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 on: August 20, 2017, 05:53:25 PM 
Started by out_of_Zion - Last post by DMayers
I did some more research and I came across fossil records and some other convincing info. So I'm good now.

 on: August 18, 2017, 11:46:48 AM 
Started by mdw-ntr - Last post by mdw-ntr
Nothing Could Prepare Me For Filming Mongolia’s Shocking Subculture Of Fascists

Mongolia is a country I have always been intrigued by. It seemed to me an impossibly exotic place with a wild independence of spirit that allowed it to maintain an ancient nomadic way of life despite being wedged between China and the once mighty Soviet Union. Perhaps inspired by a sense of romanticism, I imagined Mongolia as a nation of proud horsemen inspired by the legendary deeds of Genghis Khan riding the steppes, drinking vodka and living in felt tents. So I was quite taken aback by images that had emerged from Ulan Bator of Mongolians in Nazi uniforms. Looking more closely we began to sense that this curious and alarming phenomenon was actually a symptom of a nation going through the kind of painful changes that many nations with small populations relative to their land mass experience in the face of globalization and climate change. Sitting on some of the world’s largest reserves of coal and wedged between Russia and China, it seemed Mongolia could be falling victim to the curse of resources. We decided to investigate.

Arriving at the Bayangol Hotel in downtown Ulan Bator, the significance of Mongolia’s resource riches were immediately obvious - from the suited Chinese businessmen holding whispered meetings in the lobby to the more gregarious Australian mining engineers cracking jokes among a group of Mongolian women downstairs in the basement bar. And the effect of the mining boom on Mongolia’s fragile democracy was also soon made apparent. As we settled in to the bar to meet our local fixer and plan the shoot, the big screen TV (which was tuned to a news channel owned by Buttulga Khaltmaa, the same politician and businessman who owned the hotel we were in) began to show pictures of a SWAT team amassing outside our front door. We left our drinks and went out to the car park to find a crowd had gathered to watch as armed police raided Khaltmaa’s office. Shortly afterwards the fixer discovered that first his wife had been arrested because of her association with Khaltmaa. It seemed Khaltmaa had become embroiled in a corruption scandal driven by his criticism of the government selling off Mongolia’s natural resources to foreign investors. Not for the first time making this series, the story had come to us.

Within hours of our arrival we were at the centre of a Mongolian media storm - the entire country’s press were soon camped outside our hotel with a large number of Khaltmaa’s supporters - including most of the national wrestling team each the size of a small family car. To say the least it was a surreal moment for us, but for our fixer it was a good deal more serious. The next day he decided to take his son and leave the country. Our translator was next on the list and after a tense few days being shadowed by the security services he too was arrested and taken in for questioning.

The next day, the first day of our shoot, was April 20th - Hitler’s birthday. We had heard that Mongolia’s far right groups sometimes gathered to celebrate the event with a procession through town. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the sight that greeted us on a patch of waste ground on the edge of the city. Dozens of Mongolian Nazis were gathering in cars and motorbikes - dressed in replica SS uniforms. Filming this event was to open a window on a shocking subculture of fascists not afraid to use violence to preserve what they saw as the purity of the Mongolian race against pollution by foreigners. Amidst the proliferation of extreme nationalist organisations, we discovered one group, led by a seven times national wrestling champion who took it upon themselves to patrol Chinese businesses. We filmed with them as they tore across the countryside in a cavalcade of muscle cars their black bomber jackets emblazoned with a Swastika inspired insignia launching raids on remote rural brick factories where they suspected illegal Chinese migrants were working. And we learned from one victim of vigilante violence how the anti-foreign sentiment was growing throughout the population.

The more we talked to members and supporters of these far right vigilante groups the more we heard complaints of how their natural resources were being sold out from beneath their feet by a corrupt political elite and about their fear of being taken over by their vast and powerful neighbor to the south. As in many poor or middle income countries sitting on vast mineral wealth, the income generated by the sale of natural resources in Mongolia tends to make a small elite fantastically rich without transforming the economic prospects of the majority. Combined with the visible presence of international business owners and migrant workers, this has led some to adopt extreme nationalist views. But in Mongolia there is a further twist to this familiar tale.

