Recently Discovered Scratched Stone in Denmark Could be One of The Earliest Maps in History

Recently Discovered Scratched Stone in Denmark Could be One of The Earliest Maps in History

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Reports of existing archaeological discoveries are pouring in lately from Scandinavia. A puzzling stone found in a ditch on Bornholm, a Danish island in the Baltic Sea, to the east of the rest of Denmark, could be one of the earliest maps in human history according to archaeologists and researchers at the National Museum of Denmark. The recent find, however, was not complete. It is made up of two pieces and one piece is still missing. As the magazine Skalk reports, the stone was discovered during archaeological excavation work at the Neolithic shrine Vasagård, where scientists have previously unearthed similar ancient stones inscribed with rectangular patterns filled with different rows of lines and shading.

The discovery was made on the island of Bornholm, Denmark ( flickr)

Excavations of the paddock since the early nineties have discovered many broken flat stones inscribed with patterns of radiating straight lines, called "sun stones" or "solar stones”. Archaeologists have claimed that these artifacts were most likely used in the rituals of the followers of a Neolithic sun-worshipping religion that existed almost five millennia ago.

By 3500 BC locals had set up farms in several parts of Northern Europe where they built groups of houses with wood and stone, surrounded by fields. They grew wheat and barley, which they ground into flour. Some farmers grew beans and peas. Others grew a plant called flax, which they made into linen for clothes. The early farmers also went hunting and gathered nuts and berries to eat, but they spent most of their time working on their farms. For that reason they often worshiped their own Gods or Mother Nature to be generous with them and for that purpose they organized rituals in which they possibly used these stones.

Not a “Solar Stone” But a Map

The recently found stone is filled with lines that look like rays too, but it is not like other “sun stones”. It is probably something else. Unlike previous and similar findings, Flemming Kaul, an archaeologist and senior researcher at the National Museum, is almost certain after examining closely the artifact, that the stone does not show the sun and the sun’s rays, but displays the topographic details of a piece of nature on the island as it appeared between the years 2900 and 2700 BC.

“There was one particular stone that seems to be rather complicated, and we all agree that it looks like some sort of a map — not a map in our modern sense, but a stylized map,” Kaul told Live Science . " I could see some similarities with rock carvings from the Alps in northern Italy, dated to the same period of time, which are interpreted as symbolic landscapes — and that is what I believe we have found now."

The stone disk found on Bornholm. Photo by Marta Bura

Still a “Ritual Stone”

Flemming Kaul called the newly found artifact a stone "without parallel" and speculates that it was also used in rituals, where it was possibly crushed. He suggests that both the map stones and sun stones were used together in rituals to impact the effects of the sun on the fertility of a particular landscape. He says, “Often when ritual objects have had a certain life cycle, then they are deposited at a sacred place, perhaps also to enhance the magic of the ritual which has just been performed with them," and adds, "And of course, when they are broken, then they are not working more in the human world — but they are still working in another spirit world, by being placed in the ditches of these sacred sites.” [via Live Science].

The Interpretation of the Map Stones Could be Debatable

For the end, Kaul acknowledges that the interpretation of the map stones could be somewhat controversial and expects to find more map stones in the near future that will give us a better idea of their role and significance. Kaul told Live Science, "About 20 years ago, after the first solar stones were found, I wrote about it for Skalk – and even the editor of the magazine didn't believe it. Now, after 20 years, we have found more than 200 solar stones, and they are one the most important things from Bornholm; so let's wait a couple of years to see if there are more map stones to come."

    Phoenicians in America

    The theory of Phoenician discovery of the America suggests that the earliest Old World contact with the Americas was not with Columbus or even Norse settlers, but with the Phoenicians (or, alternatively, other Semitic peoples).

    There’s no wonder that there’s so many controversies surrounding this enigmatic people, which we still know little about, ranging from the extent of their sea travels to their religion and alleged child sacrifices. Ironically, though their alphabet became one of the most widely used writing system in the West, very few Phoenician manuscripts have survived in the original or in translation due either to their destruction during Macedonian and Roman aggression or for having been written on perishable material.

    People generally consider this particular theory to be fringe, because quite a few artifacts speaking in its favor are now considered to be forgeries. However, there are still people who vehemently support it and it’s much more controversial then one might think.

    8 Oldest Castles in the World

    Castles are a staple of world history, particularly European history, as several of them still stand today. The earliest parts of these ancient castles were built as fortresses to protect the area’s people against invading armies. In most cases, the grand stone structures that exist today, were constructed after the initial fortress or smaller castle was built. All of these castles have received extensive repair work throughout the centuries and most of them are open to the public today as tourist attractions.

    8. Killyleagh Castle

    Year Established: 1180
    Location: Killyleagh, Northern Ireland
    Still Standing: Yes

    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    Killyleagh Castle is the main attraction in the small village of Killyleagh in Northern Ireland. The oldest parts of the castle date back to 1180 and it is believed to be the oldest castle in the country. King James I gave the land the castle sits on to James Hamilton, who later became the 1st Viscount Claneboye – he built a single towered castle and courtyard walls.

    Since 1625, Killyleagh Castle has been the home of the Hamilton family. In 1666, James Hamilton’s son, Henry Hamilton rebuilt the castle, adding another tower and built the long fortified wall in front of the castle. His castle is what still stands today.

    7. Alcázar of Segovia

    Year Established: c. early 12th century
    Location: Segovia, Spain
    Still Standing: Yes

    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    The Alcázar of Segovia was originally an Arab fortress built atop the remains of a Roman fort. The earliest written records mentioning the castle date back to around 1120 after the city was reconquered by King Alfonso VI. Under the reign of King Alfonso VIII and his wife Eleanor of England, the castle became their primary residence and they began the construction of the castle as it exists today.

    The castle remained one of the most important fortresses for the monarchs of Castile until they moved the capital to Madrid. In 1882, the castle was slowly restored to its original state and in 1896, King Alfonso XIII gave the castle to the Ministry of War to use as a military college.

    6. Rochester Castle

    Year Established: late 1080s
    Location: Rochester, Kent, South East England
    Still Standing: Yes

    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    Rochester Castle was built sometime in the late 1080s after William II asked Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester to build a stone castle in Rochester so he could take command of an important river crossing. This stone castle is one of the earliest of its type in England, as many of the country’s early castles were initially built of motte and bailey.

    In 1127, the Archbishop of Cantebury began building the castle’s great keep, which is one of the best preserved in England or France as well as the tallest such building to survive in Europe. The castle was repaired during the 19th and 20th centuries and today is open to the public under the guardianship of English Heritage.

