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Ancient

Strange fossils from China don’t seem to fit any known hominin species. Could they be something new?

By Melissa Hogenboom | bbc.com

They’re not quite Neanderthals and not quite modern humans. They’re something else, but no one is sure what.

Newly-examined fossils suggest that an unknown species of human was roaming parts of northern China between 60,000 and 120,000 years ago. Alternatively, the fossils could be the result of interbreeding between two of the known species.

We know there were as many as four other early humans living on Earth when modern humans were still confined to Africa. The Neanderthals lived in Europe, the Denisovans in Asia and the “hobbit” Homo floresiensis in Indonesia: plus there was a mysterious fourth group from Eurasia that interbred with the Denisovans.

The Chinese remnants were first discovered in a cave in the Xujiayao site in 1976. They consist of some skull fragments, and nine teeth from four individuals. A comprehensive analysis of the teeth has now been published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

María Martinón-Torres of the National Research Centre on Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain and her colleagues looked at the size and shape of the crown and root system, the grooves, cusps and crests, and their positions relative to each other. These were then compared to a pool of over 5,000 teeth representing nearly all the known hominin species.

“Teeth are like ’landscapes in miniature’,” says Martinón-Torres. “Each of those slopes, grooves, valleys define a pattern or combination of features that can be distinctive of a population.”

It was clear that the teeth did not resemble those of modern humans, H. sapiens. Instead, they have several primitive features, some of which look like the older species H. erectus, while some look more like Neanderthals.

Other skeletal parts found at the same site, described last year, don’t neatly fit the known species either.

 


The far left are from the Xujiayao cave while the far right are modern human

 

Nevertheless, Martinón-Torres is reluctant to claim that the teeth represent a new species.

“What we have seen is an unknown group for us,” she says. “It’s not H. sapiens and it’s not H. neanderthalensis. They have a mixture of something very primitive, which is currently unknown. We cannot go further to say it’s a new species because we need to compare it to other things.”

They might actually fit an existing species. “They could even be Denisovans,” adds Martinón-Torres.

The Denisovans co-existed and even interbred with us. But hardly anything is known about them. The only fossils come from a cave in Siberia and consist of two teeth and a tiny finger bone. DNA analysis revealed that they were distinct from both Neanderthals and modern humans but had aspects of both.

The Xujiayao teeth show a similar pattern, Martinón-Torres says.

Not everyone agrees. While the sample is small, it “strongly suggests the presence of a previously unrecognized species,” says Darren Curnoe of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. “There’s little doubt in my mind that these teeth stand out as something unique.” The surface features on the teeth alone should be enough to argue for a new species, he says.

Conceivably the remains come from a hybrid of modern humans and Denisovans, but that is pure speculation

Curnoe previously described another set of mysterious hominin fossils from China, the “Red Deer Cave People”, though these lived more recently than the Xujiayao hominins.

Others echo Martinón-Torres’ caution. Matthew Skinner of the University of Kent, UK says fossil samples from Asia are so sparse that it is hard to infer species status.

Fred Spoor of University College London in the UK agrees with Skinner. He says the remains show a mix of modern and primitive features. “What it means is another matter.” Conceivably the remains come from a hybrid of modern humans and Denisovans, “but that is pure speculation”.

Many of the supposedly separate Homo species might just be variants of a single species, says Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. “As the fossil record fills in, most of the purported gaps between such ’species’ are gradually disappearing,” he says. “Real species in the real world, especially for large bodied animals like us, are widespread and variable.”

On that view, finding teeth that don’t fit the known “species” just isn’t surprising.

More bones would help, and they might turn up soon, as parts of Asia are turning out to be rich in fossils.

But it may be that only DNA evidence will offer definitive answers, says Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. “It would be great to get more data from east Asia, but obviously, this is difficult.”

“There was probably more than one species of early human in Asia, which wouldn’t be surprising considering the size of the continent and how isolated it is,” says Martinón-Torres. Last year she helped describe some teeth from the same time period in east China, which also did not neatly fit the known species.

Some of these populations could even have been ancestors of modern Europeans, according to some researchers. Most think Africa was the cradle of modern humans, so this is controversial. But Martinón-Torres thinks people will return to the idea, as more and more Asian fossils are analysed.

Curnoe agrees. “We’ve neglected East Asia for far too long,” he says.

“Now we’re starting to get a few surprises that don’t fit with conventional wisdom based on fossils from Europe and Africa.”

Source: bbc.com

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Ancient

A fierce embodiment of Earth: The Mayan structure used for direct dialogue with the gods

Scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) working in Guatemala have found evidence of the ritual significance of the classic Maya pairings. They found a structure the likes of which had never been found in Mesoamerica.

