Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Likely Shaman's Stones Date to 2800-2000 BCE

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

4,000-year-old shaman's stones discovered near Boquete, Panama

Archaeologists working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama have discovered a cluster of 12 unusual stones in the back of a small, prehistoric rock-shelter near the town of Boquete. The cache represents the earliest material evidence of shamanistic practice in lower Central America.

Ruth Dickau, Leverhulme Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Exeter in England, unearthed the cache of stones in the Casita de Piedra rock-shelter in 2007. A piece of charcoal found directly underneath the cache was radiocarbon dated to 4,800 years ago. A second fragment of charcoal in a level above the cache was dated to 4,000 years ago.

"There was no evidence of a disturbance or pit feature to suggest someone had come along, dug a hole and buried the stones at a later date," Dickau said. "The fact that the stones were found in a tight pile suggests they were probably deposited inside a bag or basket, which subsequently decomposed."

Based on the placement and the unusual composition of the stones in the cache, Richard Cooke, STRI staff scientist, suggested they were used by a shaman or healer. Consulting geologist Stewart Redwood determined that the cache consists of a small dacite stone fashioned into a cylindrical tool; a small flake of white, translucent quartz; a bladed quartz and jarosite aggregate; a quartz crystal aggregate; several pyrite nodules that showed evidence of use; a small, worn and abraded piece of chalcedony; a magnetic andesite flake; a large chalcedony vein stone; and a small magnetic kaolinite stone naturally eroded into an unusual shape, similar to a flower.

"A fascinating aspect of this find is that these are not ordinary stones but are rocks and crystals commonly associated with gold deposits in the Central Cordillera of Panama and Central America," Redwood said. "However, there are no gold artifacts in the rock-shelter, and there's no evidence that the stones were collected in the course of gold prospecting as the age of the cache pre-dates the earliest known gold artifacts from Panama by more than 2,000 years. But the collector of the stones clearly had an eye for unusual stones and crystals with a special significance whose meaning is lost to us."

Indigenous groups who lived near this site include the Ngäbe, Buglé, Bribri, Cabécar and the now-extinct Dorasque peoples. Shamans or healers (curanderos) belonging to these and other present-day First Americans in Central and South America often include special stones among the objects they use for ritual practices. Stones containing crystal structures are linked to transformative experiences in many of their stories.

Anthony Ranere, from Temple University in Philadelphia, first identified and excavated Casita de Piedra in an archaeological survey of western Panama in the early 1970s. He found that the small rock-shelter had been repeatedly occupied over thousands of years and used for a variety of domestic activities such as food processing and cooking, stone-tool manufacture and retouch, and possibly woodworking. Dickau returned to the site to expand excavations from December 2006 to January 2007.

Dickau's group radiocarbon dated charcoal from the base levels of the shelter and discovered it was first occupied more than 9,000 years ago, much earlier than Ranere originally proposed. Her research also showed that the people who would have benefitted from the shaman's knowledge practiced small-scale farming of maize, manioc and arrowroot, and collected palm nuts, tree fruits and wild tubers. They also probably hunted and fished in the nearby hills and streams, but the humid soils in the shelter destroyed any evidence of animal bones. Other Preceramic peoples in Panama who lived in small, dispersed communities across the isthmus by 4,000 years ago commonly practiced these activities.


For further information click article title for link back.  I confess to being totally confused looking at the photograph of the stones.  I can see nine different stones quite easily, but when it comes to looking at the cluster of stones at the right hand side, which are the other three stones that make up "12 unusual stones?"  Just one of those things I will never know, I guess. 

Of course when I saw the photograph of the stones and saw the word "shaman" I immediately thought of divination rituals and how they lead the ancients to gradually invent board games using stones, boards scratched into the dirt or on convenient rocks.  Think about the ancient Egyptian game of Senet, for instance.  It was a symbolic work-out  of the soul of a deceased person playing with the help of good gods and against the obstacles of bad gods that were interposed between the soul and the Land of the Dead that lay, traditionally, in the western desert, ruled over by a powerful goddess.  If the soul was successful in his (or her) play, it entered into the peaceful land of the dead.  In many cultures, in fact, the earliest goddesses were goddesses of death/rebirth who sometimes ruled over a land in the west, often called the land of the dead. 

So, around about the time that the Egyptian game of Senet was taking hold in ancient Egypt and displacing a far older game called MHN ("Mehen"), which some games scholars suggest was a game of lions and marbles racing around the back of a serpent (oh, really?), in this cave in Boquete half a world away, someone's stones were left behind.  I wonder - why - and how did they come to be there?  These would have been incredibly valuable and meaningful objects to their owner! 

Lots of War (and Bullshit) in this Article!

What I find most interesting about this article is that, except for the location and the (evidently) "ancient" time period of which he is, perhaps, speaking, this could be a commentary on the United States today.  War, war, war, permeates everything, even the air we/they breath and the food we/they eat and the poop we/they flush down our toilets.  In other words, the Minoans ate, shit and slept war war war and according to some people who have very powerful vested interests in making us all think so, so do Americans.  All for the better good, of course, darlings! 

I think he is very misguided in his thinking and is exhibiting serious push-back against what he perhaps perceives is an unfair bias toward the feminine/goddess in prior research. In doing so, he is evidently either ignoring or totally discounting ALL of that research. Wonder if he's a fan of H.J.R. Murray...  Just because someone has earned the title of "Doctor" doesn't mean they're immune to -- well, you know!

You can find further information on his paper at the end of the article, not published here.

15 January 2013

War was central to Europe’s first civilisation - contrary to popular belief

Research from the University of Sheffield has discovered that the ancient civilisation of Crete, known as Minoan, had strong martial traditions, contradicting the commonly held view of Minoans as a peace-loving people.

