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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
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Why Did 16th-Century Andean Villagers String Together the Bones of Their Ancestors?

Researchers suggest the practice was a response to Spanish conquistadors’ desecration of the remains

Megan Gannon
Archaeology Correspondent

February 1, 2022

Roughly 500 years ago, vertebrae were arranged on sticks in Peruvian tombs. C. Oshea / Antiquity Publications Ltd., Bongers et al.

Nearly 200 sticks strung up with human vertebrae have been discovered by archeologists exploring tombs in Peru's Chincha Valley. Dating back to the turbulent period of early colonization about 500 years ago, these reconstructed spines may represent attempts by Indigenous groups to salvage and put back together the remains of their ancestors. The archaeologists, who published their findings in Antiquity today, argue that this practice may have been a response to tomb destruction by Europeans who mounted campaigns to stamp out Andean religious practices in the 16th century.

Thanks to river water that flows from the Andes, the Chincha Valley is a fertile oasis in an otherwise arid environment near the Pacific coast, about 130 miles south of Lima. The Chincha Kingdom flourished in the area from around 1000 to 1400 C.E., and it included a wealthy, organized society with merchants, seafarers, farmers and a well-regarded oracle. In the 15th century, they were subsumed into the Inca Empire, but notably, they maintained some autonomy. The Inca palace at Huaca La Centinela, the major Chincha site in the lower part of the valley, is uncharacteristically small, overshadowed by a much larger Chincha complex. Written sources indicate that a Chincha leader even sat beside Inca emperor Atahualpa when they first encountered the Spanish.

“It seems to be one of the few documented cases of an alliance that was forged between the Inca and a complex polity,” says the lead author of the new study, Jacob Bongers, a senior research associate at Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

Bongers was not yet in graduate school when he traveled to the area in 2012 with a field expedition led by archaeologist Charles Stanish of UCLA. One day the group surveyed the less-studied part of the middle valley. There, they found the ruins of hundreds of stone burial chambers known as chullpas which had not been systematically investigated before. Inside some of these tombs, they discovered several reed posts curiously threaded with human vertebrae.


Wild Bats Can Recognize a Phone's Ringtone Four Years Later

The findings could help researchers understand more about the advantages and disadvantages of long-term memory in animals

Sarah Kuta
Daily Correspondent

June 27, 2022

Wild bats trained to link a specific phone ringtone with a food reward can remember the sound for more than four years, new research suggests. This would put their long-term memory skills on par with other wildlife memory masters like monkeys and crows.

The findings, published last week in the journal Current Biology, may offer new insights into the cognitive abilities of bats, as well as how animals use their long-term memory in their daily lives.

Researchers caught 49 predatory fringe-lipped bats— Trachops cirrhosis, a medium-sized bat common in Central and South America—in the wild and trained them to fly toward a specific ringtone by rewarding them with food. These bats hunt by listening for the mating calls of several frog and katydid species. Cleverly, the bats can tell the difference between poisonous species and non-poisonous species just by their different sounds.

To train the bats, the scientists placed a baitfish snack above a speaker, then played the mating call of the male túngara frog, one of the bats’ favorite foods. As the study continued, the researchers gradually mixed in the sound of a ringtone—the three-note text message sound common on smartphones—with the frog call; eventually, the ringtone replaced the frog call entirely. In videos published in the paper, the bats can be seen visibly reacting, twitching and turning their ears, towards the repeated sound of the ringtone. The researchers also introduced three other ringtones that were not associated with a food reward, thus training the bats to recognize one specific ringtone.


What Causes Swaths of the Ocean to Glow a Magnificent Milky Green?

A sailor who witnessed the rare phenomenon in person and a scientist who saw it from the sky team up to learn about the ghostly light

Sam Keck Scott, Hakai

June 27, 2022

The sky was moonless and overcast, leaving no stars to steer by. Alone at the helm in the middle of the Arabian Sea, somewhere between Oman and India, I could see nothing in the ink-black night save for our ship’s dimly lit compass rolling on its gimbal mount as we heaved and swayed through three-meter seas. But half an hour into my shift, the sails above me began to glow, as if the moon had risen. But there was no moon, nor any stars or other ships. The light, it seemed, was coming from below and growing in intensity. Soon the entire ocean was glow-stick green, but muted, as if the light were shining through a sea of milk.