According to EurekAlert, archaeologists visited the city of Ksultun, where an ancient bathhouse was found earlier. She received the name Los Sapos. Scientists have long known that the Maya built a kind of steam room – their baths, according to their principle of operation, were designed for profuse sweating.

These baths were believed to have religious significance. They also sent here for treatment, brought women in labor. However, new research showed that the importance of such structures was even more important. The fact is that the Los Sapos bath, dating from the early classical period (250-550 AD), turned out to be unlike any other ancient Mesoamerican bath.

The researchers concluded that this was not just a place for direct dialogue with the gods. The Maya considered this bath itself an amphibian goddess. Outside, near the entrance to it, scientists found an image of this little-known deity. The goddess is depicted squatting with legs on which iguanas and reed toads sit.

“No other structure in Mesoamerica – a bathhouse or anything else – is like this building,” says STRI archaeologist Ashley Sharp. the amphibian that personified this bath.”

According to lead author of the study, Mary Clarke, the name of this goddess remains undeciphered, although it is written next to the image. Preliminary analysis of the inscription led scientists to speculate that this goddess was responsible for the cycles of pregnancy. The connection between the ideas of the birth of children and the figures of reptiles is often traced in the Maya of the classical period.

She also noted that the Los Sapos baths have been actively used by the Sultun community for about 300 years. But then something important and frightening happened. The fact is that in the “doorway” archaeologists unearthed the remains of an adult man who was buried there around 600 AD.

The analysis showed that after that no one used the bath for another 300 years. Only three centuries after the funeral, someone re-entered this structure. It is interesting that this person or several people had a strictly defined goal – they dug out a burial place and took with them part of the remains.

The rest of them they put in another place, and in the vacated grave they lit a fire. Subsequently, they repeatedly put various offerings to the gods in this grave. Dogs, birds, reed toads and iguanas were sacrificed. Archaeologists found the remains of a child in this pit, as well as numerous stone tools and ceramic shards.

“Archaeologists often find clusters of artifacts that were probably dedicated to places of worship, but rarely is there such an obvious connection between artifacts and objects,” Sharpe says. “From the image on the outer wall of Los Zapos, we know it was a ‘steam room’ “It was a rare occasion for us to associate offerings with the role that this structure played in the life of the community.”

According to the authors of the work, the offerings were probably an attempt to seek help from the goddess who personified Los Sapos. Moreover, it could even be the last attempt to please a supernatural being and prevent the loss of their lands, which were abandoned shortly after the Mayan collapse in 900 AD.

“This supernatural figure is the fierce embodiment of Earth,” Clarke concludes. “When she is unhappy, she can take revenge or deny people the things they need to survive. they negotiated with this goddess for their survival. “

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Ancient

Secrets of the Forbidden City are being solved by modern archaeologists

If we compare the millennia during which palaces were built and restored in China with an epic novel, then the Forbidden City in Beijing is its last impressive chapter.

An exhibition celebrating the 600th anniversary of the completion of the Forbidden City opened in Beijing on September 10.  Photo: Jiang Dong / CHINA DAILYAn exhibition celebrating the 600th anniversary of the completion of the Forbidden City opened in Beijing on September 10. Photo: Jiang Dong / CHINA DAILY

The previous pages of this story, although no less amazing, were partially or even almost completely lost during the rise and fall of dynasties and turned into ruins, similar to archaeological puzzles. Experts are still solving them. However, in the heart of Beijing, there is a 720,000-square-meter palace complex built of wood and clay bricks – the last surviving structure of its kind in the world. This area, which served as an imperial palace from 1420 to 1911 and where 24 emperors once lived, celebrates 600 years since the completion of construction this year.

In honor of this event, the Umen Gate galleries at the entrance to the Imperial Palace Museum became a kind of lobby, where visitors to the exhibition “Eternal Splendor: Six Centuries in the Forbidden City” enter. It will run until November 15th.

“There is so much that has happened in 600 years that can be said,” says Zhao Peng, director of the museum’s architectural heritage department and chief curator of the exhibition. “It is best to focus on the ‘city’ itself, that is, on architecture: to understand how this place was formed and modified … This is the crystallized wisdom and talent of the ancient Chinese. “

Yet it is not easy to select just 450 items, including structural elements and imperial relics, to reveal a panorama of such architectural splendor. In order to chronologically show how the complex originated, expanded and developed with the help of the exhibits, 18 significant years were selected from the entire centuries-old history. 

“These time periods help to see a fuller historical picture,” Zhao says.

