The Peopling of the Americas

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In a Perspective article published in the November 3, 2017 issue of Science, Todd J. Braje and colleagues discuss the various theories behind how people first arrived and settled in North America, emphasizing that the conventional belief – that the first people to arrive came via the Beringia land bridge – is becoming less widely accepted. They cite evidence for human occupation at least ~14,500 years ago, which is a millennium or more sooner than the Beringia land bridge became passable, roughly 13,500 years ago. In particular, the authors favor the kelp highway hypothesis, which proposes that deglaciation of the outer coast of North America’s Pacific Northwest after ~17,000 years ago created a possible dispersal corridor rich in aquatic and terrestrial resources along the Pacific Coast. However, testing the kelp highway hypothesis is challenging because much of the archaeo­logical evidence would have been sub­merged by rising seas since the last glacial maximum. Recent underwater discoveries, such as one site in Florida, where butchered mastodon bones and chipped stone tools were found and estimated to be roughly 14,500 years old, show how it may also be possible to receive evidence from such submerged sites along the Pacific coast. Braje et al. outline key areas where additional research can be focused. In the search for clues as to how the peopling of the Americas occurred, including formerly glaciated areas where ancient shorelines have not shifted so dramatically, is important, they say.

Article Source: Edited and adapted from the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) news release.

The Earliest Directly Dated Rock Paintings from Southern Africa

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Rock art worldwide has proved extremely difficult to date directly. Here, the first radiocarbon dates for rock paintings in Botswana and Lesotho are presented, along with additional dates for Later Stone Age rock art in South Africa. The samples selected for dating were identified as carbon-blacks from short-lived organic materials, meaning that the sampled pigments and the paintings that they were used to produce must be of similar age. The results reveal that southern African hunter-gatherers were creating paintings on rock shelter walls as long ago as 5723–4420 cal BP in south-eastern Botswana: the oldest such evidence yet found in southern Africa.

Ancient Temples Damaged in Myanmar Earthquake

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earthquakeA 6.8-magnitude earthquake last week in Myanmar Killed 3 people and damaged over 170 Temples. One of the major sites of destruction was the historic city of Bagan as reported by a number of news outlets. The epicenter was however almost 400 miles north of Yangon according to the United States Geological Survey. Yangon is the country’s largest city.

Bagan is at the heart of Central Myanmar’s growing tourism industry, which has been growing rapidly since 2011. Bangan’s rich history goes back to between the 11th and 13th centuries, when the city was the capital and over 2,000 structures demonstrate the rich history of the city.

Earthquakes have also been part of the history of Bagan. Bagan has survived a number of earthquake just this past century, like one in 1975, which was just as powerful as last week’s earthquake. In that that earthquake a number of structures including the Sulamani Temple were damaged. The Sulamani Temple was rebuilt in the 1990s, along with many other structures.

According to the New York Times, last month, Myanmar’s tourism officials had announced plans to welcome more than five million tourists this year.

While loss of life and helping survivors are of utmost importance after earthquakes, the officials are beginning to assess the damage to the country’s heritage sites in Bagan and surrounding cities.

Fires in Tasmanian World Heritage Wilderness

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firesAs reported by a number of news agencies about 72,000 hectares of World Heritage Designated forests in western Tasmania, Australia’s southernmost state have been burned by clusters of bushfires. It has also been reported that most of the bushfires were ignited by a dry lightning storm that crossed the island in mid January.

Fires have posed an enormous, ongoing challenge to the fire service, and threaten and destroy vegetation that is unique to Tasmania, including iconic alpine species such as the Pencil Pine and cushion plants, as well as temperate rainforests. In addition, fires are burning up large areas of organic soils upon which the unique Tasmanian vegetation depends as reported by the environmentalists. It is believed that it will be extremely unlikely for the burnt areas with the endemic alpine flora to fully recover given the slow growth of these species and the increased risk of subsequent fires according to Professor David Bowman, University of Tasmania.
There is a great environmental impact to the Tasmanian World Heritage Wilderness, especially fires in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park and Cradle Mountain-Lake Saint Clair National Park. Since the declaration of the World Heritage Area, fire has been carefully regulated and campfires are prohibited resulting in the reduction in the number of bushfires. Unfortunately, over the last decade there have been an increasing number of lightning storms that have ignited fires. This current fire season however, is shaping up to be extremely unusual because of the high number of fires set by lightning, their duration, and erratic and destructive behaviour that has surprised many fire fighters.

Italy Creates a UNESCO Emergency Task Force

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palmirIt was reported yesterday that UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, and the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, will sign an agreement on the establishment of a Task Force of cultural heritage experts in the framework of UNESCO’s global coalition Unite for Heritage on 16 February in Rome.

The task force will create a list of experts who could be deployed for the conservation of cultural heritage affected by crises. It has been reported that this agreement is a landmark in the development of UNESCO’s global coalition Unite for Heritage, which was launched in June 2015 during the annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn (Germany). UNESCO hopes that other countries will take similar steps to reinforce the international community’s ability to respond to the growing threats facing cultural heritage in different parts of the world.

UNESCO states that the establishment of a Task Force bringing together cultural heritage experts and the Italian Carabinieri (Italian Paramilitary) force specialized in the fight against the illicit trafficking in cultural property will enhance UNESCO’s capacity to respond to future emergencies. The establishment of this Task Force by the Italian Government directly implements the Strategy adopted by Member States at UNESCO’s General Conference last November.

