One Hundred and Ninety Eighth Blog Post





It is hard to claim that the design is beautiful, dazzling or engrossing. But the artwork is destined to be priceless and famous, because it seems to be the earliest evidence for a drawing in the archaeological record, by some margin. Apart from some cave paintings from Spain dated to around 64,000 years ago — presumably the work of Neanderthals (D. L. Hoffmann et al. Science 359, 912–915; 2018) — the next instance of drawing came around 40,000 years ago with cave paintings found at opposite ends of Eurasia: in the spectacular art decorating the walls of caves in Spain and France, and the more recently discovered cave art in Sulawesi in Indonesia (M. Aubert et al. Nature 514, 223–227; 2014). Despite being located 12,000 kilometres apart, cave paintings such as these contain images that we instantly recognize as figurative art, including a range of animals, and stencils of hands that speak to us, millennia later, as signs of human self-awareness.


As the sole surviving species of the genus Homo, we Homo sapiens are one of the most taxonomically lonely species living on Earth today. But dig back a few thousand years or more and we find ourselves with plenty of company: Many now-extinct species shared the genusHomo, ranging from the robust Homo neanderthalensis, to the hobbit-like Homo floresiensis to the more primitive Homo habilis and Homo erectus. But do all these species, with their wide diversity of physical and cultural traits, actually belong in the same genus?

Traditionally, hominin fossils have been classified into either the genus Homo or Australopithecus, with Homo dating back to about 2.8 million years and the oldest Australopiths dating back to about 4 million years ago. But some anthropologists think we need more options. “Right now, we are stuck in a false dichotomy, where if it isn’t an Australopith, it must be Homo and if it isn’t Homo, it must be an Australopith,” says Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. “We obviously need more genera if our classification of hominins is to meaningfully reflect the diversity within our family.”

But reparsing the hominin family tree is easier said than done. “This problem is just as much philosophical as taxonomical,” Tattersall says. “We’re wrestling with nothing less than human exceptionalism” — the idea that humans are so distinct from other organisms that the rules of taxonomy don’t apply to us, a problem that has plagued paleoanthropology from its earliest discoveries. “Homo has become a wastebasket of names with very little meaning,” Tattersall says. “And yet, we’re so emotionally attached to those names that even people who think they should be changed are unable to agree on how to go about it.” Nonetheless, some are trying.

What’s in a Name?

In the mid-1700s, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus proposed a binomial naming system to classify organisms according to relatedness and shared characteristics. This organizational system evolved into the familiar ranks of kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species.

A species is loosely defined as a population of organisms that can successfully breed. But things get a little more contrived at the genus level, which is less rooted in biology and more in the scientific drive for organization. “Species have a reasonably objective biological reality that is grounded in the dynamic that exists among their members,” Tattersall wrote in the journal Inference in February 2016. “Genera, on the other hand, are purely historical constructs,” he wrote.

“A genus is like a make of car,” says Bernard Wood, a paleoanthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. All Toyotas are more closely related to each other than to any other make of car and they’re all derived from the original Toyota, which was made in the 1930s, he adds. A grouping made up of “all the four-wheel-drive cars made by Toyota would make a sensible genus,” Wood says. “But a grouping of four-wheel-drive cars made by different companies would not qualify, even if they look alike and drive alike, since they don’t share a common ancestor.”


Great archaeological detective stories start with unexpected discoveries in unusual places.

In May, an international team of scientists led by Thomas Ingicco revealed new archaeological findings from Kalinga, in the northernmost part of Luzon, Philippines. Until now, scientists have mostly assumed that the Philippines were first inhabited by modern humans, only after 100,000 years ago. But the artifacts unearthed by Ingicco and coworkers were much older, more than 700,000 years old.


Just a decade has transformed the debate over whether Neanderthals were practising what we have no better word for, than art.

In 2007 a review paper by Marie Soressi and Francesco d’Errico critically discussed much of the until-then disparate finds, and showed that in fact there was a substantial body of ‘legit’ evidence. Since then, researchers have upped their game through not only developing more sophisticated analytical approaches and methods, but also just keeping their minds open to the possibility. Intentionally looking out for those tiny traces which have just managed to hang on over tens of millennia can make the difference between finding them or not.

Two new papers are being released today, and even with the different world we now find ourselves in compared to ten years ago, aspects of them still represent genuinely jaw-dropping finds. [I was asked for comment by a media outlet which is why I’m able to write all this in advance].