Mongolia is one of the most vulnerable countries on earth to climate change. The fragile grasslands which sustained the nomadic herding way of life for millennia is very sensitive to changes in rainfall and temperature. Over the past twenty years the decline in summer rain and the increasing frequency of winter storms has driven tens of thousands of herders off the land to seek work in the capital. The steady stream of new arrivals in the tented slums that surround the city only serves to increase the sense among some that Mongolia is a country under threat, a country at risk of losing its identity. There is an enormous irony in the fact that burning their huge reserves of coal is only serving to speed up the process that could soon see the end of the way of life many Mongolians regard as their defining characteristic.

(Mongolia's Neo-Nazis are called the Tsagaan Khass)


 on: August 17, 2017, 09:33:49 AM 
Started by mdw-ntr - Last post by mdw-ntr

Can an app stop you getting pregnant? And can it help you to conceive?
Gillian Terzis investigates fertility tech

Humanity has gone to great lengths to prevent pregnancy. The Ancient Egyptians used mashed crocodile dung as a vaginal suppository. Contraceptive devices deployed in the 19th century included the womb veil, a precursor to the diaphragm, and the Mizpah pessary, a cervical cap made from vulcanised rubber. Early condoms were as thick as the inner tube of a bicycle tyre. Sex in such gear hardly seems worth the effort. Until the pill became widely available in the 1960s, women douched with Lysol, a household disinfectant.

The pill revolutionised women’s reproductive health: it transformed attitudes to sex and allowed women to take control of their bodies. But since its introduction, advances in contraceptive technology have stagnated while hormonal contraceptives continue to have significant shortcomings: side-effects include depression, weight gain, unpredictable bleeding and a higher risk of developing blood clots. Intrauterine devices (IUDs), an effective mechanical alternative to chemicals, can lead to perforation of the uterus and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Now digital technology is offering a less disruptive solution. Earlier this year, Natural Cycles, created by Elina Berglund, formerly a physicist at CERN, and her husband Raoul Scherwizl, became the first fertility-tracking app to be approved for prescription by doctors as a contraceptive device in Britain and the European Union. It draws on the fertility-awareness method, which identifies the crucial stages in a woman’s menstrual cycle through physiological fluctuations. When followed diligently, the method has been shown to be as effective as the pill. Two clinical trials of Natural Cycles reported results in line with these findings. The studies, which surveyed more than 4,000 women aged between 20 and 35, found that the app had an efficacy rate of 99.5%.

Natural Cycles, like most fertility trackers, requires users to take their basal – or resting – temperature each morning (it recom­mends taking your temperature before getting out of bed for accurate results, as urination will alter the reading). Its algorithm combines this measurement with information about cycle irregularities and other temperature fluctuations to pinpoint windows of fertility. A colour-coded calendar helps you schedule your sex life: you can do it unprotected on a green day, as the algorithm has determined that you are not fertile. On a red day, a condom is recommended.

Fertility-tracking apps can be used to help people to conceive as well – you simply target the red days. Natural Cycles can also inform you at a very early stage if you’re pregnant. After a woman ovulates, her temperature rises as more progesterone is released. If conception has been successful, progesterone continues to be secreted to encourage the growth of the fetus. Natural Cycles is able to determine whether the user has been running a temperature for longer than expected. At that point, she is prompted to take a pregnancy test and, once the result has been confirmed, Natural Cycles reconfigures its interface to count down to the baby’s due date.

