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Homo Naledi, Newly Discovered Species

Homo Naledi, Newly Discovered Species 86

In 2017, geologists demonstrated that this species, Homo naledi, existed in southern Africa between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago–potentially the same time that modern humans first emerged in Africa. This is a puzzle to scientists, who long held that there was only one species in Africa at this late time period – Homo sapiens. How did this species exist alongside others with brains three times its size? The new study suggests that naledi’s behavior may have reflected the shape and structure of the brain more than its size.

The small brains of Homo naledi raise new questions about the evolution of human brain size. Big brains were costly to human ancestors, and some species may have paid the costs with richer diets, hunting and gathering, and longer childhoods. But that scenario doesn’t seem to work well for Homo naledi, which had hands well-suited for toolmaking, long legs, humanlike feet, and teeth suggesting a high-quality diet. According to study coauthor John Hawks, “Naledi’s brain seems like one you might predict for Homo habilis, two million years ago. But habilis didn’t have such a tiny brain–naledi did.”

Homo naledi may have had a pint-sized brain, but that brain packed a big punch. New research by Ralph Holloway and colleagues – that include researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa – published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examines the imprints of the brain upon the skulls of this species, called endocasts. The research highlights the humanlike shape of naledi’s tiny brain, surprising scientists who studied the fossils. These findings draw further into question the long-held belief that human evolution was an inevitable march towards bigger, more complex brains.


SWNS_BRAIN_SIZES_01The discovery of Homo naledi by Professor Lee Berger of Wits University and his team at the Rising Star caves in the Cradle of Human Kind in 2013 was one of the largest hominin discoveries ever made and hailed as one of the most significant hominid discoveries of the 21st Century. Berger and Professor John Hawkes who was also part of the original Rising Star team who made the naledi discovery, as well as Professor Heather Garvin from Des Moines University in the US, are associated with the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI), based at Wits University.

The researchers pieced together traces of Homo naledi’s brain shape from an extraordinary collection of skull fragments and partial crania, from at least five adult individuals. One of these bore a very clear imprint of the convolutions on the surface of the brain’s left frontal lobe. “This is the skull I’ve been waiting for my whole career,” said lead author Ralph Holloway, of Columbia University.

The anatomy of naledi’s frontal lobe was similar to humans, and very different from great apes. Naledi wasn’t alone. Other members of our genus, from Homo erectus to Homo habilis and the small-brained “hobbits”, Homo floresiensis, also share features of the frontal lobe with living humans. But earlier human relatives, like Australopithecus africanus, had a much more apelike shape in this part of the brain, suggesting that functional changes in this brain region emerged with Homo. “It’s too soon to speculate about language or communication in Homo naledi,” said coauthor Shawn Hurst, “but today human language relies upon this brain region.”

The back of the brain also showed humanlike changes in naledi compared to more primitive hominins like Australopithecus. Human brains are usually asymmetrical, with the left brain displaced forward relative to the right. The team found signs of this asymmetry in one of the most complete naledi skull fragments. They also found hints that the visual area of the brain, in the back of the cortex, was relatively smaller in naledi than in chimpanzees–another humanlike trait.

A humanlike brain organisation might mean that naledi shared some behaviours with humans despite having a much smaller brain size. Lee Berger, a co-author on the paper, suggests that the recognition of naledi’s small but complex brain will also have a significant impact on the study of African archaeology. “Archaeologists have been too quick to assume that complex stone tool industries were made by modern humans. With naledi being found in southern Africa, at the same time and place that the Middle Stone Age industry emerged, maybe we’ve had the story wrong the whole time.”

Source: The Daily Galaxy


How Nefertiti’s husband fought with the gods, the traditional role of the pharaoh and the canon in art: 20 years of Akhenaten’s rebellion

How Nefertiti's husband fought with the gods, the traditional role of the pharaoh and the canon in art: 20 years of Akhenaten's rebellion 91

A reformer pharaoh, a seer, a guest from the past, or … an alien? The identity of the mysterious ruler of Egypt, the husband of the beautiful Nefertiti, is surrounded by many fantastic rumors. If you cut off the most incredible, there will be a story of a man who went against millennial traditions – in politics, religion and art. He rejected all canons, rejected all gods except one, and ruled Egypt along with a mysterious woman!

