Allen

    How long did the Ordovician period last and what caused the Ordovician mass extinction to wipe out 85 percent of life on earth 445 million years ago?

    1
    (Credit: Cagla Acikgoz/Shutterstock)

    Long before the dawn of humans, dinosaurs, insects or even trees, a cascade of unfortunate events threatened to end life on earth.

    During the Ordovician Period, around 485 to 444 million years ago, the diversity of marine life exploded. Trilobites and mollusks crawled on the ocean floor, plankton-like filter-feeders floated at all depths and coral and algae bloomed. Jawless fish, perhaps our oldest ancestors, drifted in shallow lagoons and deltas. Life may have also taken its first steps onto land during this period. Some researchers have speculated [JSTOR] that Ordovician green algae may have migrated onto the shore with assistance from mycorrhizal fungi.

    However, sometime around 445 million years ago, 85 percent of species went extinct [Geology] over the relatively short interval of 1.4 million years. This unprecedented die-off is now known as the earth’s first mass extinction, the Late Ordovician mass extinction or simply LOME. Many researchers have devoted time, or even careers, to uncovering the underlying forces of extinction. But pieces of the puzzle are still missing.

    “As you might imagine, trying to infer what exactly happened in the environment 445 million years ago is a fairly inexact process,” paleobiologist Charles Mitchell says. “But we can discern some things quite clearly.”

    What Caused the Ordovician Extinction

    Around the time of the extinction, the earth’s climate underwent a series of significant changes [Nature Communications]. A period of warming and sea level rise was followed by an ice age. Glaciers encapsulated much of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, a landmass that gave rise to parts of every major modern continent. Eventually the ice age gave way to warming once again.

    These climatic changes disrupted the ways in which nutrients like oxygen, carbon and nitrogen, cycled through the ocean at the time.

    “When you shift from greenhouse conditions to ice house conditions, there are going to be major changes in ocean circulation patterns,” Mitchell says.

    One prominent theory [GSA Bulletin] posits that an initial wave of extinction occurred when the ice age began. The organisms at the bottom of the food chain, algae and cyanobacteria, may have been slow to adjust to a colder climate. The same theory aligns the second wave of extinction with the end of the ice age. Warming temperatures may have caused a global “algal bloom,” much like the blooms caused by nutrient-rich wastewater in lakes and rivers today.

    This rapid proliferation of cyanobacteria could have caused the de-oxygenation of the ocean, which scientists have observed in the geologic record.

    A second theory that has gained some traction, ties both waves of extinction to the warm periods [Nature Communications above] that bookend the ice age. In a 2020 paper [Geology above], two geologists assert that a large volcanic eruption may have been a leading factor as well.

    “Rather than being the odd-one-out of the ‘Big Five’ extinctions with origins in cooling, the LOME is similar to the others in being caused by volcanism, warming and anoxia,” they write.

    Ordovician Species

    While scientists will hotly debate the causes for decades to come, the outcomes of the extinction are clearer. All major groups of Ordovician organisms were affected — trilobites, brachiopods and bryozoans died off in large proportions. But, while subsequent mass extinctions selected broad categories of winners or losers, some species, from nearly every major group or organisms, survived the LOME. During the Silurian period, which succeeded the Ordovician, these survivors repopulated the oceans.

    Mitchell has focused much of his work on a group of filter feeders that the extinction hit especially hard: graptolites. These tube-like organisms were plentiful in the Ordovician oceans.

    “They were planktonic, so they were directly harvesting algae, which is at the bottom of the food chain,” Mitchell says. “For that reason, they’re a bit of a canary in a coal mine.”

    By looking through thousands of graptolite fossils, Mitchell and his colleagues noticed something curious. The creatures were dying off, slowly, for long before the sharp decline associated with the mass extinction event.

    “Graptolites started going extinct considerably before the big pulse,” Mitchell says. “That means that whatever caused the turnover had to have been a longer-term event.”

    In other words, slow and incremental change eventually gave way to rapid decline. Here, Mitchell sees a parallel to current human-caused shifts in global biodiversity. Over the past century, vertebrate species have gone extinct at a rate 100 times that of the pre-industrial average [Science Advances]. This rate is projected to increase [IPCC]as global temperatures rise.

    “It looks like things are occurring predictably, and then you fall off a cliff,” Mitchell says. “Right now, we are still in the phase of incremental change. We can’t be fooled into thinking that this is manageable.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:03 am on March 29, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Built by an Unknown Culture This Is The Oldest Sun Observatory in The Americas", , , Paleoarchaeology, ,   

    From Science Alert(AU): “Built by an Unknown Culture This Is The Oldest Sun Observatory in The Americas” 

    ScienceAlert

    From Science Alert(AU)

    29 MARCH 2022
    CARLY CASSELLA

    1
    The Fortified Temple at Chankillo. Credit: Janine Costa/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images.

    Long before the Incas rose to power in Peru and began to celebrate their sun god, a little known civilization was building the earliest known astronomical observatory in the Americas.

    While not quite as old as sites like Stonehenge, these ancient ruins, known as Chankillo, are considered a “masterpiece of human creative genius”, holding unique features not seen anywhere else in the world.

    Based in the coastal desert of Peru, the archaeological site famously contains a row of 13 stone towers, which together trace the horizon of a hill, north to south, like a toothy bottom grin.

    2
    The Thirteen Towers of Chankillo. Credit: David Edgar/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0.

    Apart from this remarkable structure, known as the Thirteen Towers, the ruins of the observatory also include a triple-walled hilltop complex called the Fortified Temple and two building complexes called the Observatory and the Administrative Center.

    Completed over 2,300 years ago and abandoned in the first century of the common era, the site has remained a mystery to travelers for centuries.

    Only when official excavations began at the turn of the 21st century, did archaeologists realize what they were looking at.

    3
    Aerial view of the towers. Credit: Janine Costa/AFP via Getty Images.

    Against a barren desert landscape and in broad daylight, the hilltop stone structures, which span roughly 300 meters (980 feet), don’t look like much. But it’s another story at dawn and dusk.

