Grim Archaeology – WIF Almanac

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Grim Archaeological

Discoveries

With archaeology, we are able to take a peek into the past. Ancient texts, though revealing, often times are subjective, written by conquerors and victors, skewing the facts to make themselves appear in a more positive light. But ancient relics, buried deep in the ground by time or people, tell a more complete story of what happened hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.

 With the help of archaeology, scientists and historians can slowly piece together the story of humanity and the planet itself. And as these things often are, long forgotten secrets can sometimes be scary, if not downright gruesome. Here are 10 such grim archaeological discoveries.

10. The First Recorded Boomerang Victim – Australia

Even though we tend to think of boomerangs as toys to be thrown around, they are in fact deadly weapons with which the Aboriginals have been hunting and killing for thousands of years. In 2014, in Australia’s Toorale National Park, on the banks of the Darling River, a skeleton belonging to an Aboriginal was discovered by a local man. Knowing it to belong to one of his ancestors, William Bates, an Aboriginal himself, named him Kaakutja – “older brother” in the Baakantji language. Taking a closer look, Mr. Bates noticed a gash over Kaakutja’s right eye, extending all the way to his jaw. It first appeared as if the skull was struck by an iron blade, with the skeleton belonging to one of the many victims of frontier violence from the time of British colonization of Australia.

However, on closer inspection by Michael Westaway, a paleoanthropologist at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, it was discovered that this was not the case. In fact, Kaakutja lived some 500 years before the British ever set foot on the continent, and that the man was in his 20s or 30s when he died. Moreover, several other signs of trauma were discovered all over the skeleton, marks which were made by a wooden object, rather than a metal sword. Scientists were puzzled at first since no one had ever seen trauma such as this in Australia’s entire archaeological history. While several of the other wounds came from a Lil-lil, a wooden club made to look and perform like an ordinary axe, the gash on his face was clearly from a battle boomerang. When found, Kaakutja was lying on his right side in a tightly curled up position and with his mouth wide open. These all indicate a gruesome and violent death sometime between 1260 and 1280 AD.

9. The First Victims of War – Kenya

War was always believed to have appeared onto the world stage alongside agriculture and animal husbandry, when mankind renounced its hunter-gatherer lifestyle and opted for a more sedentary way of life. This is also the time when wealth and belongings beyond one’s immediate needs came into existence, and also when it became profitable for a person to own another. These, of course, don’t rule out the occasional individual murders among various families. They refer to actual wars between groups of hunter-gatherers without a strict social hierarchy system, which were believed to be virtually nonexistent. This notion, however, may have been turned on its head when a group of 27 skeletons were found on the edge of Lake Turkana, Kenya, in 2012.

Dating back to between 9,500 and 10,500 years ago, these 27 bodies of men, women, and children, all showed signs of blunt force trauma and projectile wounds. One of the women had both her knees broken, was lying on her side, and with her wrists in front as if they were once bound together. This large number of skeletons found together rule out the notion of any small-scale feud between prehistoric families, suggesting that these people belonged to a sizable hunter-gatherer group, some of which may have escaped death in this particular conflict.

These gruesome findings have lead archaeologists to believe that these people were members of a somewhat large, semi-nomadic tribe of hunter-gatherers who settled the banks of Lake Turkana. This was not so uncommon since lakes acted as both a stable water source, as well as ensuring a constant influx of wild game suitable for hunting. “Violence is a pretty ubiquitous part of the human behavioral repertoire,” said Robert Foley, anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of Cambridge. “Having said that, so too is altruism, cooperation, and caring.”

8. The Pit of Death – France

Close to the border with Germany, in a French village known as Bergheim, a circular pit dating to around 6,000 years ago was discovered back in 2012. It contained the remains of eight people, and seven severed left arms, among other hand fragments. Circular pits like this one were common all throughout Central and Western Europe during Neolithic times, but none contained such grisly examples of human savagery. These cylindrical pits may have been used as storage silos or as graves for high-ranking individuals, though scholars aren’t entirely sure and still debate the issue. It is also a possibility that slaves or relatives were killed in order to accompany the buried noble into the afterlife. But this seems to not have been the case here.

This particular 6.5 foot deep pit became the final resting place for two men, one woman and four children, which may have been the victims of a raid, or some sort of violent encounter. Their bodies were already piled over several left arms, hand fragments and severed fingers, which appeared to have been hacked off with axes. Their origin or purpose is unknown, but some speculate that these were some sort of trophies. One of the severed limbs belonged to a child no older than 16, while one of the bodies was of an infant. The deepest skeleton belonged to a middle-aged man who also had his left arm cut off, as well as several other wounds which most likely proved fatal. One later addition to the pile, a woman, was added some almost 700 years later, but she showed no signs of a violent death or trauma.

7. Mass Graves from the Great Rebellion – England

Wanting to build a café next to its library back in 2013, Durham University began construction with some preliminary excavations. But soon after work began, it came to an abrupt halt when they came across something believed to be forever lost. Two mass graves were uncovered, holding the bodies of over 1,700 Scottish soldiers who had been taken as prisoners of war after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 by Oliver Cromwell in his Civil Wars for the British Crown. The battle, which took less than an hour, was fought between Cromwell’s parliamentarian army and the untrained Scottish Covenanters, who supported Charles II’s claims to the Scottish throne.

Over an area of less than 11 square feet, up to 28 bodies were uncovered, belonging to boys of ages between 13 and 25. The lack of any healed signs of trauma on the skeletons indicate that these soldiers didn’t have much experience in waging war, and most of them probably died of starvation, dysentery or exhaustion. In the aftermath of the battle only about 100 Englishmen perished while some 3,000 Scotsmen were killed and another 6,000 were taken prisoner. Those who were too sick or wounded, some 1,000 soldiers in total, were set free, while the others were taken on a 100-mile-long march from Dunbar to Durham. Another 1,000 boys died along the way. Others escaped, while some were executed for trying to do so. The remaining 3,000 were imprisoned in the then-disused Durham cathedral and castle.

During their time in captivity, some 1,700 died and were then tipped into these two pits, which were located at the far end of the castle’s grounds. Other mass graves may also exist, but they’re most likelyunder the University. DNA analysis has revealed that most of the soldiers were from Scotland, while a few were Dutchmen, also part of the Scottish army at the time.

6. Incan Child Sacrifice to the Gods – Argentina

Back in 1985, a group of mountaineers, while on a hike high up in the Andes near Cerro Aconcagua, at an altitude of about 17,400 feet, came across a partially unearthed mummy. As it turns out, the remains belonged to a 6 or 7-year old Incan boy who lived some 500 years ago. Moreover, later research revealed that the boy was sacrificed as part of a ritual known as capacocha. The ritual involved children of great physical beauty who would act as messengers to the gods in times of important events. Events like a volcanic eruption, the death of an Emperor, an epidemic, a great military victory, or defeat. These children were gathered from all across the Incan Empire, drugged and then left to die of exposure to the elements, high in the mountains. Whether these children were taken by force, or offered willingly by their parents, is unknown and still debated today.

Whatever the case may be, the Aconcagua boy, as he came to be known, proved to be even more important to scientists than previously believed. His DNA analysis placed him as a direct descendant of the people who crossed into the Americas over the Bering Land Bridge more than 18,000 years ago. This initial group of peoples was called C1b. However, the boy didn’t belong to any previously identified, genetically distinct subgroups of peoples from C1b, and was dubbed as C1bi. His subgroup most likely emerged in the Andes some 14,000 years ago, proving that people moved south relatively fast over North America, once they crossed into the New World. To date, only four other individuals have been identified as belonging to this group. Three are currently living in Peru and Bolivia, while another lived during the ancient Wari Empire, which flourished from 600 to 1000 AD.

5. The Shackled Skeletons – Greece

Back in the 7th century BC, the ancient city state of Athens was shaken to its very core after an aristocrat and Olympic Games victor, Cylon, attempted to occupy the Acropolis and establish a dictatorial government. Fortunately, his coup d’état failed, forcing some of Cylon’s followers to take refuge in the Temple of Athena; a place considered sacred and a safe haven for all those inside. In order to break the stalemate, Megacles, archon of Athens, promised them safe passage under truce. The insurgents then came out, but holding on to a rope tied to the altar. Once outside, the rope was cut and Megacles quickly shouted that the goddess had forsaken the rebels and ordered his men to attack. In the aftermath of his treachery, Megacles was convicted for wrongfully killing Cylon’s supporters and was then exiled from the city, along the entire Alcmaeonid family of which he was part.

Now archeologists think they might have discovered some of the bodies of these slaughtered rebels, four miles away from Athens, in the port city of Phalaeron. The 80 skeletons, 36 of which had their hands bound in iron shackles, were discovered by accident while working on the new National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera. Some vases found among the bodies have pinpointed the massacre between 650 to 625 BC, in accordance with Cylon’s Coup of 635 BC. However, Athens was experiencing a tumultuous period at the time with several riots, crop failures and struggles for power. These make it difficult to certainly identify these men as Cylon’s rebels. Nevertheless, their position at the moment of death indicates that they were buried with respect. Even though their deaths were violent, and many had their hands shackled above their heads, they weren’t thrown inside without consideration, as one might expect to find slaves or common criminals from that period.