Portraits of Akhenaten in his youth and heyday.
Portraits of Akhenaten in his youth and heyday.

Akhenaten is best known for his religious reform – a monotheist pharaoh who challenged numerous priests. However, there are many more revolutions on his account than it seems.

Akhenaten initially turned out to be not the pharaoh whom the priests would like to see – it was all about his mother. Akhenaten (at birth he received the name Amenhotep) was the second son of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and Queen Tiya, which in itself reduced his chances of succession to the throne. 

However, Amenhotep’s eldest son died too early. In addition, Tia was the beloved wife of Amenhotep – and this caused the displeasure of the priests. Tia was not of royal origin, some researchers suggest that she has Semitic roots. She was distinguished by a sharp mind, irrepressible energy – and sufficiently ignored the traditional role of women in the life of the court. 

She supervised the construction of temples and actively intervened in the political decisions of the pharaoh. Amenhotep consulted with her on every issue and kept a thorough correspondence in separation. Later, when Akhenaten ascended the throne,

Scribes.  An example of Amarna art - the role of the common man is growing.
Scribes. An example of Amarna art – the role of the common man is growing.

He began to rule in Thebes, the capital of Egypt, and at first nothing anticipated radical changes – except that the sun god was now paid more attention, but each pharaoh has his own quirks! The fact that the great sun deity Amon-Ra was replaced by some unknown god Aton, at first did not cause the alarm of the priests. 

Meanwhile, the divine service itself was no longer held in the temple – Amenhotep IV preferred to perform ceremonies in the open air, in public. In the fifth year of independent reign, the young pharaoh changed his name. The former meant “Amon is pleased”, and the new, Akhenaten, meant “Useful for Aton.” 

Pharaoh wanted to serve his god and was not going to stop for a second. He did not trust the priests and relied in his actions on the support of unborn “service people”.

On the right is a portrait of Nefertiti.
On the right is a portrait of Nefertiti.

At the same time, he began the accelerated construction of the city of Akhetatona. This was facilitated by the changed construction technology, instead of Cyclopean buildings from heavy blocks, temples are being erected from lighter slabs, which significantly speeds up construction and allows the main buildings of the new capital to be completed in record time. Pharaoh moves there with all his court, wife Nefertiti and children.

Now this territory is called Tel el-Amarna, and the period associated with the rule of Akhenaten in culture is Amarna.

Naturalistic images of plants and birds are evidence of the destruction of the canon.
Naturalistic images of plants and birds are evidence of the destruction of the canon.

The poorly preserved Amarna art demonstrates the incredible destruction of the ancient Egyptian canon. The images become softer, the plots – chamber, intimate. At the same time, realism increases.

 The sculptural portraits of Nefertiti look soulful, alive. Her joint pastime with Akhenaten was devoted to many works of Amarna art, and her figure was portrayed – again a violation of the canon! – the same size as the figure of a regal consort. This meant that the role of women at the court of the reformer pharaoh increased significantly.

Portrait of the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
Portrait of the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.

Now they would say that Akhenaten was fighting “toxic masculinity.” He himself appears before the viewer not in the form of a conqueror, a demigod, a warrior, as befits a great ruler. 

Akhenaten in sculptures and paintings is a gentle father, a loving husband, not at all the governor of the gods on earth, but a mere mortal enjoying everyday pleasures. He rests with his family, plays with children, sometimes there are images of family prayers.

Prayer scenes.  Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
Prayer scenes. Akhenaten and Nefertiti.

What Akhenaten looks like also sparked heated discussions. His image seems strange, pathological, although not repulsive. No proud turn of the shoulders and a stern look. The sculptures show a man with a sickly, rickety physique, with a disproportionately elongated face and roundness atypical for men. 

However, the allegedly identified remains of Akhenaten in 2010 do not indicate any significant abnormalities in bone structure. Possibly, Akhenaten wanted the sculptures to depict him as somewhat androgynous, combining male and female features – the god Aton was just as bisexual. Probably, an attempt to get closer to the image of God was the mysterious co-government of Akhenaten with a woman named Neferneferuaten – this is either one of his wives (Nefertiti was not the only one!), or a daughter.

