четверг, 9 августа 2018 г.

Corbridge Roman Town, Corbridge, Newcastle upon Tyne,…

Corbridge Roman Town, Corbridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2.8.18.

This the second time I have photographed this extensive location and every time I visit I discover something new and intriguing. This town underwent several major revisions through its time as a military and then civilian adjunct to life at Hadrian’s Wall. Pictured are the following:

Roman columns outside the two granaries. (Image 1)

Stairs to a strongroom under a Roman Principia or Headquarters in the West Compound. (Image 2)

One of the few (if not the only) surviving Roman window or vent in the Roman granaries (and possibly in Britain). (Image 3)

A long view of the ‘Stanegate’ or main paved route in Roman Corbridge. (Image 4)

The raised paved floor of one of the granaries. (Image 5)

Water tank floor and wall fragment near the Temple or Shine in the West Compound. (Image 6)

One of the Roman columns in front of the two granary structures. (Image 7)

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Hungry for Hyphae In the fight between immune cells called…

Hungry for Hyphae

In the fight between immune cells called macrophages and Candida albicans fungal infection, macrophages are sometimes the underdogs. That’s because C. albicans can form lengthy projections – hyphae – that are longer than the macrophages. And in people with weakened immune systems, hyphal C. albicans infection can even prove fatal. Researchers investigated what happens when a macrophage meets its outsized prey by culturing them with fluorescently labelled hyphal C. albicans (white). Adding the substance con A (green), which binds the surface of the fungus, allowed them to mark the parts that weren’t engulfed. The protein actin (red), which gives macrophages their structure, was also labelled for fluorescent microscopy. Resulting 3D reconstructions (pictured) revealed that macrophages construct actin cuffs around hyphae. So despite being too small to devour entire fungi, macrophages grab what they can and tightly seal around it, enabling them to target the release of their anti-microbials.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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HiPOD (9 August 2018): Layers in in a Collapse Trough Near…

HiPOD (9 August 2018): Layers in in a Collapse Trough Near Aromatum Chaos

   – Aromatum Chaos is a large depression, possibly formed due to a catastrophic flood event. (267 km above the surface. Black and white is less than 5 km across; enhanced color is less than 1 km.) 

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona


2018 August 8 Animation: Perseid Meteor Shower Visualization…

2018 August 8

Animation: Perseid Meteor Shower
Visualization Credit: Ian Webster; Data: NASA, CAMS, Peter Jenniskens (SETI Institute)

Explanation: Where do Perseid meteors come from? Mostly small bits of stony grit, Perseid meteoroids were once expelled from Comet Swift-Tuttle and continue to follow this comet’s orbit as they slowly disperse. The featured animation depicts the entire meteoroid stream as it orbits our Sun. When the Earth nears this stream, as it does every year, the Perseid Meteor Shower occurs. Highlighted as bright in the animation, comet debris this size is usually so dim it is practically undetectable. Only a small fraction of this debris will enter the Earth’s atmosphere, heat up and disintegrate brightly. This weekend promises some of the better skies to view the Perseid shower as well as other active showers because the new moon will not only be faint, it will be completely absent from the sky for most of the night. Although not outshining faint Perseids, the new moon will partially obstruct the Sun as a partial solar eclipse will be visible from some northern locations.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap180808.html


Fluorite with Dolomite with Galena | #Geology #GeologyPage…

Fluorite with Dolomite with Galena | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Dimensions: 9.3 × 5.8 × 2.5 cm

Photo Copyright © Crystal Classics

Geology Page



New Satellite Map Shows Ground Deformation After Indonesian Quake

JPL – Jet Propulsion Laboratory logo.

August 9, 2018

Scientists with NASA/Caltech’s Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis project (ARIA) used new satellite data to produce a map of ground deformation on the resort island of Lombok, Indonesia, following a deadly 6.9-magnitude earthquake on August 5.

The false-color map shows the amount of permanent surface movement that occurred, almost entirely due to the quake, over a 6-day period between satellite images taken on July 30 and August 5.

Image above: Scientists with NASA/Caltech’s Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis project (ARIA) used new satellite data to produce a map of ground deformation on the resort island of Lombok, Indonesia following a deadly, 6.9 magnitude earthquake on August 5. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Copernicus/ESA.

