News Briefs 13-09-2004

Put on some thinking music and prepare a beverage of your choice, here's today's news briefs.

Quote of the Day:



Ah, leave the hills of Arcady, Thy satyrs and their wanton play. This modern world hath need of thee.

Oscar Wilde to Pan, from "Pan: Double Villanelle"

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Anonymous's picture

The Spanish and Portugese are more likely to be descendants of the Irish and Scottish rather than ancestors.

Anonymous's picture

Warning: articles from The Onion are not actually "news". Someone should tell those folks that good humor and satire should be based on some level of truth.

khefre's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
9 years 41 weeks

Ahem! Well, I'm not an archaeologist, but it seems to me that these artifacts could be early examples of Chinese exercise balls. They're just about the right size. Used in pairs, they are rolled in the palm in a circle, to stimulate the fingers, promote dexterity, and if the holistic view is embraced, act in a reflexology manner to promote health. I have several pair (no wise cracks), mostly steel with small metal rings inside that chime pleasantly when handled gently. They jangle stridently if roughly handled, giving a clue to their proper use.

Then again, they could be leftover marbles from a really big Chinaman, or early Chinese golf balls. Was Bocce invented in China?

Regards,
khefre

"Come on, you apes; you wanna live forever?" Roman Centurion

khefre's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
9 years 41 weeks

What a great piece about the Paris catacombs. And I kind of understand why the cops &c. are upset, but after all, they didn't hurt anything, if you don't count pinching a few watts here and there. The ingenuity of the Perforated Mexicans, whoever they are, is top-notch, along with the implementation of their plan. Kudos.

I'm lovin' it!

Regards,
khefre

"One pill makes you larger, and the other makes you small; and the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all..." Grace Slick

khefre's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
9 years 41 weeks

I've messed around with self-hypnosis, and although I did get a "relaxation response", that's as far as it went. When I was in college, one of the guys in my dorm was a hypnotist. On a quiet Sunday afternoon, he hypnotized his room-mate while a couple of us watched. No spinning watch or other hokey stuff - just a calm voice leading him into the hynotic state. He was laying relaxed on his bed, and at one point after he was under, the hypnotist had him raise his right leg. It stayed at about 30 degrees off the bed for at least ten minutes, perfectly straight, with no sign of tension, trembling, or strain. When the session was over, the guy said he felt better than he'd ever felt before, and then asked a couple of questions that had been planted as "post-hypnotic suggestions". They were things he wouldn't ask, normally, and as they came out of his mouth, he seemed very perplexed.

Just how effective hypnosis might be as a clinical or therapeutic tool, I'm not sure. I also wonder what dangers lurk while you're in that state of altered conciousness. Bottom line is: I know it works, I've seen it with my own eyes.

Regards,
khefre

"..to sleep, perchance to dream?" Hamlet

Cernig's picture
Member since:
11 May 2004
Last activity:
1 year 37 weeks

Hi all,
The news item on the DNA similiarities between the portugese, spanish, irish and scots has been given two airings and it's been obvious that everyone expected me to get up on my soapbox at some stage, so heres my bit...

The academic definition of a Celt is a speaker of one of the several celtic languages. The Celtic tongues, like most European languages, derived from an universal common language spoken probably between 3000 BC and 2000 BC. Celtic emerged from the so-called Celto-Italic group of Indo-European tongues. (Some of the characteristics which differentiated Italic from Celtic were its use of -um, -us, as in Latin, instead of -on, -os, as in Greek, and the use of 'x' instead of 'ks' or 'sk'. There was also the lack of a 'p' in Celtic and the use of 'a' in place of the Italic 'o'. ) It isn't an ethnic or cultural designator at all although all the celtic language speaking cultures came to possess certain cultural attributes in common, and since the authors of the article Rico posted no doubt know this, I suspect they are being deliberately controversial. The inhabitants of Spain and Portugal, when their lands were known as Iberia, were just as Celtic as any ancient Briton or Irishman and their cultures still contain many aspects of that linguistic families common cultural traits. The truly interesting aspect of the article arises when one cross-references it with other DNA studies showing that the inhabitants of England still contain far more of their Brythonic forebears, a celtic-speaking people, than that of the later Anglo-Saxon or Norman invaders. DNA seems to be incredibly resistant to influxes of invading barbarians. As an aside, this is a finding several peoples recently victims of "ethnic-cleansing" by rape would do well to remember. It might just help them see that the "foreign" children in their midst are just kids, and very much part of their own gene pool.

There, soapbox done with for now :-)

Regards, C

Jameske's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
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2 years 23 weeks

Irish and Scottish are not Celts. Nor are the English or Welsh. There will obviously be a genetic connection between all those people and the celts BUT the celts are descendents rather than ancestors. The Irish, Scottish and Welsh were known as Gadels or Goidels or Gaidheils or Gaels or some such spelling variation. Ireland just happens to hold the history of Europe and nowhere mentioned is Celts. It is an important distinction. Celts and French, fair enough. But the people of the British Isles, definitely not.