    5. Hohensalzburg Castle

    Year Established: 1077
    Location: Salzburg, Austria
    Still Standing: Yes

    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    The initial fortress of Hohensalzbug Castle was built in 1077 by Gebhard I of Helffenstein, who was the archbishop at the time. Although Archbishop Gebhard was forced into exile, his successors completed the fortress. During the reign of the Holy Roman Empire, the archbishops of Salzburg continued to expand the castle to protect their power and interests. Around 1500, Archbishop Leonard von Keutschach completed the fortress as it looks today.

    Although the castle was built as a fortress, it only came under siege once during the German Peasants’ War in 1525. The castle was refurbished during the late 19th century and has remained as a popular tourist attraction since then.

    4. Windsor Castle

    Year Established: 1070
    Location: Windsor, Berkshire, England
    Still Standing: Yes

    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    Although there was a royal residence at Windsor during the Saxon times, around the 9th century, construction of the first castle began sometime around 1070 after the Norman Invasion of England by William the Conqueror. Since the reign of King Henry I, Windsor castle has been used by England’s reigning monarch, which makes it the longest-occupied palace in Europe.

    The original castle was built of motte and bailey, but was gradually replaced with stone fortifications. When Henry III came into power, he built a luxurious royal palace within the castle and Edward III rebuilt the palace to make it even grander. Windsor Castle is still owned by the English royal family and is a popular tourist attraction.

    3. Warwick Castle

    Year Established: 1068
    Location: Warwickshire, England
    Still Standing: Yes

    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    The first castle to be built on the site of Warwick Castle was constructed in 1068 by William the Conquerer. Beginning around 1260, the castle was gradually rebuilt in stone by each successive Earl of Warwick. Over the next century, various Earls of Warwick added onto the original structure and in 1350, Caesar’s Tower and Dungeon was constructed followed by Guy’s Tower in 1395.

    Warwick Castle fell into disrepair during the 16th century and did not undergo repairs until the early 17th century. In 1978, the Greville family who had owned the castle for over 374, sold it to the Tussauds Group (a media and entertainment company) for £1.3 million ($1.7 million), who extensively restored the castle and grounds.

    2. Reichsburg Cochem

    Year Established: 1000
    Location: Cochem, Germany
    Still Standing: Yes

    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    Reichsburg Cochem or Cochem Castle is one of the oldest castles in the world. It is believed that the castle was first built around the year 1000 by the Palatinate count Ezzo. The earliest documentation of the castle dates back to 1051 when Richeza, Ezzo’s oldest daughter and former Queen of Poland, gave the castle to her nephew Palatine count Henry I.

    In 1151, the castle officially became an Imperial castle after King Konrad III occupied the castle by force. It was partially destroyed in 1688 by French King Louis XIV’s troops, but was restored in the Gothic Revival style businessman Louis Fréderic Jacques Ravené in 1868. Since 1978, the castle has been owned by the town of Cochem and is administered by a company named Reichsburg GmbH.

    1. Citadel of Aleppo

    Year Established: c.3000 BCE
    Location: Aleppo, Syria
    Still Standing: Partially greatly damaged in the Syrian Civil War

    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    The Citadel of Aleppo is one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. The castle sits atop a hill in the Ancient City of Aleppo, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back to at least the 3000 BCE, but the majority of the current structure was probably built during the Ayuubid dynasty sometime during the 12th century.

    During the early 2000s the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with the Aleppo Archaeological Society performed extensive conservation work on the citadel. Unfortunately in recent years, the citadel has been severely damaged in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.

    The Future of Psychedelics

    Psychedelics’ newfound momentum looks set to continue well into 2021 and beyond, with the first major milestones hinting at what the next decade could hold for the industry.

    2021 (Jan)In Hawaii, a Senate bill put forward in January could legalize psilocybin and psilocin, otherwise known as magic mushrooms
    2021 (Feb)With California now introducing new legislation to decriminalize most psychedelic substances, we could see a sea-change of decriminalization across the world
    2021 (March)Over 285 active, soon to be active, and completed psychedelics trials are recorded around the world

    The next chapter in the psychedelics story will center around biotechnology, new drug discoveries, and the many unknown applications of each of these substances.

    Currently, the application of therapeutic psychedelics has mainly been targeted toward mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. However, we have only scratched the surface when it comes to the myriad of ways we could harness the power of these sacred plants.

    World’s oldest Homo sapiens fossils found in Morocco

    For decades, researchers seeking the origin of our species have scoured the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. Now, their quest has taken an unexpected detour west to Morocco: Researchers have redated a long-overlooked skull from a cave called Jebel Irhoud to a startling 300,000 years ago, and unearthed new fossils and stone tools. The result is the oldest well-dated evidence of Homo sapiens, pushing back the appearance of our kind by 100,000 years.

    “This stuff is a time and a half older than anything else put forward as H. sapiens,” says paleoanthropologist John Fleagle of the State University of New York in Stony Brook.

    The discoveries, reported in Nature , suggest that our species came into the world face-first, evolving modern facial traits while the back of the skull remained elongated like those of archaic humans. The findings also suggest that the earliest chapters of our species’s story may have played out across the African continent. “These hominins are on the fringes of the world at that time,” says archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany.

    Back in 1961, miners searching for the mineral barite stumbled on a stunningly complete fossil skull at Jebel Irhoud, 75 kilometers from Morocco’s west coast. With its big brain but primitive skull shape, the skull was initially assumed to be an African Neandertal. In 2007, researchers published a date of 160,000 years based on radiometric dating of a human tooth. That suggested that the fossil represented a lingering remnant of an archaic species, perhaps H. heidelbergensis, which may be the ancestor of both Neandertals and H. sapiens. In any case, the skull still appeared to be younger than the oldest accepted H. sapiens fossils.

    Those fossils were found in East Africa, long the presumed cradle of human evolution. At Herto, in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley, researchers dated H. sapiens skulls to about 160,000 years ago farther south at Omo Kibish, two skullcaps are dated to about 195,000 years ago, making them the oldest widely accepted members of our species, until now. “The mantra has been that the speciation of H. sapiens was somewhere around 200,000 years ago,” Petraglia says.

    Some researchers thought the trail of our species might have begun earlier. After all, geneticists date the split of humans and our closest cousins, the Neandertals, to at least 500,000 years ago, notes paleoanthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. So you might expect to find hints of our species somewhere in Africa well before 200,000 years ago, he says.

