Friday, October 19, 2007

Prehistoric Clam Bakes

Around 164 thousand years ago, some humans were having clam bakes on the shores of Africa. This is reported in an article by Will Dunham titled For early humans, a beach party and clam bake in S.Africa.

Dunham wrote, "For early humans, one of the first displays of modern behavior was a sort of beach party and clam bake along the coast of South Africa. Artifacts found in a cave on coastal cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean showed that these people 164,000 years ago cooked mussels and other shellfish, used red pigment perhaps as body paint and made small stone blades that could be used at the tip of a spear -- all far earlier than previously thought."

Sally McBrearty of the University of Connecticut and Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London said these findings "provide strong evidence that early humans displayed key elements of modern behavior" 164,000 years ago.

Dunham wrote, "The researchers said this is the earliest known evidence for pigment use. And symbolic behavior indicates that these people may have used some sort of language, they added. The previous earliest evidence for tools like the small, thin stone blades found at the site dates to 70,000 years ago, the researchers said."

This may be the earliest evidence found but it really isn't that surprising. Modern humans who lived long ago (even 164 thousand years) were just as smart as we are now and they were driven by many of the same basic needs and desires. They may have been primitive but they were not stupid. Of course they would have clam bakes if they lived by the sea. And why not use makeup? I am going to have to find the original Nature article now and read the whole study. This is very interesting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Genocide Education Project: Armenian Genocide

This site offers a resource library for those teaching about the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1918. Turkey keeps denying this genocide ever occurred but history can not be altered after the fact by legislative action. What happened, happened. We can look at the events of this time through whatever lense we want but no amount of revisions can alter that a genocide happened. This site has some good tools for teaching about it.

It includes:

- Teaching Guides

- Survivor Accounts

- A Synopsis of Armenian History

- Denial (looking at Turkish efforts to deny the facts)

There are also options for buying books, videos, and teaching packets.

From the site:

During WWI, The Young Turk political faction of the Ottoman Empire sought the creation of a new Turkish state extending into Central Asia. Those promoting the ideology called "Pan Turkism" (creating a homogenous Turkish state) now saw its Armenian minority population as an obstacle to the realization of that goal.

On April 24, 1915, several hundred Armenian community leaders and intellectuals in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) were arrested, sent east, and put to death. In May, after mass deportations had already begun, Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha, claiming that Armenians could offer aid and comfort to the enemy and were in a state of imminent rebellion, ordered their deportation into the Syrian desert.

The adult and teenage males were separated from the deportation caravans and killed under the direction of Young Turk functionaries. Women and children were driven for months over mountains and desert, often raped, tortured, and mutilated. Deprived of food and water and often stripped of clothing, they fell by the hundreds of thousands along the routes to the desert. Ultimately, more than half the Armenian population, 1,500,000 people were annihilated. In this manner the Armenian people were eliminated from their homeland of several millennia.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Vatican Publishes Knights Templar Papers

The Knights Templar are one of the most famous (infamous?) of Medieval organizations. They protected the Holy lands for Christianity for centuries. Their success was tied closely to the Crusades and when the Crusaders lost the Holy Land, support for the Knights faded. In 1312, Pope Clement disbanded the order under charges of witchcraft. Hundreds of Knights were executed.

It looks like the Knights Templar were innocent. The Associated Press has a story titled Vatican Publishes Knights Templar Papers by Frances D'Emelio. The article notes, "Ignored for centuries, documents about the heresy trial of the ancient Christian order discovered in the Vatican's secret archives are being published in a limited edition — with an $8,377 price tag. They include a 14th-century parchment showing that Pope Clement V initially absolved the Templar leaders of heresy, though he did find them guilty of immorality and planned to reform the order, according to the Vatican archives Web site. But pressured by King Philip IV of France, Clement later reversed his decision and suppressed the order in 1312."

The Vatican is going to release the vindicating documents as a leather bound book. "Only 799 copies of the 300-page volume, Processus Contra Templarios — Latin for "Trial against the Templars" — are for sale, said Scrinium publishing house, which prints documents from the Vatican's secret archives. Each will cost $8,377, the publisher said Friday."

Good luck getting a copy. If you can, think of the fortune you will be sitting on. Libraries and conspiracy theorists will be seeking copies for generations to come. I think the 8k price can easily be translated into a huge profit in just a few years.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Historic Photos of World War II: North Africa to Germany

Last week, I received a review copy of Historic Photos of World War II: North Africa to Germany in the mail. The book is by Bob Duncan and published by Turner Publishing Company.

The scope of the book (as the title suggests) is the European Theatre of World War Two with a bit of Africa thrown in. Not as obvious is the American focus of the book. Duncan writes in the preface, "Other nations also played important roles in that liberation. Even within the occupied countries, partisans fought back against the occupiers. It is not the intent here to diminish the courageous actions and sacrifices of America's allies. Rather, just as a photographer may focus on one soldier out of thousands to tell a story, so too this book focuses on America's role in destroying fascism and bringing liberation" (p. viii).

The book is divided into three chapters consisting of chronological pictures. These photos are accompanied by commentary by Duncan. Most of his comments are insightful and sometimes even amusing. For example, I loved his comment on page 136 of "You watch fellows, we will be in the history books one day!" However, I was a bit annoyed that he felt the need to highlight the rubber boots used to fight trench foot three times (on pages 170, 171, and 174). I found the comments helpful and they helped transition the timeline of the book as I turned the pages.

This book was an easy and fun read. I perused it over the course of two days while watching football games. It was easy to put down, pick up during commercials, and then put back down again when the game resumed. I was able to feel some connections with the some of the soldiers pictures and some of the civilians as well. And, I am very thankful I did not have to experience this war in person. Duncan is successful in communicating the horror of this war while still highlighting the personal side of the conflict.

This is a nice book and well worth the $39.95 price. If you do not buy it, at least let your local librarian know this would be a good addition to the World War Two collection of the library.