The megalithic remains of Anglesey
by Baynes, Edward Neil
It is a cause of genuine regret to me that I did not commence my inquiries earlier, when I had more opportunities of pursuing them, especially when I was a village schoolmaster in Anglesey and could have done the folklore of that island thoroughly; but my education, such as it was, had been of a nature to discourage all interest in anything that savoured of heathen lore and superstition. Nor is that all, for the schoolmasters of my early days took very little trouble to teach their pupils to keep their eyes open or take notice of what they heard around them; so I grew up without having acquired the habit of observing anything, except the Sabbath. It is to be hoped that the younger generation of schoolmasters trained under more auspicious circumstances, when the baleful influence of Robert Lowe has given way to a more enlightened system of public instruction, will do better, and succeed in fostering in their pupils habits of observation. At all events there is plenty of work still left to be done by careful observers and skilful inquirers, as will be seen from the geographical list showing approximately the provenance of the more important contributions to the Kymric folklore in this collection: the counties will be found to figure very unequally. Thus the anglicizing districts have helped me very little, while the more Welsh county of Carnarvon easily takes the lead; but I am inclined to regard the anomalous features of that list as in a great measure due to accident. In other words, some neighbourhoods have been luckier than others in having produced or attracted men who paid attention to local folklore; and if other counties were to be worked equally with Carnarvonshire, some of them would probably be foundnot much less rich in their yield. The anglicizing counties in particular are apt to be disregarded both from the Welsh and the English points of view, in folklore just as in some other things; and in this connexion I cannot help mentioning the premature death of the Rev. Elias Owen as a loss which Welsh folklorists will not soon cease to regret.
Nearly every night of our lives, we undergo a startling metamorphosis.
Our brain profoundly alters its behavior and purpose, dimming our consciousness. For a while, we become almost entirely paralyzed. We can’t even shiver. Our eyes, however, periodically dart about behind closed lids as if seeing, and the tiny muscles in our middle ear, even in silence, move as though hearing. We are sexually stimulated, men and women both, repeatedly. We sometimes believe we can fly. We approach the frontiers of death. We sleep.
Around 350 B.C., Aristotle wrote an essay, “On Sleep and Sleeplessness,” wondering just what we were doing and why. For the next 2,300 years no one had a good answer. In 1924 German psychiatrist Hans Berger invented the electroencephalograph, which records electrical activity in the brain, and the study of sleep shifted from philosophy to science. It’s only in the past few decades, though, as imaging machines have allowed ever deeper glimpses of the brain’s inner workings, that we’ve approached a convincing answer to Aristotle.
Everything we’ve learned about sleep has emphasized its importance to our mental and physical health. Our sleep-wake pattern is a central feature of human biology—an adaptation to life on a spinning planet, with its endless wheel of day and night. The 2017 Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to three scientists who, in the 1980s and 1990s, identified the molecular clock inside our cells that aims to keep us in sync with the sun. When this circadian rhythm breaks down, recent research has shown, we are at increased risk for illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and dementia
The Lena River Delta in Siberia/LandSat NASA
Until recently, anthropologists drew the human family tree in the same way that my 10-year-old son solves a maze. He finds it much easier to work from the end to the beginning, because blind alleys lead with depressing sameness away from the start. In just this way, scientists once traced our own lineage from the present into the past, moving backward through a thicket of fossil relatives, each perched upon its own special branch to extinction.
This approach yielded the now-ubiquitous image of the human family tree, with Homo sapiens – the one and only living hominid – sitting alone, seemingly inevitable, at the top. It’s a powerful metaphor, but it also turns out to be a deeply mistaken one. Where once we saw each branch in isolation, DNA evidence now reveals a network of connections. From an African origin more than 1.8 million years ago, human ancestors flowed into different populations, following separate paths for hundreds of thousands of years, yet still coming together to mix their genes.
The recovery of ancient DNA from ancient hominins, first by Svante Pääbo’s research group at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig and later by others, has started to bring unknown populations into view. Neanderthals provided a proof of principle, showing the recovery of whole-genome evidence from small fragments.