    One of the few people who continued to ponder the Jebel Irhoud skull was French paleoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin, who had begun his career in 1981 studying a jaw found at Jebel Irhoud. When he moved to the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, he got funding to reopen the now-collapsed cave, which is 100 kilometers west of Marrakesh, Morocco. Hublin’s team began new excavations in 2004, hoping to date the small chunk of intact sediment layers and tie them to the original discovery layer. “We were very lucky,” Hublin says. “We didn’t just get dates, we got more hominids.”

    The team now has new partial skulls, jaws, teeth, and leg and arm bones from at least five individuals, including a child and an adolescent, mostly from a single layer that also contained stone tools. In their detailed statistical analysis of the fossils, Hublin and paleoanthropologist Philipp Gunz, also of the Max Planck in Leipzig, find that a new partial skull has thin brow ridges. And its face tucks under the skull rather than projecting forward, similar to the complete Irhoud skull as well as to people today. But the Jebel Irhoud fossils also had an elongated brain case and “very large” teeth, like more archaic species of Homo, the authors write.

    The pan-African dawn of Homo sapiens

    New dates and fossils from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco suggest that our species emerged across Africa. The new findings may help researchers sort out how these selected fossils from the past 600,000 years are related to modern humans and to one another.

    The fossils suggest that faces evolved modern features before the skull and brain took on the globular shape seen in the Herto fossils and in living people. “It’s a long story—it wasn’t that one day, suddenly these people were modern,” Hublin says.

    Neandertals show the same pattern: Putative Neandertal ancestors such as 400,000-year-old fossils in Spain have elongated, archaic skulls with specialized Neandertal traits in their faces. “It’s a plausible argument that the face evolves first,” says paleoanthropologist Richard Klein of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, although researchers don’t know what selection pressures might drive this.

    This scenario hinges on the revised date for the skull, which was obtained from burnt flint tools. (The tools also confirm that the Jebel Irhoud people controlled fire.) Archaeologist Daniel Richter of the Max Planck in Leipzig used a thermoluminescence technique to measure how much time had elapsed since crystalline minerals in the flint were heated by fire. He got 14 dates that yielded an average age of 314,000 years, with a margin of error from 280,000 to 350,000 years. This fits with another new date of 286,000 years (with a range of 254,000 to 318,000 years), from improved radiometric dating of a tooth. These findings suggest that the previous date was wrong, and fit with the known age of certain species of zebra, leopard, and antelope in the same layer of sediment. “From a dating standpoint, I think they’ve done a really good job,” says geochronologist Bert Roberts of the University of Wollongong in Australia.

    Once Hublin saw the date, “we realized we had grabbed the very root of the whole species lineage,” he says. The skulls are so transitional that naming them becomes a problem: The team calls them early H. sapiens rather than the “early anatomically modern humans” described at Omo and Herto.

    Some people might still consider these robust humans “highly evolved H. heidelbergensis,” says paleoanthropologist Alison Brooks of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She and others, though, think they do look like our kind. “The main skull looks like something that could be near the root of the H. sapiens lineage,” says Klein, who says he would call them “protomodern, not modern.”

    The team doesn’t propose that the Jebel Irhoud people were directly ancestral to all the rest of us. Rather, they suggest that these ancient humans were part of a large, interbreeding population that spread across Africa when the Sahara was green about 300,000 to 330,000 years ago they later evolved as a group toward modern humans. “H. sapiens evolution happened on a continental scale,” Gunz says.

    Support for that picture comes from the tools that Hublin’s team discovered. They include hundreds of stone flakes that had been hammered repeatedly to sharpen them and two cores—the lumps of stone from which the blades were flaked off—characteristic of the Middle Stone Age (MSA). Some researchers thought that archaic humans such as H. heidelbergensis invented these tools. But the new dates suggest that this kind of toolkit, found at sites across Africa, may be a hallmark of H. sapiens.

    The finds will help scientists make sense of a handful of tantalizing and poorly dated skulls from across Africa, each with its own combination of modern and primitive traits. For example, the new date may strengthen a claim that a somewhat archaic partial skull at Florisbad in South Africa, roughly dated to 260,000 years ago, may be early H. sapiens. But the date may also widen the distance between H. sapiens and another species, H. naledi, that lived at this time in South Africa.

    The connections among these skulls and the appearance of MSA tools across Africa at this time and possibly earlier shows “a lot of communication across the continent,” Brooks says. “This shows a pan-African phenomenon, with people expanding and contracting across the continent for a long time."

    Legends of America

    Legend has held that the first widely recognized first female serial killer in the United States is Lavinia Fisher, born in 1793, but, the location of her birth, her maiden name, or any information about her childhood, is unknown. Historical records do not agree with all of the legend [see Beyond the Legend], but in the end, Fisher was hanged for her crimes.

    Lavinia grew up to marry a man named John Fisher and the couple lived near Charleston, South Carolina. The pair made their living operating a hotel called the Six Mile Wayfarer House, which they managed in the early 1800s. Mysteriously, men who were visiting Charleston began to disappear. As more and more reports were filed with the authorities regarding these missing men, it was determined that they were last seen at the Six Mile Wayfarer House, which was called such because it was six miles outside of Charleston.

    Though the local authorities began an investigation, there was no evidence that the Fishers were involved. This, coupled with their popularity in the town, led to the investigation being dropped.

    Lavinia was a very beautiful and charming woman, adding to her popularity in the community and to the business of the hotel. However, it would later be learned that she utilized those characteristics to help her husband rob and kill many male travelers. And, as more and more men went missing, the rumor mill began to do its work.

    Charleston, South Carolina

    The locals soon gathered up a group of vigilantes who went to the Fishers in February 1819 to stop the activities that were occurring there. Though it is unknown what they may have said or done, they were obviously satisfied with their task and returned to Charleston, leaving one man by the name of David Ross to stand watch in the area.

    Early the next morning, David Ross was attacked by two men and dragged before a group of men along with Lavinia Fisher. He looked to her for help, but instead, she choked him and smashed his head through a window. Somehow, Ross was able to escape and alert authorities.

    At nearly the same time, a man named John Peeples was traveling from Georgia to Charleston and tired from his long trip, stopped at The Six Mile House to see if they had a room. He was warmly greeted by the beautiful Lavinia who informed him they didn’t have a room available but invited him in for tea and a meal.

    Her company was so pleasant that he ignored Lavinia’s husband’s odd glances at him and chatted with her, answering her every question. When she excused herself from the table for a moment, she returned with tea and good news. A room had suddenly become available if John still wanted it. He accepted and Lavinia poured him a cup of tea.

    John didn’t like tea but didn’t want to seem impolite. So, instead of refusing it or leaving it untouched, he poured it out when she wasn’t looking. Afterward, she showed him to his room. He then began to wonder why she had asked him so many questions. Why was her husband staring at him all evening?