Birth-control and fertility aids are a lucrative business. A study conducted by Transparency Market Research estimates the current market for contraceptive products is worth $21.5bn. Lots of apps have bloomed in this market but many have been criticised for being little more than glorified period trackers, merely recording menstrual days rather than calculating the window of fertility. Those that do work tend to be better at preventing a pregnancy than at planning one (you can avoid getting pregnant simply by eschewing sex; but having sex at an opportune moment will not guarantee pregnancy as the underlying fertility of participants is a determining factor). Lefa Singleton Norton tested several different fertility trackers before settling on Clue. “It seemed the least garish visually and had the functionality I wanted,” she says. Clue’s user interface has a Scandinavian minimalism: its clean lines are very different from the cutesy pinks and floral motifs of its competitors. In contrast, Eve by Glow seems to have taken its cues from Helen Gurley Brown: its icon for sex with a condom is a wax-tipped banana. Both apps record basal temperatures and menstrual cycles as well as sleep patterns, mood, skin quality, sexual intercourse, cramps and cravings.

It took Singleton Norton about two years to fall pregnant. She used Clue in tandem with the Maybe Baby, a Chapstick-sized microscope that identifies periods of peak ovulation by measuring oestrogen levels in saliva. “Having one place to collect all the data and be able to see patterns in a visual way helped me figure out what my cycles were like, which was pretty important given they didn’t adhere to any formula in ‘trying to conceive’ books or websites,” Singleton Norton says. The app made her feel “more in control”, but “a large part of that was just the sense of having something to do when, as in our case, you can fall pregnant but it just takes for ever.”

It’s clear from talking to users that the psychological effects of these apps are complex. Apps certainly provide less reassurance or certainty than a visit to the doctor; and too much screen time can make some women even more anxious about their fertility status. Critics also worry about the data stored on these apps. How will companies use such highly intimate and sensitive information? Yet many women find that greater knowledge about their bodies is empowering. Kelly Heylen, a gallerist and user of Ovia, yet another app, finds fertility tracking “enlightening”. “I feel much more in control of my reproductive health,” she says. She also believes that the benefits of collecting such data extend beyond the individual. “I quite like the fact that my aggregate data may be used in scientific research, as this research may lead to higher success rates for other women.”

Fertility tech is only going to get better. Natural Cycles’ competitors are finding ways to eliminate human error altogether: the YONO, for instance, tracks your fertility and vital signs while nestled in your ear. And beyond the immediate, practical advantages, the rich, real-time profiles of women these apps provide – demystifying the female body and debunking myths surrounding fertility – are a boon for users and professionals alike. And they’re now at our fingertips.


 on: August 16, 2017, 12:25:23 AM 
Started by Jahirae - Last post by Jahirae
ok I'd have to read it over

 on: August 15, 2017, 10:51:48 PM 
Started by Iniko Ujaama - Last post by mdw-ntr
Interesting. Here's an interesting alternative or additional view:

Famous Porn Director Reveals the Jaw-Dropping Truth about Porn:
Seymore Butts has seen it all in his 20-plus years in the biz, and he’s about to burst your porn bubble

To the typical civilian watching porn, the stars can come across as sexual super-heroes. I know this because I was once a civilian watching a lot of porn.

I still remember the thoughts that ran through my head back then. ‘How does he do that? Jeez, his penis is big! Wow, look at her perfect body! She’s insatiable!’

And that’s a good thing. As a director, I hope that’s what viewers are thinking when watching one of my movies. I plan, cast, shoot, direct, and edit them specifically to induce those type of thoughts. I create fantasies.

The problems start when viewers forget that these are fantasies and lose perspective. They have insecurities about themselves and their own sexual abilities. They start thinking things like, ‘I wish my penis was that big! I wish my girlfriend would do that! I wish I could be that spontaneous and erect on demand!’

Well guess what? The porn you see on your computer or TV screens aren’t an accurate reflection of what happens in real life. I don’t just mean your life, I’m talking about the porn actors creating all that impossible sex you’re watching. You’re only seeing a small fraction of what really went on.

Prepare to learn some hard truths.

Big Penises

Yes, most of the male performers in porn have large salamis. You may be impressed with their size, but you know who isn’t as excited by a gigantic cock? The women in porn.