But Harris can’t engage any of this history, any of these material factors, because he’s a reductive idealist. Amazingly, he is far more reductive in his thinking with respect to Islam even than the Bush administration. George W. Bush saw very clearly the need for strong institutions in the Muslim world. He understood that the problem wasn’t Islam, it was the poor political order in the region. The problem is that Bush failed to understand that if the United States attempts to provide this order itself, no domestic force will develop which can step in and take the reigns. The order the United States attempted to impose in Iraq and which it continues to attempt to impose in Afghanistan only lasts as long as America remains willing to commit unlimited, vast sums of resources to these countries. As soon as the United States leaves, the same underlying problem resurfaces, because the factions and leaders we put in power are dependent on our military capability to maintain order in the country. Once we leave, they once again must try to come up with a way to legitimate their order on their own. They don’t succeed, and we end up back where we started–with America having spent trillions of dollars and with thousands of lives lost. Our role in the region now mirrors the role that Britain and France used to play–we are breaking Middle Eastern states, failing to put them back together, and eventually quitting and leaving a mess. Between us and the Europeans the region has never been able to find its own path and figure out what kinds of institutions it wants for itself, and the state of Islam reflects this wider governance problem.

I’ve told you all of this history to make a relatively simple point, and one which is perhaps much less important than many of the points we’ve made along the way–that Sam Harris’ idealism and obsessive hatred of religion causes him to ignore the history, politics, and economics of the Muslim world. Despite this, he continues to be taken seriously by other people who also don’t pay attention to these things.


Furthermore, it is well-documented that when a man dons the mask of a Kachina in preparation for the sacred rituals and dances, he is understood to take on and manifest the spirit of the Kachina he is portraying. In the book Masks of the Spirit: Image and Metaphor in Mesoamerica, by Peter and Roberta Markman (1994), a Hopi man named Emory Sekaquaptewa, who has himself performed these rituals, is quoted as saying:

For the kachina ceremonies require that a person project oneself into the spirit world, into the world of fantasy, or the world of make-believe. Unless one can do this, spiritual experience cannot be achieved. I am certain that the use of the mask in the kachina ceremony has more than just an esthetic purpose. I feel that what happens to a man when he is a performer is that if he understands the essence of the kachina, when he dons the mask he loses his identity and actually becomes what he is representing . . . He is able to do so behind the mask because he has lost his personal identity. (page 68)

The similarities to the traditions of the Cantonese opera described above are remarkable, the more so because there is not thought to have been any historical contact between the ancient Native American nations of the Hopi or the Zuni and the ancient culture of China.

Even if one were to admit the possibility of some sort of ancient contact between China and the Americas (which may well have taken place), it would stretch credibility to argue that such transoceanic contact is also responsible for the masked sacred drama of ancient Greece, or of Africa,  and so on around the globe.

The world-wide prevalence of ritual drama and dances, almost always utilizing masks and also similar types of music and percussion, on every continent and island of our planet argues that this pattern may be far more ancient, and may descend from some common predecessor culture or cultures, just as the world’s ancient myths share striking similarities and a basis in celestial metaphor — similarities too specific to be convincingly explained as “coincidental development in complete isolation,” and yet too widespread across both geographical distance and also across millennia to be easily explained by cultural distribution during conventionally-acknowledged history after the rise of the civilizations of ancient China, ancient India, ancient Egypt, and ancient Mesopotamia (especially since the celestial myth-patterns are already present in the earliest known texts from those civilizations).


Exploring the role of instinct and instinctual behaviours in building as a counterbalance to the social determinism of many current narratives; the forms of categorisation used in archaeological and architectural studies are considered, distinguishing between abstract narratives and real-world observations. Strongly canonical monument forms are not only constrained in their original design, but also influence the nature of their subsequent anthropic modifications and predetermines some pathways to decomposition, while ensuring that the form of the original structure may be discernible even following millennia of use and abuse of the monument. Finally, some technical issues affecting drystone building are introduced and the relationship between the concepts of monumentality and engineering efficiency are discussed.


Hello again, my dear readership….

This is the 198th. blog post. Attentive followers may have noticed that I’ve slowed down a bit, and don’t have so much to say. Mostly because of my poor health. I guess I may continue towards the 200th. For no better reason than to make it a round number. Then I might stop. Or not.

It does give me something interesting to do through the long dark wet winter months. I might try out the new version of WordPress, and if it is amazing, that might  inspire me to do more posts. On the other hand, if it’s horrid, that might be another reason to stop. Whatever. All things come to an end, eventually.

The internet and this computer technology has been an exhilarating ride. I’ve enjoyed it all immensely. I used to think that it might solve some of the world’s perennial problems, but that vision has soured. Seems to me, much of it’s become just another vicious political and cultural battleground, a sordid showcase for human malice, nastiness, and depravity. But some of it is still positive and amusing, better than TV and newspapers, anyway.