A family scene and a funny animal.  The character of the sculpture is becoming more and more secular.
A family scene and a funny animal. The character of the sculpture is becoming more and more secular.

At first, the cults of the old gods continued to exist along with the development of the cult of Aten, but in the ninth year of his reign, Akhenaten decided to ban them, which actually destroyed the priestly power. Moreover, Akhenaten changed the very concept of God in Ancient Egypt!

 Previously, the gods were presented as individuals with their own life stories, virtues and vices. But Aton was in everything and everywhere, everything that exists came from him. The god Aton did not even have a canonical image – his power was symbolized by a solar disk with widely diverging rays, which are often called “Old Testament”. 

In the religious environment there is an opinion – though not particularly popular – that the idea of ​​a single god of the Abrahamic religions arose under the influence of the cult of Aton.

Tutankhamun with his wife.
Tutankhamun with his wife.

After the death of Akhenaten, the cult of Aten was canceled, the young Tutankhamun returned to the faith of his grandfather and announced that he would inherit the power of Amenhotep III. 

Akhetaton was destroyed and forgotten, but today the progressiveness and courage of the reformer pharaoh excites researchers, and the masterpieces of Amarna art fascinate museum visitors.

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Tel Megiddo: welcome to the biblical city of Armageddon

Tel Megiddo: welcome to the biblical city of Armageddon 92
Illustration source / photo: Depositphotos

Another city hiding behind biblical history is Megiddo, also known as Armageddon.

Not everyone knows that behind the word Armageddon, which everyone has heard, hides the name of one of the most ancient cities in the world.

This ancient city, which was inhabited already in 7000 BC. e., is known for the numerous battles that were fought here. The Book of Revelation, which calls this place Armageddon, predicts that the last battle between the forces of good and evil, expected at the end of all time, will also take place here.

Armageddon is mentioned in the Bible dozens of times. This name comes from the Greek “Ἁρμαγεδών”.

Tel Megiddo: welcome to the biblical city of Armageddon 93

Visiting the ruins of this city today, the first thing you will see is a large embankment – tell, which was formed from many cultural layers that appeared here over several millennia of the existence of this city. Archaeologists know that inside this tell there are actually about 20 ancient cities, built one above the other: several civilizations gave way here to one another, the city was captured and rebuilt many times. We can say that Armageddon has already happened here many times – each time the end of the world for one culture and its beginning for another.

Many historical battles have taken place here. For example, the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III, nephew and heir to the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut, who became her successor and ruled in 1479-1425 BC. BC, defeated a coalition of cities at Megiddo and with this victory captured most of the eastern Mediterranean.

Tel Megiddo: welcome to the biblical city of Armageddon 94
Tel Megiddo: welcome to the biblical city of Armageddon 95
Tel Megiddo: welcome to the biblical city of Armageddon 96

The second important event occurred when the Jewish king Josiah was defeated near Megiddo during a battle with the Egyptian pharaoh Necho (reigned 610 – 595 BC). Josiah was greatly weakened and after a decade his kingdom was finally destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II.

Even in our times, significant battles took place near Megiddo. So, in 1918, during the First World War, the allied army, led by General Edmund Allebi, defeated the Ottoman army at Megiddo. The losses were so crushing that the Ottoman Empire was forced to resort to a truce.

It really made sense to fight for Megiddo, since the city was strategically located in the Jezreel Valley, which was the crossroads of several trade routes. It turned out that the one who controlled Megiddo controlled the trade route between Egypt, Europe and Mesopotamia. These trade routes and pompous battles have had the greatest impact on the city’s history and built it up as a biblical battlefield. Perhaps that is why Megiddo was identified as the place of the end of the world, as it was the epicenter of armed conflict throughout Israel’s history.
Tel Megiddo: welcome to the biblical city of Armageddon 97
Many archaeological finds have been made at Meggido, the most important by the University of Chicago expedition in the 1930s. The loudest discovery then was the discovery of a series of stables, which were believed to have been built by King Solomon. Today most archaeologists no longer think so. However, this is direct evidence that a large cavalry army was stationed in the city.