There are only a certain percentage of women who can actually handle and enjoy an abnormally large bratwurst. I encounter situations like this constantly when I’m filming, and I see the signs when I watch others adult movies.

There’s the obvious grimace of pain on the actress’ face—because he’s way too big for her, and it hurts—or the less obvious woman’s hand on the man’s hip to prevent him from penetrating too deep.

I usually edit out these “pain indicators,” because at least for me, it’s distracting. It takes away from the fantasy and just reminds you that these are actors doing a job, and sometimes that job can be a pain in the ass . . . or vagina.

Marathon Sex

We have become accustomed to watching porn studs pound away at their co-stars for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes.

What you don’t see is what happens before the cameras start rolling. Like the pill popping and penis injecting. In my experience, 95% of the male performers use some sort of erectile enhancement medication, and the ones who don’t are at the bottom of the totem pole.

You only see the finished product, so you don’t see all the stopping and starting that happens during a shoot. The breaks to eat and drink, or catch their breath, or regain an erection, which could also mean popping another pill or sticking another needle into the base of the performer’s penis.

There are bathroom breaks and re-lubing breaks and still-picture-taking breaks. It’s endless.

Truth be told, neither the male or female performers are actually going at it non-stop for anywhere near the periods of time that it seems.

And while many of the male performers are able to last an abnormally long time, under what seem to be the most pleasurable of circumstances, there are consequences.

I dare any man to have sex for long periods of time, 6 to 7 days per week, over a 60-day period. See what happens to your penis.

Now imagine engaging in that amount of sexual activity over a period of years. With such a workload placed on it, the male performers’ penis becomes desensitized to the point where many of them can’t actually ejaculate while having sex.

They need to pull out and reach orgasm manually, or even worse, they develop a tolerance for the erectile dysfunction medications and can’t get it up at all, for work or play.

Spontaneous Anal Sex

Sex in porn is designed to look spontaneous, but nothing could be further from the truth. Especially when it comes to anal sex.

Before a scene, female performers have a lot of advance prep, from doing several enemas (you need to make sure that gigantic cock she's barely tolerating doesn't unleash a tsunami of fresh shit) to reducing or eliminating food consumption anywhere between 4 to 12 hours before their call time.  Because, well, there's nothing worse than shooting an anal scene with an actress who’s full of shit.

Think about that the next time you’re watching sphincter-stretching porn. The actress is probably starving—on the set, we can almost hear her stomach growling—and she's had more enemas that morning than the residents of a nursing home.

Insatiable Libidos

Sure, there are female performers in it purely for the sex, but they are few and far between.

My experience tells me that the majority of women are in porn for the money first, followed closely by the adulation, then the freedom, and then the sex.

Some of them don’t enjoy any of the sex. Some of them are strictly heterosexual and don’t enjoy other girls. Some are lesbians and don’t enjoy sex with guys. Some of them find many of the people they are asked to have sex with unattractive.

But they do it anyway, and they do it well. They have learned to fake it.

Directors ultimately don’t care as long as the performer has the ability to “act” as if she’s enjoying everything she’s doing, which the successful ones do. We know that with good shooting and some creative editing, you’ll never be able to tell the difference.

Female Ejaculation

There’s some debate about whether female ejaculation is even possible. But I can tell you that when it comes to squirting in porn movies, what you see isn’t always what you get.

For every genuine “squirting” scene, there are many, many instances where the girl is actually urinating, or we take a break from filming so the actress can fill her vagina with water using a turkey baster.

Yep, that actually happens.

Sex Without Condoms

Despite the fact that all performers are tested every 14 to 30 days, curable STD’s are rampant within the industry. I know of some performers who catch them so often, they have developed a tolerance for the treatment medications.

This is not an indictment of the individuals involved, it is simply a numbers game. Any individual, in any setting, under any circumstances, who had as much random unprotected sex as a porn star would experience the same.

