paleolithic toolkit found in Jordan

It is the sickle that i’m the most curious about. The article states that it was used in the harvesting of wild grains, but agriculture of sorts had already been developed in Egypt. The wikipedia entry on the neolithic revolution of agriculture mentions the Sebilian and Mechian cultures in Egypt, dating from an earlier period from this Jordanian toolkit, as a “false dawn” for agriculture. This double-bladed sickle seems to be a little sophisticated for the gathering of wild grain, in my wildly uninformed opinion. If the tool is that stylized, then the technology seems that it would be relatively established. 

Maybe that “false dawn” in Egypt was not so false after all, as the technology could have spread west through the Fertile Crescent and advanced. The gap of a couple of thousand years of evidence of agriculture is still possible to turn up. The Natufians are already well-known known with the advent of agriculture, but how do the other sickles that have been found compare to this one, and how old are they?

Here’s the article on the kit:

Washington, Dec 31 (ANI): Archaeologists have discovered a 14,000 year old bag of tools near the wall of a roundhouse residence in a site called Wadi Hammeh 27 in Jordan, which provides a glimpse into the daily life of a prehistoric hunter-gatherer.

According to a report in Discovery News, the contents of this ancient toolkit show that its owner, belonging to the Natufian culture, was well equipped to hunt for meat and edible plants in the wild.

“There was a sickle for harvesting wild wheat or barley, a cluster of flint spearheads, a flint core for making more spearheads, some smooth stones (maybe slingshots), a large stone (maybe for striking flint pieces off the flint core), a cluster of gazelle toe bones which were used to make beads, and part of a second bone tool,” said Phillip Edwards, a senior lecturer in the Archaeology Program at Melbourne’s La Trobe University.

The sickle, constructed out of two carefully grooved horn pieces, was fitted with color-matched tan and gray bladelets.

The rest of the items were designed to immobilize and then kill game such as aurochs, red deer, hares, storks, partridges, owls, tortoises and the major source of meat -gazelles.

“A lone hunter or a group of hunters might wait for gazelles to cross their path while waiting behind a low ‘hide’ made of twigs and brush,” explained Edwards.

“They might have worked on making bone beads to wile away the time. Then a hunter could get off a shot while the animals were off their guard. A first shot might wound, but not kill, and then a hunter or a group of them will track the wounded animal,” he added.

Archaeologists believe that these tools were enclosed in a hide or wickerwork bag with a strap that would have been worn over the shoulder. Because such bags rarely had compartments, the owner probably protected valuable items by wrapping them in rolls of bark or leather before placing them at the bottom of the bag.

“The clustering of these items is due to a decision made by some Natufian individual,” said Francois Valla, director of the French Research Center in Jerusalem and a noted archaeologist. “As such, it is a rare testimony of the behavior of a person 14,000 years ago,” he added.

But, the bags owner wasnt necessarily a man because women are thought to have been in charge of plant gathering.

The tools, therefore, either belonged to a woman hunter-gatherer, or work activities were more gender-blind than thought during prehistoric times, Edwards told Discovery News.

The toolkit’s showpiece item, its double-bladed sickle, is now on display in the museum of the Faculty of Archaeology & Anthropology at Jordan’s Yarmouk University. (ANI)

Senator Vitter might have more in common with Senator Craig that it seems

It seemed like Vitter was out of the woods, as unless he was having homosexual extramarital affairs like Craig, no one really gave a damn. Now Republican Vincent Bruno is daring Vitter to sign an affidavit stating that Vitter has never had a homosexual encounter.

Well, not yet really… Bruno claims that he’s waiting for the next election to deliver that challenge, but he’s lining up his rumors. Your Right Hand Thief points out that Bruno’s predictions about Vitter’s indiscretions have a pretty good track record.

Gotta love those swinging legislating moralists.

comments problem fixed

The option for only registered users could comment was ticked in the options, yet there was no way for anyone to register. It did seem curiously quiet here, even though traffic is a tiny fraction of what it once was in its heyday.

It’s fixed now. There will be open comments until the spambots attack. I’ll worry about that day when it comes.