    As the Sun rises in the east, an orb of light emerges somewhere along the ridge of towers. As the year proceeds, so too does the position of the sunrise, almost as though the light is flossing the toothy horizon.

    On the summer solstice, for example, the sunrise emerges to the right of the rightmost tower. Whereas on the winter solstice, the sunrise emerges to the left of the leftmost tower.

    The Towers of Chankillo were so carefully placed, that when an onlooker stands at a specific observation point below the ridge, they can predict the time of year within two or three days based just on sunrise or sunset. The observation point looking west towards the ridge – this is the Observatory structure – uses the sunset. At what’s thought to be the east observation point, all that’s left is the incomplete stone outline of a room, but it’s in a symmetrical location and would have used the sunrise.

    The September equinox, for example, is defined when the Sun sets between the sixth and the seventh tower, as captured in the image below.

    4
    The September equinox sunset. Credit: World Monuments Fund/Youtube Screenshot.

    The ancient civilization that designed the solar observatory is barely known, but it would have been one of the oldest cultures in the Americas. In fact, this culture predates the Inca culture, which also excelled at astronomy, by more than 1,000 years.

    Because the Chankillo ruins attributed to this civilization are based in the coastal desert between Peru’s Casma River and the Sechin river, the original builders are now known as the Casma-Sechin culture.

    Similar to the Incas, this civilization would probably have considered the Sun a deity of some sort. The staircases leading up to each tower strongly suggest the site was once used for rituals.

    According to archaeological excavations, the observatory was probably built sometime between 500 and 200 BCE. Then, for some reason, the site was abandoned, and the towers fell into disrepair. In their heyday, archaeologists say the structures would have been plastered yellow, ochre or white and painted with graffiti or fingerprints.


    Mind-blowing Ancient Solar Calender | Wonders of the Universe w/ Brian Cox | BBC Studios.

    Even when stripped of decoration and falling apart, however, the remains of these stone towers still faithfully record the days of the year. Conservation efforts are now under way to uphold the accuracy of the ancient calendar.

    In 2021, the Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex officially joined the UNESCO World Heritage List for its outstanding craftsmanship and its insight into the worldview of ancient societies.

    “Unlike architectural alignments upon a single astronomical target found at many ancient sites around the world, the line of towers spans the entire annual solar rising and setting arcs as viewed, respectively, from two distinct observation points, one of which is still clearly visible above ground,” reads the UNESCO description.

    “The solar observatory at Chankillo is thus a testimony of the culmination of a long historical evolution of astronomical practices in the Casma Valley.”

    You can read even more details about this observatory at the Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 8:23 am on August 31, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The first farmers of Europe", , Paleoarchaeology, Ploča Mičov Grad area, proliferation of agriculture in Europe, Remains of under-water sites are a stroke of luck for pre-historic archeology., The cradle of European agriculture,   

    From University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH): “The first farmers of Europe” 

    From University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH)

    A research team from the University of Bern has managed to precisely date pile dwellings on the banks of Lake Ohrid in the south-western Balkans for the first time: they came into being in the middle of the 5th millennium BC. The region around the oldest lake in Europe played a key role in the proliferation of agriculture.

    1
    Ploča Michovgrad, Lake Ohrid, Northern Macedonia (2018-2019). Situation at the lake bottom with wooden piles of submerged prehistoric buildings. © Johannes Reich.

    2
    Lin 3, Lake Ohrid, Albania. Excavation situation in summer 2021. © Johannes Reich.

    3
    Excavation situation under water in Ploča Michovgrad, Lake Ohrid, Northern Macedonia (2018-2019). © Pavel Georgiev.

    3
    Ploča Michovgrad, Lake Ohrid, Northern Macedonia (2018-2019). Sawing a wooden sample with a band saw. © Albert Hafner.

    Remains of under-water sites are a stroke of luck for pre-historic archeology. The wooden piles from which their foundations were built have been preserved excellently: In the absence of oxygen, they were not corroded by bacteria or fungi. Wood preserved in this way is excellently well suited for dendrochronological examinations, which can be dated using growth rings. The age of the wood, and thus the time at which the settlements were built, can be determined in combination with radiocarbon dating. This method has now been applied outside of the Alpine region for the first time.

    Under the leadership of the University of Bern, around 800 piles were dated in the large international EXPLO project (see info box). They come from a site on the east coast of Lake Ohrid. The results were presented recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science. The new findings prove that the settlement in the Bay of Ploča Mičov Grad near the Macedonian town of Ohrid was constructed in different phases. And over thousands of years: From the Neolithic Period (middle of the 5th millennium BC) until the Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC). Until now, it was assumed that it was a settlement from the period around 1000 BC. This intensive construction activity explains the extraordinary density of wooden piles at the site. The settlements were built virtually over one another.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    About EXPLO

    The interdisciplinary research project, EXPLO (short for: “Exploring the dynamics and causes of prehistoric land use change in the cradle of European farming”), is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and was awarded a coveted Synergy Grant amounting to 6.4 million euros in 2018. The focus of the project is the relationship between humans and the environment at the beginnings of agriculture in south-eastern Europe. They are investigated starting from wetland sites. The project will be implemented over a period of five years from 2019 to 2024. The Universities of Bern (Prof. Dr. Albert Hafner, Institute of Archeological Sciences; Prof. Dr. Willy Tinner, Institute of Plant Sciences), The University of Oxford (UK) (Prof. Dr, Amy Bogaard, School of Archaeology) and Thessaloniki (Prof. Dr. Kostas Kotsakis, School of History and Archaeology).
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    The cradle of European agriculture

    “The precise dates of the different settlement phases of Ploča Mičov Grad represent important temporal reference points for a chronology of prehistory in the south-western Balkans,” says Albert Hafner. He is Professor of Prehistoric Archeology at the University of Bern and a member of the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research. The precise chronological classification, in turn, opened up unimagined possibilities of interpretation for the traces found of the early occupation of Lake Ohrid. A so-called cultural layer is hidden under the present-day lakebed. It consists mainly of organic material and is up to 1.7 meters thick. Among other things, it contains the remains of harvested grain, wild plants and animals, which can provide conclusions on the development of agriculture. In the Balkans, the newly arrived farmers were confronted with comparatively cool and humid climate conditions, which forced them to adapt agricultural practices accordingly. “The interactions between this revolutionary innovation and the environment are largely unknown,” emphasized Hafner. This is precisely the research gap that the EXPLO project aims to fill.