In 1406, Zhu Di, the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), proposed to move the capital from Nanjing (today it is the administrative center of Jiangsu Province) to Beijing in order to better guard the northern borders. Zhu Di himself lived in Beijing as a prince.The Forbidden City was built according to rules derived from centuries of Chinese history.

The construction was completed in 1420, after almost ten years of preparation and three years of active work. The following year, the capital was officially moved to Beijing.

“A striking feature of the Forbidden City is how, despite the changing eras, certain architectural forms are strictly adhered to,” Zhao says. “This reflects traditional Chinese thought that emphasizes the importance of ritual and harmony between people and the sky.”

The Forbidden City was built according to rules derived from centuries of Chinese history. The exhibition presents “Notes on the Study of Crafts” (Kaogongji) – a treatise that spells out the basics of building a palace. It was published during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and is part of the classic Chinese work Zhou Rituals (Zhouli) on rituals and notions of order.

“Notes on the Study of Crafts” regulate the symmetrical layouts of the capital cities, in the center of which on the north-south axis should be a palace. The historic districts of modern Beijing, including the Forbidden City, fully comply with this rule.

“Finally, this ideal layout, which has been guided for nearly 2,000 years, has been faithfully embodied in Beijing,” Zhao says.

Following the rituals is reflected in the architectural details.

For example, only the roof of the Hall of Higher Harmony – the most prestigious structure in the palace, where the most important ceremonies took place – can be decorated with ten figures of deified beings. The simpler the roof is decorated, the lower the status of the building.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony also has 11 rooms – more than any other building in the complex. (In ancient Chinese architecture, a room was a square space between four columns.)

Roof shape is another important indicator by which you can determine the status of a building. For example, the roof of the Hall of Higher Harmony is four-pitched and two-tier, its ends protrude and bend upwards. Only buildings of the highest status can have such a roof.

In 1734, Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) issued an official guide to the construction of palaces. The book, which is over 2,700 pages, spells out all the architectural criteria, including the size of the columns and the decoration of the roofs. According to Zhao, this is an important milestone in the history of the fusion of rituals with Chinese architecture.

The Forbidden City in Beijing has two older brothers. When Zhu Yuanzhang founded the Ming Dynasty and became emperor, he made the capital of his hometown, which is today in Fengyang County, Anhui Province. However, the construction of a huge palace complex for unknown reasons suddenly stopped, and Zhu Yuanzhang decided to build an imperial city in Nanjing.

The Gate of Supreme Harmony is one of the most visited attractions of the palace complex. Photo: Courtesy of CHINA DAILY

Both imperial cities fell into ruins, but some important details have survived to this day, such as stone fences and tiles in the galleries of the Umen Gate. They help to imagine what the early architecture of the Forbidden City might have looked like.

“The original appearance of buildings can often be seen in the paintings,” says the deputy director of the architectural heritage department of the museum, Di Yajing.

No matter how the new emperors followed the precepts of their ancestors, it is clear that they wanted to decorate their new home. “The Ming emperors preferred simple yet stately architecture, and therefore large buildings were built during their reign,” Di says. “However, the Qing emperors tended to be more sophisticated.”To understand whether the pictures correspond to historical reality, you need to conduct additional checks

Sometimes this was a forced decision, since it was difficult to find giant pieces of valuable timber to renovate the palace. However, the Qing emperors demonstrated their wealth and status with handicrafts of the most skillful work. Thanks to Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799), who adored fine arts, this trend reached its peak. In 1766, he ordered the construction of the Palace of Serenity and Longevity in the Forbidden City, where he planned to live after leaving the throne. The garden of this palace has become a real treasure trove of exceptional decorative objects.

The lacquered gauze fabric, which used to be placed on the window, allows visitors to appreciate its uniqueness, because the garden has never been opened to the public before. The decor of this silk combines techniques such as paper cutting, gilding, dyeing and varnishing. This means that several artisans worked on its creation at once. 12-ply fabric is paper thin.

“We tried to replicate this decor, but even modern manufacturing techniques did not help us,” Dee says. “This lost technique reminds us that cultural heritage must be carefully preserved.”

Complex renovation of the main buildings of the complex has been going on since 2002. Although it was originally planned to be completed by a round date this year, in the end the architects decided not to rush to complete the work with full responsibility and respect for history.

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Ancient

From “living” runes to a hologram. Ancient technologies are making a comeback

Human civilization develops thanks to accumulated knowledge. Without knowledge and experience, there is no movement forward to progress. People make discoveries, bring them to life and pass this information on to subsequent generations. The most faithful and reliable storage is memory. But, unfortunately, it is limited to the framework of one human life or generation.