It was August 2010, and I’d been sailing for over two months by then, volunteering with the NGO the Biosphere Foundation to deliver the Mir, a 35-meter ketch they’d recently acquired in Malta, back to their home port in Singapore. During the voyage, I’d grown accustomed to the usual “sea sparkle” caused by dinoflagellates that ignite when the water is agitated, causing ribbons of light to twist off the Mir’s bow. But this was not that. This was the whole of the ocean, as far as I could see, glowing a uniform, opaque green. Despite the compass still wheeling in its mount, the light in the water created an optical illusion, making the sea appear perfectly calm, as if we were gliding through phosphorescent skies rather than roiling seas.

I woke the rest of the crew, and for over four hours we remained engulfed in this sea of green light, wonderstruck, with no idea what it was we were witnessing. Finally, a razor-sharp line appeared ahead of us where the lambent sea ended and blackness began. Crossing it, we left behind that numinous phantom world and re-entered a familiar one, though we could still see the gauzy green glow to our stern for another hour before it disappeared. It wasn’t until we arrived at port 10 days later that we would learn the name for the eerie phenomenon that had surrounded us: a milky sea.

For centuries, sailors have been describing milky seas, rare occurrences where enormous expanses of the ocean light up uniformly at night, at times stretching for tens of thousands of square kilometers, or more. W. E. Kingman, captain of the clipper Shooting Star, had this to say upon witnessing one in 1854: “The scene was one of awful grandeur; the sea having turned to phosphorus, and the heavens being hung in blackness, and the stars going out, seemed to indicate that all nature was preparing for that last grand conflagration which we are taught to believe is to annihilate this material world.”


Laser scans reveal ancient cities hidden in the Amazon river basin

JULY 3, 2022

The architecture and infrastructure found may well have required the greatest amount of skilled labor of any construction from the same time period in the entire continent.

Amazon river
Mouths of the Amazon river. (Credit: Wikipedia / Public domain)

Researchers have long assumed that the Amazon river basin, which includes the modern-day countries of Peru, Colombia and Bolivia, did not become densely populated until after the arrival of Spanish colonizers in the late 15th century. This assumption was based on the simple fact that the land surrounding the basin experiences severe flooding during rainy seasons, making permanent settlement without the aid of advanced technology all but impossible.

One of the few skeptics was Heiko Prümers, an archaeologist with a focus on Latin America who teaches at the University of Bonn. Over 20 years ago, he set out with his colleague Carla Jaimes Betancourt — then a student studying in La Paz — to investigate two mounds located near the village of Casarabe in northern Bolivia. The mounds, a university press release recalls, “turned out to be eroded pyramid stumps and platform buildings.” In other words: evidence of settlement.

Subsequent studies confirmed Prümers’ suspicion. Bioarchaeological analysis showed that these buildings were not unoccupied ceremonial sites. Instead, they were used year-round by a community that farmed, fished, and hunted for food. These agriculturalists, named the Casarabe culture, could be found throughout northern Bolivia during the Late Holocene epoch. Their home turf was the Llanos de Mojos, a tropical savannah that spans more than 4,500 square km.

Lidar doesn’t lie
Over the years, we have learned a lot about the Casarabe culture. We know they engaged in agriculture as well as aquaculture, and used water-control systems to protect themselves from the Amazon basin. We also know that their society had a surprisingly complex sociopolitical organization, with trade flowing back and forth between economic bases. They not only made mounds, but also dug canals, ditches, and causeways.


Maya city Tikal put today's urban gardens to shame

3 July 2022

The Maya civilization was known for its achievements in art, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, and calendar systems. Tikal, the ancient Maya city, was a bustling metropolis that housed tens of thousands of people. The Maya had roads, paved plazas, pyramids, temples, palaces, and homes for its fast-growing population, and agriculture was undoubtedly very important to the yeasts.

According to University of Cincinnati experts, Tikal’s reservoirs – essential supplies of city drinking water — were bordered by trees and wild plants, providing stunning natural splendor in the middle of the busy metropolis.

UC researchers devised a unique method for analyzing ancient plant DNA in the silt of Tikal’s temple and palace reservoirs in order to identify more than 30 species of trees, grasses, vines, and flowering plants that thrived along its banks more than 1,000 years ago.