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712 Responses to One Hundred and Ninety Eighth Blog Post

  1. ulvfugl says:

    From China to Saudi Arabia, today’s authoritarian regimes are suddenly and covertly abducting people, including well-known figures and high-ranking officials, to be detained or worse. It’s an old and effective tactic for silencing opponents, but those reviving its use may end up regretting their decision.

    Africa’s youngest billionaire was kidnapped in a shocking early morning assault in the streets of Tanzania outside of an affluent hotel Thursday morning in what appeared to have been a carefully planned abduction.

    Tanzanian police remain on high alert and are reportedly scouring the country for 43-year old mogul Mohammed Dewji — who runs the METL group, a family business that operates across six African countries in diverse industries as trading, agriculture, manufacturing, energy and petroleum, and financial services, among others.

    Dewji was reported by the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation as walking into the Colosseum Hotel and Fitness Club in Oyster Bay in Dar es Salaam, the country’s capital, for his routine gym session during the early morning hours, when two white men and an unknown number of others in two cars sped up to the front of hotel, fired weapons into the air, and nabbed him and quickly drove away.

  2. ulvfugl says:

    They aren’t the first to search for the cache. Generations of treasure hunters have tried to find the gold, which is believed to have been lost or stolen around the time of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, when the Union Army was attempting to transport it from West Virginia to Philadelphia.

    The Paradas spent five years digging in a cave on state land and two more years drilling atop the cave before going to the FBI in January with their evidence.

    Last March, feeling quite certain they had found the treasure’s hiding place, the Paradas led the FBI to the spot.

    They showed agents how their sophisticated metal detector went crazy when aimed at the spot where they believed the gold was hidden.

    Within a month, the FBI had hired an outside firm to conduct an underground scan using a device called a gravimeter. The scan identified a large metallic mass with the density of gold, according to the Paradas and Warren Getler, an author and journalist who’s been working with them, reports the Associated Press.

    The Paradas and Getler said the FBI agreed to let them observe the excavation, but then confined them to their car so they were unable to watch the digging.

    At the end of the excavation, the FBI led the father-son duo to an empty hole, writes the AP:

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    Some of the most racist commentary in the last 70 years poured out of ‘liberal’ news corporations which support Hillary and the DNC gang. The inability to see themselves in the mirror reminds me of vampires who can’t do this, either. The DNC rage over Trump poaching former black ‘slaves’ who only supported DNC gang members, is Titanic and very funny. Meanwhile, Hollywood stars continue to plunge off the social cliff by openly and repeatedly attacking President Trump and ALL men, demanding Weinstein be put in prison for having consensual sex with prostitute actresses who thought this would…and it did…work to give them a jump on women who were not prostitutes.

  11. ulvfugl says:

    The diggers have gone — but in the aftermath there are plenty of stones which can be examined

    This is from the 2017 Report and funding application from MPP, on behalf of the project called
    “The Welsh origins of Stonehenge” [RFF-2017-23]
    Principal Investigator: Michael Parker Pearson
    Professor, University College London, Institute of Archaeology

  12. ulvfugl says:

    There’s no doubt about it, the fairies are there. My own daughter saw them in a field near Knocksouna – a host of them, little people wearing red coats. Of course they never appear to people in sin, and they never harm the innocent.

  13. ulvfugl says:


    The horsehair blanket is an interesting twist. Assuming the coloration of the hair coat is in fact bay, then we should assume that the horsehair blanket was made from the hair coat of a domesticated horse.

    Archaeozoologist Laura Kaagan has done work on the Beaker period horses and believes the Exmoor pony to be similar in form, if not an unimproved descendant of those early Beaker period horses. Hopefully we will see some genetic testing of this horsehair blanket since we can be fairly sure of its color and utilization by the Beakers. Although I’m not too optimistic about genetic analysis on domestics, we may get some surprise relations to the Exmoor.

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    Storm Callum continues to batter many parts of Wales.

    This weekend has so far seen floods, torrential rain, travel disruption and hazardous driving conditions.

    A man has died after a landslide in Carmarthenshire .

    Dyfed Powys Police are advising members of the public to only travel if it is essential.

    Carmarthenshire is one of the worst hit areas by Storm Callum, torrential rain has caused rivers to burst their banks and towns and villages have flooded.