Another unusual find made by the Chicago Expedition is a variety of ivory items, about 382 items in total, that were found among the burials of people and animals. Some of these items bear Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions. So, on the case for the stylus it is said that it belongs to an Egyptian official named Nakht-Amon, who was the “emissary of the king” during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses III (1184-1153 BC). In addition, game boards, combs were found. and ivory boxes. such a large number of objects from this material in the burial place caused great confusion among scientists. The carvings on ivory are made using a mixture of Hittite, Mycenaean, Egyptian, Ugaritic, Canaanite and Assyrian motifs.

Not so long ago, in 2014, another very important find was made in Megiddo – this is the “Great Temple”, which dates back to 3000 BC. e. It is a large rectangular room with two small corridors behind it, and traces of rituals were also found here. This temple is the most monumental structure of that time in the eastern Mediterranean.

Tel Megiddo: welcome to the biblical city of Armageddon 98
Tel Megiddo: welcome to the biblical city of Armageddon 99

It is not surprising that Megiddo, as the site of numerous battles, had a massive fortification. The Chicago Expedition discovered a complex gate system that the researchers believe dated back to the time of King Solomon. These included two large towers in front, which housed archers, and a system of chambers inside which could house soldiers with spears and swords in case the enemy broke through the gate. The dating of the gate is currently controversial.

As in Bathsheba, a complex ancient tunnel water supply system was found here, which brought water to the city from a nearby source through underground tunnels located at a depth of 30 meters. Archaeologists consider this water delivery system to be Megiddo’s most impressive technological achievement. Thanks to its inhabitants, they had constant access to water, even when the city was under siege.

Archaeological work continues today and is led by archaeologists from Tel Aviv University in Israel. The ancient city attracts thousands of tourists every year, many of whom come here inspired by the prophecy of a battle at the end of time. Guides often greet their guests by saying, “Welcome to Armageddon.”

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Could the age of the “Cheops pyramid” be 237 thousand years old?

Could the age of the "Cheops pyramid" be 237 thousand years old? 100

Many of you have probably read the version that in the sizes and proportions of the Cheops pyramid, certain parameters of the Earth and secret knowledge of ancient civilizations are “encrypted”. Two or three centuries ago (including, for example, Isaac Newton), and many scientists of the XIX and XX centuries, still tried to decipher all these secrets. 

In particular, many have tried to determine the length, etc. “Sacred cubit” (“pyramidal cubit”) – measures of the length of the architects and builders of the pyramid, which supposedly was also the key to many of its secrets.

So, on the Internet you can find publications of modern popularizers, which assert, in particular, that the number obtained from dividing the length of the base of the Cheops pyramid by the length of this “pyramidal cubit” is very close to the average duration of the modern tropical year.

An interesting way of dating the age of the pyramid

The essence of this method is as follows: if the architects of the pyramid really encrypted in its proportions the duration of their year, then, given the slowing down of the Earth’s rotation, the age of the pyramid can be calculated. For example, if the length of the year at the time of the construction of the pyramid was 0.01 days less than in our time, then, knowing the rate of deceleration of the Earth’s rotation (1.8 milliseconds per 100 years), you can calculate when it was.

But don’t rush to the calculations! There are “pitfalls” (which, by the way, were not taken into account in this theory). 

The Earth not only slows down its rotation, but also increases in size

“Over time, the radius of the globe, surface area, and mass increase. And the larger the Earth becomes, the faster it grows. Empirically, according to various sources, an exponential law of the increase in the radius of the globe with time has been established. Currently, the Earth’s growth rate is at its maximum, and the Earth’s radius is increasing by at least 2 centimeters per year.”

VF Blinov – The Growing Earth: from planets to stars
Planet Earth is growing (picture from the above article)
Planet Earth is growing

It is also possible that tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago, the Earth’s radius increased faster than in our time (and could change even faster during the years of planetary catastrophes (like about 10 800 years ago BC).