From the pattern of deformation in the map, scientists have determined that the earthquake fault slip was on a fault beneath the northwestern part of Lombok Island, and it caused as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of uplift of the ground surface. White areas in the image are places where the radar measurement was not possible, largely due to dense forests in the middle of the islands.

Through these maps, NASA and its partners are contributing important observations and expertise that can assist with response to earthquakes and other natural or human-produced hazards.

Sentinel-1A satellite. Image Credit: ESA

The deformation map is produced from automated interferometric processing of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from the European Union’s Copernicus Sentinel-1A and -1B satellites using the JPL-Caltech ARIA data system. The European Space Agency operates the Sentinel-1A and -1B satellites.

This and similar products were developed in support of the NASA Disasters Program. More information on them and on the Disasters Program is available at the following links:



More information about ARIA is available here: https://aria.jpl.nasa.gov/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Esprit Smith.

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С 12 на 13 aвгуста 2018 красивый звездопад Пеpсеиды

С 12 на 13 aвгуста 2018 нас ждёт самый красивый звездопад года  Благодаря метеорному потоку Пеpсеиды, можно будет увидеть до 100 падающих звёзд в час. Наблюдаем перед Рассветом.
С 12 на 13 aвгуста 2018 нас ждёт самый красивый звездопад года  Благодаря метеорному потоку Пеpсеиды, можно будет увидеть до 100 падающих звёзд в час. Наблюдаем перед Рассветом. Анимация от «Читающие»

С 12 на 13 aвгуста 2018 нас ждёт самый красивый звездопад года

Благодаря метеорному потоку Пеpсеиды, можно будет увидеть до 100 падающих звёзд в час. Наблюдаем перед Рассветом.


Replica Painted Tombstone from Roman Corbridge, Newcastle upon…

Replica Painted Tombstone from Roman Corbridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2.8.18.

This is a replica painted tombstone of a 25 year old standard bearer called Flavinus who served seven years with a cavalry unit called the Ala Petriana.

The motif of Romans hunting down naked barbarians was commonly used on tombstones but unusually in this case, the Roman has his foot upon his posterior and the barbarian is in a fleeing position with his back to the Roman; an act of explicit cowardice to all Romans.

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Housesteads Roman Fort Photo Set 3, Hadrian’s Wall, Newcastle…

Housesteads Roman Fort Photo Set 3, Hadrian’s Wall, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2.8.18.

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Housesteads Roman Fort Photo Set 2, Hadrian’s Wall, Newcastle…

Housesteads Roman Fort Photo Set 2, Hadrian’s Wall, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2.8.18.

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2018 August 9 Red Planet, Red Moon, and Mars Image Credit…

2018 August 9

Red Planet, Red Moon, and Mars
Image Credit & Copyright: Alex Cherney (Terrastro, TWAN)

Explanation: Mars is also known as The Red Planet, often seen with a reddish tinge in dark night skies. Mars shines brightly at the upper left of this gorgeous morning twilight view from Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia, but the Moon and planet Earth look redder still. Taken on July 27, the totally eclipsed Moon is setting. It looks reddened because the Earth’s umbral shadow isn’t completely dark. Instead Earth’s shadow is suffused with a faint red light from all the planet’s sunsets and sunrises seen from the perspective of an eclipsed Moon. The sunsets and sunrises are reddened because Earth’s atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than red, creating the faint bluish twilight sky. Of course, craggy seaside rocks also take on the reddened colors of this Australian sunrise.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap180809.html


The South Asian cline that no longer exists

Before the Indo-Europeans and Austroasiatics got to South Asia, probably well within the last 4,000 years, it’s likely that all of the genetic variation in the region basically sat along a genetic cline devoid of any Bronze Age steppe and Southeast Asian ancestry, like the one in the Principal Component Analysis (PCA) below running from the Paniya to the “Indus Periphery” ancient sample Shahr_I_Sokhta BA2.