  17. ulvfugl says:

    As for Russiagate itself, just try to find anyone involved who’s actually Russian. The only basis for the widespread assumption that any material in the Dirty Dossier that underlies the whole operationoriginated with Russia is the claim of Christopher Steele, the British “ex” spy who wrote it, evidently in collaboration with people at the US State Department and Fusion GPS. (The notion that Steele, who hadn’t been in Russia for years, would have Kremlin personal contacts is absurd. How chummy are the heads of the American section of Chinese or Russian intelligence with White House staff?)

    While there are no obvious Russians in Russiagate there’s no shortage of Brits. These include (details at the link):

    Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Russia
    Stefan Halper, a dual US-UK citizen.
    Ex-MI6 Director Richard Dearlove.
    Robert Hannigan, former director of GCHQ; there is reason to think surveillance of Trump was conducted by GCHQ as well as by US agencies under FISA warrants. Hannigan abruptly resigned from GCHQ soon after the British government denied the agency had engaged in such spying.
    Alexander Downer, Australian diplomat (well, not British but remember the Five Eyes!).
    Joseph Mifsud, Maltese academic and suspected British agent.

    At present, the full role played by those listed above is not known. Release of unredacted FISA warrant requests by the Justice Department, which President Trump ordered weeks ago, would shed light on a number of details. Implementation of that order was derailed after a request by – no surprise – British Prime Minister Theresa May. Was she seeking to conceal Russian perfidy, or her own underlings’?

    It would be bad enough if Russiagate were the sum of British meddling in American affairs with the aim of torpedoing relations with Moscow. (And to be fair, it wasn’t just the UK and Australia. Also implicated are Estonia, Israel, and Ukraine.) But there is also reason to suspect the same motive in false accusations against Russia with respect to the supposed Novichok poisonings in England has a connection to Russiagate via a business associate of Steele’s, one Pablo Miller, Sergei Skripal’s MI6 recruiter. (So if it turns out there is any Russian connection to the dossier, it could be from Skripal or another dubious expat source, not from the Russian government.) Skripal and his daughter Yulia have disappeared in British custody. Moscow flatly accuses MI6 of poisoning them as a false flag to blame it on Russia.

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    From the weather weirding department: (Citing a NOAA hurricane discussion at 5:00 am AST) “a tropical storm warning has been issued for (Madeira)) island. It is the first known tropical storm warning for that place, and there are no known tropical storms in the historical record anywhere within 100 miles of that island, with the closest being Vince of 2005.” And there is a lonnnnnnnnnnnng historical record in Madeira. Perhaps the first tropical cyclone to ever directly impact Madeira in its long history. Yep, the weather patterns are changing.

  20. ulvfugl says:

    Saudi Arabia warned on Sunday it would respond to any “threats” against it as its stock market crashed the most since 2016 after President Trump’s warning of “severe punishment” over the disappearance of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

    On Saturday, Trump said the U.S. could take “very, very powerful, very strong, strong measures” against the country if its leaders are found responsible for the Saudi citizen’s fate. The kingdom, which denies its involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, announced it would retaliate against any punitive measures with an even “stronger” response, the Saudi Press Agency reported, citing an official it didn’t identify.

    “The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether through economic sanctions, political pressure or repeating false accusations,” the kingdom’s statement said. “The kingdom also affirms that if it is (targeted by) any action, it will respond with greater action.”

    1 minute ago
    Consider this scenario:

    This is all theater.

    Khashoggi is a CIA asset with longstanding ties to the British royals, Al Qaeda, OBL, and the old guard Saudis purged by MbS, not to mention the Clintons and his current employer WaPo.

    Perhaps he is being interrogated, perhaps being held to stall a deep state October surprise. But exposure of the real reason for his detention would harm the interests of Khashoggi and his allies. This provides Trump and MbS with useful leverage.

    As a matter of public relations, Trump will talk tough, MbS will talk tough, and it will all blow over.



    2 minutes ago
    Wait a minute. The Washington Post is owned by the world’s richest man, right? If this journalist is so valuable, then let him pay to either get him back or find out what happened to him. Why is everyone in an uproar over this? I thought today’s journalists mostly spewed lies anyways. So – what’s really going on here?



    6 minutes ago

    “ … Saudi Arabia has traditionally been one of Trump’s closest foreign allies, the US president made a point of visiting the kingdom on his first overseas trip as president and has touted arms sales to Saudi Arabia. … ”

    “ … The escalation in tension between the two allies, … “

    As I’ve pointed-out, at least 15 times over the years at zh, USA and Saudi Arabia are not allies, have never been allies, and probably never will be allies. They have only ever operated briefly in ad-hoc coalitions that then lapsed, once mutual military or strategic objectives were met.