4. A Man Rose from the Grave – Ireland

A fierce storm hit northwest Ireland, close to the Atlantic coast in May, 2015. The storm uprooted a two-century-old beech tree, which held a gruesome secret tangled in its roots. A thousand year-old skeleton was literally raised from the grave when the tree collapsed on one side, exposing its bones for the world to see. As it turns out, the skeleton belonged to a 17 to 20 year-old Gaelic man who lived in Ireland sometime between 1030 and 1200 AD. More disturbing is the fact that the body presented signs of trauma on his ribs and hands, which may have been inflicted by a knife or blade of some sort.

Though ripped in half when the tree fell, the initial east-west position of the body would indicate that the man received a proper Christian burial. At 5.8 feet, the boy probably belonged to a relatively wealthy family, able to afford a more nutritious diet for his above average height at the time. Now, there is no way of knowing if he died in battle or during a personal dispute, but archaeologists are fairly certain that he was of true Irish descent since thy believe the burial took place before the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169.

3. A Debt Collection Gone Terribly Wrong – Romania

Throughout much of their medieval history, the three Eastern European principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania of present-day Romania were either under complete control, or vassals to their neighboring empires such as the Ottoman Turks or Austrians. And always, rulership of these principalities under foreign government influence came at a price. In 1593, Prince Michael bought his place on the throne of Wallachia from the Turks. Two years later he would start a rebellion against the Ottomans, the outcome of which would ensure him the title as one of Romania’s most famous historical heroes and the byname of Michael the Brave.

But while he was waging a military campaign across the banks of the Danube River to the south, conquering fortresses and consolidating his borders, three Turkish janissaries, either military commanders or elite Ottoman infantry, were being brutally murdered in the Wallachian capital city of Bucharest. These three are believed to have been the men who provided Prince Michael with the necessary money to secure his place as ruler of Wallachia, and now were looking to collect on that debt. What happened to them next was in a story of savagery worthy of Vlad the Impaler’s countrymen.

While under renovations in 2010 and 2011, Bucharest’s University Square finally unveiled its gruesome secret. The area also contained a cemetery with 688 bodies dating back to between the 16th and 19thcenturies, but the three mangled skeletons were found some distance away, thrown in a pit and covered with all sorts of animal remains, bricks and pottery shards. This debris, however, helped archaeologists date the unmarked grave to around the end of the 16th century, the same time when the previously mentioned events were taking place.

But the most gruesome part about this discovery was the multiple physical signs of trauma these men endured just before their deaths. One man suffered a fractured collarbone, ribs, wrist, kneecap, hips, spine, and skull. Another suffered a total 18 wounds, while the third also had a musket ball in his neck, an arrowhead in one of his ribs, along with a viciously cracked skull. Many of their wounds were around the face area, and most blows came from the front, with both swords and projectile weapons. Two of the men were even partially beheaded. Archaeologists can’t, of course, be absolutely sure if these skeletons belonged to those three moneylenders or not. But they are, however, certain that the men were Turkish. Otherwise, the locals would have given them a Christian burial.

2. Exploratory Voyage Turned Desperate Fight for Survival – Canada

As part of the ongoing European expeditions to find a western shortcut to Asia, John Franklin, an English Royal Navy officer and explorer, embarked on his fourth and final exploratory voyage of the Arctic, trying to find a way around the Canadian Archipelago and onto the Pacific Ocean. On the morning of May 19, 1845, two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, with a total crew of 24 officers and 110 men, set sail from Greenhithe, England, never to be seen again. The first two years of the expedition went on without a hitch and made it all the way to King William Island in northern Canada. But as the 1846 winter began to set it, the water froze and the ships got entrenched in the ice. As an experienced Arctic explorer, Franklin was aware of this possibility and provisioned his ships accordingly. But the following summer came and went, and the ice didn’t melt, keeping the ships stranded.

Franklin and two dozen other men died during this period, forcing the remaining explorers to abandon their ships and attempt a 1,000-mile-long trek through the frozen Canadian wilderness to the nearest Hudson Bay trading post. But as the men would soon realize, their journey would have a bitter ending, none of them making it even a fifth of the way there. Between 1847 and 1859, Lady Franklin, with the aid of the British Admiralty, personally funded over 30 expeditions in search of her husband and his crew, but to no avail. Search missions continued well into the 19th and early 20th centuries, gradually finding evidence that would piece together the gruesome events that happened.

Over the years, scientists found more and more skeletal remains belonging to the crew, with clear signs of cut marks on many of the bones. These are indicative of acts of cannibalism, showing a glimpse at the extremely dire situation those men were in. Some bones had signs of breakage, revealing that even the marrow was extracted, in an attempt to get the last bits of calories and nutrition possible. Both wrecked ships have been discovered in recent years, once and for all solving the mystery of the Arctic’s most tragic expedition.

1. Demons and Sickles – Poland

Our mythology has no shortage of monsters, demons, or evil spirits lurking in the shadows and out to get those still living. Medieval Europe is no exception, and this can clearly be seen in a 17th century cemetery in northwestern Poland. Since 2008, archaeologists have been digging up the 400-year-old cemetery near the village of Drawsko, exposing more than 250 skeletons. And to their surprise, five of them were buried with iron sickles across their necks or hips. Two women in their 30s, a man in his early 40s, and a teenage girl were all sporting an iron sickle tightly across their necks. Another, older woman, probably in her 50s or 60s, had a sickle across her pelvis. These discoveries initially led some to believe it to be a case of “vampires rising from the grave” and the sickles were there to prevent that from happening. However, other scientists have concluded that this was not precisely the case, though “demons” were still involved.

Poland in the 1600s was going through a tumultuous period, riddled with wars, famine, pestilence and poverty. Death was commonplace throughout the country, and even though devoutly Christian, the population often times turned to pagan beliefs, witchcraft and superstitions in an attempt to make sense of the horrific events taking place all around them. Those who died swiftly of a disease, without receiving the proper rituals for entering the afterlife, or those who suffered a violent death, were viewed at “great risk of demonization.” But unlike true “vampire” burials, these people received a proper Christian funeral, were not mutilated, and were mingled with the other deceased members of the community, with their heads pointing westward. Radiocarbon dating has also shown them to be of local origin, since dead foreigners were often seen as potential vampires. These sickles, then, acted as possible wards against evil spirits for both the living and the dead.


Grim Archaeology

WIF Almanac

The NULL Solution = Episode 102

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The NULL Solution = Episode 102

…A man called Xat was banished to this cavern… he and his family and associates for all time and space travel knowledge was to die with him..

Deep below the tower Eupepsia, in a secret place hundreds of feet below the Spaceflight Expository, Ekcello, Supreme Elder of the High Council of Eridanus, meets with the eldest of the Olde. They are the keepers of the Olde Language, so as to preserve it for posterity. They were not, however, charged with the preservation of the olde spaceflight technology, like the hastily abandoned time-space-fold capable ship named Defender back in the day.

Albert Bierstadt (American, 1830-1902) (Painter)

Defender was resurrected for the purpose of giving the Triangulum Galaxy, and the Seljuk, a non-hyperphysical house-call. Granted, it was an open-ended resurrection, but now that the TSF feature is on the fritz, they endeavor to meet with the Great Beyond, Epsilon Eridani style.

The cavern below Eupepsia is a place where no rational Eridanian soul has tread for untold cycles, dating back to the olde home world exodus B.V., Before Vulcanization.

With ancient antiquated written text in hand, thanks to the keepers, Ekcello descends into history, the time when Earth was a place for exploration and a method for collapsing the fabric of space & time was deemed necessary for the sake of “progress”. It is a scary place. Normally he would have Cerella with him to supplement courage. She is, however, the very reason for this séance of sort. Wife Fortan would not be caught dead here.

#Who was the elder in charge of space technology# Ekcello inquires of the Keeper of Customs & Traditions.

#A man called Xat was banished to this cavern… he and his family and associates for all time. His knowledge was to die with him#

#But his spirit lives on. We are here to contact him. We cannot bring Cerella back to her rightful place without his knowledge so-named TSF#

They are not in the grotto but a short time, when it comes alive with activity. Spirits stir and time itself is fractured.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 102


page 103

WIF New Year’s Resolution Sampler

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Top 10 Simple

New Year’s Resolutions

 I hate to be a New  Years Eve party-pooper, but I thought you should know that approximately  half of you will make New Years resolutions this year, but only 8% of you will  successfully achieve them.

 In the interest of turning these dismal results around, I’ve come up with  some alternative resolutions for you before it’s too late, because I think the  secret to achieving New Years resolutions is to keep them as simple as  possible.

For example, you’ll see several alternatives to the ever-popular resolution  to lose weight (the number one resolution in 2012).  Achieving any one of  at least 4 of the resolutions I’ve listed below could in fact result in weight  loss. Or not. In fact, since the resolutions below are more specific than ‘lose  weight,’ they might actually improve your chances of dropping a few pounds – but  without that heavy load of guilt on your shoulders if you don’t.