Anonymous's picture

Unaccountably fascinated, I just had to dig for more on this story. I emailed an underwater caving group, and here's part of their reply:

The caves that these remains were found in are all inland, not out in the ocean. We enter the caves through cenotes that provide access to some of the longest underwater caves in the world. Most of these caves are within 12 kilometers of the ocean, although there are other underwater caves in the state of Yucatan. The caves are basically underground drainage conduits.

The story that you read about Arturo is somewhat accurate. In fact myself and just a few other people have actually pointed Arturo to these sites which, in some cases, were discovered 10 to 15 years ago. We actually kept them secret to preserve them, although I did study one site rather intensively. We do occasionally find other significant archaeological sites, perhaps on the order of one each two or three years. Most of those sites are Maya related, very few are older. In my opinion, the reason that these remains were found is that the inhabitants of this region were looking for fresh water. Just like today, there was little or no fresh water sources on the surface of the land. They had to descend into these dry caves 8000 years ago (they are now flooded) to gather drinking water. A few "water-collectors" got lost and died. These people may have interned their dead in these caves as well. But they did not live in the caves as far as I can tell. We have found two tools, or what appear to be tools. But that is it. One will not find homes, jewelry, or whatever in the caves due to the inhabitant's technological level.

This type of caving requires extensive training to learn how to survive and navigate this rather unique environment. Of course 9 days of training exposes one to the basics; one really needs experience (another 200 cave dives in this environment) before they are comfortable in working or accomplishing tasks (surveying, photography, exploration, etc.). This is not an environment to be taken lightly. Many untrained divers die in underwater caves each year. These people usually die in the first few hundred feet of the entrance. Even trained divers occasionally make the ultimate
mistake.

I've have been doing this for twenty years and there has been a lot of change in this area... One thing that remains a constant is the position that INAH (the Federal government archaeological and anthropology department) takes with archaeological sites. One must have a handful of permits to perform anything to do with archaeological sites in this country. INAH takes these activities very seriously and does not tolerate any violations - perceived or real. It is a very touchy subject for Mexico and even those of us who have limited official permissions have to be very cautious.

I hope the rest of you TDG fans enjoyed that as much as I did, ;-), even though I still have many unanswered questions. Maybe there's at least one place where the coastal geography of 10,000 or so years ago had a cliff full of caves which invitingly lent itself to long-term habitation, with the inhabitants gradually moving upward as the waters rose. If such a formerly occupied submarine cave system does exist, it's a safe bet that it's remained undisturbed by humans - or by weather - and might have far thinner silt deposits than sites in the open ocean. One might even scope out some likely locations just by politely emailing inquiries to other groups of submarine cavers with websites. From the reply above, I gather cave diving is quite hard, but how much more difficult could it be than dealing with Zahi and a few million tons of sand?

Kat

Rick MG's picture
Member since:
2 May 2004
Last activity:
7 hours 3 min

I'm in a rush right now, and all I can is "Wow!"

My life is so boring. ;-)

Rick

"Read like a butterfly, write like a bee." - Philip Pullman

Anonymous's picture

Well thanks, Rick. I wondered if anybody'd read it.

You wouldn't believe how easy that was. I just did a search for cavers+underwater, clicked on the first site that struck my fancy, and sent one email explaining why I was interested. No telling what-all we could find out from other cavers if I just had more energy to pursue this further.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to see one of their photos. I just can't help thinking that somewhere under water there's bound to be a site that would dazzle us for decades -- one where later generations of fervent believers never had the chance to chisel off the protruding parts.

Kat

Ahh well, as Arthur said in Excalibur, "It's a dream I have."

the shadow's picture
Member since:
24 June 2004
Last activity:
7 years 25 weeks

I always think caves offer such an opportunity for excitement;the thought that maybe you are the first one to see inside.
When you mentioned Kat that they should have taken an extra tank with them I was wondering if there was not enough space for one.
That would make it all the more dangerous.

Did you see the pics of the cave with the huge crystals that were on the net sometime ago, don't know where.

shadows

Anonymous's picture

Hi All,

I just received another email about submarine caves, and found some interesting articles too. I added the bold emphasis and links.

"This area of the Yucatan is basically "flat" when it comes to topography. Even 12 kilometers inland, one only gets into a 6-10 meter altitude. And this holds pretty much true most all the way around the Mexican part of Yucatan Peninsula.

By the way, there was a very interesting discovery made a few years ago on the coast of France (Brittany?) where cave divers entered a cave entrance (deep in depth) at the base of a cliff which eventually led to a dry cave. In the dry cave there were Neo or Paleolithic paintings much like those found in the Lascaux Cave. [I'm reasonably sure he's referring to The Cosquer Cave - with diagram showing underwater entrance.]