Riddles of the “pyramidal elbow”: Isaac Newton and Khesi-Ra

But this means that the mysterious “pyramidal elbow” during the construction of the pyramid, if it was one ten-millionth part of the Earth’s radius (as many of its researchers believed), it was not from the current radius, but from the one that was many millennia (or even tens millennia), – during the construction of the pyramid. Some scientists understood this even in the 19th century. Thus, the well-known historian and educator James Bonwick (1811-1906) wrote in 1877 in his book:

“Isaac Newton wrote a work in Latin entitled” The sacred elbow of the Jews and the elbows of some peoples in which, according to the measurements of the greatest Egyptian pyramid, made by Mr. John Greaves, the ancient elbow of Memphis is established “, where, in particular, he noted that in the Ancient Egypt before the elbow length of 0.5 m, apparently, was preceded by another, longer length, which could be about 63.5 cm. “

And then James Bonwick writes about the book of the American scientific educator John Taylor “The Great Pyramid: Who Was It Built And For What Purpose?” (published in 1856), in particular:

“… Mr. Taylor confuses us with his assertion that the length of the (pyramidal) elbow before the Flood was 24.9 inches (63.25 cm), and after this catastrophe it began to be equal to 25 inches (63.5 cm .) and both the elbow, according to Mr. Taylor, were sent over … Mr. Taylor suggests that the Flood had on the world of such a devastating effect – although geologists and could not find at least one tangible evidence that a flood at all took place – that the diameter of the Earth has become smaller by almost 59.55 km in comparison with the antediluvian.”

Are there ancient Egyptian depictions of people with this mysterious “pyramidal elbow”? In addition to the chief priest of Heliopolis, the legendary Imhotep, another name is associated with the construction (or with the repair) of the pyramids under Cheops, perhaps less well-known, but no less great. 

Khesi-Ra, “the chief of doctors, the priest of Horus, the chief architect of the pharaoh, the Supreme chief of the ten of the South” – this is not a complete list of his regalia, known from the studies of his personal tomb, which has been preserved.

Khesi-Ra is considered by some, the main “designer” of the Great Pyramids (or, we add, the chief engineer for repair and restoration). Khesi-Ra knew the secrets of proportions, golden sections, according to which the pyramids were built.

The images on the panels-boards of Khesi-Ra (see figure below) represent a whole spectrum, a developed canon of golden sections – various measures that were used in the construction (or restoration) of the pyramids. These measures were associated not only with the golden sections, they also encrypted many of the knowledge of the priests of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The architect of the restoration of the pyramid under the Pharaoh Cheops Khesi-Ra with tools and a ruler - "elbow".  A cedar plaque depicting Hesi-Ra from his tomb (photo from the Wikipedia article "Hesyra", Author: Hesy-Ra_CG1426.jpg: User: GDK: James Edward Quibell († 5. Juni 1935) derivative work: JMCC1 (talk) - Hesy -Ra_CG1426.jpg, Public domain,
The architect of the restoration of the pyramid under the Pharaoh Cheops Khesi-Ra with tools and a ruler – “elbow”. A cedar plaque depicting Hesi-Ra from his tomb (photo from the Wikipedia article “Hesyra”, Author: Hesy-Ra_CG1426.jpg: User: GDK: James Edward Quibell († 5. Juni 1935) derivative work: JMCC1 (talk) – Hesy -Ra_CG1426.jpg, Public domain

But what was the length of the “pyramidal elbow” during the construction of the pyramids? So, a vicious circle? To calculate the length of the year of the construction time, encoded in the length of the pyramid base, you need to know the length of the “pyramidal cubit”, but this dina itself may depend on when the pyramid was erected!

Let’s take the bull by the horns!

And let’s proceed from the fact that the “pyramidal elbow” as a measure of length had to fit an integer number of times at least one (most likely in the “supporting”) base of the pyramid. In addition, most likely its length did not differ much from that which was accepted by many Egyptologists since the 19th century (and still) (in the book of James Bonwick, several more names are listed, except for Taylor). 

In general, the measure of length “cubit” in that century had not yet been forgotten in Europe: for example, in the physics textbook of 1831 (see the Wikipedia article “Elbow”), the lengths of the “cubit” are given in more than ten cities of Western Europe, and most of these ” cubits “has a length of 59 to 69 cm.