    Saudi Arabia is not aligned with the USA.

    USA is not aligned with Saudi Arabia.

    They have never been formal allies. Beyond that it’s all business, with occasional cooperation phases to get along better.

    The only people who keep making this stupid fake-claim that they are mutual actual “allies” are ****-stirring anti-western bloggers, and mainstream ‘journalists’, who should know a lot better. And if they don’t know the difference should be fired from their position.

    You’re all apparently idiots.

  21. ulvfugl says:

    In short: Anything could happen after Sunday, up to and including Merkel’s fall.

    As ING echoes (full preview below), regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s elections, be prepared for a political landslide with a long-term impact on German national politics: a dramatic defeat of the CSU would first lead to an earthquake in Bavaria, foreshadowing future political developments and structural shifts at the national level; an unexpected comeback of the CSU would probably prompt a political landslide in Berlin.

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    Current distribution of sites with T-shaped pillars and with simple limestone stelae (modified after Schmidt 2006; Copyright DAI).

    The characteristic element of Göbekli Tepe´s architecture are the T-shaped pillars. In the older Layer III (10th millenium BC) the monolithic pillars weigh tons and reach heights between 4 m (pillars in the stone circles) and 5.5 m (central pillars). The T-shape of the pillars is clearly an abstract depiction of the human body seen from the side. Evidence for this interpretation are the low relief depictions of arms, hands and items of clothing like belts and loinclothes on some of the pillars. Often the pillars bear further reliefs, mostly depictions of animals, but also of numerous abstract symbols.
    Layer III is supraposed by layer II, dating to the 9th millenium BC. This layer is not characterised by big round enclosures, but by smaller, rectangular buildings. The number and the height of the pillars are also reduced. In most cases only the two central pillars remain, the biggest measuring around 1,5 m.

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  26. ulvfugl says:

    The disappearance of the former Saudi journalist, presumably in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, last week, is causing a diplomatic and strategic conflict between the West and Saudi Arabia of unprecedented levels. British spy-novel writers John LeCarre and Ian Fleming would have been flabbergasted these days, when looking at the growing crisis surrounding Saudi Arabia’s international standing and the position of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The possible role of the Royals in the abduction of Khashoggi, supported by the Saudi Royal Court and secret services, will not blow over without leaving immense scars. The current crisis will not just have possible repercussions for the Kingdom, as its international standing is being threatened, it was also influence the power game currently ongoing in the Royal Palace.

    Without even knowing the real facts behind the disappearance of Khashoggi, one thing is clear; the rosy halo surrounding the Young Prince in Riyadh has been removed by force.

  27. ulvfugl says:

    “With social media, there’s software that can scroll through all of [the threats] at a much faster rate than any human can do it, so in some regards it makes it easier. But the bread and butter of what we do is the human element—and the people that work the mission—and that’s never going to change,” Special Agent Gibson told the Daily Beast.

    The situation grew tense – as the Secret Service still wasn’t sure of the operative’s pinpoint location 20 minutes prior to Air Force One touching down in Manilla. “What is going on proactively to track this guy down?” Special Agent Ragan shouted into a phone. “I need an update. Now.”

    The operative was eventually tracked down to Luneta Park – situated around a mile north of Trump’s hotel, where the suspect is reportedly with “an associate.” After the Secret Service informed the Philippine National Police (PNP), the suspects were apprehended.

    “With technology, that was one of the things that was a blessing for us, because we were able to know that he was moving close to us, where he was, and track him. That was a huge piece of stopping the threat,” Special Agent Ragan tells me.

    He adds, “Of course, we had a lot of help from the locals—and that’s an essential key to it that can’t be understated, is how great these foreign governments are, or even locals. If we go to Topeka, Kansas, the local law enforcement is such a help. We get so much support from the host committee, or the host country.” -Daily Beast

  28. ulvfugl says:

    Speaking with Fox News on Sunday, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) said “I’m not surprised that Glenn Simpson is taking the Fifth,” adding “He probably should. He’s in real legal jeopardy. Very clearly someone is not telling the truth.”

    Simpson, who investigated the Trump campaign on behalf of the DNC and Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, informed Congress on Thursday that he will plead the Fifth to avoid speaking with members of the House Judiciary and House Oversight & Government Committee in an interview set for Tuesday.

    “The reason for that … is that Glenn Simpson had previously testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee that he never met with Bruce Ohr or discussed with Bruce Ohr the Steele dossier prior to the October FISA application in 2016 or the 2016 presidential election,” said Ratcliffe, a member of the House Judiciary panel. -Daily Caller

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