If you’re ever in doubt, just follow my golden rule; Never have unprotected sex with someone you’re not totally comfortable asking to shave your anus.


 on: August 15, 2017, 09:47:40 PM 
Started by Jahirae - Last post by Tyehimba
This once firm belief was rocked after reading The Groundings with My brothers by Walter Rodney. In this book the Chapter on African History and Culture dispelled the myth that Christianity was of the Europeans. It explained that it originated in Africa and was established by Ethiopian Orthodox Church, tracing it back to the union of Solomon and Sheba recorded in the Kebra Negast.

After rereading the chapter (4) in Walter Rodney's book Grounding with my Brothers, I suspect you misunderstood what he said. Rodney does not say that Christianity originated in Africa. He says that "The Christian nature of the Ethiopian kingdom is traced back to the union of Solomon and Sheba", and he also makes references in the next paragraph to Greek documents which state that in 330 AD, the king of Axum was converted to Christianity by Frumentius, a Syrian bishop. Rodney goes on to talk about the Eithiopian Orthodox Church and their unique features, but does not make the case for it being indigenous to Africa.

 on: August 15, 2017, 08:35:43 PM 
Started by Nakandi - Last post by Nakandi
Uganda's new dress code for civil servants is another "decency" campaign aiming to control women's bodies.
byAnneeth Kaur Hundle
Dr Anneeth Kaur Hundle is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California.

In July, the Ugandan government released a circular from the Ministry of Public Service that imposed a stricter dress code for male and female public servants.

Under these guidelines, men may not wear tight trousers, must wear a jacket and tie and keep their hair short and well-groomed. The dress code for women is much more detailed.

According to the circular, women should not dress in a short skirt that is above the knees and should wear a "smart" long-sleeved or short-sleeved blouse. Cleavage, navel, knees, and back must be covered at all times. The circular also provides guidance on hair, make-up, and nails for Ugandan women: Bright-coloured hair, braids or hair extensions, long nails, or bright or multicoloured nail polish are proscribed.

Violators of the code will receive warnings and women who violate the code are already being sent home from work. Repeat offenders could face disciplinary action.

The dress code guidelines are couched in the language of "decency", the idea of "dressing decently" or "smartly" - language that is often used in the postcolonial British English of former British colonies.

A colonial remnant

Decency campaigns, and the institutionalisation of dress codes, are not new to the East African and broader African postcolonial context. Historically, colonial civilising missions sought to instill European Victorian norms of "decency" and "respectability" within African indigenous societies, often seeking to "modernise" the minds, bodies, and psyches of African men and women.

One core arena of these practices was dress: nakedness or other forms of indigenous dress were viewed as "backwards", "primitive" and "traditional" in the worldview of the Western coloniser.

Full article: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/08/uganda-colonial-style-dress-code-170808072148083.html

 on: August 15, 2017, 05:45:24 PM 
Started by Nakandi - Last post by Nakandi
Date: June 18, 2011
Source: Emory University

When populations around the globe started turning to agriculture around 10,000 years ago, regardless of their locations and type of crops, a similar trend occurred: The height and health of the people declined.

"This broad and consistent pattern holds up when you look at standardized studies of whole skeletons in populations," says Amanda Mummert, an Emory graduate student in anthropology.

Mummert led the first comprehensive, global review of the literature regarding stature and health during the agriculture transition, to be published by the journal Economics and Human Biology.

"Many people have this image of the rise of agriculture and the dawn of modern civilization, and they just assume that a more stable food source makes you healthier," Mummert says. "But early agriculturalists experienced nutritional deficiencies and had a harder time adapting to stress, probably because they became dependent on particular food crops, rather than having a more significantly diverse diet."

She adds that growth in population density spurred by agriculture settlements led to an increase in infectious diseases, likely exacerbated by problems of sanitation and the proximity to domesticated animals and other novel disease vectors.

Eventually, the trend toward shorter stature reversed, and average heights for most populations began increasing. The trend is especially notable in the developed world during the past 75 years, following the industrialization of food systems.