    Suddenly, he felt uncomfortable with all the information that he had provided and worried if he might become a target for robbery. Feeling safer in the chair by the door than in the bed, he dozed until he was awakened by a loud noise. Looking around, he realized that the bed he should have been sleeping in had disappeared into a deep hole beneath the floor. John quickly jumped out the window, got on his horse and fled to authorities in Charleston.

    Police then arrested John and Lavinia Fisher, as well as two men they had been operating with.

    The Six Mile Wayfarer House was thoroughly searched and the grounds dug up. Filled with hidden passages, the Sheriff reportedly found items that could be traced to dozens of travelers, a tea laced with an herb that could put someone to sleep for hours, a mechanism that could be triggered to open the floorboards beneath the bed, and in the basement, as many as a hundred sets of remains.

    Old Charleston Jail in 1937, Frances B. Johnston

    The Fishers plead not guilty but were ordered to stay in jail until their trial. In the meantime, their co-conspirators were released on bail. At their trial in May, the jury didn’t agree with their innocent plea, found them guilty of multiple robberies and murders, and they were sentenced to hang. However, they were given time to appeal the conviction.

    During the wait, they occupied themselves making a plan to escape. Housed together in a jail that was not heavily guarded, they began making a rope from jail linens. On September 13, they put their plan in place and used the rope to drop down to the ground. John made it out but the rope broke, leaving Lavinia trapped in the cell. Not willing to go without his wife, he returned to the jail and the two were afterward, kept under much tighter security.

    In February 1820, the Constitutional Court rejected their appeal and their execution was scheduled for later that month.

    A local minister named Reverend Richard Furman was sent in to counsel the pair if they so wished. John freely talked to Furman and is said to have begged the priest to save his soul if not his life. However, the cruel Lavinia would have nothing to do with him.

    On the morning of February 18, 1820, the Fishers were taken from the Charleston Jail to be hanged on the gallows behind the building. John Fisher went quietly praying with the minister, whom he had asked to read a letter. Before a crowd of some 2,000 people, the letter insisted on his innocence and asked for mercy for those who had done him wrong in the judicial process. He then began to verbally plead his case before the gathered crowd, but before he was hanged, asked for their forgiveness.

    Lavinia did not go so quietly. She had requested to wear her wedding dress and refusing to walk to the gallows, had to be picked up and carried as she ranted and raved. Before the crowd, she continued to scream, pointedly at the Charleston socialites, who she blamed for encouraging a conviction. Before her executioners could tighten the noose around her neck, she yelled into the crowd, “If you have a message you want to send to hell, give it to me – I’ll carry it.” Then, before they could finish the job, she jumped off the scaffold herself. Not quite reaching the ground, she dangled down into the crowd. Later, onlookers would say they had never seen such a wicked stare or chilling sneer as that which was on 27-year-old Lavinia’s face.

    Though many sources say that the Fishers were buried in the Unitarian Church Graveyard located between King and Archdale Streets in Charleston, this is highly unlikely. There was a Potter’s Field Cemetery next to the jail at the time, where most criminals were buried if their bodies weren’t claimed by family members. Additionally, church records have been searched, indicating no evidence that she was buried there. This tale has likely been perpetuated by tour guides.

    Beyond the Legend

    Historical records do not indicate that hundreds of remains were found in the Fisher’s basement. There were a couple of bodies dug up on the property, but nothing to tie them to the Fishers for sure, and, according to records, they were never charged with murder. So, while Fisher is claimed to be the first female serial killer in the United States, that distinction likely belongs to Jane Toppan, who confessed to 31 murders in 1901, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity. One thing the records do agree on is the fact they robbed many travelers, and highway robbery was still a hanging offense. Also called into question is the fact Lavinia wore her wedding dress to her execution, or that she jumped from the scaffold herself. Sometimes the legend is more fun to tell, and this one has lived on for a while in Charleston lore.

    The Charleston Courier provided this article in the newspaper on February 22, 1819, about the Fisher’s arrest.

    “In Saturday’s Courier, we gave some particulars of the conduct of a set of outlaws, who have for a long time past infested the road in the vicinity of this city, and whose outrageous conduct had of late become insupportable. We then stated that the occupants of a small house five miles from town, had been driven out, and the building burnt to the ground and that certain others, in possession of a house one mile above, had been compelled to leave it and another person put in possession of it by the owner. It now appears, that as soon as the citizens had returned to town, the persons who had been thus compelled to leave the last-mentioned house, returned to it in the evening, and beat the person who had been put in possession in a most inhuman manner, when he escaped into the woods and made the best of his way to town. The next morning, the same gang stopped a traveler up the road, beat him cruelly, cut his head in several places, and then robbed him of about 30 or 40 in money. These circumstances being made known to the civil authority, the Sheriff of this District collected a posse of citizens, and proceeded on Saturday afternoon to the spot, surrounded the house, and seized upon its occupants, [three men and two women] after which they burnt the house and outbuildings to the ground, without allowing the occupants to removed an article of its contents brought the offenders to town, and committed them to jail. The posse found in an outhouse, the hide of a cow, which had been recently killed, and which was identified to be the property of one of our citizens. She had been missing for several days. This accounts for the manner in which the cows are disposed of which are so frequently stolen and never afterward heard of. The inmates of the house were armed with 10 or 12 muskets and a keg of powder, but the force which went against them was too imposing to admit of any chance of success in a resort to arms. One of the leaders in these high handed depredations was arrested into town on Saturday afternoon and likewise committed to jail. We trust that these decisive steps will restore quiet to the neighborhood, and enable our country brethren to enter and leave the city without the fear of insult or robbery.

    The following is a correct list of the members of the gang who were apprehended and committed to prison on Saturday night. John Fisher, Lavina Fisher, his wife, Wm. Heyward, James M’Elway, Jane Howard and Seth Young. It is supposed there are more of them lurking about and is hoped the vigilance of the police and citizens will ferret them out and bring them to justice.

    We are informed and requested to state that Mr. John People, who was robbed and unmercifully beaten by the villains mentioned above, is an honest, industrious young man from the country, and had a sum of money entrusted to his care, which the robbers took from him.”

    The Ghost of Lavinia Fisher

    It should come as no surprise with a terrible story such as this, that the ghost of Lavinia is said to still roam in Charleston. Almost immediately following her death, locals began to report seeing her face floating behind the bars of the window where she was held. Then, after the Great Earthquake of 1886, people began to report her wandering around in other parts of the neighborhood, as well as the Unitarian Cemetery just a few blocks away.