    The pile dwellings in the Alpine region and the archeological site in the Balkans are the only remains of settlements from the Neolithic Period with excellent organic conservation. The early findings are particularly interesting as the area played a key role in the proliferation of agriculture: Europe’s first farmers lived here. Early cattle breeders and arable farmers from Anatolia first reached the Aegean region, especially northern Greece, and then Central Europe via southern Italy and the Balkans more than 8,000 years ago.

    Important cultural heritage in the Balkans

    “Our investigations are shining a light on the large potential for future research on the pre-historic settlements in the region,” says Hafner. The significance of the settlements on Lake Ohrid is huge: “The pile dwellings around the Alps have been considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011, and the wetland settlements in the south-western Balkans are no less significant,” said Albert Hafner. The region offers a situation comparable to the area around the Alps: Relics of prehistoric settlements have been preserved in numerous lakes in modern Albania, northern Greece and North Macedonia. However, with few exceptions, the sites in the Balkan region have hardly been studied so far.

    Bern researchers are also pursuing other goals over the long term. “We want to help ensure that the value of these wetland settlements is recognized locally and that these cultural assets are better protected,” explained Hafner. Sites are not only located on the north Macedonian shore of Lake Ohrid, where the EXPLO team conducted fieldwork campaigns in 2018 and 2019, but also on the Albanian western shore of the lake, where the researchers were active this summer at the Lin 3 site. In the long term, it is planned to expand collaboration with local partners, support the education and training of researchers from the region and promote local initiatives.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH) is a university in the Swiss capital of Bern and was founded in 1834. It is regulated and financed by the Canton of Bern. It is a comprehensive university offering a broad choice of courses and programs in eight faculties and some 150 institutes. With around 17,512 students, Universität Bern is the third biggest University in Switzerland.

    Universität Bern operates at three levels: university, faculties and institutes. Other organizational units include interfaculty and general university units. The university’s highest governing body is the Senate, which is responsible for issuing statutes, rules and regulations. Directly answerable to the Senate is the University Board of Directors, the governing body for university management and coordination. The Board comprises the Rector, the Vice-Rectors and the Administrative Director. The structures and functions of the University Board of Directors and the other organizational units are regulated by the Universities Act. Universität Bern offers about 39 bachelor and 72 master programs, with enrollments of 7,747 and 4,523, respectively. The university also has 2,776 doctoral students. Around 1,561 bachelor, 1,489 master’s degree students and 570 PhD students graduate each year. For some time now, the university has had more female than male students; at the end of 2016, women accounted for 56% of students.

    Today the University of Bern is one of the top 150 universities in the world. In the QS World University Rankings 2019 it ranked 139th. The Shanghai Ranking (ARWU) 2018 ranked the University of Bern in the range 101st–150th in the world. In the Leiden Ranking 2015 it ranked 122nd in the world and 50th in Europe. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings it ranked 110th in 2018/2019 and 2016/2017 (and 82nd in Clinical, pre-clinical & health 2017).

     
  • richardmitnick 11:31 am on July 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Huge Volcanic Eruption Disrupted Climate but Not Human Evolution", , , , Paleoarchaeology, , , , The Toba volcano was the largest volcanic eruption in the past two million years.   

    From Rutgers University (US) : “Huge Volcanic Eruption Disrupted Climate but Not Human Evolution” 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University (US)

    July 9, 2021
    John Cramer
    jdc268@echo.rutgers.edu

    1
    A modern volcanic eruption pales in comparison to the Toba eruption, which was the largest volcanic eruption of the past 2 million years, dispersing ash as far as southern Africa 9,000 km away. The total volume of erupted deposits may exceed 5,000 cubic kilometers. Credit: Steve Self, University of California-Berkeley (US).

    A massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia about 74,000 years ago likely caused severe climate disruption in many areas of the globe, but early human populations were sheltered from the worst effects, according to a Rutgers-led study.

    The findings appear in the journal PNAS.

    The eruption of the Toba volcano was the largest volcanic eruption in the past two million years, but its impacts on climate and human evolution have been unclear. Resolving this debate is important for understanding environmental changes during a key interval in human evolution.

    “We were able to use a large number of climate model simulations to resolve what seemed like a paradox,” said lead author Benjamin Black, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “We know this eruption happened and that past climate modeling has suggested the climate consequences could have been severe, but archaeological and paleoclimate records from Africa don’t show such a dramatic response.

    “Our results suggest that we might not have been looking in the right place to see the climate response. Africa and India are relatively sheltered, whereas North America, Europe and Asia bear the brunt of the cooling,” Black said. “One intriguing aspect of this is that Neanderthals and Denisovans were living in Europe and Asia at this time, so our paper suggests evaluating the effects of the Toba eruption on those populations could merit future investigation.”

    2
    The researchers examined explosive ash deposits that are tens of meters thick about 35 km north of the Toba caldera in Indonesia. Credit Steve Self, University of California-Berkeley.

    The researchers analyzed 42 global climate model simulations in which they varied magnitude of sulfur emissions, time of year of the eruption, background climate state and sulfur injection altitude to make a probabilistic assessment of the range of climate disruptions the Toba eruption may have caused. This approach let the team account for some of the unknowns related to the eruption.

    “By using a probabilistic approach, we aim at understanding the likelihood that some regions were less impacted by Toba, considering the wide range of estimates of its size and timing, in addition to our lack of knowledge of the underlying climate state,” said Black.

    The results suggest there was likely significant regional variation in climate impacts. The simulations predict cooling in the Northern Hemisphere of at least 4°C, with regional cooling as high as 10°C depending on the model parameters. In contrast, even under the most severe eruption conditions, cooling in the Southern Hemisphere — including regions populated by early humans — was unlikely to exceed 4°C, although regions in southern Africa and India may have seen decreases in precipitation at the highest sulfur emission level.