The first high-coverage genome provided the biggest surprise: a tiny piece of a finger bone from Denisova Cave, in southern Siberia, has shown us an unknown population (now called the ‘Denisovans’) who are as different from living people as from the Neanderthals. They make up some 5 per cent of the ancestry of living Aboriginal Australians, and a tiny fraction of more than a billion people across Asia and the New World.
In other words, natural selection and cyborgization as humanity spreads throughout the cosmos will result in species diversification. At the same time, expanding across space will also result in ideological diversification. Space-hopping populations will create their own cultures, languages, governments, political institutions, religions, technologies, rituals, norms, worldviews, and so on. As a result, different species will find it increasingly difficult over time to understand each other’s motivations, intentions, behaviors, decisions, and so on. It could even make communication between species with alien languages almost impossible. Furthermore, some species might begin to wonder whether the proverbial “Other” is conscious. This matters because if a species Y cannot consciously experience pain, then another species X might not feel morally obligated to care about Y. After all, we don’t worry about kicking stones down the street because we don’t believe that rocks can feel pain. Thus, as I write in the paper, phylogenetic and ideological diversification will engender a situation in which many species will be “not merely aliens to each other but, more significantly, alienated from each other.”
Including over 30 maps and site plans and hundreds of colour photographs, it also contains scores of articles by a wide range of contributors, from archaeologists and archaeoastronomers to dowsers and geomancers, that will change the way you see these amazing survivals from a distant past. Locate over 1,000 of Britain’s and Ireland most atmospheric prehistoric places, from recently discovered moorland circles to standing stones hidden in housing estates.
Nearly three thousand years old, the Gleninsheen collar represents one of the great treasures of the Irish Bronze Age. Fashioned out sheet gold and measuring 31 cm across, it is decorated in repoussé ornamentation that utilises beaded and circular motifs to stunning effect.
It was found in 1932 by a young man named Patrick Nolan, as he was hunting near Ballyvaughan in Co. Clare. While walking through a field, his dog suddenly startled a rabbit, which took flight into one of the many limestone fissures that characterise The Burren. When Patrick inspected the narrow bolt-hole, something caught his eye. At the very bottom of the fissure and partially hidden by a large flat stone, was a spectacular gold object. Patrick had discovered the Gleninsheen Collar.
Conversations we have with people about climate change are rarely based on a comprehensive assessment of the current state of knowledge on atmospheric changes and the implications for our environment and society. We receive bits and pieces of news, often shared by friends on Facebook or Twitter, which make us worry for a few moments, before returning to busy daily life. We may think we have already integrated an awareness of climate change into our lives, by the career choice we made, or the way we shop, recycle or don’t eat meat. Most of us are not climate scientists anyway, there’s all kinds of other things to take care of, and we have bills to pay!
That was me, anyway, until this year. I decided to look more closely at the latest information from the range of sciences that give a perspective on our situation. The last time I studied climate closely was in 1994 when I was being taught climate science at Cambridge University. I do not claim to be an expert in any one climate-related field, but as a Professor who has worked and published in a range of disciplines, I have experience in assessing knowledge claims from various sources. In this summary I provide references as much as possible, so you can investigate further.
Many people working in the climate field look to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide the calm and authoritative voice on this complicated subject. That is what I used to do, as it made sense as a busy person who wanted to have a quick way of “making the case” to others. However, given that the IPCC has proven over the past decades to be woefully inaccurate in the cautiousness of its predictions, I now agree with some of the most eminent climate scientists that the IPCC cannot be looked to for telling us what the situation is. That is why I spent a few weeks returning to primary sources in academic journals and research institute reports, and piecing together a perspective myself. Given the long time span it takes for data to appear in academic journals, I often turn to the information direct from research institutes and their individual experts. The result of that process follows below.
This is Our World Right Now – not theory!