Simple, yes. But- unlike the empty calories in those light snack bars I may  have just spared you from consuming- the 10 simple resolutions I’ve selected are  also bursting with life-altering potential. Consider them the ‘super foods’ of  resolutions… super resolutions, in fact.

Here, ranked in order from most challenging to s-o-o-o-o-o simple, is a top 10 list of simple new years resolutions:

10. Show Up

Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon  has said “there is an expression among even the most advanced runners that  getting your shoes on is the hardest part of any workout.” As a runner who  belongs to more running Meetups in my city  then the number of runs I’ve actually gone on in the entire year, I can attest  to this.

Furthermore, I think this saying probably applies to any activity requiring  shoes. Strapping shoes on is so difficult that I have ranked it as the most  difficult of my 10 simple resolutions. I dare you to prove me wrong!

Guidelines

To achieve this resolution (i.e. Show Up) you are not merely required to  leave your couch and arrive somewhere else- but you also have to be present. The length of the journey and what you do when you get there  is up to you, but consider this: ‘showing up’ might involve some sort of active  engagement on y0ur part (i.e. learning something, meeting new people,  performing, participating in a lively debate).

Keep it Simple

Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the  door – Kris Kringle, (Santa Claus is Coming to Town)

Eighty percent of success is showing up. – Woody Allen

9. Listen to the Voices

This year, make a commitment to listen for those voices in your head and  challenge them.

We observe, we tell a story, and then we feel. …Since we and only we are  telling the story, we can take back control of our own emotions by telling a  different story.

These are the claims made in Chapter 6 of Crucial Conversations: Tools for  Talking When Stakes are High (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler). The  chapter proposes that if you “question your feelings and stories,” “look for  other possible explanations,” and “get back to the facts” you can break the  loop. It points out 3 common story themes: 1. the villain, 2. the victim, 3.  helplessness.

Keep It Simple

Try to identify the stories you are listening to in that lightning fast  moment between something you see or hear and your response.

Keep it Up

Try to replace your stories based on the willingness to consider that others  involved are reasonable, rational and decent people.

8. Expense Yourself

Most people who are working one job know exactly how much money they bring  home every month – but how many people know exactly how much money  they really spend? In an ideal world, everyone would balance their personal  books – but in reality, many of us have already crossed into another universe  where the money we use has very little to do with the money we actually  generate…

Just doing this once might blow your mind. You may find yourself taking  leftovers to work for lunch, growing your own vegetables, or cancelling your  cable.

Guidelines

Get all business-like and compare household revenue to expenses.

Keep it Simple

The simplest way to review your spending habits is to look at your bank  account and credit card statements and categorize your purchases. For more  accuracy, you could track your spending (including small cash purchases) for one  month.

Keep It Up

Even better: set a budget based on your actual income and track and manage  your spending from now on, using the envelope  method or free software such as mint.com.

7. Distant Gratification

Take a break from this world of short cuts, fast food, and even shorter  attention spans and plan for some distant gratification. As Tony Robbins  once said, “most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and  underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.”

Keep It Simple

The simplest examples of this resolution in action: plant a tree or bury a  time capsule in your yard.

Or, consider long-term  goals – – think about how much can be achieved in a year – or 5 years – if a  little bit of progress is made every day. For example you could write a novel  (10 pages a week) or walk 100 miles (45 minutes a week). You might decide to  save for a visit to Chile, learn to play chess, or sponsor  a child in another country- all by making small investments of money or time  stretched out over a long period.

Keep It Up 

Instead of stressing out about a concrete deadline or specific result, focus  on moving forward. Remember Hofstadter’s Law, “It always takes longer than  you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law” (psychcentral.com).  In most cases, it’s best not to check progress until a considerable amount of  time has passed, and don’t beat yourself up – just keep going!

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that  matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

6. Eat Vegetables

The USDA site choosemyplate.gov  describes over 20 ways that vegetables are good for you, including reducing the  risks of birth defects, cancer, kidney stones, heart disease, obesity, type 2  diabetes, bone loss, high blood pressure, constipation, and infection.

Guidelines

Make half your plate fruits  and vegetables, suggests choosemyplate.gov.

Keep it Simple

Even if you just eat one more vegetable than you did in 2012, you’re going to  be successful.

Or, you might try to gradually add more vegetables to your regular weekly  meals – stir spinach into your favorite pasta sauce and stuff those chicken  breasts with asparagus and cheese.

Don’t like vegetables? Invest in a few books and sneak them into smoothies  and meals (Skinny  Smoothies, The Sneaky  Chef).

Keep It Up 

When you are buying groceries make sure fruits and vegetable purchases  reflect your new eating habits (for example, review your shopping cart before  you get in line at the cashier). Or, purchase a share in a CSA  and receive a box of produce from a local farm each week. That way, you will  consistently receive vegetables (and the reminder to eat them) and you will  probably be exposed to some new produce that you might not otherwise pick up at  the store.

Local fresh fruits and vegetables are best, however frozen vegetables are a  nutritious and convenient alternative. Make sure you have some in your freezer  so that you always have some vegetables on hand.

If you are really serious about a veggie heavy diet, restrict meat to dinner  or weekend meals only.

5. Hello, Neighbor

According to an article at psychologytoday.com by Linda Wasmer Andrews, a “study from Umea University in Sweden showed that people who said they trusted  their neighbors were twice as likely as those who didn’t to rate their health as  good.” Plus, “research from Duke University found that people aged 55 to 80 who  were high in interpersonal trust lived longer, on average, over the next 14  years than those who were lower in that quality” (Trust  Your Neighbor, Boost Your Health).

Even the most casual, surface interactions with other members of your  community can lower stress and give you a sense of belonging. If your neighbors  know you, they are much more likely to notice if your house is being robbed or  if you need medical help. You also benefit from sharing local information with  each other (local schools, local events).

Keep it Simple

“Who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet  each day.” Jeff Moss, Sesame Street songwriter.

Say hello to people you pass on the street (‘Good Morning,’) and work your  way up to chatting with neighbors, clerks and people waiting in line or waiting  to cross the street).

Keep It Up

Keep it up, and simple greetings will transform into short conversations and  a local network of neighbors.

Attend local community events: block parties, school plays, craft fairs,  theatre productions, live music.

Drop Christmas cards (or cookies!) off at your neighbor’s houses, shovel  someone’s walk or water their plants when they go on vacation, hire a neighbor  kid to mow your lawn.

4. Read the Ingredients

Food manufacturers rely on the general population’s disinterest in the  details when it comes to ingredients. They will use big labels or  official-looking check marks on packaging to advertise products as “low-fat,”  “natural” (an unregulated term), “whole grain,” and “100 calories.”  However, the ingredients  of these products often include artificial colors, flavors, thickeners,  genetically modified foods, and hydrogenated oils to keep costs or calories  down. Critics of these ingredients, including respected health experts, warn  that they can lead to everything from obesity, hyperactivity in children, heart  disease, and cancer (Sofia Layarda, MPH RD, Which  Food Additives to Avoid, healthcastle.org).

Guidelines

In her book Go  UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss, Gloria Tsang warns  that “highly processed foods are ‘the weakest link’ in any eating plan” and  provides 3 warning signs to look for in a 5 second scan: packaging that features  colorful cartoon characters are usually high in sugar, foods  advertised as fat-free use “thickeners and other artificial ingredients to  simulate the texture of the real thing,” and “look for an ingredient list that’s  not too long and includes ingredients you can actually pronounce.”

Keep it Simple

Read the ingredients on everything you purchase.

Keep it Up

If you commit to reading the ingredients on every purchase it will become a  habit and may eventually inform your choices.

For example, I was surprised to discover liquid sugar listed as the  4th ingredient in a popular whole grain meal for children and MSG in  the canned soups I’ve been eating for my entire life.

If you’re not sure what an ingredient is, Google it when you get home.

Eliminating, or even just reducing, one or two ingredients from your diet can  make a big difference.

3. Make Eye Contact

eye contact

Katrina Onstad writes that “the most potent tool of body language is eye  contact, at least in most Western cultures. Human mothers and infants require  eye contact to bond” and “evolutionary scientists propose that eye  contact came to be the cornerstone of communication because of the ‘cooperative eye hypothesis,’ which suggests that collaboration and cooperation  are optimized when our eyes are locked” (Why are We so Scared of Eye Contact? theglobeandmailcom).

Eye contact improves listening and helps the other person feel really  acknowledged. It is also an increasingly brave social act in an environment  where everyone else on the bus or on the street averts their eyes.

Keep it Simple

Look at people’s eyes and wait for them to do the same.

Keep it Up

Caution: if you make eye contact you might feel empathy, invoke a response  from the other person, or otherwise interact with others.

PS: eye contact should be casual and not make people feel uncomfortable.  Don’t be creepy!

2. Drink Water

According to mayoclinic.com, “every system in your body depends on water” and “even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired”.  In the  video above, Lynn Goldstein, a registered dietician, explains that water is an essential  ingredient for health and that it’s important to drink water BEFORE you are  thirsty – because thirst is often the first symptom of dehydration.

Exercise, climate, and other activities such as breastfeeding will increase  the amount of water needed, so there isn’t one amount that applies to all  people.

Basic Guidelines

The most well known recommendation to drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day  is a good place to start.