Note that almost all of the South Asian populations, including the Iron Age (IA) Swat Valley groups, are clearly peeling away from the said cline towards the Tajiks, in other words towards Central Asia. This is a reflection of the widespread presence of Sintashta-related steppe admixture among South Asians, especially those speaking Indo-European languages. Moreover, the Bangalis and Burushos are being pushed towards the top left of the plot as a result of East Asian-related ancestry. In the case of the former, this is largely due to gene flow from Austroasiatic groups.
It’ll be interesting to see how ancient Harappans behave in this analysis. I’m betting that they’ll be very similar to the Indus Periphery trio, although judging by the latest press report on the topic (see here), the Harappan samples from Rakhigarhi might be shifted much closer to the Paniya as a result of a higher ratio of indigenous South Asian ancestry.
The PCA is based on my Global25 test. If you’re South Asian and in the possession of Global25 coordinates, you can add yourself to this plot using the datasheet available here. Plug the datasheet into the PAST program (freely available here), select all of the columns, and go Multivariate > Ordination > Principal Components (PCA).
See also…
Global25 PAST-compatible datasheets
Global25 workshop 1: that classic West Eurasian plot
Global25 workshop 2: intra-European variation



Housesteads Roman Fort Photo Set 1, Hadrian’s Wall, Newcastle…

Housesteads Roman Fort Photo Set 1, Hadrian’s Wall, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2.8.18.

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40 Years Ago, Pioneer Venus Multiprobe Launched to Study the Cloud-Shrouded Planet Venus

NASA – Pioneer 10-11 Mission patch.

Aug. 8, 2018

On August 8, 1978, the Pioneer Venus Multiprobe spacecraft launched to study Venus, a planet that has an atmosphere 100 times denser than Earth’s atmosphere and is hotter than the melting point of zinc and lead. Pioneer Venus Multiprobe was composed of five components: the main spacecraft, the large probe and three identical small probes named North, Day and Night. Built by the Hughes Company in El Segundo, California, and launched on an Atlas-Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the Pioneer Venus Multiprobe project was managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

Illustration of Pioneer Venus Multiprobe approaching Venus. Image Credit: NASA

Carrying seven experiments and fitted with a parachute to slow its descent into the atmosphere, the large probe studied the composition of Venus’ atmosphere and clouds. In addition, the large probe measured the distribution of infrared and solar radiation. The three small probes were designed without parachutes, each carrying six experiments. Each probe targeted different parts of Venus. North entered Venus at the high northern latitudes, Night targeted the night side at mid-southern latitudes, and Day targeted the day side at mid-southern latitudes. The main spacecraft carried an additional two experiments designed to study Venus’ upper atmosphere. The five probes collected detailed information about atmospheric composition, circulation and energy balance.

Image above: Venus Day/Night illustration showing solar wind, bow shock, magnetosheath, clouds and streamers Pioneer Venus SP-461 fig 6-28 Interaction of the solar wind with the atmosphere of Venus as determined from Pioner Venus experiments and observations. Image Credit: NASA.

The large probe separated from the main spacecraft 123 days after launch, on November 16, followed by the small probes on November 20, reaching and entering Venus’ atmosphere December 9. While not expected to survive their fiery descent into the dense Venusian atmosphere, all four of the probes transmitted data down to the surface with the Day probe transmitting from the surface for over an hour.

Pioneer: https://www.nasa.gov/pioneer/

Pioneer Venus: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/pioneer-venus/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Danielle Carmichael.

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Early Roman ‘horseshoes’ dug up from Vindolanda fort ditch

Early Roman “horseshoes” unearthed during an excavation at a fort near Hadrian’s Wall are to go on display.

Early Roman 'horseshoes' dug up from Vindolanda fort ditch
The hipposandals after being cleaned at the fort
[Credit: Vindolanda]

Barbara Birley, curator at Vindolanda, near Hexham, in Northumberland, said it was “incredibly rare” to find a full set of four iron hipposandals.

She said the hoof protectors were so well preserved that their tread to stop horses slipping was clearly visible.

The haul was found by a volunteer – one of 250 who carry out digs at the fort every year.

Early Roman 'horseshoes' dug up from Vindolanda fort ditch
The hipposandals, dating to between 140AD and 180AD, which were found by a volunteer,
are largely well preserved but one of them has a hairline fracture
[Credit: Vindolanda]

Because the Romans were in Britain for between 400 and 500 years, Ms Birley said, teams could dig at the site for the next 150 years and still unearth Roman treasures.

“Basically, over the years, nine forts have been built on this site – every time new Roman arrivals came, they covered over the remains from the last fort with clay and turf to make solid foundations for their fort,” Ms Birley explained.

“This means things were well preserved. One of the hipposandals has a hairline fracture so the set may have been thrown in the ditch because one was damaged.”