Therefore, in past centuries, when people were closer to each other, the continuity of generations was maintained. Wisdom was passed down orally: from grandfather to father, from father to son. So, epics and legends were composed. The image embedded in them was able to live for centuries. After all, only that which is felt is remembered. All events in the senses are imprinted with all the multifaceted connections.

We can say that feeling is a kind of “hard drive” that is turned on with the help of a computer brain.

In that distant era, when our ancestors lived in harmony with themselves and nature, they had developed imaginative thinking. Sounds had a special meaning because they created reality. But the means for transmitting information or extracting it from the past were musical instruments. Each of them had its own purpose. With the help of some, people remembered their past lives, others were introduced into an altered state of consciousness, in which it was possible to perform miracles.

Various folk tales have preserved the legends of “magic words” that open doors and launch flying ships. The Byzantine chronicles say how the northern people came to negotiations without weapons, holding only a folk psaltery in their hands. The sounds drawn from the strings decided the outcome of the negotiations.

Runes – the first material carrier

Руны
Runes

At this level of interaction with information, any drawn symbol had a magical effect. The ancestors called these signs – Runes. Not everyone could “work” with them. Due to the ability to materialize thoughts instantly, only initiates had access to them. For everyday needs, they used features and cuts that did not have such tremendous power. As the spiritual decline and loss of skills, it was necessary to create books, but they were so amazing that for a modern person they seem completely fantastic.

Голографическая реальность
Holographic reality

Ancient stereo books

These were ordinary pre-Christian books, which were then burned as a devilish “black book”. Although they had nothing to do with the devilry. Their whole secret was the ability of our ancestors to use bioenergetics.

Such books have been carefully crafted for centuries. Every detail of her material had to have certain physical qualities.

The text of the future book was first written down with a metal stylus on wax-covered boards, where any corrections could be made. It is impossible to write straight away. Trying to accurately convey his thought, the author “runs after her”, not worrying about spelling. The well-known expression “to spread the thought along the tree” comes from there.

Nevertheless, the main thing in the creation of the book was not the author, but a scribe who would have had imagination and such body cells that emit bioenergy. In this case, all the pictures that appear in his imagination, together with the biocurrents, are absorbed into the parchment as on a film strip. The effect of titles is created, as if hanging in the air between a person and those living pictures that the suede parchment has absorbed. For these purposes, it was manufactured in a special way. As well as cinnabar for writing.

 Стерео-книга
Stereo book

Then the sheets of parchment were stitched like modern thick notebooks with a metal spiral on the spine. The cover was made of bog oak boards. Its name was engraved on the cover. To make it better read, silver and niello were poured into the grooves of the letters. At the same time, the same massive oak-copper case was made for the book, closed with copper clasps.

Ancient books
Ancient books

Incredibly, the natural ingredients and techniques used in this book produced a 3D effect. The only difference is that a modern person needs special glasses, and our ancestors developed such abilities. It’s just that some could emit biocurrents, while others perceive them. In short, living people were transmitters and receivers.

Gold and stone discs – the prototype of modern discs

In addition to such wonderful books, there were also discs that contained a huge layer of information in a compressed form. Perhaps they are “read” in the same way as “miracle books”, but it is possible that there was a certain computer into which these disks could be inserted.

Phaistos disc.
Phaistos disc

In any case, according to the first version, attempts were made to decipher the Phaistos disc, a phenomenon that made a lot of noise at one time. It was discovered that the disc contains layered information. It cannot be read like an ordinary letter.

The hologram is the library of the future

With the advent of Christianity, all ancient knowledge and skills were declared devilish, and the possessors of these abilities were witches and sorcerers. Both books and people were burning in the bonfires. In order to preserve the rest, the manuscripts were rewritten, but already in an ordinary linear letter. Of course, distortions were inevitable and the picture of past events, presented in this way, did not correspond to reality.

Pen books have proven to be a rather primitive way of conveying information. Although, for many centuries, they remained a guiding thread for knowledge. And yet, as we can see, important discoveries were and are being made as a result of practical research, often thanks to insight, which proves the existence of an information field, from where you can get the necessary information. 

Hologram
Hologram

Now, humanity is approaching again the stage when the need for the usual carriers of information will disappear. Everything will be transferred to a virtual memory base. But if earlier holograms were created and accepted by people themselves, now machines will do it for us.

In the event of another disaster, we will lose access to the electronic library. And then everything will have to start over. And our descendants, just like we are now, will believe that at this period people were illiterate, because they did not have a written language …

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