"Culturally, we're agricultural chauvinists. We tend to think that producing food is always beneficial, but the picture is much more complex than that," says Emory anthropologist George Armelagos, co-author of the review. "Humans paid a heavy biological cost for agriculture, especially when it came to the variety of nutrients. Even now, about 60 percent of our calories come from corn, rice and wheat."

In 1984, Armelagos and M. N. Cohen wrote the book, "Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture," which drew from more than 20 studies to describe an increase in declining health and nutritional diseases as societies shifted from foraging to agriculture.

The book was controversial at the time, but the link between the agricultural transition and declining health soon became widely accepted in what was then the emerging field of bioarcheology.

The current review was undertaken to compare data from more recent studies involving different world regions, crops and cultures. The studies included populations from areas of China, Southeast Asia, North and South America and Europe. All of the papers used standardized methods for assessing health at the individual level and examined how stressors were exhibited within the entire skeleton, rather than a concentration on a particular skeletal element or condition.

"Unless you're considering a complete skeleton, you're not getting a full picture of health," Mummert says. "You could have an individual with perfect teeth, for example, but serious markers of infection elsewhere. You could see pitting on the skull, likely related to anemia or nutritional stress, but no marks at all on the long bones."

Adult height, dental cavities and abscesses, bone density and healed fractures are some of the markers used to try to paint a more complete picture of an individual's health.

"Bones are constantly remodeling themselves," Mummert says. "Skeletons don't necessarily tell you what people died of, but they can almost always give you a glimpse into their ability to adapt and survive."

While the review further supports the link between early agricultural practices and declining stature and health, it's important to keep re-evaluating the data as more studies are completed, Mummert says.

One confounding factor is that agriculture was not adopted in an identical fashion and time span across the globe. In some ancient societies, such as those of the North American coasts, crops may have merely supplemented a seafood diet. "In these cases, a more sedentary lifestyle, and not necessarily agriculture, could have perpetuated decreased stature," Mummert says.

The way the human body adapted to changes we made in the environment 10,000 years ago could help us understand how our bodies are adapting now, she says.

Some economists and other scientists are using the rapid physiological increases in human stature during the 20th century as a key indicator of better health.

"I think it's important to consider what exactly 'good health' means," Mummert says. "The modernization and commercialization of food may be helping us by providing more calories, but those calories may not be good for us. You need calories to grow bones long, but you need rich nutrients to grow bones strong."


 on: August 13, 2017, 04:37:29 PM 
Started by Nakandi - Last post by Nakandi
There’s a first time for everything: in its preamble, the Paris Agreement on climate change recognized the intrinsic relationship between indigenous people and their environments. Whether they're in Taiga, the Sahel or the rain forests of Africa, America or Asia, what all indigenous people have in common is a deep connection to the natural environments in which they live.

I like to think of nature as our supermarket: it produces the grass we use to feed livestock, the food we eat, the water we drink, and also the medicine we need.

But nature is more than that: it inspires our culture, our traditions, our science and our identity. For instance, traditional knowledge based on observing nature, such as birds, bugs and trees, helps nomad communities to define their seasonal migration. When you’re in a city checking the weather forecast via an app on your smartphone, try to imagine my people, in Chad, far away from any network, anticipating the rain or the wind by looking up at the sky.

This is why we indigenous people are on the frontline of nature conservation. Preserving the balance of the ecosystem has always been the indigenous way of life. Even in the tropical forests of Africa,where some communities use wood products to build settlements, they do so without negatively affecting the nature around them.

First defence against deforestation

In Chad, the seasonal movement of communities helps fertilize the soil, creating a natural barrier against deforestation. Pastoralism has a full role to play in the Sahel green great wall initiative, for instance. For centuries, indigenous people and their communities have helped to combat desertification, following the rhythm of seasons and helping to regenerate vegetation. But while they are first to preserve the environment, indigenous people are also the first to suffer the consequences of climate change.