    The results explain independent archaeological evidence suggesting the Toba eruption had modest effects on the development of hominid species in Africa. According to the authors, their ensemble simulation approach could be used to better understand other past and future explosive eruptions.

    “Our results reconcile the simulated distribution of climate impacts from the eruption with paleoclimate and archaeological records,” according to the study. “This probabilistic view of climate disruption from Earth’s most recent super-eruption underscores the uneven expected distribution of societal and environmental impacts from future very large explosive eruptions.”

    The study included researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, University of Leeds and University of Cambridge, and was supported by the NSF National Center for Atmospheric Research (US) and the National Science Foundation (US).

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    rutgers-campus

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (US), is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    Rutgers University (US) is a public land-grant research university based in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Chartered in 1766, Rutgers was originally called Queen’s College, and today it is the eighth-oldest college in the United States, the second-oldest in New Jersey (after Princeton University (US)), and one of the nine U.S. colonial colleges that were chartered before the American War of Independence. In 1825, Queen’s College was renamed Rutgers College in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers, whose substantial gift to the school had stabilized its finances during a period of uncertainty. For most of its existence, Rutgers was a private liberal arts college but it has evolved into a coeducational public research university after being designated The State University of New Jersey by the New Jersey Legislature via laws enacted in 1945 and 1956.

    Rutgers today has three distinct campuses, located in New Brunswick (including grounds in adjacent Piscataway), Newark, and Camden. The university has additional facilities elsewhere in the state, including oceanographic research facilities at the New Jersey shore. Rutgers is also a land-grant university, a sea-grant university, and the largest university in the state. Instruction is offered by 9,000 faculty members in 175 academic departments to over 45,000 undergraduate students and more than 20,000 graduate and professional students. The university is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, the Association of American Universities (US) and the Universities Research Association (US). Over the years, Rutgers has been considered a Public Ivy.

    Research

    Rutgers is home to the Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science, also known as RUCCS. This research center hosts researchers in psychology, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, electrical engineering, and anthropology.

    It was at Rutgers that Selman Waksman (1888–1973) discovered several antibiotics, including actinomycin, clavacin, streptothricin, grisein, neomycin, fradicin, candicidin, candidin, and others. Waksman, along with graduate student Albert Schatz (1920–2005), discovered streptomycin—a versatile antibiotic that was to be the first applied to cure tuberculosis. For this discovery, Waksman received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1952.

    Rutgers developed water-soluble sustained release polymers, tetraploids, robotic hands, artificial bovine insemination, and the ceramic tiles for the heat shield on the Space Shuttle. In health related field, Rutgers has the Environmental & Occupational Health Science Institute (EOHSI).

    Rutgers is also home to the RCSB Protein Data bank, “…an information portal to Biological Macromolecular Structures’ cohosted with the San Diego Supercomputer Center (US). This database is the authoritative research tool for bioinformaticists using protein primary, secondary and tertiary structures worldwide….”

    Rutgers is home to the Rutgers Cooperative Research & Extension office, which is run by the Agricultural and Experiment Station with the support of local government. The institution provides research & education to the local farming and agro industrial community in 19 of the 21 counties of the state and educational outreach programs offered through the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Office of Continuing Professional Education.

    Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository (RUCDR) is the largest university based repository in the world and has received awards worth more than $57.8 million from the National Institutes of Health (US). One will fund genetic studies of mental disorders and the other will support investigations into the causes of digestive, liver and kidney diseases, and diabetes. RUCDR activities will enable gene discovery leading to diagnoses, treatments and, eventually, cures for these diseases. RUCDR assists researchers throughout the world by providing the highest quality biomaterials, technical consultation, and logistical support.

    Rutgers–Camden is home to the nation’s PhD granting Department of Childhood Studies. This department, in conjunction with the Center for Children and Childhood Studies, also on the Camden campus, conducts interdisciplinary research which combines methodologies and research practices of sociology, psychology, literature, anthropology and other disciplines into the study of childhoods internationally.

    Rutgers is home to several National Science Foundation (US) IGERT fellowships that support interdisciplinary scientific research at the graduate-level. Highly selective fellowships are available in the following areas: Perceptual Science, Stem Cell Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology for Clean Energy, Renewable and Sustainable Fuels Solutions, and Nanopharmaceutical Engineering.

    Rutgers also maintains the Office of Research Alliances that focuses on working with companies to increase engagement with the university’s faculty members, staff and extensive resources on the four campuses.

    As a ’67 graduate of University College, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:10 pm on July 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Early humans were sheltered from worst effects of volcanic supereruption", , , Neanderthals and Denisovans were living in Europe and Asia at this time., North America Europe and Asia bore the brunt of the cooling., , Paleoarchaeology, , Regions in southern Africa and India may have seen decreases in precipitation at the highest sulphur emission level., Toba supereruption, ,   

    From University of Cambridge (UK) : “Early humans were sheltered from worst effects of volcanic supereruption” 

    U Cambridge bloc

    From University of Cambridge (UK)

    05 Jul 2021
    Sarah Collins
    sarah.collins@admin.cam.ac.uk

    1
    Site of the Toba supereruption, in present-day Indonesia. Credit: Clive Oppenheimer.

    A massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia about 74,000 years ago likely caused severe climate disruption in many areas of the globe, but early human populations were sheltered from the worst effects, suggests a new study published in the journal PNAS.

    The eruption of the Toba volcano was the largest volcanic eruption in the past two million years, but its impacts on climate and human evolution have been unclear. Resolving this debate is important for understanding environmental changes during a key interval in human evolution.

    “We were able to use a large number of climate model simulations to resolve what seemed like a paradox,” said lead author Benjamin Black from Rutgers University (US). “We know this eruption happened and that past climate modeling has suggested the climate consequences could have been severe, but archaeological and palaeoclimate records from Africa don’t show such a dramatic response.

    “Our results suggest that we might not have been looking in the right place to see the climate response. Africa and India are relatively sheltered, whereas North America Europe and Asia bear the brunt of the cooling. One intriguing aspect of this is that Neanderthals and Denisovans were living in Europe and Asia at this time, so our paper suggests evaluating the effects of the Toba eruption on those populations could merit future investigation.”