The set of hipposandals, dating between 140AD and 180AD, will go on display at the nearby Roman Army Museum, in Greenhead, in February 2019 when the museum reopens.

Source: BBC News Website [August 04, 2018]




Archaeological discoveries reveal prehistoric origins of Abu Dhabi’s Al Ain

Archaeological discoveries throughout the UAE have consistently revealed a rich history stretching back thousands of years. Given the challenging climate, the original inhabitants of the region often lived in one place then moved to another when the climate changed or new resources were discovered. But an exception to this pattern has been found in Abu Dhabi’s second city of Al Ain.

Archaeological discoveries reveal prehistoric origins of Abu Dhabi’s Al Ain
The Great Tomb at Hili, Al Ain, built around 3000 BC 
[Credit: David Millar]

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi’s (DCT Abu Dhabi) archaeologists have determined that a unique array of resources and the ingenuity of the region’s ancestors ensured the Al Ain oases became a major centre from the Bronze Age to the modern day.As one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places, Al Ain with its oases and sites was occupied in all the major periods of the UAE’s history. The date, size and extent of Al Ain’s archaeological sites from this time are unparalleled in our current knowledge of the UAE and broader region.

Archaeological discoveries reveal prehistoric origins of Abu Dhabi’s Al Ain
Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain, the site of ancient tombs, was home to some of the first civilisations
in the Bronze and Iron ages [Credit: Lauren Lancaster/The National]

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said, “The Founder Father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, recognised the importance of understanding this ancient past and encouraged fieldwork in Al Ain from the 1960s onwards.The discoveries our team of archaeologists are uncovering are fascinating and reveal incredible details about our ancestors, their lifestyles, their resilience and their ingenuity. These details uncovered about our history and earliest culture are both educational and inspiring to all – especially our younger generations as they build their knowledge and appreciation of their Emirati ancestors.”

Archaeological discoveries reveal prehistoric origins of Abu Dhabi’s Al Ain
Excavations at Hili 8 exposing 4500 year old archaeological layers 
[Credit: TCA Abu Dhabi]

Al Ain provided a true landscape of opportunity. People were able to not only grow crops in the fields but they began mining copper and stones from the nearby mountains. Copper was the oil of the Bronze Age: much prized and needed by expanding economies throughout the known ancient world. Copper was mined and processed in Al Ain, then transported to the coast as ingots on the trade routes that had been established during the earlier Neolithic period. With their knowledge of the sea, these Bronze Age entrepreneurs established a trading port on Umm An Nar Island, right next to the modern city of Abu Dhabi.  It was to become a hub for international trade, continuing the tradition that their Neolithic ancestors had began at coastal settlements like Marawah thousands of years earlier, and which Abu Dhabi still is today.

Archaeological discoveries reveal prehistoric origins of Abu Dhabi’s Al Ain
Two of the Bronze Age tombs located near Hili 8. The people who lived at Hili 8 
were buried collectively in these tombs [Credit: TCA Abu Dhabi]

As the economy expanded, people constructed fortified mudbrick towers, using the clay that was in abundance around the area. Several of these buildings have been excavated by DCT Abu Dhabi archaeologists and visiting international teams. The towers contain numerous rooms with wells at their centre. They also constructed large above ground tombs that can still be seen.

From one of these towers, called Hili 8, evidence for the earliest agriculture in the country, dating back nearly 5,000 years ago, was discovered by French archaeologists in the 1980s.Continuing work by DCT Abu Dhabi at Hili 8 is revealing further evidence for this remarkable early agricultural village.

The Bronze Age inhabitants of Al Ain, also used the copper from the nearby mountains to make weapons and agricultural tools that provided safety and prosperity. Some of these amazing artifacts were found in the discoveries made at Qattara in Al Ain. Excavations of a tomb here, dating to between 4,000 and 3,000 years ago, has revealed dozens of metal weapons that attest to ingenuity and technologically mastery of the time.

Source: The Gulf Today [August 06, 2018]




Meeting our Acheulian ancestors and their ‘multipurpose tools’ at the...

Associate Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Crete Nena Galanidou is standing in front of a heap of “stones”. She introduces you both to them and their makers at the same time; to a whole world that takes you back to this corner of the planet, the Rodaphnidia site at Lisvori, south Lesbos, 150,000 to 500,000 years ago at least.