64oz = ½ US gallon = 2 liters (approximately).

Keep It Simple

You can achieve this resolution by drinking more water than you did in  2012.

Keep It Up 

Consider incorporating one or more of these simple steps into your daily  routine:

1. Each day, drink a 16 oz glass of water first thing in the morning and  before each meal (maybe with a bonus 8 oz before bed just to top up).

2. Carry a water container around with you and use it to measure your  progress towards your target. You can use one 64oz water bottles or plan to fill  up a 1 litre bottle twice during the day, or whatever plan works best for  you.

3. Swap out the other beverages in your daily routine for water or at least  match them up. For example, alternate your coffee or cocktails with glasses of  water.

“Thirst isn’t always a reliable gauge of the body’s need for water,” so  Mayoclinic.com offers these simple indicators: “clear or light-colored urine  means you’re well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals  dehydration”.  You can used these guidelines to figure out how much water  you personally need to drink to remain hydrated and to stay on track. Like the  famous potty slogan says, “If it’s brown flush it down, if it’s yellow – go  drink some water.”

1. Hug More

Hugs improve everything from communication and self-esteem to the immune  system, according to Marcus Julian Felicetti’s article 10  Reasons Why We Need at Least 10 Hugs a Day at mindbodygreen.com.

Keep It Simple

If you are uncomfortable at first, just announce your resolution to your  friends – that’s what I did last year, and they hugged me! If  you’re still shy about it you can also practice on stuffed  animals or trees – whatever’s in arm’s reach.  Add a hug into every  greeting and good-bye with bonus spontaneous hugs whenever you feel like it.  Extra hugs for your kids and don’t forget your pets!

Keep it Up

In the same article, Felicetti shares a quote by Virginia Satir, who is  sometimes referred to as the mother of family therapy: “We need four hugs a  day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs  a day for growth”.

This article is a compilation of advice I have gathered over the years – not all my original thoughts – violating  one of my last year’s resolutions about using other people’s material


New Year’s

Resolution Sampler

Ancient Tools and Toys – Real Old

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Oldest Known Objects

Made by Man

(and his Ancestors)

Whenever something incredibly ancient and incredibly cool turns up, there’s always someone on hand to shout that it’s evidence of aliens. Awesome as it would be to know ET was hanging out here in 10,000 B.C. (or whenever), the truth is both much simpler and much more interesting. See, you don’t need aliens to explain away intricate ancient objects. We humans have been capable of creating incredible stuff since before there were even humans.

 The following objects are all man made in the sense that ‘a proto-human intelligence was responsible for their creation’. But not all of them came from the mind of homo sapiens. Instead, some come courtesy of our distant ancestors, the thinking apes who preceded us and helped us on our journey. Think the prehistoric world is dull? Think again.

10. Ice Age “Batons” (Approx. 28,000 years old)

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. Something along the lines of: “Gee, these ice age batons sure look like a certain part of the male anatomy.” So before we go any further, let us just categorically state that, yes, these batons do indeed look like a bunch of comedy-sized wangs. And there’s a good reason for that. Wanna guess what it is? That’s right, far from being immature, you’ve hit on what these probably were. You’re looking at an image of a stone age sex toy.

Known euphemistically as ‘batons’, these proto-Ann Summers toys have been found in a number of Ice Age sites, no doubt leading to many awkward conversations among archeologists. The oldest of all is from Germany, specifically a place known as Hohle Fels Cave. Now, pay attention, because you’re gonna be hearing that name again and again in this article. Hohle Fels contains one of our best-preserved collections of Ice Age artifacts anywhere in the world. In 2003, it also turned out to contain the oldest baton yet found. The one you see above dates from around 28,000-30,000 B.C.

Just think about that, for a second. This ancient – ahem – toy is older than Stonehenge, Machu Picchu and yo momma combined. Not that it was all dirty. According to those who found it, the tool was also used for “knapping flints” (whatever the heck that is).

9. Animal Figurines (30,000-40,000 years old)

Sometimes, the world just likes to drop something incredible in our laps, presumably just for the fun of watching us collectively freak out. The ancient figurines found at Hohle Fels (that place again) are one of those somethings. Among the oldest sculptures ever found, they depict miniture birds, horses’ heads, and half-animal humans in jaw-dropping detail. Did we mention the detail? When they were made public, in late 2003, archeology expert Dr Anthony Sinclair declared: “They are as good as anything you will see thousands of years later – from 3-4,000 BC.” Suck it, Ancient Greece.

But even these works of genius have nothing on the oldest figurine we’ve yet found. Discovered in the same cave of wonders as the figurines was the Venus of Hohle Fels. A tiny carving of a woman, the Venus may also be the earliest extant work of erotica. The carving has improbably large breasts, a big backside, and exaggerated genitals. She’s also a lot fatter than we’re guessing any Ice Age human ever was, unless there’s a prehistoric McDonalds waiting to be found in Hohle Fels somewhere. This suggests she may have been a fantasy, an example of Ice Age man’s longing for a well-stacked, fleshy woman. Nice to see some things never change.

8. Neanderthal Cave Art (40,800 years ago)

Yeah, Neanderthals aren’t human. Well, get used to it. We’re gonna be leaving homo sapiens for good in a little while to go gallivanting around the world of Homo erectus and all his extinct pals. But first, let’s just pause and take a breather, and admire the view of one of the oldest expressions of abstract art ever found. Discovered in a Spanish cave in 2012, this image dates back a staggering 40,800 years in time.

Imagine the incredible amount of time that exists between you and Julius Caesar or Jesus Christ. Now times that unimaginable distance by ten. Now double it, and then give up and throw the whole concept of picturing this away, because you’re never gonna be able to really grasp just how stupidly long ago this was. Back then, ‘popping out for a bite’ meant stepping outside and being swallowed by a sabretooth tiger. It was a world so unimaginably different from ours as to be… well, unimaginable. Yet the not-quite-humans who inhabited this space still felt moved to do something uniquely human. They created art, using the only things they had: their hands and some plant pigment. And we think that’s just swell.

7. Ancient Flutes (42,000 years old)

The Aurignacian culture is the coolest thing you’ve probably never heard of. A bunch of early humans who started doing their thing in the Upper Paleolithic era, the Aurignacians mark the point where art and music and specialized tools began to emerge. So, yeah, pretty much everything you take for granted today started here. At one point, scientists thought this period of intense change started no earlier than 40,000 years ago. Then someone stumbled across a 42,000 year old bone flute in yetanother German cave and the dates had to be revised upwards.

 If the thought of an ancient flute doesn’t send a chill down your spine, you may want to quickly double check and make sure you’re not in traction. These finds mean the earliest European humans were creating music from almost the moment they arrived on the continent. Just imagine. It’s dark. You’ve just come back from a long day’s woolly mammoth punching, or whatever the heck Stone Age man used to do. The only light in your cave is from the flickering of the fire. You sit around, staring into its shifting flames. And then, slowly, someone pulls out a flute and starts to play…

See what we mean? Magical. This is the dawn of human emotion we’re witnessing here, and we’ve still got well over a million years of history left to go.

6. Aterian Beads (110,000 years old)

Grotte des Pigeons is a cave in Eastern Morocco that for ages wanted nothing more than for people to forget it had such a stupid name. Then, sometime in the mid-20thCentury, some archeology guys came along and decided, hey, this looks like a pretty good spot to dig. So they dug and they dug and they dug until suddenly everyone was too busy exclaiming over all the crazy awesomeness in Grotte des Pigeons to concentrate on its stupid name. There were ashes and tools and carved rocks and all sorts of treasures. But the biggest treasure of all may have been the beads.

 Made of shells with perforated holes, some still with traces of red ochre on them, the beads were likely the earliest examples of jewelry we have. The researchers dated them to an impossibly-distant 110,000 years ago, a time when the wheel was a far-off dream, and the concept of agriculture was like witchcraft. Yet our ancestors were still making jewelry. Even in a world of unrelenting danger, bear attacks and lifespans of under 30 years, we still just wanted to look good. We can’t tell if that’s shameful or the coolest thing ever.

5. Bone Awls (200,000-400,000 years old)

OK, from here on in, the dates get vague and the periods of time involved become utterly incomprehensible. If you’re cool with that then stick with us, because this is also where we’re gonna find the coolest stuff. For this entry, that means bone awls. A feature of the Middle Stone Age (MSA), bone awls were little sharpened bits of bone, probably used for piercing holes in hide and making clothes. As such, they show our ancestors moving on from just wrapping themselves in the skin of a dead zebra to actually creating their own garments.

Like most of the stuff in the MSA, bone awls were likely invented in Africa and then taken to Europe along with the first early humans. Good job, too, as Europe back then was likely freezing. Honestly, we complain if we get stuck without heating for half a day during a mild winter. Imagine having to huddle round a fire in a cave for warmth AND design your own clothes using only sharpened bits of bone and the flesh of whatever you’d killed. There are residents of Jersey Shore who live more-fulfilling lives than that (kidding. No they don’t).