‘When we had arrived [in Cork], I made a request to Lord Inchaquoin to give me a passport for England. I took boat to Youghal and then embarked on the vessel John Filmer, which set sail with 120 passengers. `But before we had lost sight of land, we were captured by Algerine pirates, who put all the men in irons.’
The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for longterm disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.
Well, I suppose some people may have to ‘live underground like grovelling goblins’…
These tweets are coming from a woman who wrote a book about online harassment. pic.twitter.com/LJ97BS3zZl
— Brittany Pettibone (@BrittPettibone) August 2, 2018
The New York Times’ new editorial board member wrote scores of tweets expressing her hatred for “dumbass f**king white people,” including one which celebrated white people going extinct. https://t.co/BPE20FXOto pic.twitter.com/d4tBA6nkrP
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) August 2, 2018
Patriotism has taken a beating in recent decades. The guardians of our civilisation tell us that attachment to place and tradition is reactionary, backward, dangerous. Like magic and mystery, attachment to land and history are things which belong to a dark and grim past, and should stay there. We are all progressives now.
This piece was, to put it mildly, not well received. Many commenters, primarily on Twitter, were scathing in their criticism. (An extensive, even-handed overview of the criticism by James Pierce Taylor of London Permaculture is worth reading.)
Kingsnorth withdrew the piece several days later. (For purely reference reasons, I have made a copy of the text here). His response to the criticisms (which he also later deleted) claimed the words had, as quoted by Taylor:
‘been twisted — not accidentally, it is clear, by some at least — into a complete misrepresentation of what I wrote and why’ by ‘fanatics on social media accusing me of fascism’, ‘people out there with agendas… wielding them with glee’, people who have ‘outrageously, and upsettingly, represented [him as] a racist or a promoter of far-right narratives’, people running a ‘smear campaign’ with ‘clear agendas’.
This would be all very well and good, except that he has (as we say in the Thames Estuary diaspora) form for this sort of thing. From a Guardian interview a year earlier:
“In Real England, he went searching for what English identity means at a time when displaying the St George’s flag can be read simplistically as a sign of football-hooligan racism. “It’s terrible,” he says. “It’s very sad. There’s an Anglophobia stalking Britain. It’s not acceptable to be an English patriot in the way you can be a Scottish or a Welsh patriot. Those are small countries that were attached to a bigger country. They define themselves against that. So what does the bigger country, England, define itself against?
…What does it mean to be ‘us’ in England?” he asks. “It’s such a big question at the moment because the level of migration is so high. You need to know who you are, and where you are, and have some control over that. If there isn’t an acceptable outlet for it, it goes to an unacceptable outlet.”
One day in March 2010, Isak McCune started clearing his throat with a forceful, violent sound. The New Hampshire toddler was 3, with a Beatles mop of blonde hair and a cuddly, loving personality. His parents had no idea where the guttural tic came from. They figured it was springtime allergies.
Soon after, Isak began to scream as if in pain and grunt at his parents and peers. When he wasn’t throwing hours-long tantrums, he stared vacantly into space. By the time he was 5, he was plagued by insistent, terrifying thoughts of death. “He would smash his head into windows and glass whenever the word ‘dead’ came into his head. He was trying to drown out the thoughts,” says his mother, Robin McCune, a baker in Goffstown, a small town outside Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city.
Isak’s parents took him to pediatricians, therapy appointments, and psychiatrists. He was diagnosed with a host of disorders: sensory processing disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). At 5, he spent a year on Prozac, “and seemed to get worse on it,” says Robin McCune.
The McCunes tried to make peace with the idea that their son might never come back. In kindergarten, he grunted and screamed, frightening his teachers and classmates.
What got lost a little though was that the story came to prominence initially as publicity for a brilliant 3D scanning project involving the stone balls conducted by National Museums Scotland, allowing anyone at home to look at sixty different examples (of 500+ in total discovered over the years) in an interactive viewer, rotating and zooming to take a closer look. I’ve embedded the viewer below for readers to have some fun themselves.