Meeting our Acheulian ancestors and their 'multipurpose tools' at the Rodaphnidia site, Lesbos
Credit: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ

“Homo neanderthalensis”, says Mrs Galanidou, “is an ancestral species of hominin. Acheulians are many species that use the same technology; the hand axe that contains all the technological knowhow of that period. It is a tool that resembles the 21st century multipurpose tool containing today’s technological knowhow and doing everything. It is the smartphone we all have. The hand axe condenses the technological knowhow of a period that lasts 1.5 million years”.

However incredible it seems, in front of me are hand axes along with other stone tools of those distant hominin ancestors of half a million years ago. These are the products of an important excavation proving that today’s Lesbos as it was in distant times was one of the entrance gates to Europe. In an era of another climate change, grandfathers and grandmothers also used the island as a bridge to the west, also in search for food.

“Our ancestors”, says Mrs. Galanidou, “appear to be making their first carved stone tools 3.2 million years ago somewhere in Africa. For about 1.5 million years this sharp edge is just fine. They hit one stone against another, create the sharp edge and their job gets done. This is sufficient. At some point in time, however, it is no longer sufficient. Does this mean their brain expanded? Did the social group they belonged to expand? Was there a need for one to be differentiated from another? A need to have an element in their identity if it is a woman hunter for her to bring the food or if it is a man who constructs it to be admired by others? We do not know the answer to these questions or others that may be raised. We do know however that 1.7 million years ago, they start making something different; something that contains point symmetry. It is the symmetry that makes the difference.”

Meeting our Acheulian ancestors and their 'multipurpose tools' at the Rodaphnidia site, Lesbos
Credit: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ

“This hand axe”, she says showing one such stone tool, ‟is entirely symmetrical and is made by hand. Despite being handmade, if we draw a straight line and fold it we shall see that both ends match perfectly. This point symmetry and the fact it has been worked on bifacially, on both one side and the other, requires effort and programming in advance for this tool to be made, which as you can see is also beautiful. It has hidden rules of strict design. There are variations of this tool in many different shapes and sizes and made from different raw materials.”

The Acheulian hominins come to Rododaphnidia, a gently sloping hill one kilometer from Lisvori village in south Lesbos, because they come upon something amazing. They find flint which is linked with today’s hot springs in the region and which contain fossilized bulrushes. A small hand axe with fossilized bulrushes inside it involves the Acheulian hominins with the island’s volcanic history with all those geographic elements that attract them.

How the excavation began

In 2009, an article is published on the front page of ‟Eleutherotypia” about the earliest human presence in the Aegean, somewhere on Lemnos of 13000 BC. The doctor and field researcher Makis Axiotis protests that he has located earlier finds. This comes to the attention of Mrs. Galanidou who gets in touch with Axiotis who then points her towards the site at Rododaphnidia. This is more or less how the process begins of getting a permit for the research that begins in 2012. The summer of 2012 is the first year of systematic multipart research as required by this kind of site. It is not a typical excavation where an archaeologist works with an architect. In this case geoarchaeology is required as well as geophysics, palaeontology, micropalaeontology, very specialized analyses and studies, archaeometrics and chronometric dating. “So we have set up an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary survey centered on Lisvori”, says Mrs Galanidou.

Meeting our Acheulian ancestors and their 'multipurpose tools' at the Rodaphnidia site, Lesbos
Credit: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ

The site being excavated is called Rododaphnidia after the rhododendrons (rododaphni) that once grew in the area. Nowadays there is a large olive grove here, one kilometer from the village near the Ai Yannis hot springs.

This is the seventh year the Rododaphnidia site is being excavated, made possible because we have permission from the owners to dig on their properties. According to the archaeologist “Nothing has been expropriated. Our work is based on a relationship of mutual trust and respect. For our part we approach people and explain our position and ask them to allow us to work on their properties committing ourselves to return these just as we find them. For this reason we open our trenches every year, we do our research, take our samples, do whatever one can imagine on an archaeological site and then at the end we cover up the trenches with polystyrene and bury them and hand back the site just as we were given it. The owners of the places return and carry on with their work. The life cycle has not been interrupted; we simply inject it with one more activity. This is an activity both on the part of archaeologists and of visitors as well; because there are already visitors from Lesbos, the rest of Greece, Europe, from all over the world”.