Bill Kristol as NYT columnist

It’s obvious that when the New York Times taps Bill Kristol as columnist that they are not looking for a conservative voice. Uggubugga nominates Pat Buchanan as an alternate conservative voice with a better track record, not that NY Times would want him. The selection of Kristol does not seem to be a nod towards conservatism but for war. This is a about more than picking someone who will generate controversy and possibly ad revenue through that. There are plenty of other voices that can push controversial opinions. Kristol  can generate more pro-war pieces as a NYT columnist than at Time, although i’ve read that he only wrote 20 columns for them in the period of 11 months.

the archives work so much better than my memory

It’s a little silly to note this, but the two archaeology posts from this morning have me very damned happy that the Orbis Quintus archive is back up. It has pained me to read so many stories over the past several months, to have this nagging feeling that there is something familiar about them that i couldn’t quite place.

My memory is shit, in case you haven’t noticed. Firsthand experiences are easy to recall, but what i read goes through me like a sieve. It is stored someplace, as i can feel facts tickling at the brain at times, but they rarely come when beckoned.

This feels so much more comfortable.  The Blogger site didn’t work for me, and that del.icio.us experiment doesn’t suit me either. The necessity of fixing the categories and tags seems more urgent than ever…. although i’ll probably still put it off until later.

Kingdom of Yam found 700 miles west of the Nile

It’s quite cool to see that Carlo Bergmann expedition into the Sahara has apparently identified the Kingdom of Yam, 700 miles west of the Nile:

Explorers just returning from the Sahara desert have claimed they found a remarkable relic from Pharaonic times.

Mark Borda and Mahmoud Marai, from Malta and Egypt respectively, were surveying a field of boulders on the flanks of a hill deep in the Libyan desert some 700 kilometres west of the Nile Valley when engravings on a large rock consisting of hieroglyphic writing, Pharaonic cartouche, an image of the king and other Pharaonic iconography came into view.

Mr Borda would not reveal the precise location in order to protect the site.

He explained the far-reaching implications of the find for Egyptology. “Although very active in the Eastern Desert, as attested to by the innumerable inscriptions they left behind, there is very little evidence for the presence of the ancient Egyptians in the much larger and harsher Western Desert.

“The consensus among Egyptologists is that the Egyptians did not penetrate this desert any further than the area around Djedefre’s Water Mountain. This is a sandstone hill about 80 kilometres south west of the Dakhla Oasis that contains hieroglyphic inscriptions. Its discovery in 2003 by the German explorer Carlo Bergmann caused a sensation as it extended the activities of the Pharaonic administrations an unprecedented 80 kilometres further out into the unknown and waterless Western Desert. The find we just made is some 650 kilometres further on!! Egyptologists will be dumbstruck by this news.”

But that is not all. As soon as he emerged from the desert Mr Borda flew to London to discuss the find with Maltese Egyptologist Aloisia De Trafford from the Institute of Archaeology (University College London).

She immediately facilitated a preliminary decipherment of the text via Joe Clayton, an ancient languages specialist who lectures on hieroglyphic writing at Birkbeck College at the same university.

Mr Borda continues, “Within a matter of days the short text was yielding astonishing revelations. In the annals of Egyptian history there are references to far off lands that the pharaohs had traded with but none of these have ever been positively located.

“It turns out that the script we found states the name of the region where it was carved, which is none other than the fabled land of Yam, one of the most famous and mysterious nations that the Egyptians had traded with in Old Kingdom times; a source of precious tropical woods and ivory.

“Its location has been debated by Egyptologists for over 150 years but it was never imagined it could be 700 kilometres west of the Nile in the middle of the Sahara desert.”

Speculation about the extent to which the Egyptians penetrated the Western Desert gained momentum in the 1990s when it was determined that caches of pottery discovered all along the Abu Ballas Trail by Bergmann, where determined to be of XVIIIth Dynasty manufacture.

During this period it was also realised that the central stone in the famous Tutankamun pectoral was made of Libyan Desert Glass, which is only found just north of the Gilf, 700 kilometres west of the Nile. Egyptologists however, concluded that the Egyptian pottery on the Abu Ballas Trail was probably transported there by desert dwellers who were trading with the Egyptians, and that Tutankamun’s natural glass also got to the Nile via such desert peoples.

Last year Mr Borda was the main sponsor and also a participant in Carlo Bergmann’s expedition to the Gilf Kebir, the aim of which was to find evidence that the ancient Egyptians had crossed the Western Desert and reached the Gilf.

Mr Marai who specialises in providing desert transport for adventurers and explorers supplied the vehicle back up. The expedition involved walking the entire distance on foot with camels carrying essential supplies and surveying the ground along the way.

