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Earliest Human Engravings

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Indonesian shell has ‘earliest human engraving’

The markings were more clear in the digital photos than they had been to the naked eye

Zig-zag patterns found on a fossilised shell in Indonesia may be the earliest engraving by a human ancestor, a study has claimed.

The engraving is at least 430,000 years old, meaning it was done by the long-extinct Homo erectus, said the study.

The oldest man-made markings previously found were about 130,000 years old.

If confirmed, experts say the findings published in the journal Nature may force a rethink of how human culture developed.

One of the report’s authors, Stephen Munro, told the BBC it could “rewrite human history”.

“This is the first time we have found evidence for Homo erectus behaving this way,”

Source: BBCNews Read and see more

Tjipetir

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Tjipetir mystery: Why are rubber-like blocks washing up on European beaches?

For the past few years, 100-year-old rubber-like blocks from Indonesia have been mysteriously washing up on beaches in the UK and northern Europe. The Titanic has been suggested as one of the possible sources – but now a beachcomber says she may have solved the puzzle of the Tjipetir blocks.

In the summer of 2012, Tracey Williams was walking her dog along a beach near her home in Newquay, Cornwall, when she spotted a black tablet on the sand, made of something resembling rubber.

It looked like a large chopping board and the word “Tjipetir” was engraved into it. Weeks later, she found another such curiosity on a different beach alongside bales of rubber, washed up in a cove.

Her curiosity piqued, she began to research the origins of these mysterious blocks. What she learned included stories of shipwrecks, an infamous World War One tragedy and the Titanic.

It also transpired that these blocks had been appearing on beaches across northern Europe, baffling everyone who had found them.

There has been speculation in the press as to the source of the washed-up blocks, with the Daily Mail and the Times recently running articles. The French press covered the story in April also.

But Williams believes she has worked out the source of the mystery – and it matches what the UK authorities think too.

Source: BBCNews Read more to find out about this mystery

Friederike Wegert and her children found a block in March 2013 on Borkum, an island off the German coast

When Islam came to Australia

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Few Australians are aware that the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had regular contact with foreign Muslims long before the arrival of Christian colonisers. And Islam continues to exercise an appeal for some Aboriginal peoples today, writes Janak Rogers.

The white lines are faint but unmistakable. Small sailing boats, picked out in white and yellow pigment on the red rocks of the Wellington Range in Arnhem Land, northern Australia, tell a different story from the one most Australians accept as the history of their nation.

They are traditional Indonesian boats known as praus and they brought Muslim fishermen from the flourishing trading city of Makassar in search of trepang, or sea cucumbers.

Exactly when the Makassans first arrived is uncertain.

Some historians say it was in the 1750s, but radiocarbon dating of beeswax figures superimposed on the cave paintings suggests that it was much earlier – one of the figures appears to have been made before 1664, perhaps as early as the 1500s.

A cave painting of an Indonesian prau, found in Arnhem Land

They apparently made annual trips to gather the sea cucumbers, which fetched a high price because of their important role in Chinese medicine and cuisine.

The Makasssans represent Australia’s first attempt at international relations, according to anthropologist John Bradley from Melbourne’s Monash University – and it was a success. “They traded together. It was fair – there was no racial judgement, no race policy,” he says.

Quite a contrast to the British. Britain designated the country terra nullius – land belonging to no-one – and therefore colonised the country without a treaty or any recognition of the rights of indigenous people to their land.

Some Makassan cucumber traders stayed, married Aboriginal women and left a lasting religious and cultural legacy in Australia. Alongside the cave paintings and other Aboriginal art, Islamic beliefs influenced Aboriginal mythology.

“If you go to north-east Arnhem Land there is [a trace of Islam] in song, it is there in painting, it is there in dance, it is there in funeral rituals,” says Bradley. “It is patently obvious that there are borrowed items. With linguistic analysis as well, you’re hearing hymns to Allah, or at least certain prayers to Allah.”

Map showing Arnhem Land, Elcho Island and Makassar

One example of this is a figure called Walitha’walitha, which is worshipped by a clan of the Yolngu people on Elcho Island, off the northern coast of Arnhem Land. The name derives from the Arabic phrase “Allah ta’ala“, meaning “God, the exalted”. Walitha’walitha is closely associated with funeral rituals, which can include other Islamic elements like facing west during prayers – roughly the direction of Mecca – and ritual prostration reminiscent of the Muslim sujood.