The excavation site

The excavation is conducted at a site that was located on the banks of small rivers, at a relatively small distance from today’s Kalloni Gulf of Lesbos, which one must imagine as changing through time. In the great time vector the excavation is working with, the site changes from being a salt water gulf to one that gradually empties, its water becomes brackish and in due course fills up and turns into a fresh water lake. ‟So we have an environment made up of river and stream on the edges of a big water basin” says Mrs Galanidou as she shows us round. ‟Fresh water, sometimes brackish and sometimes seawater, a small valley cut across by these small rivers on the banks of which prehistoric people are active. They come to this spot because they know they will find whatever they need. For a start they need game in order to sustain themselves. Something can always be found near the water; animals, birds or aquatic plants. They also know that there are raw materials to make their tools, which belonging to prehistoric times are like today’s plastic bottle or cup; i.e. you make it, use it and throw it away. It is not something to carry around with you from place to place. It has a very short life cycle because it is heavy and you cannot carry raw materials wherever you go.”

Meeting our Acheulian ancestors and their 'multipurpose tools' at the Rodaphnidia site, Lesbos
Credit: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ

‟Prehistoric people are nomadic populations of hunter gatherers. They know about the water, the game, raw materials and of course there is something more that makes this place so attractive. The island has many hot springs in various spots. The Ai Yannis hot springs are at a small distance from today’s coast of the Kalloni Gulf and were the only hot springs during the periods the bay was a lake. We can imagine the hot springs without buildings with steam rising from them. It is a special, distinct spot and we have reason to believe it registered in the minds of primitive peoples” says Mrs Galanidou.

These primitive peoples return here time and time again. This is shown by the absolute dating, not of the stone tools since these cannot be dated but by the deposits on which the tools are found. ‟We are essentially dating the last time these deposits, these layers of soil, were exposed to solar radiation before being covered”, says Mrs. Galanidou and adds: ‟I would say that this has been confirmed. We have a site of the middle Pleistocene. The latter is a geological subdivision of time. In archaeological terms, we have a site of the early Paleolithic. In geological terms, because geological time is deep, we have a site of the period beginning around 750 000 up to 120 000 years ago.”

The Acheulian hominins

The excavation at Rodaphnidia is of particular value for the history of humankind but also for the history of Europe. During eighty years, from between the two World Wars till 2012, systematic efforts to locate the early Palaeolithic in Greece had been fruitless. There was the 500,000-year-old skull of Petralona, a few hand axes in various spots (Siatista, Astakos in Aitoloakarnania, Euboea) but an important emblematic site was absent from Greek prehistory. Such a site was not only absent in Greece which is the southern part of the Balkan peninsula, but from the entire Balkan peninsula and west Anatolia. The closest site comparable with Rododaphnida is in Cappadocia.

Meeting our Acheulian ancestors and their 'multipurpose tools' at the Rodaphnidia site, Lesbos
Credit: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ

There is therefore a big question mark. What happened in the south east peninsula of Europe? From where do the populations of hominins enter, as we know they enter, because we encounter them in Italy, France and the Iberian peninsula? Which are the entrance gates to Europe during these early infiltrations? “It is not necessary to have only one entrance gate”, says Mrs. Galanidou, “But there is a great gap regarding the Aegean. What this site brings us is what you see here; a mass of questions providing conclusive evidence that the Aegean was not a neutral or dead zone. On the contrary the entire Aegean was a very important zone for these early migrations and early European prehistory. Till now, the key to this absence was not the lack of research but the actual whereabouts of these sites. The Aegean itself played a very important part especially during glacial periods when on a global scale the oceans’ waters were locked in icebergs in the northern hemisphere and there was a drop in the sea level. When the sea level drops, the Aegean basin for at least the last 400,000 years is transformed into a zone with lakes, wetlands, marshlands, terrestrial bridges, landscapes that are particularly productive when you are a hunter gatherer.”