Anyway I am sure that Mr. Hancock has researched the archives to find regional MSL plots for 6 - 12,000 years ago. They are not horribly accurate, but accurate enough. Then all he needs to do is match those plots to a geologic survey map and look for limestone strata contact with or at higher altitude than the sea (which would be submerged today). Most all significant caves occur in limestone, the rest occur in lava tubes. In any case he could then send an ROV down to see if there are caves and inspect them if they look promising. But this is an intensive "needle in a haystack" process.

There are "reports" of submarine caves offshore in this area; these are found on the wall that drops vertically to the "bottom" of the Yucatan channel. The openings are
reported at the 250 to 400 feet depth level. They could be old caves which are prior drainage system artifacts. Or then they just may be small shelter caves made from wave action. It would take a submersible to really find out, and mixed gas rebreathers to physically enter them.

The largest problem with this type of cave (when it comes to archaeological evidence) is the sea water is highly corrosive and oxygenated. Organics don't stand much of a chance in this environment that is this close to the surface. And then there are the biological factors that enter into the picture (scavengers, microbes, etc.). The [recently reported skeletal] remains here were found below the halocline (salt and fresh water interface) where no biological factors could play a role. There is no dissolved oxygen in the salt water below the halocline."

Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite from an article, Exploring the Mayan Underworld, at another underwater caving site:

"Over the last twenty years, dedicated cave diving explorers have discovered more than forty submerged cave systems beneath the jungles of Quintana Roo. In total, over 200 miles of submerged passageway have been surveyed and mapped. The three largest underwater cave systems in the world: Sistema Ox Bel Ha, Sistema Nohoch Nah Chich, and Sistema Dos Ojos, all exist within twenty miles of each other."

"Scientists have followed behind the efforts of the explorers."

"From an archeological standpoint, much has been observed but little has been done to provide an explanation for the existence of human and animal remains found deep within these caves. It is not uncommon to find more ‘recent’ Mayan artifacts at the entrances to the caves. Perhaps some of these artifacts predate the Olmec civilization and could shed light on the distribution of human life in pre-Columbian America."

"Our biggest surprise came from the abundance of evidence found to support the fact that a large ancient Mayan population once inhabited the area. In addition to pyramid structures, small temples, platforms, and stairways, near to or within cenotes, we also observed and documented artifacts within the cenotes themselves."

From another article at the same site:

"The combination of geologic events, climatic change and the impact of a large asteroid have lead to the development of an incredibly unique and important ecosystem in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The systems of underground rivers and cenotes are only just beginning to be studied but already they are showing that they play an important role in the transport of fresh water from the inland jungle to the Caribbean Sea. If one were to drive from Cancun to Belize not one bridge would be crossed. There are no superficial rivers or streams at all in the area. All the water within the peninsula is transported through the intricate cave systems that crisscross the peninsula. At this point in time we estimate that close to 350 miles of underground caves have been explored in the area between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Although that may sound like quite a lot there is still quite some work to be done. We hope that the following summaries will help you better understand how the underground rivers were formed. ..."

As to the question of how many air tanks are used -- here's the amazing answer from their FAQs:

"For a typical 'push' exploration dive a diver will have as many as 5-6 tanks in addition to 2 scooters and the required equipment. If you were able to put all of this on a scale you would be looking at about 300 lbs. of gear!!! Of course, we put most of it on once we get in the water. Still, the drag that all of that equipment can create while swimming can be a real...well..drag."

"Why do you cave dive?

This is a fairly hard question to answer as we all do things for different reasons. To be sure, exploring anything is a thrill. We can say without any argument that more people have been on the moon than in Ox Bel Ha! We are the first people to have entered many of these caves since the last ice age, if ever. To enter into a large decorated cave gallery and shine light on it for the first time is beyond comparison."

If I were rich, I'd be out buying scuba gear and signing up for diving and Spanish lessons this afternoon. ;-)

Kat

Anonymous's picture

The Cosquer Cave "contains several dozen works painted and engraved between 27,000 and 19,000 years ago." "Marching along the humid walls are horses, bison, aurochs, ibex and chamois, various members of the cervidae family, a feline, and some as yet unidentified animals. A total of 142 animals."

29,000 year old series of fifty-five stencilled hands, some apparently missing digits, in the Cosquer Cave.

"None of the skeletons of the Upper Paleolithic era found to date had hands with incomplete phalanxes. The most probable hypothesis [for the missing fingers] is that the hands were drawn with bent fingers to represent a sign of greeting or a coded language. This was probably associated with hunting and various rituals, thus similar to the silent language once used by hunting peoples such as the Bushmen and the Australian Aborigines."

Could this be a hint that humans traveled between France and Australia 29,000 years ago?