After the 2006 expedition Mr Borda resolved to do this year’s expedition with vehicles that would allow a much greater area to be covered.

The search would focus on hieroglyphic writing which, if found on immovable surfaces such as boulders, hillsides and so on, would be positive proof for Egyptologists that the pharaohs has organised long range trading, diplomatic and prospecting missions very deep into the desert.

He thus contracted Mr Marai to provide the transport and together they searched two routes between the oasis of Abu Munqar and Jebel Uweinat, a total distance of about 1,400 kilometres.

Numerous boulders, rocky ridges and hillsides the length and breadth of these routes were inspected before they eventually made the discovery.

A trip is being planned in February to show the site to Egyptologists and journalists.

I’m still waiting for the final word on Punt though.  It’s going to turn up one of these years.

the return of “Kyrgyz Atlantis”

Back in 2004, this “Kyrgyz Atlantis” seemed a little outlandish. Now artifacts have been recovered, and it looks to be older than medieval. I’m reproducing the whole article:

MOSCOW. (Nikolai Lukashov for RIA Novosti) – An international archeological expedition to Lake Issyk Kul, high in the Kyrgyz mountains, proves the existence of an advanced civilization 25 centuries ago, equal in development to the Hellenic civilizations of the northern coast of the Pontus Euxinus (Black Sea) and the Mediterranean coast of Egypt.

The expedition resulted in sensational finds, including the discovery of major settlements, presently buried underwater. The data and artefacts obtained, which are currently under study, apply the finishing touches to the many years of exploration in the lake, made by seven previous expeditions. The addition of a previously unknown culture to the treasury of history extends the idea of the patterns and regularities of human development.

Kyrgyz historians, led by Vladimir Ploskikh, vice president of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, worked side-by-side with Russian colleagues, lead by historian Svetlana Lukashova and myself. All the Russians involved were experienced skin-divers and members of the Russian Confederation of Underwater Sports. We were responsible for the work done under water. Scuba divers ventured into the lake many times to study its bottom.

Last year, we worked near the north coast at depths of 5-10 metres to discover formidable walls, some stretching for 500 meters-traces of a large city with an area of several square kilometers. In other words, it was a metropolis in its time. We also found Scythian burial mounds, eroded by waves over the centuries, and numerous well preserved artifacts-bronze battleaxes, arrowheads, self-sharpening daggers, objects discarded by smiths, casting molds, and a faceted gold bar, which was a monetary unit of the time.

Lake Issyk Kul has played a tremendous role since the inception of human history due to its geographic location at the crossing of Indo-Aryan and other nomadic routes. Archeologists found traces of many religions here-Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Somewhere in the vicinity was Chihu, the metropolitan city of a mighty state of Wusung nomads, which ancient Chinese chronicles mentioned on many occasions.

The Great Silk Road lay along the lake’s coast until the 18th century. Even today, the descendants of caravan drivers recollect their ancestors’ stories about travelling from Asia to Europe and back.

Tamerlane built a fortress on one of the lake islets to hold aristocratic captives and keep his treasures. The famous Asian expeditions of Russian explorers Dmitry Przhevalsky and Pyotr Semyonov-Tianshansky started from that spot.

The latter left us an enticing mystery. When he visited Venice in 1850, he looked at the Catalan Atlas of 1375 and came across a picture of a lakeside monastery with the caption: “The spot is named Isikol. Here is a monastery of Armenian brethren, which is rumored to possess the relics of St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist.”

Semyonov-Tianshansky embarked on a relentless but vain search for the shrine. To all appearances, the monastery was engulfed by water. Hydrologists have not to this day sufficiently studied the unique lake with regular shifts in its water level. Some changes are gradual, others sudden and disastrous since they are caused by earthquakes and torrents of water rush from lakes higher up in the mountains. Floods recede sooner or later, and people come back to the shores-only to become the victims of other floods 500-700 years later.

Throughout the years of their partnership, Russian and Kyrgyz archeologists discovered and examined more than ten major flooded urban and rural settlements of varying ages. Their ample finds generously add to present-day ideas of everyday life in times long ago.

Some artifacts are stunning. A 2,500 year-old ritual bronze cauldron was found on the bottom of the lake. The subtlety of its craftsmanship is amazing. Such excellent quality of joining details together can be presently obtained by metalwork in an inert gas. How did ancient people achieve their high-tech perfection? Also of superb workmanship are bronze mirrors, festive horse harnesses and many other objects. Articles identified as the world’s oldest extant coins were also found underwater-gold wire rings used as small change and a large hexahedral goldpiece.