    The researchers analysed 42 global climate model simulations in which they varied magnitude of sulphur emissions, time of year of the eruption, background climate state and sulfur injection altitude to make a probabilistic assessment of the range of climate disruptions the Toba eruption may have caused.

    The results suggest there was likely significant regional variation in climate impacts. The simulations predict cooling in the Northern Hemisphere of at least 4°C, with regional cooling as high as 10°C depending on the model parameters.

    In contrast, even under the most severe eruption conditions, cooling in the Southern Hemisphere — including regions populated by early humans – was unlikely to exceed 4°C, although regions in southern Africa and India may have seen decreases in precipitation at the highest sulphur emission level.

    The results explain independent archaeological evidence suggesting the Toba eruption had modest effects on the development of hominid species in Africa. According to the authors, their ensemble simulation approach could be used to better understand other past and future explosive eruptions.

    “Our work is not only a forensic analysis of Toba’s aftermath some 74,000 years ago, but also a means of understanding the unevenness of the effects such very large eruptions may have on today’s society,” said co-author Dr Anja Schmidt from the University of Cambridge. “Ultimately, this will help to mitigate the environmental and societal hazards from future volcanic eruptions.”

    The study included researchers from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Leeds (UK) and University of Cambridge in the UK, and was supported by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Science Foundation (US).

    See the full article here .

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    U Cambridge Campus

    The University of Cambridge (UK) [legally The Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the University of Cambridge] is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209 Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university. It grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford(UK) after a dispute with townsfolk. The two ancient universities share many common features and are often jointly referred to as “Oxbridge”.

    Cambridge is formed from a variety of institutions which include 31 semi-autonomous constituent colleges and over 150 academic departments, faculties and other institutions organised into six schools. All the colleges are self-governing institutions within the university, each controlling its own membership and with its own internal structure and activities. All students are members of a college. Cambridge does not have a main campus and its colleges and central facilities are scattered throughout the city. Undergraduate teaching at Cambridge is organised around weekly small-group supervisions in the colleges – a feature unique to the Oxbridge system. These are complemented by classes, lectures, seminars, laboratory work and occasionally further supervisions provided by the central university faculties and departments. Postgraduate teaching is provided predominantly centrally.

    Cambridge University Press a department of the university is the oldest university press in the world and currently the second largest university press in the world. Cambridge Assessment also a department of the university is one of the world’s leading examining bodies and provides assessment to over eight million learners globally every year. The university also operates eight cultural and scientific museums, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, as well as a botanic garden. Cambridge’s libraries – of which there are 116 – hold a total of around 16 million books, around nine million of which are in Cambridge University Library, a legal deposit library. The university is home to – but independent of – the Cambridge Union – the world’s oldest debating society. The university is closely linked to the development of the high-tech business cluster known as “Silicon Fe”. It is the central member of Cambridge University Health Partners, an academic health science centre based around the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

    By both endowment size and consolidated assets Cambridge is the wealthiest university in the United Kingdom. In the fiscal year ending 31 July 2019, the central university – excluding colleges – had a total income of £2.192 billion of which £592.4 million was from research grants and contracts. At the end of the same financial year the central university and colleges together possessed a combined endowment of over £7.1 billion and overall consolidated net assets (excluding “immaterial” historical assets) of over £12.5 billion. It is a member of numerous associations and forms part of the ‘golden triangle’ of English universities.

    Cambridge has educated many notable alumni including eminent mathematicians; scientists; politicians; lawyers; philosophers; writers; actors; monarchs and other heads of state. As of October 2020 121 Nobel laureates; 11 Fields Medalists; 7 Turing Award winners; and 14 British prime ministers have been affiliated with Cambridge as students; alumni; faculty or research staff. University alumni have won 194 Olympic medals.

    History

    By the late 12th century the Cambridge area already had a scholarly and ecclesiastical reputation due to monks from the nearby bishopric church of Ely. However it was an incident at Oxford which is most likely to have led to the establishment of the university: three Oxford scholars were hanged by the town authorities for the death of a woman without consulting the ecclesiastical authorities who would normally take precedence (and pardon the scholars) in such a case; but were at that time in conflict with King John. Fearing more violence from the townsfolk scholars from the University of Oxford started to move away to cities such as Paris; Reading; and Cambridge. Subsequently enough scholars remained in Cambridge to form the nucleus of a new university when it had become safe enough for academia to resume at Oxford. In order to claim precedence it is common for Cambridge to trace its founding to the 1231 charter from Henry III granting it the right to discipline its own members (ius non-trahi extra) and an exemption from some taxes; Oxford was not granted similar rights until 1248.

    A bull in 1233 from Pope Gregory IX gave graduates from Cambridge the right to teach “everywhere in Christendom”. After Cambridge was described as a studium generale in a letter from Pope Nicholas IV in 1290 and confirmed as such in a bull by Pope John XXII in 1318 it became common for researchers from other European medieval universities to visit Cambridge to study or to give lecture courses.

    Foundation of the colleges

    The colleges at the University of Cambridge were originally an incidental feature of the system. No college is as old as the university itself. The colleges were endowed fellowships of scholars. There were also institutions without endowments called hostels. The hostels were gradually absorbed by the colleges over the centuries; but they have left some traces, such as the name of Garret Hostel Lane.

    Hugh Balsham, Bishop of Ely, founded Peterhouse – Cambridge’s first college in 1284. Many colleges were founded during the 14th and 15th centuries but colleges continued to be established until modern times. There was a gap of 204 years between the founding of Sidney Sussex in 1596 and that of Downing in 1800. The most recently established college is Robinson built in the late 1970s. However Homerton College only achieved full university college status in March 2010 making it the newest full college (it was previously an “Approved Society” affiliated with the university).

    In medieval times many colleges were founded so that their members would pray for the souls of the founders and were often associated with chapels or abbeys. The colleges’ focus changed in 1536 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry VIII ordered the university to disband its Faculty of Canon Law and to stop teaching “scholastic philosophy”. In response, colleges changed their curricula away from canon law and towards the classics; the Bible; and mathematics.