Created some 5000 years ago in the Late Neolithic, the balls feature knobs and geometric markings that continue to baffle researchers, and as such their original intended usage remains “wholly unknown”. Some have suggested they were used as weapons, being mounted as maceheads or or tied to rope and thrown like South American bolas, but it is difficult to understand why the geometric carvings would be required for that (unless for ritual usage?).
They were, it must be said, a family of pigs.
History is not predestined. It’s not a predictable science like big-scale physics. Humans do change and that changes the way that they behave in comparable situations. However, I do believe that statistical patterns can be discerned and those have much to do with chance.
Personally, I have little doubt that depopulation periods of various magnitudes have happened throughout the last few thousand years but that little or no account of most of them survives. Such periods, if they exist, will, in my opinion, correlate with significant historical events. In the west we tend to play down the significance of such depopulation periods. The last one that happened, following The Great Pestilence or Black Death, which took place from the mid fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries AD, didn’t really correlate with any significant changes from a western point of view (well, maybe the rise of slavery). However, from the point of view of Eastern Europe and Asia the effects were much greater, with Turkish expansion, the collapse of the Tatars and the second serfdom.
My guesses at ancient depopulation periods in western Asia, including Europe, are 3000-2800 BC, ??2100-1900 BC, 1750-1550BC, 1350-1100 BC and 800-1000 AD. However, apart from some textual evidence for ancient epidemics (for the eighteenth and fourteenth centuries BC), they are largely based on hunches. Trying to find a good way to spot depopulation will be the job of radiocarbon specialists like Ian Shennan and geneticists like David Reich. Seeing if depopulation correlates with major events will be the job of archaeologists and geneticists. But for the first time such a thing seems possible.
Well, what can I tell you good folks today ? That Grim Reaper is out there, lurking…
Same for all of us, really. He took a swipe at me last week, and missed, but killed my computer instead. So now I have to write with the earlier old and knackered laptop which it replaced.
And this old laptop suffers from several disabilities, broken keys, etc. Most of the letters have worn off the keys. I’m not proficient at touch typing, but interestingly, so long as I don’t think or try too hard, my fingers still know where the letters are, as a sort of subconscious habit.
What can I tell to you all today, other than complain about my poor health and computer woes ? ..which is not very interesting. I could bash Ian Welsh and Vinay Gupta and a few others for being idiots, but it would do no good, they think they know better, so it’d be a waste of my precious energy.
I’m greatly alarmed by the lack of birds and insects here this year. This is the first time in thirty years that there are NO Swallows, which fills me with sadness every time I think about it.
Not just the swallows, no Redstarts, no Flycatchers, no Red Kites. I see the Buzzards, but don’t hear any young ones calling for food. No Green or Spotted Woodpeckers.
Of course, some of this may be my subjective impression, or purely local. I looked up the RSPB and BTO sites, but their info lags a couple of years back. I know for certain that the Swallows used to arrive around the start of May and leave early September, and I’d see and hear them all day, dawn to dusk. But, alas, not this year.
I’d could be that conditions have gone wrong for these migrants down in Africa, or anywhere on their flight paths on the migratory journey.
Guy McPherson always claims that ‘humans cannot survive without habitat’, but that’s not correct, because humans make their own artificial habitats – farms and cities, etc – and can find what they require in many different ways. There are the remains of those 200 or so deep underground cities in Turkey, which humans may have excavated to survive the impact of a comet or similar severe catastrophe.
It’s not only the absence of birds, the insect population also seems to have been severely depleted. When I was a kid, I used to collect moths and beetles, and the house lights would attract zillions of them. This year there have been no Cockchafers, Dor beetles, big moths, banging against the glass at night.
I’ve seen the reports of dramatic insect and bird declines across Europe. It’s difficult for me to be 100% sure what the causes are and what the results will be. Can we kill off what remains of wild nature and all the species which don’t have obvious economic commercial value, and still survive ?
I guess today’s children will discover the answer, although I myself won’t be around to know it.