4. Projectile Points (200,000-400,000 years old)

This is where the MSA really hit its stride. Before early humans perfected projectile points, killing an animal meant charging at it with a kamikaze yell, waving an axe above your head and hoping it didn’t eat you (it frequently did). With the advent of sharpenedprojectile points, the equation changed dramatically. Now you didn’t have to get within eating-distance to kill your dinner. Humanity’s time at the top of the food chain had survived.

Stop and think about this for a second, about all the stuff we take for granted. Before projectile points were invented, the only time you got to eat a fast moving animal like a bird was when it dropped dead of kidney failure right in front of you. Suddenly having spears and arrows allowed humans to expand their diets. It allowed them to create small stockpiles of food and defend themselves from a distance. Some have even suggested formulating complicated hunting plans using these tools helped us develop modern human intelligence.

Of course, our ancestors did plenty of hunting before the invention of spears and arrows. But, still. Their coming was a gamechanger that reorganized our entire species.

3. Hand Axe (1.76m years old)

Long before the Aurignacian came along with their music and painting and liberal hippy art stuff, the hottest culture in human history was the Acheulian. Occurring sometime around 1.76 million years ago, this stone age revolution saw our ancestors discard the simplistic tools they’d been using up until then, and start crafting complex weapons unlike anything ever seen before. Stones with specially-sharpened ends that were wielded by hand, these ‘hand axes’ saw early humans able to easily kill other animals for the first time in history.

For a long time, scientists thought the Acheulian revolution started around 1.4 million years ago, the period a number of hand axes found in Ethiopia dated from. Then 2011 came along and turned all that on its head. That was the year that archeologists digging on the muddy banks of Lake Turkana in Kenya uncovered hand axes dating from 1.76 million years ago. That’s a difference of 360,000 years; equivalent to the distance in time between you reading this on your tablet and our ancestors’ creation of stone projectile points.

Those who created and used these hand axes, by the way, definitely weren’t human. They were probably Homo Erectus, the guys who decided walking on two legs was the way to go.

2. Oldowan Tools (Around 2.5m years ago)

Unlike the hand axes of the Acheulian revolution, no non-experts today would be able to recognize Oldowan Tools as even being tools. They were pebbles and rocks that had been crudely chipped to give one serrated edge, likely for cutting, chopping and scraping. We’re talking the absolute most basic of basic implements, here. This was the dawn of the Paleolithic era, the point in time when hominids realized you could get more done with implements than you could with your teeth. It sounds simple to us now, but back then no-one had ever even thought of it. How could they? They were little more than apes at this point.

Despite the mind-blowing chasms of time between us and the first Oldowan tools, they’ve been found all over the world. At least, all over the world as it would have been back then, which basically means ‘Africa’. At this point, Europe and Asia were as alien to these tool makers as planet Weezigg-Cloop is to you (we’re gonna discover it in about 4,000 years. It’s gonna be awesome).

Interestingly, some scholars think those using these tools may have been vegetarian, hence their being content with not developing better tools for like 700,000 years. Who needs an animal-killing hand axe when you don’t eat animals?

1. Contents of the Lake Turkana Toolbox (3.3m years old)

And then we have the Lake Turkana Toolbox.

To be clear, the Lake Turkana Toolbox shouldn’t exist. Digging it up and dating it to 3.3m years ago is like opening Tutankhamun’s Tomb to find a Boeing 747 inside. In fact, scratch that. The distance of time is so vast that it would be like opening Tutankhamun’s Tomb to find a Sci-fi device that won’t be invented for another 796,000 years. One that does stuff we in backward old 2017 can’t even imagine. 3.3m years ago is meant to be a time when no species existed that was capable of making tools. And yet, in 2015, scientists discovered that this was exactly what the apes hanging around Lake Turkanahad been doing.

 To be sure, they don’t look like tools. They look like sharp rocks. But, like the Oldowan Tools above, the point is that someone – or something – made them sharp. Whatever that pre-human creature was, it was starting Earth’s sentient species down a path that would eventually lead to hand axes, then projectile points, then beads, then art, then music, then sculpture… and so-on right the way up to the tablets and spacecraft and 3D printers of today. When you look at it like that, you gotta admit these dull old rocks are secretly kinda cool.

Ancient Tools and Toys

– Real Old

The NULL Solution = Episode 39

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The NULL Solution = Episode 39

…You can knock Cerella over with a single solitary puff of misty air. Not in all her upbringing had she ever had contact with the Null…

Of all the inhabitants of Eridanus, the heretofore shunted Null are nearer to humanity, in contrast to the others. With no robes, with visible legs to stand on, they are not whitely colored – rather individually so. On top of that, they are downright approachable.

Skaldic and Offingga see the Defender slide through the massive opening of the Spaceship Expository and they are there to be the official welcoming committee. They stand tall & confident in their newfound independence. Surely they would not be punished for any acts of insolence.

You can knock Cerella over with a single solitary puff of misty air. Not in all her upbringing had she ever had contact with the Null. Now, and that covers considerable Eridanian cycles, she does, not knowing where to look, how to act or what to say.

The youngest McKinney snatches the honor, “I do not believe we have been introduced; my name is Deimostra Samantha McKinney. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

‘What a dry fresh breath of air are these people of Earth,’ Skaldic thinks, not expecting such simplicity. “They call me Skaldic the Null and my companion is Offingga {translation: the jabberer}.” 

That spontaneous Null irony whizzes past without notice.

“How is it that we haven’t met before now? We {she points to Mom, Dad, and Deke} landed on your planet many cycles ago. Surely we should have crossed paths.”

“The Null tower is on the empty side of Eridanus.”

“There are others like you… so where are they?”

“Many more and it is best that they stay in our tower.”

“You act so different than Cerella and her father Ekcello.”

“We do not possess the ability to communicate with our minds.”

“I can teach you. If my brother can learn, certainly you can.”

“We are inferior beings in the eyes of the Gifted, unfit for interaction.”

Cerella slams the door on the increasingly uncomfortable exchange.

Image result for door slamming gif


The NULL Solution =

Episode 39


page 44

Game Changing Archaeology – WABAC Discoveries

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Archaeological Discoveries

That Change Our

View of History

History is far more complicated that we would like to believe. Even in our schools today, different versions of events are being taught to students, depending on the country they’re in and how those events in history affected that country. “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,” right? Nevertheless, we also have archaeology, which sometimes helps us to better understand what happened regardless of what was written down in centuries past. And sometimes, some such discoveries turn the way we saw history right on its head.

 10. Ancient Fast Food

We generally tend to think that fast food came about fairly recently, right? And it does make sense, after all, given the faster pace the world is moving nowadays as opposed to the slower ancient times. In fact, the first such shops, which were serving fish and chips, opened in Britain during the 1860s. Then, in the 1950s in the US, the drive-through restaurants became popular, and… well, you know the rest.

But taking a quick snack for lunch and then hurrying on your way is not something new and has been going on since ancient times. This place was the so-called thermopolium, or “place where (something) hot is sold,” and it was a common sight all throughout the Greco-Roman world; particularly in larger towns and cities. These thermopoliaare, in fact, the forerunners of all present-day restaurants. They usually consisted of a small room that opened onto the street and specialized in two or three items such as spiced wine, meats, cheese, or lentils. These establishments were quite tiny and almost never had tables for people to sit at. There was only a counter with several embedded earthenware jars called doliawhere the food was stored.

These places were frequented mostly by slaves or people who did not have the means or facilities to cook for themselves. And as it so happens, these thermopolia were also frequent hangouts for all sorts of shady characters. These places were even abolished on several occasions for this exact reason, since they harbored all sorts of effeminate Greeks and thieving slaves,” as Plautus, a Roman playwright from the 3rd century BC, once said. There were, however, some fancier establishments too, with some tables inside and even some frescoes painted on the walls. One such ornate restaurant called the “Thermopolium of Asellina” was discovered in Pompeii and is one of the best preserved in the world.

9. War is Older Than We Thought

War was commonly believed to have originated alongside the advent of civilization. This, of course, doesn’t mean that people weren’t killing each other even before that. After all, the reptilian part of the brain, which we all have and which pushes us towards things like hate, envy, aggression, dominance, and territoriality among others, was also found in people more than 10,000 years ago. This means that before the discovery of agriculture and animal husbandry, people were only able to kill each other through the occasional murder or small family skirmishes. But after people began settling down and growing in number, more organized and coordinated forms of battle were invented; things like raids or wars, for instance. The fact that structured hierarchies and slavery also appeared during this time also helped wars along.

Nevertheless, an archaeological discovery made in 2012 in Kenya seems to indicate that small scale wars were also taking place even before agriculture appeared there. On the banks of the Lake Turkana, archaeologists came across 27 skeletons dating back to somewhere in between 9,500 to 10,500 years ago. These skeletons once belonged to men, women, and children which archeologists believe were members of a semi-nomadic tribe that settled close to the lake. All of the skeletons showed signs of blunt force trauma or wounds from projectile weapons.One of the women had both of her knees shattered and showed signs that her hands were bound when she died. Who attacked them, or what really happened is not known, but no other massacre on this scale has ever been discovered from so long ago.