    Nearly a century later the university was at the centre of a Protestant schism. Many nobles, intellectuals and even commoners saw the ways of the Church of England as too similar to the Catholic Church and felt that it was used by the Crown to usurp the rightful powers of the counties. East Anglia was the centre of what became the Puritan movement. In Cambridge the movement was particularly strong at Emmanuel; St Catharine’s Hall; Sidney Sussex; and Christ’s College. They produced many “non-conformist” graduates who, greatly influenced by social position or preaching left for New England and especially the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the Great Migration decade of the 1630s. Oliver Cromwell, Parliamentary commander during the English Civil War and head of the English Commonwealth (1649–1660), attended Sidney Sussex.

    Modern period

    After the Cambridge University Act formalised the organisational structure of the university the study of many new subjects was introduced e.g. theology, history and modern languages. Resources necessary for new courses in the arts architecture and archaeology were donated by Viscount Fitzwilliam of Trinity College who also founded the Fitzwilliam Museum. In 1847 Prince Albert was elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge after a close contest with the Earl of Powis. Albert used his position as Chancellor to campaign successfully for reformed and more modern university curricula, expanding the subjects taught beyond the traditional mathematics and classics to include modern history and the natural sciences. Between 1896 and 1902 Downing College sold part of its land to build the Downing Site with new scientific laboratories for anatomy, genetics, and Earth sciences. During the same period the New Museums Site was erected including the Cavendish Laboratory which has since moved to the West Cambridge Site and other departments for chemistry and medicine.

    The University of Cambridge began to award PhD degrees in the first third of the 20th century. The first Cambridge PhD in mathematics was awarded in 1924.

    In the First World War 13,878 members of the university served and 2,470 were killed. Teaching and the fees it earned came almost to a stop and severe financial difficulties followed. As a consequence the university first received systematic state support in 1919 and a Royal Commission appointed in 1920 recommended that the university (but not the colleges) should receive an annual grant. Following the Second World War the university saw a rapid expansion of student numbers and available places; this was partly due to the success and popularity gained by many Cambridge scientists.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:06 pm on February 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stonehenge may be dismantled Welsh stone circle", , , Paleoarchaeology, , Waun Mawn stone circle   

    From University College London (UK): “Stonehenge may be dismantled Welsh stone circle” 

    UCL bloc

    From University College London (UK)

    11 February 2021
    Jane Bolger
    +44 (0)20 3108 9040
    j.bolger@ucl.ac.uk

    1
    The stunning discovery, published in Antiquity, has been secretly documented by filmmakers and is the subject of an exclusive BBC programme, Stonehenge: The Lost Circle Revealed.

    The world-famous monument’s smaller stones, or bluestones, are already known to have come from the Preseli Hills of Wales and are thought to have been first erected 5,000 years ago, centuries before Stonehenge’s larger sarsen stones were brought from just 15 miles away.

    Now, the Stones of Stonehenge research team, led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson (UCL Institute of Archaeology), has identified megalith quarries for the bluestones and a dismantled stone circle nearby, pointing to them being taken from the circle and recycled 140 miles away, perhaps as a result of migration.

    Professor Parker Pearson said: “I have been leading projects at Stonehenge since 2003 and this is the culmination of twenty years of research. It’s one of the most important discoveries I’ve ever made.”

    The find goes a long way to solving the mystery of why the Stonehenge bluestones were brought from so far away, when all other stone circles were erected within a short distance of their quarries.

    Only four stones remain at Waun Mawn, which is now revealed as having been the third biggest stone circle in Britain, after Avebury in Wiltshire and Stanton Drew in Somerset, and also one of the earliest.

    Archaeological excavations in 2018 revealed empty stoneholes at Waun Mawn, confirming that the four remaining stones were part of a former circle. Scientific dating of charcoal and sediments in the holes confirmed that it was put up around 3400 BC.

    Significantly too, both Waun Mawn and Stonehenge were aligned on the midsummer solstice sunrise. One of the bluestones at Stonehenge has an unusual cross-section that matches one of the holes left at Waun Mawn. Chippings in that hole are of the same rock type as the Stonehenge stone. In addition, the Welsh circle had a diameter of 110 metres, the same as that of the ditch that encloses Stonehenge.

    Waun Mawn is further evidence that the Preseli region of Wales was an important and densely settled place in Neolithic Britain, within a concentration of megalithic tombs, or dolmens, and large enclosures. Yet, evidence of activity in the thousand years after 3000 BC is almost non-existent.

    Professor Parker Pearson said: “It’s as if they just vanished. Maybe most of the people migrated, taking their stones – their ancestral identities – with them, to start again in this other special place. This extraordinary event may also have served to unite the peoples of east and west Britain.”

    Recent isotopic analysis of people buried at Stonehenge when the bluestones are thought to have arrived reveals that the first people to be buried there came from western Britain, very possibly west Wales.

    Some 43 bluestones survive today at Stonehenge, although many of these are today buried beneath the grass. Another long-distance mover is the Altar Stone, recently confirmed as sourced from the Brecon Beacons in South Wales.

    Professor Parker Pearson wonders if this too may have been part of another Welsh monument: “With an estimated 80 bluestones put up on Salisbury Plain at Stonehenge and nearby Bluestonehenge, my guess is that Waun Mawn was not the only stone circle that contributed to Stonehenge. Maybe there are more in Preseli waiting to be found. Who knows? Someone might be lucky enough to find them.”

    The Stones of Stonehenge research team is led by UCL with Bournemouth University, the University of Southampton, the University of the Highlands & Islands and Aerial-Cam Ltd.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 9:43 am on September 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Gobekli Tepe: The world’s first astronomical observatory?", , , , , , Paleoarchaeology   

    From Astronomy Magazine: “Gobekli Tepe: The world’s first astronomical observatory?” 

    From Astronomy Magazine

    September 4, 2020
    Eric Betz

    Pseudoscience and genuine archaeological mysteries surround humanity’s oldest known temple. But was it the world’s first astronomical observatory?

    1
    The remains of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. It is one of the oldest settlements in the world. Credit: 0meer/Shuttestock.