So, we are looking for a “pyramidal elbow” about 63 cm long, which fits an integer number of times into one of the four sides of the base of the pyramid. According to Wikipedia (article “Pyramid of Cheops”), their length is as follows: north – 230.253 m; south – 230.454 m; west – 230.357 m; east – 230.394 m. Note here also that the length of the lateral rib (initially): 230.33 m (according to calculations), according to the Wikipedia article “Pyramid of Cheops”.

It is logical to take the north side as the support one, and we will easily find that the 0.63083 m long “pyramidal elbow” fits along the length of the northern base … exactly 365 times! – A good start to storm this puzzle!

The next most important side of the pyramid is the eastern one. If only because the Sun and Sirius rise there (announcing the flood of the Nile). Then the average length of a year during the construction of the pyramid = 230.394 \ 0.63083 = 365.2235943.

What is the length of the tropical year in our century? In Wikipedia (in the article “Tropical Year”) we can see the following data (for 2000):

Between two March equinoxes: 365.242374 days

Between two June solstices: 365.241626 days

Between two September equinox% 365.242018 days

Between two December solstices: 365.242740 days

As you know, in Ancient Egypt, the New Year began in the summer (with the flooding of the Nile). Therefore, we must take the number in the second line (between the two June solstices), i.e. 365.241626 days.

The slowdown compared to the current average duration is 365.241626 minus 365.2235943 = 0.018031 days, or almost exactly 1558 seconds. Now remember that the rate of deceleration of the Earth’s rotation is 1.8 milliseconds per day every 100 years.

This means that every 100 years the duration of the tropical year increases by 0.0018 x 365.23 = 0.6574 seconds. Consequently, 1558 seconds run over 2369.94 centuries = 236,994 years … Well, by a round count, 237,000 years ago!

Conclusions and discussion of the result

So the Cheops pyramid was erected 237,000 years ago?

Note, however, that the accuracy of the proposed method depends very much on the accuracy of determining the initial lengths of the pyramid’s bases: with an average base length of about 230.36 meters, an error of 0.5 cm changes the result by about 100,000 years. In most sources, according to the sizes of the pyramids, they are indicated with an accuracy of a centimeter (in the Wikipedia article “Pyramid of Cheops” – up to a millimeter).

If we assume that the initial lengths are set with an accuracy of mm, then the error of our calculations would be about plus / minus 20,000 years, but rather we should focus on an error of 0.5 cm. So, with an accuracy of determining the initial base lengths of 0, 5 cm is more correct to say that the pyramid was erected within 137 – 337 thousand years ago. And this is provided that the deceleration of the Earth’s rotation throughout all these hundreds of thousands of years remained equal to about 1.8 ms / day per 100 years!

However, this is an interesting result. This period in the history of the Earth ( 137 – 337 thousand years ago ) is the emergence of the Cro-Magnons (and mitochondrial Eve) in South Africa, and then (about 100,000 years ago) their exit through the territory of present-day Egypt to Eurasia. In general, there is no doubt that the Cro-Magnons reached the territory of present-day Egypt from South Africa no later than the upper limit of the time of the pyramid erection, which we determined.

Pyramid of Cheops in the 19th century (photo from Wikipedia article "Pyramid of Cheops", Public domain,
Pyramid of Cheops in the 19th century (photo from Wikipedia article “Pyramid of Cheops”, Public domain

If we take into account our assumption that the Cro-Magnons were in fact the first Sumerians created by their masters (Anunnaki) to help in their work (mining in South Africa) – if we also take this into account, then we can put forward and version about the purpose of the creation of these pyramids, and that it was the Anunnaki who built them then.

But what can the western and southern bases of the pyramid show? I suppose that a calculation similar to the one carried out in the article on the western base will show the time of arrival of aliens on Earth (approximately 420,000 BC), and on the southern base (the longest, 230, 454 m), the calculation will show a certain boundary in the future, which the creators of the pyramid considered important for the Earth (for humanity, or for their stay here). 

Throughout its existence, the pyramid has probably been overhauled and restored several times (and maybe more often); last time in the third millennium BC, during the reign of Pharaoh Cheops.

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