In Africa, one of the most affected continents, all ecosystems are endangered by global warming. Forests that have survived for centuries today face new pressures. The change in climate threatens the ecosystem's ability to restore itself, while commercial agriculture damages biodiversity and converts primary forest into cultivated areas.

These activities make it hard for indigenous people to protect their environments, and also to preserve their culture, their languages, their knowledge and their unique traditions.

3 ways the Paris Agreement falls short

The survival of the forests, the Sahel ecosystems and those communities that, in Africa and all over the world, live in harmony with nature – are dependent on the full implementation of the Paris Agreement. This may happen in 2020, but only if the agreement is signed by countries that represent 50% of the world’s carbon-dioxide emitters.

Less optimistically, we know that fewer than 20 of the INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions) include commitments related to human rights, and only some of those specify the rights of indigenous people.

It’s clear that when it comes to indigenous people, the Paris Agreement doesn’t go far enough. There are three areas it could improve upon:

Full article: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/indigenous-people-forest-preservation/

 on: August 13, 2017, 04:33:12 PM 
Started by Nakandi - Last post by Nakandi
Excavation of 19,000-year-old hunter-gatherer remains, including a vast camp site, is fuelling a reinterpretation of the greatest fundamental shift in human civilisation – the origins of agriculture.

The moment when the hunter-gatherers laid down their spears and began farming around 11,000 years ago is often interpreted as one of the most rapid and significant transitions in human history – the ‘Neolithic Revolution’.

By producing and storing food, Homo sapiens both mastered the natural world and took the first significant steps towards thousands of years of runaway technological development. The advent of specialist craftsmen, an increase in fertility and the construction of permanent architecture are just some of the profound changes that followed.

Of course, the transition to agriculture was far from rapid. The period around 14,500 years ago has been regarded as the point at which the first indications appear of cultural change associated with agriculture: the exploitation of wild grains and the construction of stone buildings. Farming is believed to have begun in what is known as the Fertile Crescent in the Levant region, which stretches from northern Egypt through Israel and Jordan to the shores of the Persian Gulf, and then occurred independently in other regions of the world at different times from 11,000 years ago.

Recent evidence, however, has suggested that the first stirrings of the revolution began even earlier, perhaps as far back as 19,000 years ago. Stimulating this reinterpretation of human prehistory are discoveries by the Epipalaeolithic Foragers in Azraq Project (EFAP), a group of archaeologists and bioarchaeologists working in the Jordanian desert comprising University of Cambridge’s Dr Jay Stock, Dr Lisa Maher (University of California, Berkeley) and Dr Tobias Richter (University of Copenhagen).

Over the past four years, their research has uncovered dramatic evidence of changes in the behaviour of hunter-gatherers that casts new light on agriculture’s origins, as Dr Stock described: “Our work suggests that these hunter-gatherer communities were starting to congregate in large numbers in specific places, build architecture and show more-complex ritual and symbolic burial practices – signs of a greater attachment to a location and a changing pattern of social complexity that imply they were on the trajectory toward agriculture.”

Fertile Crescent

Working at the fringes of the Fertile Crescent, at sites in the Azraq Basin and the marshlands of Jordan, the EFAP team is excavating the archaeological remains of the hunter-gatherers who occupied the region. Such sites have been under studied, said Dr Stock: “Because these early hunter-gatherers have been perceived as building only transient camp sites, they have been largely disregarded in explanations of the development of agriculture. Instead, excavations have focused on the later ‘Natufian’ period, beginning around 14,500 years ago, since this period more clearly shows cultural precursors of the transition to agriculture.”

Today, the Azraq Basin is a 12,000 sq km area of dusty, wind-blown desert, and a very challenging place to work. Temperatures can soar to 45°C, requiring the researchers to start field work at 5 am and finish by midday when the heat and winds become too strong to allow work to continue.