    The Old Jail building served as the Charleston County Jail from its construction in 1802 until 1939. Way back in 1680, when the city of Charleston was being laid out, a four-acre square of land was set aside at this location for public use. In time, a hospital, poor house, a workhouse for runaway slaves, and the jail were built on the square.

    The first structures were erected on the site in 1738 when the property was used as a workhouse for runaway slaves and a makeshift hospital for “paupers, vagrants, and beggars.” Criminals were also housed here before the Old Jail building was erected, though they were kept separate from non-offenders. Punishments and executions also took place at this location. Criminals faced whippings, brandings, torture, and deprivation of food and water. For horse thieves, their ears were sometimes nailed to a post before finally sliced off altogether. For the worst offenders, they might be burned at the stake, hanged, or drawn and quartered. Over the years, numerous structures were built, demolished, and rebuilt.

    When the Jail was constructed in 1802 it consisted of four stories, topped with a two-story octagonal tower. Later changes were made to the building including a rear octagonal wing, expansions to the main building and the Romanesque Revival details. Unfortunately, the 1886 earthquake badly damaged the tower and the top story of the main building, and these were removed.

    In the 137 years that the building was in operation, it not only served as a jail but also, an asylum, housing a great variety of inmates, including John and Lavinia Fisher. In the early part of the 1800s, numerous high-sea pirates were jailed here, and after Denmark Vesey’s planned slave revolt in 1822, hundreds were incarcerated awaiting their trails. Vesey, a freed slave, planned an insurrection that called for free blacks to assist hundreds of slaves to kill their owners and temporarily seize the city of Charleston before sailing away to Haiti. However, the plot was leaked and hundreds of blacks were arrested in the conspiracy. In total, 67 men were convicted and 35 hanged, including Denmark Vesey. Increased restrictions were afterward placed on slaves and free blacks, including a law that all black seaman be kept at the jail while they were in port. During the Civil War, both Confederate and Federal prisoners of war were incarcerated here.

    Though the jail was intended to hold around 128 prisoners, over the years, as many as 300 people were often incarcerated at one time. In some rooms, prisoners were locked in cages, barely the size of a person’s body. Disease, torture, and violence within the walls of this historic building were rampant and an estimated 10,000 people died on the property during its operation. The jail was finally closed in 1939 and for the next 61 years, it sat abandoned. However, in 2000, the American College of the Building Arts acquired the Old City Jail building and immediately established a stabilization program. Today, the Old City Jail is an official “Save America’s Treasures” project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and efforts to restore and maintain the building are ongoing.

    Reports of strange occurrences began with the restoration efforts in 2000. One of the first reports was workers finding footprints in the dust after the building had been locked off for months due to lead paint contamination. More and more anomalies occurred as preservation continued and the building was opened for tours.

    Several apparitions have been reported including several workers who saw the ghost of a jailer with a rifle on the third floor. The phantom was said to have passed through the bars heading toward them before it vanished. Others have reported seeing a black man in ragged clothing wandering aimlessly in the halls. Thought to be the spirit of a former slave, the man is seemingly unaware of the living or his surroundings. But, the Old Jail’s most famous ghost is that of the cruel killer, Lavinia Fisher. Several who have visited the historic building, often claim to have seen the woman in her wedding dress, describing it as being bright red and white.

    Strange sounds are heard throughout the building including the hum of a dumbwaiter moving through the floors, even though it hasn’t been operational in years. Alarms are said to go on and off randomly.

    For others, their experiences have been physical. Visitors and employees alike have complained of a choking feeling and shortness of breath while on the main staircase. Others report being grabbed, pushed, touched and scratched by unseen forces. A tour guide tells a story of feeling a rope wrap around her ankle and a man in the basement had his sunglasses knocked of by a violent, unseen force.

    Other strange happenings also allegedly occur, such as terrible odors that are so bad as to make people feel ill. Others report feelings of being watched. In the basement, even though the temperatures may be quite warm, visitors have seen their breath come out in a cloud of fog. Doors are found open after being closed.

    Access to the jail is limited, and most easily accessed through various ghost tour companies in Charleston. The Old City Jail is located at 21 Magazine & 17 Franklin Streets.

    There are a number of tales that Lavinia also haunts the Unitarian Cemetery, where some sources say she was buried. This however, is very unlikely as there was a Potter’s Field Cemetery next to the jail at the time, where most criminals were buried if their bodies weren’t claimed by family members. Additionally, church records have been searched, indicating no evidence that she was buried there. This tale has likely been perpetuated by tour guides.

    Update September 2012: The television show Ghost Hunters season premiere featured a visit to the old Charleston Jail, where a skeptical camera operator experienced the scratches first hand, which were visible on camera.

    The Ancient Art of Decorating Eggs

    If you have decorated an egg, then you have participated in one of the oldest decorative arts. Archaeologists have long known of decorated ostrich shell pieces and empty eggs in Africa of great antiquity, found in tombs or archaeological digs, but they did not know how old this custom really was. In 2010 an important find was announced that a team led by Pierre-Jean Texier found a cache of decorated ostrich eggs in layers in South Africa dating from 65,000 to 55,000 years before the present.[1]  They had been whole shells, but crushed into fragments over time. These eggs were likely used for storing water, as hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari desert do even today. It is speculated that the designs might have been the mark of individual owners of the shells.  An interesting find was that the scratched decorations on the eggs changed over time. Earlier eggs had cross-hatched designs that looked like railroad tracks. Later designs used finer parallel scratches inside of lines. The fragments had several colors, but at least some of these were probably a consequence of being buried in the ground. The natural color of ostrich eggs is cream to yellow, so scratches show the white layer underneath.  Examples from more recent ages are sometimes colored all over with red ocher so that the white lines stand out, or have a colorant rubbed into the etched design. But were these shells from the middle stone age colored to highlight the scratched designs? Tests to replicate the results of burial and the possibility that a fire was built over the buried shells suggest that while some of the colors could be caused by these conditions, the red and blues, and perhaps other bright colors, could be a result of intentional coloring.[2]

    Ostrich eggs are extremely durable, so they have survived. If stone age peoples decorated eggs of other birds, they would likely decompose. Hen’s eggs have been found in ancient Roman tombs. More often, the egg was placed in tombs symbolically in the form of a carved stone.