“If you are a farmer you need a large plain to cultivate. If you are a hunter gatherer you wish for this mosaic of different ecosystems that will allow you elsewhere to hunt, elsewhere to catch birds, elsewhere to fish, making it an ideal zone for your survival. Today however and for 6,000 years now this zone is the Aegean Sea, the “endless blue”. It has nothing to do with what would happen in every glacial period. With the Crossing of the Red Sea by the Jews, the Old Testament is recording what happened very often in early prehistory; the opening and closing of the sea. And this is connected with today’s hot issue of climate change. Many of today’s refugees in Moria camp, Lesbos, are refugees of climate change, especially those coming from Africa. They are immigrants who are led here by the desertification of large regions of Sub-Saharan Africa connected with climate change. But it is evident in Rodaphnidia that climate change is a very old affair. Populations of animals, whose fossils were found in Vatera, up to two million years old, were migrating, so this was also the case with hominin mammals from Anatolia with Asiatic features which are well known in this part of Eurasia. They did not come and go in one direction. They did not all go to Europe but came and went. And the Aegean was the passage in this coming and going.”

The local society

The excavation in Lisvori is conducted in a village; “a Neolithic community” Mrs. Galanidou tells us. Its locals are farmers and stockbreeders who grow aniseed and chickpeas. It is a community with its own identity to which we archaeologists inject one more component that ties in with the early archaeological heritage both of this island, the Aegean, Greece, the Balkan peninsula and west Anatolia”.

Meeting our Acheulian ancestors and their 'multipurpose tools' at the Rodaphnidia site, Lesbos
Credit: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ

The headquarters of this excavation are in Lisvori’s now closed old school. One part of it is used as a laboratory and another as the dormitory of students working on the dig. ‟In this village we may be studying the early prehistory of the Aegean, the Balkans and the eastern gate of Europe, but we are essentially undermining the way the average Greek approaches archaeology. By respecting property, by approaching the owners from day one on equal terms. We did not go and tell them we are expropriating; we say: “if you don’t want me to dig, that’s fine by me. I’ll go to the plot of land belonging to the person next door.”

So we are carrying out an experiment here; to change the way an average Greek approaches an archaeological team. We came with the wish to show that we can add something to a local community that has its own identity which we respect absolutely. Beyond its rural life it also has an annual life cycle and zones which are elsewhere for men and elsewhere for women; it is a rural community that has however started to discuss matters of human origins and evolution. The community is aware that the priest says human beings originate from God, but here there is an element of questioning and doubt in a way that is free of conflict and tension, without the arrogance of the scientist who knows everything. The mood is one of interaction and communication and of sharing a common vision. Different agendas and interests do exist, but Rodaphnidia can become a reference point which will highlight the place’s identity.”

Head of the local municipal community Thodoros Hatzipanagiotis has dreams for his small village. He wants visitors to come on a cultural recreation route that will also include other spots such as the water mill, the Byzantine remains, early living architecture, the cobbled streets, birdlife, salt marshes, the amazing natural history. “We share their vision”, adds Mrs. Galanidou, “and the locals see it and wish it to work and try to help us do so. First by allowing us to dig in their fields, secondly by offering us generous hospitality and thirdly by trying to help us in our work in every possible way”.

Meeting our Acheulian ancestors and their 'multipurpose tools' at the Rodaphnidia site, Lesbos
Credit: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ

Mrs Galanidou does not omit mentioning the great contribution made by Hellenic Sea Ways, ANEK and Aegean Airlines in realizing the excavation. Likewise its sponsors: The University of Crete, the General Secretariat for the Aegean and Island Policy, the Region of the North Aegean, the Municipality of Lesbos, and the J.F. Costopoulos Foundation.

The aesthetics of our “Acheulian” ancestors

A little while ago in Dallas USA an exhibition ended of prehistoric hand axes that establish new foundations for the genealogy of aesthetics and art. Till now we associated the first aesthetic quests with our own species, the Homo sapiens and we see these on rock paintings and micro sculptures of the upper Palaeolithic.

“This exhibition tells us that the makers of Acheulian miniature crafts had themselves aesthetic sensibilities. They noticed where the veins of the raw material were and worked around them with their tool. They noticed the fossils, whether a snail or a twig and were careful not to damage them and centered their creation round them. There is an international movement of archaeologists to show that the creators of Acheulian stone craft had artistic sensibilities. This insignificant and seemingly ugly material is changing our approach to the quest of ancestral species in ways we never imagined” says Mrs Galanidou as she takes leave of us. She is holding a tiny hand axe in her hand, the smart phone of that distant grandfather in Rodaphnidia in Lisvori, south Lesbos. A door has opened here illuminating the human presence and civilization in this corner of the planet.

Source: ANA-MPA/transl. Archaeology and Arts [August 06, 2018]





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