8. Europeans and America

Christopher Columbus and his men are no longer believed to be the first Europeans to discover the American continent. Today it is fairly common knowledge that Leif Ericsson, an Icelandic Viking explorer, was the first European to come across to North America when he was blown off course on his way to Greenland from Norway almost 500 years before Columbus. In the Saga of the Greenlanders which talks about Leif Ericsson and his travels to Vinland, present-day Newfoundland, there is mention of a Bjarni Herjólfsson, who also made it to a land west of Greenland when he too was blown off course by the wind, even before Leif Ericsson himself. But whatever the case may be here, some newer archaeological evidence points to the fact that the Europeans made it to North America even before Europe had a name, or at least the name of “Europe.”

Several dozen stone tools have been found along the East Coast in six distinct locations. One in Pennsylvania, three from the Delmarva Peninsula in Maryland, one in Virginia, and another one was discovered by a scallop trawler some 60 miles off the Virginian coast. All of these tools bear a striking resemblance to the stone tools used by the prehistoric Solutrean tribes from present-day western France and northern Spain. What’s more, all of them were dated somewhere in between 19,000 to 26,000 years ago. Because of this time period, most archaeologists have rejected the idea of being just a simple case of coincidence based on the too-similar design. Furthermore, one of the stone knives discovered in Virginia revealed under chemical analysis that it actually originated in France.

The reason for the relatively small number of tools found on the East Coast dating from that period also explains how those Stone Age Europeans got to America in the first place. Back in those times, the planet was going through an Ice Age, and like the Native Americans who crossed into America from Asia over the Bering land bridge, so did these Solutreans cross over what is now the north Atlantic, Iceland, and Greenland. As shown by that knife found by the scallop trawler 60 miles off the coast of Virginia, the sea level was far lower than it is today. And since these people stayed mostly around the coast, many of their tools are also underwater. Another archaeological discovery that places Europeans in North America longer ago than previously believed is an 8,000-year-old skeleton found in Florida. When subjected to a genetic marker test, this man’s remains revealed high levels of European markers, not found in Asians.

7. Australians and America

Another archaeological discovery, this time from Brazil, points to the fact that Australians also made it to the Americas long ago. Several human skulls discovered there match the characteristics of those from places like Australia and Melanesia. Similarly, some 33 skulls found on the Baja California peninsula in Mexico also point to this theory. And according to the stone tools and charcoal discovered at the site in Brazil, these people could have inhabited the area for nearly 50,000 years. The theory is that they arrived in the Americas by boat across the Pacific. Though seemingly impossible for people from 50,000 years ago, cave paintings in Australia have shown some boats that were actually built to withstand the ocean. Moreover, in 1947 Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and a few others made it across on a balsa wood raft.

Archaeologists also believe that these people died out with the appearance of the Asian peoples coming in from the north via the Bering land bridge. This is because the shape of the skulls changes from those with an Australian appearance to those with a Mongoloid appearance between 9,000 to 7,000 years ago. The only survivors could be tribes of people who lived in the Terra del Fuego region of South America. This is the southernmost tip of the continent, and the people who still live there show hybrid skull features of both mongoloid and negroid ancestry. If proven true then Native Australians could be the first Americans ever.

6. How Old is Our Friendship with Dogs?

There is no debating that wolves were the first animals ever to be domesticated by humans. Even before animal husbandry became a thing, man and wolves (which then turned into dogs) were hunting together in a sort of synergy that benefited both species. But how old is this interspecies collaboration, really? Common theories place the beginning of this relationship somewhere around 15,000 to 18,000 years ago and it happened separately in both China and the Middle East. This is without a doubt far older than any other domesticated animal in the world. Dogs were well established as part of human society around 10,000 years ago, and in Germany for instance, humans and dogs were sometimes buried together as long as 14,000 years ago.

But the discovery of a canine skull in the Altai Mountains in Siberia pushes this timeline by at least another 15,000 years. Radiocarbon dating has placed the skull somewhere around 33,000 years old, and its genetic markers indicate that it more closely resembled modern-day dogs than actual wolves. The similarity between modern dogs and this particular skull was also evident thanks to its shape and size. Another old canine fossil dates back to around 31,000 years ago and was discovered in Goyet Cave in Belgium. And even though its mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) indicates that it does not share its matriline with any extant wolves or dogs, its skull morphology is more similar to a dog than an actual wolf.

5. The Oldest Writing in the World

Three inscribed tablets that were found in what is now present day Romania may contain the oldest writing system in the world. Each of them is about two and a half inches wide, each has markings on it, and all of them are dated back to around 5300 BC. They were found in 1961 in a ritual pit, alongside other clay and stone offerings and the bones of an elderly woman, probably a sort of priestess. The Tartaria Tablets, as they are known, are thought to have belonged to theTurdas-Vinca culture that inhabited the area during that period. But despite the importance of the discovery and what they stand to represent if proven to be the real deal, the tablets are still shrouded in some controversy. For instance, Mesopotamian experts disregard the Tartaria Tablets by saying that the symbols on them are not actually writing, but only decorations. Other experts believe that these tablets actually contain an early form of Sumerian script since some of the symbols found here are identical to pictograms found in Jemdet Nasr in Iraq.

A German linguist and Mesopotamian script specialist by the name of Harald Haarmann strongly believes that the symbols on the tablets are an early form of writing. He bases his assumptions on the many other symbols that are part of the so-called Danube script found throughout the region on various other ceramic objects and which number roughly the same as the Egyptian hieroglyphs. A more recent discovery from 2009 has brought to light a Neolithic workshop that was once manufacturing clay tablets. Another 120 similar tablets were found at the site, some containing symbols similar to the ones at Tartaria. If these symbols are ever proven to be authentic and part of an actual ancient script, then the cradle of civilization could be moved from the Middle East to Eastern Europe.

4. The City of the Sun in North America

Native Americans usually lived in tepees, right? Well, yes… at least, some of them did. But in fact, many Native North Americans lived in large cities before the arrival of the Europeans to the continent. One notable example is Cahokia, or the City of the Sun. It is located in in the state of Illinois, close where the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers merge. This area is one of the most fertile on the continent and here one Native American culture, the Mississippians, made it their home. But they didn’t just live in tepees, but rather in grand cities of some 20,000 people strong. Cahokia was at its peak between 1050 and 1200 AD, and during this time, it was bigger than any other European counterpart.

And here is where this tepee misconception comes into play. It was so ingrained into white people’s imaginations that when they came across some earthen mounds in the region, they initially attributed them to retreating glaciers. When they did eventually realize that these were actually man-made, they attributed their construction to Phoenicians, Vikings, and even a lost tribe of Israel. Pretty much anyone other than the Native Americans themselves. And Cahokia is big. It spans over an area of about six square miles and had a total of 120 earth mounds. The city was carefully planned and organized, with plazas, residential areas, and elite compounds. The largest of the earth mounds found here is about 100 feet tall and contains more than 25 million cubic feet of earth, carried here in willow baskets 50 pounds at a time. Known as the Monks Mound, this is the largest earthen structure in the Western Hemisphere.

Fairly little is known about the civilization that built it, however. We do know that their trade network was vast, reaching from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians and from the Great Lakes to Florida. They practiced human sacrifice and relied heavily on corn for nourishment. Today, however, only 70 of the original 120 earth mounds have survived and there is a four lane highway running right through the historic site.

3. Cambodia’s Medieval Cities

The Khmer Empire was one of the most powerful in Southeast Asia, and probably in the world at the time. It existed in between 802 AD to 1431 AD and extended over what are now Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. They ruled over the region including where the temple complex of Angkor Wat is located. The temple complex itself is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia and consists of many architectural marvels besides the obvious temples found there. Back in 2012, a team of archaeologists made use of state of the art laser technology called LiDAR. This technology has the ability to see through dense vegetation and map the topography under the jungle canopy. What they discovered was amazing, to say the least. They used LiDAR again in 2015, in a project that became the most extensive airborne survey used for archaeological purposes ever. Some 734 square miles of terrain was scanned and it revealed an unimaginable network of roads, water ways, and densely populated cities, unrivaled anywhere in the world at the time.

Lead archaeologist on the project Damian Evans had this to say about the discovery: “We have entire cities discovered beneath the forest that no one knew were there – at Preah Khan of Kompong Svay and, it turns out, we uncovered only a part of Mahendraparvata on Phnom Kulen [in the 2012 survey] … this time we got the whole deal and it’s big, the size of Phnom Penh big.”

Phnom Penh is the current capital city of Cambodia. This survey has shown that the Khmer Empire was able to design and implement an elaborate water system on a grand scale, centuries before archaeologists believed the technology even existed. This new discovery also disproves the theory on how the Khmer Empire eventually collapsed. Up until 2015, it was believed that they were invaded from the north and people fled south. But the lack of any cities in that direction disproves this theory. In any case, Angkor is now, without a shadow of a doubt, the most extensive urban settlement in the world prior to the Industrial Revolution. This is, of course, if LiDAR technology doesn’t discover any others.

2. The Gold Crucifix of Denmark

One beautiful afternoon in 2016, an amateur metal detector in Denmark came across a gold crucifix in a field near the town of Aunslev, Østfyn. After he posted his discovery on social media, some people advised him to take it to a local museum, which he did. Here, the curator dated the Birka crucifix to somewhere in the first half of the 10th century AD. It is made out of finely articulated goldthreads and small filigree pellets, and has a loop through which a chain once went. What is really interesting about this find is that it’s dated between 900 and 950 AD, leading historians to believe that the Danes were converted to Christianity earlier than previously believed.