    An example of a Nowruz altar, or haft-seen, celebrating the vernal equinox and Persian New Year. Decorated eggs are usually included on the haft-seen. This tradition began in Persia in ancient times and has spread to many parts of the world. Photo by the Fairfax Library Foundation, shared on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

    From ancient history to the present eggs have been an important symbol in many cultures. They are part of the creation myths of many peoples, the “cosmic egg” from which all or parts of the universe arises. They often symbolize life, renewal, and rebirth. They figure in much of human folklore, used for healing and protection.

    Because human interest in eggs is so old, and many cultures share similar traditions, it is possible that some egg-decorating traditions were carried with our earliest humanਊncestors as they migrated out of Africa. Whether this is true or not, egg decorating is certainlyਏound in many cultures.

    Colored eggs appear on the altars made for the new year known as  Nowruz, which isꃎlebrated at the vernal equinox. This tradition has ancient roots in Persia and Zoroastrianism, but is now practiced across Eurasia by Persian and Turkic peoples of various faiths. Historically, red was a popular color and red eggs are sometimes prominent in these celebrations today, although altars now may include eggs of all colors. In some regions solid-color eggs have given way to eggs with multicolored decorations.

    In Jewish tradition it is a pure white roasted egg that is part of the seder plate at Passover. Orthodox Christians in Mesopotamia took the symbol of the Passover egg and dyed it red as a symbol of Christ’s blood. This was the beginning of the Easter egg. Red eggs are still prominent in the celebration of Easter in Greece, where people have a game of tapping the hard boiled red eggs against each other. The winner is the owner of the egg that does not break. This game seems to have begun in southern Europe and spread northward. There is also a tradition of a sweet loaf of braided bread with whole red eggs baked into it it is found in Greece but has also become a tradition among Italian Catholics, with eggs of various colors. So we see how traditions spread from people of the Orthodox faith to peoples of other Christian denominations.

    These Easter eggs show two different decoration techniques. The designs with white lines scratched into the colored surface are descended from the oldest known decoration method (the brown egg in the lower left has scratches within lines that are especially similar to ancient ostrich egg decoration). Others are decorated with wax resist designs using a stylus that creates a teardrop shaped stroke. These examples are Polish. Detail of an American Folklife Center photo by Carl Fleischhauer, 1982. From Egg Art, 1982 [PDF, 15 pp.].

    Many dyes used for fabrics were also used to color eggs. Some of these were toxic dyes and are not recommended today, but dying with onion skins, yellow onions for a reddish brown and red onions for a light blue, are still used. Lichens, vegetables such as beets and spinach, and even flower petals have been used to dye eggs. In northern Britain and in Scandinavia, a leaf or flower is placed on an egg, wrapped in onion skins and then boiled. The result is an egg with the impression of a leaf or flower design on it. In Britain these are called “pace eggs” and are given as gifts, and used as a kind of payment to performers of Easter folk plays. “Pace” is thought to derive from Pascha, the Latin name for Easter, itself derived through Greek from an Aramaic word for the Jewish festival of Passover.

    Easter egg decorated in the Ukrainian style (pysanky) by Mrs. Maria Brama of Chicago, Illinois. This method uses a funnel stylus to draw fine lines on the egg with wax that resist the subsequent layers of dye. Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer, 1977.

    The most elaborate designs are found in Eastern Europe, where women are traditionally the artists responsible for decorating eggs. Wax is carefully applied using one of two tools: either a tiny funnel stylus, or kistka, is used to make fine lines, orਊ stylus with a rounded end is used to drip the wax onto the egg, creating elongated teardrops. The egg is dyed and more wax is applied to create layers of color from light to dark. Examples from Bulgaria are often red with another color, such as yellow, appearing as the lines. These may be examples of the earliest style of these eggs. Ukrainian egg decoration, called pysanky, is thought to date to pre-Christian times based on the designs and beliefs about them. Eggs from Ukraine and the surrounding region are among the most elaborate wax-resist designs found anywhere, with many layers of colors. The lace-like designs and cross-hatching made with the finest stylus are similar to European designs achieved by scratching. Similar designs are found on eggs used by those who celebrate Easter and those who celebrate Nowruz in Ukraine, so these traditions seem to have influenced each other. Ukrainian designs have also spread in Eurasia and the Americas. If you would like to try your hand at these styles of decoration, the American Folklife Center has a booklet online, Egg Art (1982), that can help you get started.

    The Ukrainian Easter egg tradition preserves some of the cultural symbolism and power of decorated eggs that was once very common across Eurasia and still found in some places today. The traditional method is to decorate raw eggs, and the contents are allowed to dry out (although modern artists often use blown eggs). They are given as gifts to preserve the health of the recipient. A bowl of decorated eggs is commonly displayed in homes at all times of year, as they bring health to people in the house. Eggs may be buried near the doorway of a house to protect the health of the people there, or buried by the barn or stable door to protect animals. The symbols on the eggs sometimes have particular meanings about the kinds of protection they may bring. In China, red eggs are given as gifts to a bride and groom, and are also a gift for a new born boy. The egg symbolizes fertility and health, so the egg is supposed grant fertility to a married couple, and to protect the newborn child and bring him good fortune. The fact that these ideas about the magical properties of decorated eggs are spread so widely across Eurasia suggests that the beliefs, like the decorated eggs, are of great antiquity.

    Egg decoration continues to develop new forms, and old techniques are often revived, so that there are a wide variety of techniques to try. A couple of techniques seem to be popular right now. Boiling an egg wrapped with silk in a solution of water and vinegar is used to transfer the pattern from the silk to the egg. This is a method many people might try successfully. Old neckties are a handy source of scrap silk. Carving eggs, especially sturdier eggs such as goose eggs, ostrich eggs, and emu eggs, is a technique for the more adventurous egg artist. If you have an egg-decorating technique you would like to share, I will enjoy hearing about it in the comments.

    1. Texier, Pierre-Jean, et al. “A Howiesons Poort tradition of engraving ostrich eggshell containers dated to 60,000 years ago at Diepkloof Rock Shelter, South Africa.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 107, No. 14 (April 6, 2010), pp. 6180-6185 and Pierre-Jean Texier, et al, “The context, form and significance of the MSA engraved ostrich eggshell collection from Diepkloof Rock Shelter, Western Cape, South Africa,” Journal of Archaeological Science 40(9) , September 2013. See also: Michael Balter, “Engraved Eggs Suggest Early Symbolism,” Science Magazine, March 1, 2010, for images of some fragments and a discussion of the importance of the find.
    2. Stewart, Brian. “Egg Cetera #6: Hunting for the world’s oldest decorated eggs,” Research, University of Cambridge. Article and a video. The research on the colors of the ostrich egg fragments are explained in the video.
    3. Newall, Venetia. “Easter Eggs,” Journal of American Folklore,  Vol. 80, No. 315 (Jan. – Mar., 1967), pp. 3-32, p. 19. The author cites several sources in footnote #119.

    Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection. This presentation includes photographs of Ukrainian-style eggs decorated by Mrs. Maria Brama.

    Newall, Venetia. “Easter Eggs,” Journal of American Folklore,  Vol. 80, No. 315 (Jan. – Mar., 1967), pp. 3-32.

    Newall, Venetia. “Some Notes on the Egg Tree,” Folklore, Vol. 78, No. 1 (Spring, 1967), pp. 39-45.

    Rhode Island Folklife Project Collection. This presentation includes Ukranian-style eggs decorated by
    Natalie Michaluk and two interviews with her on Ukranian traditions. Search on pysanky. [Added March 19, 2018]

    5 Containers And Paint Supplies

    The ability to carry liquids around provides an immediately obvious advantage. Not being limited to staying near a lake or river widens the hunting, farming, and foraging grounds our ancestors were able to cover. Yet surprisingly, the oldest evidence we have of humans using containers was not for carrying water or food, but for mixing paint around 100,000 years ago.

    Containers made from abalone shells were found with a selection of other paint-making equipment made from bone and stones. They are 40,000 years older than the next recorded use of a container and 60,000 years older than the oldest surviving cave paintings. It seems that when they&rsquod finished mixing their paint, our early ancestors were making their pictures on something that couldn&rsquot stand the test of time.

    Is this Map a Million Years Old?

    Cartography is an ancient urge. Humans made maps long before they invented writing.

    But whereas the origin of the written word can be pinpointed with some certainty to the Middle East at the end of the fourth millennium BC [1], no such archaeological consensus exists over the age and location of the world's oldest map.

    The problem, with each candidate piece of scratched or painted rock: Is it ritual abstraction, or realistic depiction? In other words, when does the shaman become a mapmaker?

    The answers to that question vary wildly. The oldest examples of mapmaking are also the most debatable, probably because cartographer and augurer are still joined in Siamese twinship.

    Take the Çatalhöyük wall painting, dated to the late seventh millennium BC. Does it really represent a map of the neolithic settlement it its Anatolian surroundings? Or are those rooftops really just an abstract pattern, and that erupting volcano nothing more than a leopard skin? [2]?

    The oldest indisputable examples of cartography depict heavenly bodies, in large part because their position is still verifiable today. A drawing in France's Lascaux cave, dated to 18,500 years ago, clearly shows the Pleiades [3], as well as the so-called Summer Triangle [4].

    Even though other ancient examples of maps could still be unearthed, the scientific consensus is that cartography has an outer age limit - roughly the same one for burial rites, cave paintings and other expressions of symbolic thinking. The emergence of this 'behavioural modernity', either as a sudden shift in human genetics or as a gradual accumulation of skills, is thought to have culminated about 50,000 years ago with the advent of language.

    Along comes an amateur archaeologist with a stunning find that could pulverise that age limit. What if the world's oldest map is at least ten times older than that putative onset of abstract thought. How about a map that is anywhere from half a million to one million years old?

    The amateur is David King, a passionate Yorkshireman who prefers to call himself an 'intuitive archaeologist': "[I don't] possess academic qualifications, but I have been collecting, analysing and researching one site at the head of the Colne Valley [5] in England". Over two decades, Mr. King has collected over 10,000 paleolithic artefacts in the area.

    The map in question seems to be engraved on a 4.5-inch tall pebble. It takes only a small leap of the imagination to recognise the coastlines of Europe in the shapes incised into the stone. But matching the mapwork with the object's supposed age - up to a million years, Mr. King contends - is several bridges too far for current science. And for most scientists.

    Mr. King has had the map stone for over a decade, but in all those years was unable to have 'official' palaeontologists concede that it might be a man-made artefact. "They all say that it is a coincidence or a 'natural' occurrence, and that prehistoric man […] was incapable of such a feat […] The fact remains that it has been done […] Even a child with a limited grasp of geography can recognise the Western European coastline on this map".

    In fact, Mr. King contends, the stone surface presents "an accurate,detailed and concise map of the coastlines,lakes and river systems from north Europe all the way down to South Africa."

    If, as Mr. King's non-intuitive colleagues maintain, the shapes displayed on the pebble are mere coincidences, they are pretty big ones. He lists some of the correspondences:

    * "The mighty River Eridanos [6] flowed […] until about 700,000 years ago from the Baltic to the North Sea and marks the northernmost limit of the map, although Greenland could also be seen".

    * "In England, the Rivers Thames, Bytham [7] and Medway are shown, although Scotland is cut off and the Welsh coast is above water.The Bytham was known to have been obliterated by the Anglian Ice Age [8] as are several of the marked rivers in northern Germany,the Paris Basin appears to be flooded possibly between the Seine and the Somme".

    * "In Germany, the Rivers Rhine, Ems and Meuse and the lost rivers are marked. [S]trangely, the red 'warrior figure' is original and possibly a painted image… It does not scrub off!"

    * "The west coast of France is remarkably accurate, with the Rivers Loire,Garonne,Rhône among others marked and the area south of Marseilles in shown above water (there are cave drawing off the coast there now 120 feet under water)".

    * "In Spain, the River Ebro is clearly marked, and [archaeological] finds there have been dated at before the geomagnetic field change 780,000 years ago [9].The Ebro appears to join up with the Rhône at a delta now under the sea".

    * "In Portugal the Rivers Tagus, Guadiana and others are shown".

    * "The Straits of Gibraltar are easily identifiable as is the north coast of Africa, although the Med looks rather different.Bearing in mind that this is a seismically active area and the African tectonic plates are sliding underneath the European plates,the changes over more than half a million years would have been considerable. It still looks recognisable today though".

    * "Lake Victoria and the River Nile appear to be shown too and [the map] appears to mark a land path north from East Africa to Europe crossing land that is now sea to join the Rivers Rhone,Ebro and Garonne".

    Mr. King speculates that the map stone is the receptacle of many generations' worth of navigational knowledge, acquired as man left drought-stricken Africa for the more promising shores of Europe: "It must have been by boat or raft, probably bamboo, as [this] grows abundantly around rivers and coastlines. […] I expect that they moved slowly around the coast and navigable rivers,using natural safe harbours, settling in suitable areas where adequate water [and] food could be found,while some moved on to the next safe harbour […] Intimate knowledge of the coastlines and rivers [was] generated into a mental 'map' that probably first manifested in 'written' form on easier to use materials like clay, wax, wood or leather, but of course they would not have survived the passage of such a long period of time and no trace of them would remain today. After many,many generations,the accumulated knowledge was able to be transcribed onto stone with incredible accuracy".