    Earth’s Northern Hemisphere was covered in enormous Ice Age glaciers when a group of hunter-gatherers in southern Turkey began constructing the world’s first known temple. The site, called Gobekli Tepe, was built roughly 12,000 years ago, with some parts appearing to be even older. However, because the ancient temple is so vast and complex, archaeologists have been busy excavating it since its discovery in 1994.

    Along the way, they’ve uncovered strange animal carvings, towering stone pillars, and the earliest known evidence of megalithic rituals. But despite all those years of research, they’re still working to unravel the site’s biggest mysteries: Who built it, and why?

    World’s first observatory?

    Gobekli Tepe’s design and age have captured the public’s imagination for decades. It’s been the subject of widespread, and often breathless, press coverage and documentaries, as well as countless conspiracy theories, from aliens to fantastical claims about ancient, technologically advanced civilizations. Some scientists, primarily those not connected to the core group excavating the site, have speculated that Gobekli Tepe was actually an astronomical observatory, or perhaps even the biblical Garden of Eden.

    There are two major claims that those who think Gobekli Tepe had celestial connections point to. One suggests that the site was aligned with the night sky, particularly the star Sirius, because the local people worshiped the star like other cultures in the region did thousands of years later. Another claims that carvings at Gobekli Tepe record a comet impact that hit Earth at the end of the Ice Age.

    If either of those things are true, Gobekli Tepe’s extreme age would indeed make it the world’s oldest known astronomical site.

    However, those claims of Gobekli Tepe’s connection to the night sky have been largely rejected by the main team actual excavating the temple. According to them, while the archaeological site is remarkably well preserved, the forces of time have changed the location of certain features.

    For example, studies suggest some of the pillars were removed and recycled elsewhere. Furthermore, later civilizations in the area — and, more recently, farmers — have rearranged portions of certain pillars, even breaking pieces off.

    The researchers have since tried their best to restore Gobekli Tepe’s pillars to their original locations, but the initial layout of the site’s stunning round buildings remains up for debate. That makes it impossible, at the moment, for archaeologists to know whether Gobekli Tepe had any astronomical significance at all.

    But there’s another, more obvious, potential reason to doubt the site’s buildings were once aligned to the stars. “There is the significant possibility that we are dealing with roofed structures; this fact alone would pose limitations to a function as sky observatories,” the research team wrote in a journal article [http://maajournal.com/Issues/2017/Vol17-2/Matters%20arising%2017%282%29.pdf] addressing the astronomical claims.

    2
    An aerial view of Gobekli Tepe reveals its sweeping expanse. The entire hillside shown here was made by human hands more than 10,000 years ago.
    Credit: Erhan Kücuk/German Archaeological Institute.

    Sharing creates a society

    For the team surveying Gobekli Tepe, the truth of the site, as they see it, is just as surprising — even without the astronomical connection.

    Archaeologists suspected that humans only began building complex societies and structures after the invention of agriculture. They also thought that complex religions only emerged after those events.

    Gobekli Tepe overthrows those theories. The site sits in the core of the Fertile Crescent, a region of the Middle East historically considered the birthplace of farming, writing and more. Yet, Gobekli Tepe was a pre-agricultural society; it was built before people in the region started farming.

    At a casual glance, Gobekli Tepe looks like an ordinary hill. So, researchers originally didn’t think much of it when a few meager stone structures were discovered on the hilltop in the 1960s. But, in 1994, when Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute was finishing some excavation work at a nearby Stone Age settlement, he decided to reexamine the Gobekli Tepe hilltop. To his surprise, he recognized the few remnants he found on the surface had similar elements, suggesting there might be more buried below.

    Over the years that followed, the staggering scale of his discovery became clear. The entire hill was constructed by humans. All that dirt hides dozens of structures spread across an area some 1,000 feet wide and 50 feet tall. The people who built the site constructed large, intricately-decorated stone circles, later burying them in sand.

    The discovery sent shockwaves through the archaeological community because Gobekli Tepe couldn’t have been built by farmers. Farming didn’t really exist at that point. Plus, with no domesticated pack animals or metal tools to lighten the load, Gobekli Tepe would’ve had to have been built using rudimentary instruments and human hands.

    At 12,000 years old, Gobekli Tepe predated humanity’s oldest known civilizations. Its megalithic temples were cut from rock millennia before the 4,500-year-old pyramids in Egypt, 5,000-year-old Stonehenge in England, or 7,000-year-old Nabta Playa, the oldest known astronomical site.

    3
    The stone circle of Nabta Playa marks the summer solstice, a time that coincided with the arrival of monsoon rains in the Sahara Desert thousands of years ago. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

    It even seems construction on some parts of Gobekli Tepe might have began as far back as 14,000 or 15,000 years ago.

    Still, there isn’t any evidence suggesting people actually lived at Gobekli Tepe. There were no burials and no apparent homes. So, to better understand who the site’s visitors were, scientists were forced to look to the nearby countryside.

    When they did, they found signs that for centuries before Gobekli Tepe appeared, Stone Age hunter-gatherers in the region seemed to be building small, permanent settlements where they lived communally, sharing their foraged resources. If that’s confirmed, then such sharing might have helped spawn the creation of society.

    But even then, why did hunter-gatherers from these surrounding communities seemingly work together in large numbers to build Gobekli Tepe? The answer to that question remains one of its biggest lingering mysteries.

    4
    The T-shaped Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe has drawn endless speculation about its meaning. The archaeologists who discovered it say it’s likely impossible to unravel what it meant to those who built it, and that it’s also far from the only ornately-carved pillar at the site. Credit:
    Klaus Schmidt/German Archaeological Institute.

    Carving a comet impact?

    Just a handful of the giant circular and oval rooms at Gobekli Tepe have been excavated so far, but surveys show many more are still buried underground at the site. Each of these round rooms is defined by a ring of hulking T-shaped pillars.

    Most of the pillars feature ornate carvings of animals, like snakes, foxes, wild boars, birds, and other critters. Individual rooms also usually have one particular animal as its theme, which is why researchers suggested that the ancient hunter-gatherers were so-called animalists. They believed all living creatures had spirits, and they worshiped them.