Prior to this discovery, the earliest representation of Jesus on a cross in Denmark came in the form of the Jelling Stones – two large rune stones dated to 965 AD, and which are located in Jutland. These stones commemorate Harald Blåtand, or Harald Bluetooth, for his role in converting the Danes to Christianity. What this tiny cross does is push back the period when these Vikings became Christians by several decades, at a minimum.

1. The Appearance of Agriculture

It’s a common belief that agriculture started off in what are now Armenia, eastern Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Iran around 11,000 years ago. Then it spread to the rest of the Old World. And while this is still true, new archaeological evidence shows that agriculture actually developed in two distinct parts of this particular region, known as the Fertile Crescent, and each then spread to different parts of the world independently. Genetic evidence has proven that there are stark differences between people living in the southern Levant, like Israel and Jordan, and those from across the Zagros Mountains in western Iran. Each of these groups of people developed their own style of agriculture and animal husbandry, favoring different plants and animals for domestication. They lived in complete isolation from each other for centuries or even millennia before they actually met.

And it is believed that they only came in contact in eastern Turkey when both groups were in search of obsidian needed for all sorts of tools. It’s also believed that these people met, intermingled, exchanged agricultural techniques and ideas, and then migrated westward into Europe. Those who remained behind, however, went their own separate ways, spreading their distinct forms of agriculture to other parts of the world. Those living in the southern Levant eventually traveled to East Africa, going through present-day Egypt and down the Nile and the Red Sea coast, while those living in western Iran made their way north into the Eurasian steppe and then eastward into present day India and Pakistan. While this discovery doesn’t seem like much given that both of these populations emerged from the Fertile Crescent region, it does change our perspective of how history and the start of civilization actually played out.


Game Changing Archaeology

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

– WABAC Discoveries

“Food Crimes” – Shocking New Drama from WIF

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Food Waste

Climate change is a serious problem – probably the most dangerous predicament humanity has ever been in. And every second that goes by and we’re not doing anything about it, the more dangerous things are going to become, and the harder it will be to fix them. But let’s not kick off this list on such a gloomy note, and instead look at what can be done to change that. The answer is as simple as what caused all of this in the first place – namely, the little things. Slight tweaks in our habits can go a long way, without us having to revert to a pre-Industrial, 18th century-lifestyle to get there. And yes, we are on topic here, in case you were wondering.

 Some call this the Age of Efficiency, in which Mother Earth forces us to, in a manner of speaking, evolve or get out of the away. And one of the first and easiest ways to become more efficient as a species is to address food waste. Up until fairly recently in our history, we didn’t have to bother ourselves with waste of any kind. But in more recent decades, however (with the spread of consumerism), we can no longer afford this luxury. Luckily, in what some call “the world’s dumbest problem” many see an opportunity – and that is, of course, wasted food.

10. The Overwhelming Statistics

There is a tremendous amount of food being wasted around the world. In fact, roughly one third of all food goes to waste, either during production and retail, or thrown away by the consumers themselves. That’s about 1.3 billion tons per year, or about half of the world’s entire cereal production. In the already developed parts of the world, like Europe and North America, consumers’ behavior plays a bigger part in food squandering than in developing countries. Here, on the other hand, technical, managerial, or financial constraints have a much larger role. The lack of infrastructure, agricultural grants, advanced harvesting and transportation technology, or adequate cooling facilities, account for most of the food waste. In all, developing countries lose 40% of their discarded food during harvest and processing, while already developed countries waste 40% of their food at the retail and consumer levels.

On average, rich countries produce almost 2,000 pounds of food per person per year, whereas poorer regions produce slightly above half, or 1,014 pounds. Out of these, European and North American consumers alone squander some 230 pounds, whereas consumers from Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia are responsible for 17 pounds each. Every year, consumers from these rich areas waste almost as much as the entire food production in Sub-Saharan Africa – 222 million and 230 million tons, respectively.

9. Food Equals Money – Wasting One Means Wasting the Other

Tax cuts seem to be a trending topic nowadays. Now, regardless of the fact that taxes are what make a middle class broad and stable, governments usually sell these tax cuts to us as a great way to save money. But we have a much better alternative for you. While the planned tax cuts are said to save low-income households some $40 per year, the average household of four can save around $2,000 just by being more conscious about their food management behavior. It is said that, on average, one American family throws away about a quarter of all the food they buy, which is the equivalent of anywhere in between $1,365 to $2,275 annually. In total, the United States wastes 35 million tons of food this way every year, which is the equivalent of $165 billion. Worldwide, this sum jumps to roughly $1 trillion.

In an estimate by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste has risen in the United States by 50% since 1990 and is now three times as high as it was during the 1960s. One element that has exacerbated the problem, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), is the steep rise in portion sizes and calorie density. Over the past 20 years, hamburgers have expanded by 23%, soft drinks have increased by 52%, while chips and pretzels have grown by 60%. Pizza, on the other hand, remained more or less the same, but it now has 70% more calories than it had in the ’80s. An average Caesar salad doubled, and a chocolate chip cookie quadrupled their respective calorie counts. Supermarkets have also employed various psychological tricks and tactics to make their customers impulse-buy. From offering various product samples, to providing us with big shopping carts, and strategically placing products around the store, they make us buy more than we actually need. One great way of avoiding these traps is to make a shopping list and then stick to it.

8. Fridges, Plates and Food Trays

In general, humans love wide open spaces. Interestingly enough, however, the same thing doesn’t apply to food. Like portion sizes, plates have also grown over the years. Whether it was the larger food portion or the larger dinner plate that came first, we have no way of knowing, but since the 1960s, average plates have increased by around 36 percent. And when we have a big plate, we tend to pile on more food, regardless of whether we will be able to eat it or not. Color contrast also plays a role here. Scientists have discovered that people tend to add more food to their plate if their colors –the food’s and the plate’s – match. The opposite happens, however, if the plate is similar to the background (such as the tablecloth). So, in other words, if you want to eat more greens, you should do it on a green plate against a red tablecloth.

Something similar applies to food trays. A big tray will make people add more to it, with much of the food ending up going to waste. Jill Horst, the director of residential dining services at the University of California Santa Barbara, noticed this in her college dining hall. In 2009, Horst decided to eliminate food trays altogether, and food waste dropped by 50%. Students can still eat as much as they want, but they now have to manage their trips and portion sizes.

But when it comes to our homes, oversized fridges are the main cause for food going bad. Like the plate, fridges have also increased in size, especially in the United States, where we have 25 cubic feet (and larger) models. By contrast, most European fridges are around 10 cubic feet. We’re not comfortable with a seemingly empty fridge, and we tend to want to fill it. But a lot of food products can still spoil in a fridge after only a week, and a big one makes us buy more than we would be able to consume during that time. Refrigerators were also proven to decrease the value of food we put inside. Surveys have shown that we feel less guilty if we drop a carton of eggs that’s been sitting in the fridge for several days, as opposed to when we just got home with it from the supermarket.

7. Land, Water, and Biodiversity Simply Wasted Away

Another way of looking at our own inefficiency when it comes to food is to analyze the three criteria listed above. In 2007, the total land area used on food that eventually ended up at the dump was around 1.4 billion hectares. That’s more than Canada and India put together! The major contributors when it comes to food waste are meat and dairy. Now, even though these make up just 4 and 7 percent of all the wasted food, respectively, these squandered animal-based products take up a whopping 78% of the surface area mentioned above. To better understand this phenomenon, we should be aware that an area roughly the size of the entire African continent is made out of pasturelands, while a third of all arable land available is used for animal feed.

What’s more, roughly 10 million hectares of forest worldwide are being cleared annually. Food management inefficiency contributes to a large degree here – over 74% – with agricultural lands expanding into wild areas at an unprecedented rate. Overfishing is of serious concern, as well. It’s estimated that by 2048, there will no longer be any more commercially viable fish left in the oceans. This is in part because fishing is still seen as hunting, where fishermen catch as much as they possibly can – not because of demand, per se, but because other fishermen might catch them if they don’t. Secondly, size-selective fishing has cut the average size of fish in half over the past four decades, and has severely hindered their capacity to replenish their populations. Moreover, bycatch – or marine species caught unintentionally and then discarded – amounts to 27 million tons annually (since 1994). Over 300,000 whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and porpoises also die in fishnets every year.   

When it comes to our fresh water supply, 70% goes into agriculture, 20% is used in industry, while the remaining 10% is for everyday, domestic use. Wasted food accounts for a quarter of all available fresh water on the globe. That’s equal to 3.6 times the amount of total water used in the United States, the annual discharge of the Volga River (the largest in Europe), or about 60 cubic miles in total.

