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Posted on Sunday, January 29 - 2006

Stone Age Tools

Unearthing of some objects, believed to be Stone Age tools, during excavation of a tank at a village nearby, has prompted the Visva Bharati University's archaeology department to seek assistance of the Archaeological Survey of India to unravel the mystery. "The scientific excavation is likely to throw new light on the possible existence of stone age people in this part of Bengal," sources in the university's archaeology department said. They said that the tools "bear similarity with those used by the Middle Paleolithic people some 40,000 years ago". Archaeology department head Subrata Chakraborty said that some moulded iron substances, circular in shape, were also found during excavation of the tank at Sekhampur village, near this sub-divisional town ofWest Bengal's Birbhum district. All these came to light last month when excavators, while carving out a tank from a water pool, came across the artefacts "believed to be stone age tools".   The artefacts consist of borers, scrapers and tools, which, according to the Visva-Bharati archaeologists, bear 'testimony' to the tools used in the Stone Age.   Chakraborty told PTI here that his department had examined the tools, but could not come to any conclusion about the period pending detailed inquiry by the ASI.   "After finding the specimens collected during excavation, we believe these have the features of Middle Paleolithic period," he said, suggesting wider excavation of the tank.   Chakraborty said after he had written a letter to the state's higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty, which was later forwarded to the chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, state government sent a team of experts fromstate archaeological department to visit the site.   "However, report of that team is still awaited", he added.   Meanwhile, the district administration has taken steps to ensure that there is no further digging of the tank and, as such, the entire area has been cordoned off to ward off any undesirable elements from nearing it.

ASI sources in Kolkata were not available for comment on any new archaeological find in Birbhum.Article Source

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Posted on Monday, January 14 - 2008

If earth had been slightly smaller and less massive, life might never have gained a foothold. They key to life on Earth as we know it, scientists figure, is plate tectonics — the forces that move continents and build mountains. And the more massive a world is, the thinner its plates are. Thinner plates are weaker and more easily moved and so able to support the kinds of crucial planet-shaping plate tectonics experienced on this planet over the billions of years that life evolved from simple one-celled organisms to complex creatures that can fly, swim and read. "Plate tectonics are essential to life as we know it," said Diana Valencia of Harvard University, whopresented research on the topic here Wednesday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

"Our calculations show that bigger is better when it comes to the habitability of rocky planets." The study reveals Earth has been on the edge of habitability from the beginning, and just eked by to allow life-friendly conditions. The results give hope to astronomers looking for life on other planets. "It expands the potential to find life on other planets that are different from Earth," said astrophysicist Sara Seager of MIT, who was not involved in the study. She added that Valencia "has shown us that we can have hope that we can have life there." Not too hot, not too cold: Plate tectonics, Valencia explains, is what allows the carbon cycle on Earth to operate. So as platesspread apart from each other, slide under one another, and even crash into each other to lift gigantic mountain ranges like the Himalayas, they also recycle carbon dioxide. This greenhouse gas acts as a thermostat to keep Earth balmy — but not scorching — over geologic time scales. "Recycling is important even on a planetary scale," Valencia explained. Valencia and her Harvard colleagues, Richard O"Connell and Dimitar Sasselov, examined so-called super-Earths more than twice the size of Earth and up to 10 times as massive.

View: Full Article | Source: Live Science

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Posted on Thursday, December 20 - 2007

A new, highly sensitive analytical test was used to confirm the presence of blood in the coating of this humanoid artifact used in ancient Mali rituals.

Copyright © MSNBC

Sculptors from the extraordinarily wealthy ancient Mali Empire — once the source of nearly half the world's gold — at times coated their works of art with blood, scientists confirmed for the first time. At its height, the empire, which lasted from the 13th century to the 17th century, extended over an area larger than Western Europe and was renowned for its gold mines.Researchers have often reported or suspected the presence of blood on many African relics, purportedly shed during ancient ceremonies involving animal sacrifice. While crusts or patinas supposedly made of blood havebeen found on many such artifacts, accurately confirming the presence of blood has proven hard because little has remained on the objects over the ages.Scientists in France have now used advanced technology to identify blood on Mali sculptures.

The technique cannot tell if the blood is from animals or humans, although past interviews conducted by anthropologists suggest it is animal blood.

Chemical fingerprints The researchers focused on eight statuettes dating from the 12th century to the 20th century. Three wooden humanoid artifacts came from the Dogon tribe, while five from the Bamana tribe were sacred bamboo or wooden relics known as boliw that had animal shapes. Their dark crusts were said to be made of blood from ritually sacrificed animals along with millet mush, shea butter—made from the fat of a shea nut—or palm wine. The investigators scraped microscopic samples of the patina off the statues. Theynext bombarded the samples with particle beams and high-intensity light rays that did virtually no damage. These highly sensitive tests identified chemical fingerprints of blood — such as components of hemoglobin and iron linked with proteins — on seven of the eight statuettes. The last remained inconclusive.

Only vestiges Researcher Pascale Richardin, an analytical chemist at the Center for Research and Restoration for the Museums of France in Paris, said these artifacts are often the only vestiges of practices that were essential elements of African civilizations. "A better knowledge of these patinas could explain some practices used for centuries," Richardin told LiveScience. Richardin and her colleagues detailed their findings in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Copyright: MSNBC

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Posted on Monday, March 17 - 2008

The idea of the vampire has caused some extreme behaviour. In October 1974 a drunkard was lured to the home of a Mr Lorca in Germany. Promising him food and shelter, instead, Mr Lorca descended on the man and bit him hard on the neck, drawing blood. Passing out, when the drunkard came round, he rushed out of the house and went to the police. Arriving a short time later, they found Mr Lorca asleep in a coffin with blood on his lips. Mr Lorca, it seems, liked to be called Count, ate only raw meat and was only active at night. Strange behaviour: Polish immigrant to the UK, Demetrious Myicura, was found dead in 1973. His room was covered in ceremoniously placed garlic. Said to have been terrified of avampire attack, he choked to death on a clove of garlic he had placed in his mouth to protect him while he slept.

Although tragic, we can see a degree of irony in such cases. But ideas of vampirism can affect entire societies. For instance, the Kashubs are a Christian sect of Slavs living mainly around Ontario who retain many pagan practices. As professor of Slavic languages Jan Perkowski discovered when he visited a Kashub farm in 1968, principal is their belief in vampires. Indeed, one wife had her upper incisors removed because she was a vampire. Upon death, elaborate measures must be taken otherwise the person will rise at midnight and suck the life and blood from family members. Mythical suckers: The above cases are modern survivals of a rich vampire mythology. Consider the β€˜al", the half human, halfanimal vampire from Armenian folklore, thought to be based on the alu of Babylonian myth. One eyed with iron teeth, tusks and snake-like hair, it wears a triangular hat that makes it invisible. Its victim is the pregnant woman and her unborn child, whom it strangles. The best defence against the al is to surround yourself with, and use, iron implements. The empusa is an ancient Greek vampire spirit which often appears as an alluring young woman. Its intention is to seduce young men and eventually enter them and consume their flesh and blood.

View: Full Article | Source: Beyond the Blog

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