But when the first humans were leaving Africa, the open grasslands and lush marshlands of the Fertile Crescent teemed with gazelle, antelope and plant life. Given this region is situated at the crossroads between Africa and the rest of the world, it is perhaps unsurprising that it should be the site of regional agricultural innovation.

Few previous archaeological excavations have been carried out in this inhospitable terrain, most instead focusing on regions closer to the Mediterranean. With funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the researchers set out four years ago to redress the balance.

Complex burials

Dr Stock’s expertise lies in the analysis of hunter-gatherer bones. Over the past 15 years, he has analysed over 1,400 skeletons from around the world to understand what it is about early humans that made them such successful colonisers of the natural environment.

One of the most startling of the researchers’ findings in Jordan has been the hunter-gatherer graves. Evidence suggests that, far from simple burials, the hunter-gatherers had elaborate mortuary and sociocultural practices. In one grave in ʻAyn Qasiyya, an adult male was placed in marshland in a sitting position, and was likely to have been tightly wrapped in cloth. A previous finding by another archaeologist at Kharaneh IV was a burial of an older man underneath a hut floor, his age suggesting that he would have required the care of others in life.

At another site, ‘Uyun-al-Hammam, a University of Toronto-based project led by Dr Maher has excavated a total of 11 burials, some of which show elaborate mortuary treatments. Indeed, one grave that includes a human buried together with a fox, said Dr Maher: “suggests a close emotional or symbolic tie between humans and foxes prior to the first domesticated animal – the dog – and shows continuity in burial and social practices with the later Neolithic”. Dr Stock’s study of the human remains demonstrates that these people were ancestral to the later farmers.

The researchers argue that these examples may represent an increasing cultural sophistication and a greater complexity in the relationship between humans and animals – trends that had only previously been identified in later time periods.

Mega camp site

A major focus of the work of the EFAP team over the past four years has been the excavation of the site of Kharaneh IV, in the Azraq Desert of eastern Jordan. The site is much more than the sort of temporary camp site normally ascribed to hunter-gatherer groups. Covering almost two hectares, the 19,000-year-old site was occupied for 1,200 years and is, as Dr Stock described, “so huge, it’s the earliest sign of human activity that is large enough to be visible on Google Earth.”

“To produce the debris of stone tools and bones, in some places almost 3 m deep, we believe that many groups of hunter-gatherers would meet and live together for several months of the year before splitting into mobile groups at other times.”

The team is researching the area in astonishing detail – in a technique known as 100% flotation, every square centimetre excavated is floated to check for plant remains and charcoal. As Dr Richter pointed out: “even very small remains are providing very important clues towards our understanding of the relationship between prehistoric humans and their habitat”.

To date, they have found plant remains, animal bones carved with repeated incised motifs, stones carved with geometric patterns, stone tools in their thousands, hearths, pierced shells and, just recently, oval hut structures. As the work continues, all indications point towards an advanced cultural and technological complexity in the exploitation of bone, shell, plants and architecture. “The size of the site, combined with evidence for huts and other symbolic goods, imply that Kharaneh IV was long-term and repeatedly occupied,” said Dr Stock. “It could be regarded as a precursor to later farming villages.”

The revolution that wasn’t

The team’s discoveries extend many aspects of the behavioural complexity associated with the Neolithic to about 10,000 years earlier, pushing back the true roots of the transition to agriculture.

“On evolutionary timescales, the transition to agriculture can undoubtedly be regarded in revolutionary terms,” said Dr Stock. “But, we can now see this as a culturally dynamic process that began much earlier than previously thought.”

“This picture would not have come together through the excavation of one site alone,” he added. “The burial complexity of ʻUyun-al-Hammam and ʻAyn Qasiyya, together with the architecture and size of the settlement at Kharaneh IV, collectively offer glimpses of a protracted period in which humans worked through the cultural and biological changes that needed to happen before village life and the systematic exploitation of grain could emerge.”

Source: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/from-foraging-to-farming-the-10000-year-revolution

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