The Strategy also sets out to reinforce UNESCO’s action for the protection of cultural heritage and the promotion of cultural diversity and pluralism. It calls on Member States to Contribute to the Strategy, notably through mechanisms for the rapid deployment of national expertise in emergency situations under UNESCO’s overall coordination. The reinforcement of UNESCO’s capacity to respond to current challenges builds on existing international legal instruments, notably the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and enhances the scope of their application.

Total Destruction of Oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq

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Oldest Christian monastery 1As reported earlier today by the Associated Press, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been totally destroyed by the terrorist organization, ISIS and there is now only a field of rubble where a magnificent ancient cultural site once stood. For 1,400 years the Christian Monastery survived all assaults by nature and man, and was place of worship for Christians in Iraq. In earlier centuries, generations of monks tucked candles in the niches and prayed in the cool chapel. The Greek letters chi and rho, representing the first two letters of Christ’s name, were carved near the entrance as reported and evidenced by looking at photographs that are now the only reminder of that beautiful site.

Oldest Christian monastery 2The most recent satellite photos obtained exclusively by The Associated Press confirm the worst fears of church authorities and preservationists that St. Elijah’s Monastery of Mosul has been completely destroyed.

This is not the first time that the terrorist Islamic group, which has killed thousands of civilians and forced out hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and towns has also destroyed places of worship for not just Christians, but also Moslems. Along the way, its fighters have destroyed buildings and ruined historical and culturally significant structures they consider contrary to their interpretation of Islam.

Those who knew the monastery wondered about its fate after the extremists swept through in June 2014 and largely cut communications to the area. Now, St. Elijah’s has joined a growing list of more than 100 demolished religious and historic sites, including mosques, tombs, shrines and churches in Syria and Iraq. The extremists have defaced or ruined ancient monuments in Nineveh, Palmyra and Hatra. Museums and libraries have been looted, books burned, artwork crushed or trafficked and sold in the black market.

Record Rise In Museum Prices

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Record rise in museum pricesIn the last few months,Turkish officials have enacted sweeping hikes in the price of admission to museums and ancient sites despite a drop in the number of visitors this year as reported by the Hurriyet Dailey News. This has naturally made some tourism operators worried that the rise will further detract visitors.

The entrance price for Ephesus, Topkapı Palace and Hagia Sophia have all increased from 30 to 40 Turkish Liras. One of the five most visited cities in world, Antalya, saw a decline in tourist numbers for the first time this year.

For 2016, ticket prices have been increased for most ancient sites and museums operated by the Turkish Travel Agencies’ Union (TÜRSAB). The rise at Olympos has hit 400 percent, with the five-lira price skyrocketing to 20 liras. Many experts believe that the rises are inexplicable at a time when the tourism sector in Turkey needs a boost. The new ticket prices will go into effect on Jan. 4, 2016.

1150th Anniversary Of The Birth of Famous Persian Scholar

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razi-picThe 1150th birth anniversary of Persian scholar, Mohammad ibn Zakariya Razi, has been registered on the list of UNESCO’s birth events to be observed in the 2016-2017 festivals.

Iran and Tajikistan had jointly recommended to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to register Razi’s anniversary which was approved on the sidelines of its 38th General Conference in Paris

Razi (866-925 AD), was a Persian polymath, physician, alchemist and chemist, philosopher and an important figure in the history of medicine. A comprehensive thinker, he made fundamental and enduring contributions to various fields of science, which he recorded in over 200 manuscripts, and is particularly remembered for numerous advances in medicine through his observations and discoveries.

Stolen Peruvian Paintings Are Returned

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paintingsSix years after nine 18th century paintings were stolen, they were finally returned earlier this month. The paintings by Mexican artist Miguel Cabrera were stolen from Peru and had been smuggled out of the country for trafficking on the international art market.

In 2009, several of the paintings had been discovered at an auction house in Cedar Falls, Iowa. They were reportedly consigned by an unnamed art dealer. One of the paintings, titled “Resurrection of Lazarus” – was discovered for sale at an unidentified auction house in New York City earlier this year. After confirming it was also a stolen Cabrera, the FBI took possession of the painting and returned it with the rest of the paintings. It is still not clear how the art dealer or the person who put the ninth painting up for sale at auction in New York had obtained the works. In both cases, the consignors relinquished all claims to the works after being shown evidence that the paintings were stolen according to released information, however, the investigation is continuing.

The nine paintings were returned earlier this month (Sep 2014) to the government of Peru in a ceremony at the United States Attorney’s Office in lower Manhattan that was attended by Harold Forsyth, Peru’s ambassador to the United States as reported by several media outlets.

Newly Discovered Monuments Around Stonehenge

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StonehengeAs published and reported by some media outlets and in the September issue of the Smithsonian Magazine, archaeologists have discovered 15 previously unknown monuments buried around Stonehenge. This new finding has added more mystery surrounding Stonehenge. These monuments were found in the first-of-its-kind study and they suggest that other monuments could be hidden underneath the current monuments.

Technology definitely played a major role in the project. Researchers used a variety of techniques including ground-penetrating radar and 3D laser scanning which helped them to create a highly detailed subsurface map of the entire area. According to a release from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, one of the partners in the study, the technologies are notable for being much less destructive than traditional, digging-based exploratory techniques.

The project has been known as “The Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project” and it took over four years. One of the new finds is an ancient trough that bisects an East-West ditch known as a “Cursus”. Archeologists believe that the Cursus monument aligns with the sunrise on the Spring and Fall equinoxes, and that the newly discovered trough could have been a means for people to ceremonially process toward the center of Stonehenge to the south.

The new research builds on findings from last October indicating that the area around Stonehenge is the oldest continually occupied region in Britain, going back to as early as 8820 B.C.