    "[The artefact] must have been in much greater relief when made, the coastlines appear to have been incised and painted black (probably manganese dioxide) with the landmasses left in relief…it could even have been used to print copies onto beeswax, resin or clay".

    A fantastic story, but is it too good to be true? Mr King has a hard time convincing the scientific establishment of his theory that the earth-stone is an artefact, made by very, very, very early humans: "So far, not a single British archaeologist or anthropologist will even entertain the idea that it could have been made by Early Man, and [they] have never investigated further… [A]nd yet they freely admit they know so very little about pre-Neanderthal humans in Britain from 475,000 to 900,000 years [ago]!"

    Perhaps because the oldest human artefact ever found, the so-called Venus of Hohle Fels [10], is between 35,000 and 40,000 years old, which is about the same age bracket for the world's oldest cave painting yet discovered [11].

    "[A]lthough very little is known of pre-Neanderthal humans [in the UK], I believe I have evidence that the European subspecies of Homo erectus (whether Homo antecessor or Homo heidelbergensis) that first came out of Africa around 1.2 million years ago was far more knowledgeable, intelligent, highly evolved and resourceful than is currently understood […] I doubt anyone today could make such an artefact as this by hand - but does this really mean it can't have been made by man in deep time?"

    "I believe this map holds many secrets and begs so very many questions that I have probably only touched the tip of an iceberg. So please tell me if you find more, I must have missed so much!"

    The reason Mr. King refuses to believe this paleo-map is a coincidence, are other examples of stone maps he found at the Colne Valley site. "One map not only shows the rivers, but also two springs, crossing points, three distinct doglegs and landmarks, [in all] 33 points of reference to the existing topography". He is working on a book to explain his findings in detail - even though established scientists will probably continue to ignore them: "I feel I have walked into an Aladdin's cave of treasures, discovered a lost world and been given a 'gift' from above… And yet so far, nobody seems that interested when I try to pass the knowledge on.The vanity of these people, they think they know everything and because they have a few letters after their names, they refuse to accept that experienced amateurs such as myself have any part to play in future discoveries… Hasn't science always been so!"

    Many thanks to Mr. King for sending in these pictures of his find. More on them on his website, Colnianman Museum.

    Strange Maps #620

    Got a strange map? Let me know at [email protected]

    [1] The oldest extant examples of written language are over 5,000 years old, and from Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). Writing then originated independently in China approximately 3,200 years ago, and in Central America around 2,600 years ago.

    [2] Older examples of 'map-like' features carved in stone were found in the Czech Republic and Spain. Dated to 25,000 and 14,000 years ago respectively, the carvings could also represent a merely 'spiritual' landscape.

    [3] A.k.a. the Seven Sisters, this star cluster in the constellation Taurus (Latin for bull) is one of the most striking objects in the night sky in the northern hemisphere.

    [4] A triangular star pattern visible in the northern hemisphere, connecting the three brightest stars in the constellations Aquila (Latin for eagle), Cygnus (Latin for Swan) and Lyra (Latin for lyre), i.e. Altair (from the Arabic for [flying] eagle), Deneb (from the Arabic for [hen's] tail) and Vega (from the Arabic for falling [eagle]), respectively.

    [5] A valley in West Yorkshire, to the east of the main ridge of the Pennine Hills. The River Colne rises near Marsden, flowing east towards Huddersfield, where it is joined by the Holme, then towards Bradley, where the Colne itself joins the River Calder. The term 'Colne Valley' is mostly used to describe the area between Marsden and Huddersfield, but less frequently also includes the section towards Bradley.

    [6] Named after a Greek mythical river flowing in distant Europe, Eridanos is also the name given an actual river, which flowed from 40 million years ago to the Middle Pleistocene.

    [7] The Bytham was a Pleistocene-era river running from the Midlands east towards the North Sea. It may have provided Britain's first inhabitants with a convenient 'invasion route', some time between 500,000 and 700,000 years ago. The river's ancient course was identified only in the 1980s.

    [8] The name used in Britain for a period of severe glaciation during the Pleistocene, lasting from 478,000 to 424,000 years ago. Its equivalent names are, among others, the Mindel Stage (in the Alps) and the Esterian Stage (in northern Europe). At the height of the Anglian Stage, glaciers reached all the way down to Hornchurch, in northeast London - further south than at any time during the Pleistocene.

    [9] The Brunhes-Matuyama Reversal, about 780,000 years ago, is the latest of the geomagnetic field changes that frequently flip the polarity of Earth's magnetic north and south. Such reversals occur on average every 450,000 years, and the geological period between them is called a chron. The reversal process can take up to 10 millennia, and involves a lot of wandering by both poles. A recent study suggests that a 'mini-chron' occurred around 41,000 years ago, when polarity was reversed for no longer than 250 years.

    [10] A full-figured Venus figurine carved from the tusk of a woolly mammoth, found in 2008 near Ulm in southern Germany. The same cave in the Swabian Alb also yielded a 35,000-year-old bone flute - the world's oldest instrument - indicating that figurative art and music were being practised as far back as 36 millennia ago.

    [11] Artwork in the El Castillo cave in northern Spain, discovered in 1903, has recently been dated to 40,800 years ago.

    Researchers call the artifact a “drawing.” But is it art?

    “We don’t know that it’s art at all,” says Henshilwood. “We know that it’s a symbol.” But since the stone flake has similar cross-hatchings as the ones found on bones and pieces of ochre in Blombos, he does believe the design was deliberate. “Art is a very hard thing to define. Look at some of Picasso’s abstracts. Is that art? Who’s going to tell you it’s art or not?”

    But Conkey thinks the wording chosen by Henshilwood and his team points to a particular interpretation, especially when it comes to the way they describe the ocher used to depict the hash marks. “They’re calling it a crayon,” she says. “That automatically leads you to think they’re drawing something. Why not be a little more neutral and call it a piece of ocher?”

    Conkey sees the use of words like “drawing” and “crayon” as rhetorical tools used by Henshilwood and his team to imply that the early humans’ behavior was, in fact, modern. She sees the hash marks as perhaps nothing more than a doodle—an example of an early human engaging with the world around them.

    Did the early human pick up that piece of ocher deliberately? Was it meant to portray an object or even an abstract concept? Without a time machine, we’ll never know. Nevertheless, says Conkey, “this is exciting stuff. This adds to the complexity of the material record from early Homo sapiens in South Africa.”

    Watch the video: These Barbers Have Crazy Skills. God Level Barbers


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