The research, carried out by Dr Barry Molloy of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology, investigated the Bronze Age people of Crete, known by many as the Minoans, who created the very first complex urban civilisation in Europe.

“Their world was uncovered just over a century ago, and was deemed to be a largely peaceful society,” explained Molloy. “In time, many took this to be a paradigm of a society that was devoid of war, where warriors and violence were shunned and played no significant role.

“That utopian view has not survived into modern scholarship, but it remains in the background unchallenged and still crops up in modern texts and popular culture with surprising frequency.

“Having worked on excavation and other projects in Crete for many years, it triggered my curiosity about how such a complex society, controlling resources and trading with mighty powers like Egypt, could evolve in an egalitarian or cooperative context. Can we really be that positive about human nature? As I looked for evidence for violence, warriors or war, it quickly became obvious that it could be found in a surprisingly wide range of places.”

Building on recent developments in the study of warfare in prehistoric societies, Molloy’s research reveals that war was in fact a defining characteristic of the Minoan society, and that warrior identity was one of the dominant expressions of male identity.

Molloy continued: “The study shows that the activities of warriors included such diverse things as public displays of bull-leaping, boxing contests, wrestling, hunting, sparring and duelling. Ideologies of war are shown to have permeated religion, art, industry, politics and trade, and the social practices surrounding martial traditions were demonstrably a structural part of how this society evolved and how they saw themselves.”

Even the famous Mycenaeans, heroes of the Greek Trojan War, took up the Minoan way of war – adopting its weaponry, practices and ideologies. “In fact,” said Molloy, “it is to Crete we must look for the origin of those weapons that were to dominate Europe until the Middle Ages, namely swords, metal battle-axes, shields, spears and probably armour also.”

Molloy found a “staggering” amount of violence in the symbolic grammar and material remains from prehistoric Crete. Weapons and warrior culture were materialised variously in sanctuaries, graves, domestic units and hoards. It could also be found in portable media intended for use during social interactions, for example, administration, feasting, or personal adornment. “There were few spheres of interaction in Crete that did not have a martial component, right down to the symbols used in their written scripts.” said Dr Molloy.

Molloy’s research looks at war as a social process – looking at the infrastructural and psychological support mechanisms that facilitated the undertaking of war and the means through which it was embedded in social logic. This approach, argues Molloy, leads to a deeper understanding of war in the Minoan civilisation: “When we consider war as a normative process that had cross-references and correlates in other social practices, we can begin to see warriors and warriorhood permeating the social fabric of Cretan societies at a systematic level.

“The social and institutional components of war impacted on settlement patterns, landscape exploitation, technological and trade networks, religious practices, art, administration and more, so that war was indirectly a constant factor in shaping the daily lives of people in prehistoric Crete…understanding the social aspects of war ‘beyond the battle’ is essential if we are to better understand how elites manipulated economics, religion and violence in controlling their worlds. By identifying the material results of warrior lifeways in all of their disparity and disorder, we gain insights into what war meant in ancient Crete.”

So-called "strong martial traditions", heh?  What about the female bull-leapers depicted in the paintings on the walls of ruins excavated on Crete?  Was it really WAR that wiped out the Minoans, or a series of very destructive earthquakes?  Of course, not all of the people died, they just moved elsewhere and started over again and became --- who knows?  Do we know, really?  Holy Hathor!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Board Game Invented by Homeless

Board game captures real life of the homeless

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — More than two years ago, a retired educator challenged homeless people at the Goodwill Inn to come up with a board game that captured the reality of their lives.  The game took months and ultimately hundreds of players to refine. The final board game — Home Sweet Homelessness: The Housing Reality Game That Will Open Your Eyes — was to be introduced to the community, along with an invitation to play the game with Goodwill Inn homeless shelter residents.

It isn't the kind of game you'll see it at Toys R Us. In fact, participants really have to play it with a homeless person to get true insights, said photographer Alan Newton, who was to introduce the game at his Dec. 3 photo exhibit of area homeless people.
  "I was playing and a woman drew a question card, 'What if you lose your children?' She was dealing with exactly that problem," he said.
  The game starts with the premise of renting an apartment and doing the right things to get into a home.  Players progress or regress to different squares, depending on "challenges" such as a babysitter not showing up and "opportunities."
  Lynn Cifka, who helped design the game when she was homeless during the summer of 2010, said the game changed her life.  "Becoming homeless was earth-shattering to me, but the game totally turned that whole experience around for me," she said.
  Cifka, 56, was a stay-at-home mom who made crafts on the side. After her marriage of 33 years ended, she couldn't find a job, she said.  "The game forces you to look at your life. It's like a still-life painting," she said.
  Cifka said she is taking online classes with hopes of marketing the game.
  John Daniels inspired Goodwill Inn residents to create the game, and drew on his experience at the University of Detroit Mercy.  "I told them to get into their stories. 'What do you hear, what do feel, what do you smell, what do you see? Be there.' That's what I challenged them with. The degree to which they ran with it delighted and surprised me," Daniels said.
  Most heart-wrenching are the "question" cards they wrote. All begin with the assertion, "You are homeless." How do you interview for a job if you stink? What will you do with your dog? Where do you go to the bathroom?
  "These are tough questions they've had to answer themselves along the way," Daniels said. Street Outreach Coordinator Ryan Hannon of the Goodwill Inn said the game gives players some needed distance and objectivity.  "When I was in a math class, my teacher told me the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. The homeless person is teaching someone else to get out of homelessness," he said.
    Fred Schaafsma, a retired car executive who recently died, was so impressed he applied for a patent, Daniels said.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...