6. Just a Quarter of All Food Waste Can Feed All the World’s Hungry

Yes, this is the sad reality we are currently living in. On average, the United States throws away enough food to fill up 730 football stadiums to the brim every year – half of which is untouched, fresh, and completely edible food. That’s equal to 20 pounds for every man, woman, and child per month. In other words, the United States, like many European countries, has twice as much food stacked on supermarket shelves and in restaurants than it actually needs to feed the American people. If we were to take into account the amount of corn, oats, and other edible plants used as animal feed, the United States has four times as much food as its population needs. And yet, 1 in 7 Americans need to use food banks or are struggling to put food on the table. That’s nearly 50 million people.

Internationally, well over 800 million people endure regular hunger or are malnourished. The 1.3 billion tons of food discarded for various reasons worldwide is enough to feed more than 3 billion people, or 10 times the population of the United States. Now, if we were to save a quarter of all the food wasted, we would be able to feed over 870 million people – more that the world’s entire hungry population. When looking at these numbers, we can see why some people call this the world’s dumbest problem. This incredible amount of excess can only be characterized as a success story that started some 12,000 years ago with the Agricultural Revolution. But our incredibly poor management pushes the planet’s ecological limits to the brink of collapse, and this success is quickly turning into a tragedy. It is estimated that by 2050, there will be over 9 billion people on Earth. Will the other 1.5 billion people have enough to eat, or will they go hungry?

5. Unsustainable Beauty Standards

Over the past several decades, we’ve gotten so used to the food abundance all around us that we’ve begun to grade our food in terms of its appearance. Never mind the fact that ‘ugly’ foods are totally good to eat – if they don’t meet absolute perfection in terms of their shape, size, or coloring, we simply throw it away. And by we, we’re referring to the farmers who grow this food in the first place. They’re not really to blame here, however, as they are the ones who have to bear the financial cost of this wasted food. A slight bump, a variation in color, or any other simple imperfection can downgrade a piece of fruit or vegetable from a Class I to a Class II, with a price decrease of two thirds or more.

This makes it completely unprofitable for the farmers to even pick them up – spending even more money, time, and energy in the process. Under normal circumstances, farmers throughout the entire agricultural industry have to leave more than a third of their harvest to rot on the ground because of these government-approved grades and standards. But these undesirable fruits and vegetables could easily find their way into the hands of people who actually need it, right? Yes, but unfortunately the cost of picking, packaging, storing, and shipping this produce is not covered by any reliable government grants or tax breaks, and farmers have to, first and foremost, look after their own bottom line.

And once these top grade foods do make it onto the shelves, supermarkets and grocery stores have to overstock so as to give the appearance of abundance. They are fully aware that if only a few items remain on display, people generally don’t want to buy them. This trend happens because we tend to assume that the last option is, more often than not, a bad option – which in this case is just false. And as a result, this overstocking leads to many items going bad, either on the shelves or in the store’s warehouse.

4. If It Was a Country, Food Waste Would Be the Third Largest Emitter of Greenhouse Gases

See? We told you that climate change stuff in the intro was on topic. Agriculture is, without a shadow of a doubt, humanity’s biggest impact on the planet. It takes, by far, the largest amount of land and water of any other activity. Soil degradation and water pollution are topics that we won’t even begin to touch on in this list, and instead, we’ll only try and focus on air pollution instead. After all, the change in the chemical composition of our atmosphere is what causes global warming and climate change in the first place. Worldwide, food waste accounts for 3.3 billion tons of CO2 and CO2 equivalents in the atmosphere. To put this into perspective, if it were a country, it would rank as the 3rd highest emitter after China and the United States – and that’s without actually subtracting these countries’ own share of wasted food. Nevertheless, these emissions can be broken down into two parts.

First, we have methane gas emissions coming from rotting food. If we were to throw away an apple core or a banana peel somewhere in the woods, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But when hundreds upon hundreds of tons of organic material are piled in landfills, this food waste begins to decompose in an air-depleted environment, which leads to the creation of methane gas. And as some of us know, methane gas is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. American landfills are responsible for 17% of all the country’s methane emissions. Second, we have all the energy that’s used to produce this food in the first place. It is estimated that for every one kcal of food, farmers use 3 kcal of fossil fuel energy. And this is before taking into account food processing, transportation, or storage. In 2003 alone, the United States consumed over 300 million barrels of oil on food that made it straight to the dump, where it almost immediately began churning out methane gas.

3. Misleading Expiration Dates

We don’t know about you guys, but we here at TopTenz used to suffer mini heart attacks every time we realized that the yogurt we’ve been so feverously munching down on was two days past its expiration date. But if you are anything like us (and if you are, our sincere condolences), then rest assured because as it turns out, almost all of these dates are complete BS. The bad news here is that these expiration dates are at best an approximation, and at worst, a way for food manufacturers to make a quick buck by indirectly telling us to throw away perfectly edible food and then go out and buy more. To date, only baby formula has a federally-required expiration date stamped on it, while all the other ‘best-by’ labels are up to the manufacturers themselves.

Expiration dates began appearing around the early ’70s when much of the population stopped growing and making their own food and began buying it from grocery stores. These stores then came up with the idea of an ‘Open Dating’ system, which is when a manufacturer voluntarily stamps a date on its food product, loosely indicating when the item will reach peak freshness (not when it will go bad). This method was used by retail stores to determine for how long to display it on their shelves. The ‘Closed Dating’ system, on the other hand, shows the date when the item was produced. Though helpful at first, this system ended up being taken too literally by consumers and is now a much bigger problem than a solution. Even though it’s almost impossible to determine how much edible food is thrown away based on these dates, surveys have shown that 54% of consumers believe that eating food past their best-by date is a health risk. What’s more, 91% of consumers have said that they occasionally throw away food past their ‘sell-by’ date, while 37% said that they always toss their food after its ‘best-by’ date.

The US government had several pieces of legislation in the works regarding these expiration dates, but with the exception of baby formula, none of them went into law – except maybe in our heads. In any case, this is by far the fastest and easiest way for any government to begin tackling the problem of food waste. In the meantime, everyday consumers shouldn’t take them too seriously and only use them as a base of reference. Even though they look official, they’re not.

2. The Landfill Lunch

With all the facts presented here about food waste, it could be quite hard to understand why politicians don’t talk about this issue, let alone do anything about it. To be fair, governments are oftentimes nothing more than the ‘mirror-reflection’ of the people they represent, and only after enough citizens actively demand something will things begin to change. Nevertheless, it’s never a bad idea to bring up the topic of food waste with the world’s political society. This is everyone’s problem, after all, and we all need to find a solution. And what better way to make politicians start talking food waste than to serve it to them at lunch, right? Well, this is exactly what happened during a 2015 UN Summit, where over 30 world leaders, including France’s then-president François Hollande and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, were seated at the dinner table and catered to by some of the world’s most prestigious chefs.

Everything seemed normal until they were presented with the US-themed menu. Prepared by renowned New York chef Dan Barber and former White House chef Sam Kass, the meal was comprised of, for starters, the so-called ‘Landfill Salad’, made out of vegetable scraps and sub-par apples and pears. The veggie burger was made out of “pulp left over from juicing,” and a “repurposed bread bun.” The fries were actually a kind of starchy corn used in animal feed, which makes up 99% of all the corn produced in the United States. And as refreshment, the distinguished guests were served “Chickpea Water”… or the liquid that’s drained from a can of chickpeas. In an interview, Barber said, “It’s the prototypical American meal but turned on its head. Instead of the beef, we’re going to eat the corn that feeds the beef. The challenge is to create something truly delicious out of what we would otherwise throw away.”

1. The Awesome Power of the Individual

As average citizens of the world, living in the relative comforts of anonymity, we oftentimes find it daunting and feel almost helpless to do anything about the global state of affairs. Even if we were to do our best and waste little to no food whatsoever, it would still feel like a drop in the ocean. But never underestimate the power of leading by example. Instead of feeling down – or worse yet, being part of the problem – disregard your negative feelings and focus on the positive. Convince several of your friends of the benefits of not wasting food, and before you know it, you might start a chain reaction that can alter the face of the world.

But let’s tone down the inspirational talk for a moment and focus on a real-life example instead. Selina Juul, a graphic designer living in Denmark, has been credited by the Danish government for singlehandedly helping the country reduce its food waste by 25% in just five years. Today, Denmark is the leading country in the worldwhen it comes to managing its food waste. The whole thing started several years ago when Juul established a lobby group called Stop Spild Af Mad (Stop Wasting Food). As a Russian immigrant, she moved to Denmark when she was 13 and was shocked by the sheer amount of food people were wasting on a daily basis.

“Coming from a place where there were food shortages and people queued for bread, I was amazed at how much was wasted in Denmark, so I started a Facebook page,” she said in an interview. Juul then began offering tips like, “encouraging people to make a list before they go to the supermarket or take a picture of the inside of your fridge with your phone, if you have no time.”

Three months later, and based on her ideas, Denmark’s largest supermarket chain began replacing its quantity discounts like “buy two get the third free” with single item discounts to minimize food waste. An average supermarket wasted on average 100 bananas per day, but after they put up a sign saying “take me I’m single,” the number of discarded bananas dropped by 90%. Today, every supermarket in Denmark uses at least one food-saving strategy. “She basically changed the entire mentality in Denmark,”said Maria Noel, communication officer at a Danish retail company.


“Food Crimes”

– Shocking New Drama from WIF