“I think it would be hugely oversimplifying to suggest that this figure is Allah as the ‘one true God’,” says Howard Morphy, an anthropologist at Australian National University. It’s more the case of the Yolngu people adopting an Allah-like figure into their cosmology, he suggests.

One elder has said that Aboriginal “morning star” poles were made to look like the masts of Indonesian praus, and that a pole would be presented to Makassan traders as a gift at the end of a farewell dance ritual each year

The Makassan sea cucumber trade with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ended in 1906, killed off by heavy taxation and a government policy that restricted non-white commerce. More than a century later, the shared history between Aboriginal peoples and Makassans is still celebrated by Aboriginal communities in northern Australia as period of mutual trust and respect – in spite of some historical evidence that this wasn’t always the case.

Source: BBCNews Read more of this fscination history

 

Belgians queue to experience ‘world’s smelliest plant’

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The Titan Arum is endangered in its natural habitat of Sumatra’s tropical forests

The National Botanic Garden of Belgium is staying open late to give visitors a chance to see one of the world’s largest and smelliest flowers.

The Titan Arum rarely blooms, though the Brussels specimen is said to have done so three times since 2008.

The flower rises 2.44m (8ft) off the ground and is expected to wane on Wednesday after only three days.

The Titan Arum is also known as the “corpse flower” because of the strong stench of rotting meat it gives off.

When the plant is ready to attract pollinators, the spike heats up and gives off the smell which, while revolting to humans, is very alluring to insects. It then develops a fruit which attracts birds before ending its life.

It is endangered in its natural habitat of the tropical forests of Sumatra.

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Attack by komodo dragon

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Two hurt in attack by komodo dragon in Indonesia

Komodo dragons normally feed on large mammals, smaller reptiles and birds

Two men have been injured in an attack by a komodo dragon in a wildlife part in eastern Indonesia, park officials say.

The 2m (7ft) long lizard attacked a park ranger in his office, then turned on another employee who tried to come to his aid.

Both suffered serious leg wounds and were being monitored in hospital.

Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards, growing up to 3m long, with razor-sharp teeth and a poisonous bite.

The dragons’ jaws contain highly poisonous glands that can cause paralysis.

The reptiles are unique to a small group of islands in eastern Indonesia.

They live on a diet of mainly large mammals, smaller reptiles and birds, but have been known to attack humans.

The animals are endangered in the wild and protected by international law – fewer than 4,000 are believed to be alive.

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You want creepy, I’ll give you creepy…

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Sulawesi, formerly The Celebes

The island of Sulawesi (formerly The Celebes) in Indonesia is the village of Toraja where the dead walk to their resting place.

Is it true?

Can the dead walk?

Apparently there are still people in the village that have the power to make the dead walk.

Torajans are famous for their elaborate funeral rites, burial sites carved into rocky cliffs, massive peaked-roof traditional houses.

Sulawesi is a mixture of Christian, Muslims and Animist, Aluk To Dolo (“Way of the Ancestors”).

Tongkonan are the traditional Torajan ancestral houses

Effigies of the dead gaze out over their land

These last two images, I discovered, are from Madness and Beauty, give them credit. Good story there.

But apart from the gory death ritual where they slaughter many buffalo and pigs, it is the walking dead that makes this place a mystery

The walking dead

Apparently this is the only known photo. There has been much ridicule over whether it is faked. But since the time of the Dutch colonisation in the 1600s this story has persisted.

The mystery continues…

West Papua

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Most people don’t even know that Papua exists, nor that it is a part of Indonesia.

What was Dutch New Guinea (in the days of the Dutch East Indies), then Irian Barat, later Irian Jaya and finally renamed in 2002, Papua. With the creation of West Papua in 2007 being the western peninsula of Papua

It is the eastern-most part of Indonesia.

Independence has more recently been a ticklish issue, with several attempts in recent years.

Some sights from this remote part of the world.

Traditional fishing boat in a water village, Manokwari, West Papua

Image: Matthew Oldfield Photography

Pristine waters of West Papua

 

The natives of West Papua

Image: BugHog com

Exotic marine life - Tambja gabrielae - a sea slug

 

More exotic marine life - “Mandarin fish” Pterosynchiropus splendidus

Image: Great Indonesia

Hollandia, the capital city of West Papua

Image: West Papua Post Office Blog

 

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