    Although many of the pillars focus on just a single animal, other carvings combine their art into a more complex motif. Gobekli Tepe’s Pillar 43 is the most prominent of these. This captivating pillar appears to feature a large vulture, other birds, a scorpion, and additional abstract symbols.

    “We don’t know what the meanings of these symbols are,” Schmidt said, but he suggested they might depict architectural buildings.

    Whatever their meaning, archaeologists say the carvings are masterful reliefs repeated many times over, implying the work of trained craftsman who not only knew what the animals were supposed to look like, but also had the technical ability to recreate them.

    Although Pillar 43 remains a mystery, Klaus’ team believes that one thing is clear about the pillars in general: They were built in a T-shape as a kind of stylized human form, like a person without a head. (Some others have even gone as far as to suggest the people who worshiped at the temple were a kind of skull cult, like later peoples in the region who removed heads from buried bodies to employ them in rituals.)

    “This T-form is really some unique phenomenon of this culture of Gobekli Tepe and the surrounding settlements, and it’s not repeated anywhere else on our Earth and in any other culture,” Schmidt said at a Gobekli Tepe research symposium in 2012. So, unlocking their meaning could help explain the entire site.

    And although the archaeologists who have spent decades excavating Gobekli Tepe may not be willing to make bold speculations about the original meaning of Pillar 43, that hasn’t stopped others.

    5
    Scientists have long debated whether a massive impact caused an Ice Age climate swing. Recently researchers discovered a crater buried beneath Greenland that may be the smoking gun for the theory. This image shows the topography under the site at Hiawatha glacier, mapped with airborne radar data (1997 to 2014, NASA; 2016 Alfred Wegener Institute). Black triangles and purple circles are elevated peaks around the rim and center. Dotted red lines and black circles show locations of additional sampling. Credit: Kjæer et al. / Science Advances.

    In 2017, a pair of chemical engineers made global headlines when they claimed that they were able to connect animal carvings on Gobekli Tepe’s pillars to the positions of various groups of stars in Earth’s sky many millennia ago.

    In a paper published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, they argue that the so-called Vulture Stone carved on Pillar 43 is a “date stamp” for a catastrophic comet strike 13,000 years ago. This idea gained a lot of attention because scientists already suspected a comet struck Greenland around this time, potentially triggering the Younger Dryas period.

    “It appears Gobekli Tepe was, among other things, an observatory for monitoring the night sky,” Martin Sweatman, a chemical engineer at the University of Edinburgh and the study’s lead author, said in a media release. “One of its pillars seems to have served as a memorial to this devastating event — probably the worst day in history since the end of the Ice Age.”

    But again, the team of archaeologists who are actually excavating Gobekli Tepe aren’t buying it.

    “Assuming such a long tradition of knowledge relating to an unconfirmed (ancient) cosmic event appears extremely far-fetched,” the authors said in their rebuttal. “The assumption that asterisms [familiar star patterns] are stable across time and cultures is not convincing,” they added. “It is highly unlikely that early Neolithic hunters in Upper Mesopotamia recognized the exact same celestial constellations as described by ancient Egyptian, Arabian, and Greek scholars, which still populate our imagination today.”

    ‘Fingerprints of the gods’

    But these claims are far from the most extreme being made about Gobekli Tepe and the people who built it.

    Graham Hancock is the popular author of Fingerprints of the Gods. It’s a pseudoscience book that proposes, without evidence, that a mysterious ancient culture thought the ability to track the precession of the stars was so important they embedded a series of crucial numbers into great stories to ensure the knowledge was passed through generations. He calls it a “ghostly fingerprint of an advanced scientific knowledge impressed on the oldest myths and traditions of our planet.”

    One of his favorite examples is Gobekli Tepe. In a 2015 interview on the Joe Rogan Experience that’s been viewed more than 11 million times, Hancock called Gobekli Tepe a “profoundly astronomical site.”

    Hancock’s ideas have helped fuel the surge of interest in Gobekli Tepe as an ancient observatory. But he has an even more fantastical claim about the vulture and other carvings on Pillar 43. He believes, again without evidence, that it’s an ancient constellation diagram that shows the winter solstice against a backdrop of today’s modern sky.

    “This is spooky and eerie,” Hancock said, “because it appears there’s overwhelming evidence that the people who made Gobekli Tepe had a profound knowledge of precession. And it appears that they deliberately sent forward into time — in this time capsule — a picture of the sky in our age.”

    The details of his ideas only get more fantastical as he explains them, but that hasn’t stopped Hancock from getting huge amounts of attention for voicing them. And as a result, Gobekli Tepe has been swept up into pseudo-scientific claims and strange putdowns about what “mainstream archaeologists want the public to believe.”

    In the meantime, German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, who discovered the site and led its excavation, died in 2014. But despite that loss, Schmidt’s team is continuing their decades-long dig at Gobekli Tepe, focusing on finding out who built the site and why.

    And although there is still no convincing evidence that Gobekli Tepe was built as an astronomical site, that doesn’t mean nothing will ever come to light. Perhaps, proof of Gobekli Tepe’s proposed connection to the stars is still buried, just beneath the sand.

    See the full article here .


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    Astronomy is a magazine about the science and hobby of astronomy. Based near Milwaukee in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it is produced by Kalmbach Publishing. Astronomy’s readers include those interested in astronomy and those who want to know about sky events, observing techniques, astrophotography, and amateur astronomy in general.

    Astronomy was founded in 1973 by Stephen A. Walther, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and amateur astronomer. The first issue, August 1973, consisted of 48 pages with five feature articles and information about what to see in the sky that month. Issues contained astrophotos and illustrations created by astronomical artists. Walther had worked part time as a planetarium lecturer at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and developed an interest in photographing constellations at an early age. Although even in childhood he was interested to obsession in Astronomy, he did so poorly in mathematics that his mother despaired that he would ever be able to earn a living. However he graduated in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, and as a senior class project he created a business plan for a magazine for amateur astronomers. With the help of his brother David, he was able to bring the magazine to fruition. He died in 1977.

     
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