Side by side with the settlements are remnants of ritual complexes of times immemorial, dwellings and household outbuildings. Later expeditions will study them.

The information collected there allows us to conjecture that local people had a socio-economic system hitherto unknown to historians. As a blending of nomadic and settled life, it either gradually evolved into something different or-more likely-was destroyed by one of the many local floods. Legends confirm the latter assumption.

Nikolai Lukashov, a member of the Russian Confederation of Underwater Sports, took part in the the Issyk Kul expedition.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

An “Atlantis” still suggests an advanced civilization, which still seems a little too far. Just because there are walls underwater doesn’t put them at the same period as the burial mounds. It looks like a long inhabitated site lost to floods, not a flash frozen snapshot.

adding more books to the 2008 reading queue

Three Percent points to Stop Smiling’s interview with Matvei Yankelevich about translating Daniil Kharms. I’ve been meaning to buy this book, but Christmas had other priorities. Kharms as both a character and a writer is extremely appealing to me right now.

I feel a little guilty voting for The Savage Detectives on Three Percent’s poll of the best translation of 2007, as i read only two of the books that made the final ten in their ballot. Although i plan to read Robert Walser in 2008 (primarily because he played a key role in Vila-Matas’ Montano’s Malady,) I’m leaning towards reading the NYBR’s Selected Stories or Jakob von Gunten before The Assistant, as i’ve been pussyfooting around with reading one of those for awhile.

Reading Cortazar’s Autonauts of the Cosmoroute is a gimme. I’m already fond of him, and the Archipelago books are just pretty. Bacacay was packaged nicely, and Dreams and Stones by Magdelena Tulli has been waiting patiently on the shelf for the past month. Damn. I didn’t expect 2008 reading queue to be lining up so quickly. There are still quite a few books that i swore to finish this week while on vacation, but instead have been screwing about with video games.

Claire Berlinski: a walking cliche of an arrogant expatriate

Wingnut welfare princess Claire Berlinski gets her jollies calling Orhan Pamuk a “poseur” in the Globe & Mail. She is the daughter of Intelligent Design proponent David Berlinski, so one can see that she is a product of a very rigorous intellect indeed. She is also beloved by the likes of Little Green Footballs because she preaches the gospels of how Europe is too old and Islam is scary. She knows this because as a wingnut welfare princess, she maintains residences in Paris and Istanbul. She speaks from “experience,” and her self-implied service with the C.I.A from two seemingly by-the-number spy novels ( i haven’t read them. They might be servicable escapist pulp) bolster her limp, wealth-privileged credentials.

It seems that she must have her knickers in a twist because Pamuk said some things that the neo-cons must not have liked, although she never directly addresses that in this piece. She spends the whole article mocking Pamuk’s love of books and his hüzün,  while boasting because she’s lived a little while in Istanbul that she has a firmer grasp on what being Turkish is all about. She actually has the audacity to argue:

On Sept. 11, 2001, writers treating the themes of East contra West and Islam contra modernity hit the literary jackpot.

This is written by the woman who wrote Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis Is America’s Crisis. She insists that he retire his themes revolving around the division of East and West, yet has tried to recast herself as an expert on the subject? The whole “review” of Pamuk’s Other Colors reeks of petty jealousy.

She accuses him of being part of Turkey’s haute bourgeoisie, something that Pamuk himself has written in his memoir Istanbul. Her criticism of the man is deeply superficial, flying into constructed fantasies that speak more of her own circle of acquaintances. It reads like Ann Coulter’s conversations with straw men.

One of the few direct attack on his writing is:

And did he mention that he really, really likes books? – although I do have to wonder, occasionally, just how carefully he is reading them; in his discussion of Nabokov, for example, he describes Humbert Humbert as a man who “searches for timeless beauty with all the innocence of a small child.” Beg pardon? Humbert searches for timeless beauty by molesting an innocent small child. There is quite a difference.

While the quote is indeed a direct quote from Pamuk’s essay, its context reveals that Berlinski is shameless liar or a babbling idiot. The essay was about Nabokov’s cruelty as a writer. If she cannot grasp why that interpretation of Humbert Humbert has resonancy in context of that essay, she need to shut the fuck up.

Globe & Mail, please do not commission any more pieces from this shallow, partisan hack.