Monday, July 20, 2015

130,000 Year Old Neanderthal Eagle Talon Necklace

It just amazes me that this artefact gets a little blurb instead of the news-busting headlines it deserves. 

Source:  Archaeology Magazine

Neanderthal Necklace
Thursday, June 04, 2015
More than 100 years ago, eight eagle talons were excavated from a famous Neanderthal site called Krapina, and subsequently left in a drawer at the Croatian Natural History Museum in Zagreb. Davorka RadovĨic recently took over as curator, and she discovered the talons while reexamining the museum’s collections. She noticed several deep cut marks and evidence that the talons had been strung together as a necklace. The talons have been dated to about 130,000 years ago, predating the arrival of Homo sapiens in the area by about 50,000 years. The talon necklace is now thought to be the earliest known symbolic Neanderthal artifact.
Eagle talons from Neanderthal site, Krapina, Croatia

The Mystery of the Kitora Tomb

Source:  CNET

Mysterious ancient star chart shows foreign skies

The Kitora Tomb, located near the village of Asuka in Japan's Nara Prefecture, is known for gorgeous, colourful paintings at the four cardinal points of the compass. A black tortoise guards the north of the ancient tumulus, which has been standing since the seventh or eighth century. A red phoenix stands at the south, a white tiger at the west and a blue dragon at the east.

The ceiling of the tomb is decorated differently, with a map of the night sky, charting 68 constellations, with the stars picked out in gold leaf. Three concentric circles are drawn with vermilion, showing the movement of celestial objects, one of which is the sun.

According to Kazuhiko Miyajima, a professor at Doshisha University who studied the chart after the tomb was discovered in 1998, this makes it possibly the oldest astronomical chart of its kind in the world. It has designations for the horizon, equator and ecliptic circles, as well as recognisable patterns of stars.

While older depictions of the skies have been found in the west (the 17,300-year-old Lascaux cave painting, for example, shows Pleiades, Taurus, Orion and Aldebaran), most do not contain recognisable star patterns, or diagrams of astronomical phenomena.

One thing that has baffled researchers, however, is the area of sky the chart depicts.

Researchers Mitsuru Soma, an assistant professor of astronomy at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, and Tsuko Nakamura, a researcher of modern astronomy with Daito Bunka University's Institute of Oriental Studies, teamed up with Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs and Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties to calculate the location, reports the Ashanti Shimbun.

The two researchers worked separately, and determined that the sky as depicted in the Kitora Tomb chart was seen from China, from locations such as modern-day Xi'an and Luoyang.

The chart as annotated by University of Iowa research fellow Steve Renshaw.Steve Renshaw

They also determined that the chart showed the sky as it would have appeared several hundred years before the construction of the Kitora Tomb -- although they didn't agree on the number of years. Soma said that it shows the sky as it would have appeared between 240 and 520, while Nakamura said it would have appeared so between 120BC and 40BC.

Miyajima believes differently, extrapolating that the chart shows the sky as it would have appeared in 65BC, either from Pyongyang or Seoul, the capitals of North and South Korea respectively. In his 1999 lecture, he had said that the chart had probably come from Korea, but showed the sky in China.

So, sometime between 600 and 700 CE, while the Tang Dynasty was ascendant in China and cultural exchanges and trade flourished between China and many countries and kingdoms of the known world at the time, someone painted a depiction of an old astronomical chart on the Kitora Tomb.  Did the tomb's resident have strong ties to China?  Sadly, we can never know because the tomb was looted, evidently in ancient times, and not much was left behind.  Here is what Wikipedia says:

Fragments of a lacquered wooden coffin, torn apart when the tomb was robbed, lay 5 cm thick on the chamber floor, mixed with grave goods and human bone. A gilded bronze fitting and sword decorations were discovered, both executed with superbly inlaid patterns. Based upon analysis of the bone fragments and items found in the tomb, it is believed the interred was a middle-aged or older male of aristocratic background.

Drought Stricken Farmers Turn to Water Witchers

Fascinating article.  The comments by readers afterward are even more interesting.  Evidently, many of them tried a form of "dowsing" at one time and claim to have been successful, not claiming to have any special ability for the practice.

Source:  Yahoo News

Amid epic drought, California farmers turn to water witches

Rejected by scientists, dowsing is an ancient tradition that’s dying hard in the Central Valley’s parched fields

Yahoo News 
LINDSAY, Calif. — Vern Tassey doesn’t advertise. He’s never even had a business card. But here in California’s Central Valley, word has gotten around that he’s a man with “the gift,” and Tassey, a plainspoken, 76-year-old grandfather, has never been busier.
Farmers call him day and night — some from as far away as the outskirts of San Francisco and even across the state line in Nevada. They ask, sometimes even beg, him to come to their land. “Name your price,” one told him. But Tassey has so far declined. What he does has never been about money, he says, and he prefers to work closer to home.
And that’s where he was on a recent Wednesday morning, quietly marching along the edge of a bushy orange grove here in the heart of California’s citrus belt, where he’s lived nearly his entire life. Dressed in faded Wranglers, dusty work boots and an old cap, Tassey held in his hands a slender metal rod, which he clutched close to his chest and positioned outward like a sword as he slowly walked along the trees. Suddenly, the rod began to bounce up and down, as if it were possessed, and he quickly paused and scratched a spot in the dirt with his foot before continuing on.
A few feet away stood the Wollenmans — Guy, his brother Jody and their cousin Tommy — third-generation citrus farmers whose family maintains some of the oldest orange groves in the region. Like so many Central Valley farmers, their legacy is in danger — put at risk by California’s worst drought in decades. The lack of rain and snow runoff from the nearby Sierra Nevada has caused many of their wells to go dry. To save their hundreds of acres of trees, they’ll need to find new, deeper sources of water — and that’s where Tassey comes in.
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