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The Stone of Many Faces (or The Makapan Pebble)
Image credit and © Brett Eloff (University of Witwatersrand)
 
Writing in The Art NewspaperMartin Bailey, reports –
 
Some three million years ago a humanoid in southern Africa stumbled upon a naturally formed stone in the shape of a head and carried it to a nearby cave. The Makapan Pebble, also known as the Stone of Many Faces, was most likely found by an Australopithecus africanus, an ape-like species with some early human characteristics, which became extinct around two million years ago.
 
The Makapan (or Makapansgat) Pebble, which has never been displayed, will be exhibited for the first time at the British Museum in London this month in a show entitled South Africa: the Art of a Nation (27 October-26 February 2017). The stone belongs to the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, where it is kept in storage. John Giblin, the British Museum’s co-curator of the show, says the pebble “is the perfect size to hold in the palm of the hand”.
 
Full article here.
   
 
 
Australopithecus afarensis, a species of hominin thought to be a direct ancestor of modern humans
Image credit Science Photo Library
 
Rebecca Morelle, Science Correspondent for BBC News, reports that scientists have unearthed a new species of ancient human in the Afar region of Ethiopia. “Researchers discovered jaw bones and teeth, which date to between 3.3m and 3.5m years old. It means this new hominin was alive at the same time as several other early human species, suggesting our family tree is more complicated than was thought.
 
“The study is published in the journal Nature. The new species has been called Australopithecus deyiremeda, which means “close relative” in the language spoken by the Afar people. The ancient remains are thought to belong to four individuals, who would have had both ape and human-like features…”
 
More here.
   
 
 
The Malapa site, August 2011. Site of discovery of Australopithecus sediba
Photo by Lee R. Berger. Source Wikimedia Commons
 
April Holloway co-owner, editor and writer of Ancient-Origins, reports May 9 on possibly the oldest human skin so far discovered –
 
A team of scientists investigating early human species in an ancient cave near Johannesburg, South Africa, have revealed that preserved tissue found on a 2-million-year-old fossil may be the oldest sample of human skin ever recovered. The finding may reveal new information about the species and about our human origins.
 
The sample came from the remains of 4ft 2 inch tall male juvenile belonging to the species known as Australopithecus sediba, which were recovered in 2008 within an ancient cave in the Malapa Nature Reserve, situated in the ‘Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site’.  The area is important as nearly a third of the entire evidence for human origins in Africa comes from just a few sites in this region.
 
Full Ancient-Origins article here.
    
 
 
Reproduction of Australopithecus afarensis in the CosmoCaixa Science Museum, Barcelona, Spain
Source Wikimedia Commons
 
 
Irina Slav, writing for the New Historian, reports on an exciting find of stone tools predating Homo Genus –
 
US archaeologists digging in Kenya say they have discovered the oldest tools ever, dating back 3.3 million years. This means they were made 700,000 years before the first signs of human presence on the planet, suggesting that our primate ancestors, the Australopitheci, were capable of making and using tools, and the Homo genus was not the first species to discover how to do this.
 
Lead researcher Sonia Harmand, an archaeologist at Stony Brook University, said the team found the site, near lake Turkana in northern Kenya, by accident four years ago after taking a wrong turn. They noticed several stone tools on the surface of the earth, and got digging. Their work yielded 20 more artefacts that were underground, and as many as 130 on the surface. These included cores – chunks of rock from which pieces are chipped to make tools, anvils and flakes (small pieces of stone used as tools). According to Harmand, the pieces bore marks of deliberate manipulation, so they could not have been the result of accidental fracture.
 
Full article here.
   

Portable wooden shrine from Ethiopia?
Front 10.5cm x 8cm x 2.5cm approx. when closed
Private collection Great Britain

Portable wooden shrine showing (centre) the Archangel Michael?
11.5cm x 10.5cm x 2.5cm approx. when open
Private collection Great Britain

Portable wooden shrine
Back 10.5cm x 8cm x 2.5cm approx. when closed
Private collection Great Britain

 

Timbuktu manuscripts showing mathematical and astronomical observations. Source Wikimedia

Writing in The Guardian today, Luke Harding reports on the torching of a library in Timbuktu containing thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts.

Islamist insurgents retreating from the ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu have set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts, some dating back to the 13th century, in what the town’s mayor described as a “devastating blow” to world heritage. Hallé Ousmani Cissé told the Guardian that al-Qaida-allied fighters on Saturday torched two buildings where the manuscripts were being kept. He added: “This is terrible news. The manuscripts were a part not only of Mali’s heritage but the world’s heritage. By destroying them they threaten the world.”

The manuscripts were being kept in two different locations – an old warehouse and a new South Africa-funded research centre, the Ahmed Baba Institute. Both buildings were burned down, the mayor said. Asked whether any of the manuscripts might have survived, he replied: “I don’t know.” The manuscripts survived for centuries in Timbuktu on the edge of the Sahara hidden in wooden trunks, boxes beneath the sand and caves. The majority are written in Arabic, with some in African languages, and one in Hebrew, and cover a diverse range of topics including astronomy, poetry, music, medicine and women’s rights. The oldest dated from 1204.

Full article here.

 

One of many ancient tombs in Timbuktu (Mali, West Africa) under threat. Image credit AFP

Baba Ahmed writing in today’s Independent reports that –

Despite international condemnation, the radical Islamic faction controlling the northern Malian outpost of Timbuktu continued destroying the city’s ancient tombs today, laying waste to the city’s five-hundred-year-old heritage. The destruction began on Saturday, after the al-Qa’ida-linked faction Ansar Dine secured its hold on the three main towns in northern Mali, including Timbuktu. They descended on the tombs of the city’s Sufi saints with axes and shovels, as well as automatic weapons, saying that they were idolatrous. Their destruction spree continued today. “This morning, the Islamists continued breaking the mausoleums. This is our patrimony, recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco,” said Aboubacrine Cisse, a resident of the town who slipped outside on Monday to witness the destruction. “They are continuing to destroy all the tombs of all the saints of Timbuktu, and our city counts 333 saints,” he said.

The UN cultural agency has called for an immediate halt to the destruction of the sacred tombs. Irina Bokova, who heads the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, cited in a statement Saturday reports that the centuries-old mausoleums of Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi, Moctar and Alpha Moya had been destroyed. Meeting in St. Petersburg in Russia, Unesco’s World Heritage Committee, last week placed the mausoleums on its list of sites in danger at the request of Mali’s government.

Full article here. 

Video report AlJazeera English

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