The study was published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

The focus of recent research has been to study the relationship between the Maya and the surrounding neotropical forests using a new form of technical analysis called environmental DNA. An in-depth analysis of Tikal Reservoir found that Tikal Reservoir is an important source of drinking water and available water for the entire population. Among them, trees and wild vegetation are arranged in a planned way in the middle of Tikal, which is likely to provide natural beauty but may also be useful. “Plant Garden”.


A judge in Brazil ordered a 10-year-old rape victim to be removed from her family and sent to a shel

A judge in Brazil ordered a 10-year-old rape victim to be removed from her family and sent to a shelter to prevent her from having an abortion

Sarah Al-Arshani
3 hours ago

A Brazilian judge tried to convince an 11-year-old rape victim not to have an abortion and ordered her removed from her family to prevent an abortion, The Washington Post reported.

Audio from the hearing was leaked and released by independent news agency Intercept Brasil last month, triggering outcry across Brazil, where abortion in cases of rape is legal.

According to Intercept Brasil, the girl's mother took her to the hospital, 2 days after realizing she was pregnant. She was 22 weeks and two days into her pregnancy and the hospital had a policy of only conducting abortions up until 20 weeks. In Brazil, there is no time limit on when a rape victim can get an abortion.

The case was then taken to a judge, Intercept reported. The judge and a prosecutor tried to pressure the girl into completing her pregnancy and potentially putting the child up for adoption, according to the Intercept. The judge ordered the girl to be removed from her family and initially placed in a shelter as authorities investigate abuse, but according to the Intercept the measure was ordered to prevent the girl from obtaining a legal abortion.


"There is Future if There is Truth": Colombia's Truth Commission Launches Final Report

In Fusagasugá, the mural "The Embrace of Truth" memorializes those killed during the conflict. (Source: Colombia Truth Commission)

Declassified U.S. Evidence Fortifies Truth Commission’s Findings and Recommendations

Bogotá, 28 June 2022 - Today, Colombia’s Truth Commission wraps up three-and-a-half years of work with the launch of its report on the causes and consequences of Colombia’s conflict. The publication of the Commission's findings and recommendations is an important step forward in guaranteeing the rights of victims and of Colombian society to know the truth about what happened, to build a foundation for coexistence among Colombians, and to ensure that such a conflict is never repeated.

. . .

Among the most impactful records are U.S. diplomatic and intelligence reports evaluating the nature and extent of ties between anti-guerrilla “paramilitary” death squads and the Colombian state. Of special interest are a handful of CIA operational reports—documents normally outside the purview of FOIA—that reveal contemporaneous U.S. knowledge that the Colombian military was engaged in a persistent pattern of collaboration with paramilitary operations.

One CIA report from May 1988 said that Colombian Army intelligence and brigade commanders were behind “a wave of assassinations against suspected leftists and communists” during 1987, including the killings of several members of the leftist Patriotic Union political party, victims of a state-sponsored “genocide” according to the Truth Commission.

The 1988 CIA report also said that the intelligence section of the Army’s 10th Brigade had supplied target lists and other support to the paramilitaries who murdered 20 workers in the infamous March 1988 massacres at the Honduras and La Negra banana plantations. The CIA said that the names of all the victims, most of whom were members of the Sintagro agricultural workers union, had “appeared on the B-2’s [Colombian Army intelligence section’s] interrogation reports” and “were accurately identified by their attackers from a list which the attackers possessed.”


Nicaragua a 'Dictatorship' When It Follows US Lead on NGOs

JUNE 16, 2022


President Daniel Ortega’s government in Nicaragua is “laying waste to civil society,” according to the Associated Press (6/2/22). The Guardian (6/2/22) called it a “sweeping purge of civil society,” while for the New York Times (2/14/22), Nicaragua is “inching toward dictatorship.” According to the Washington Post‘s Spanish edition (5/19/22), the country is already “a dictatorship laid bare.” In a call echoed by the BBC (5/5/22), the UN human rights commissioner urged Nicaragua to stop its “damaging crackdown on civil society.”

What can possibly have provoked such widespread criticism? It turns out that the Nicaraguan National Assembly’s “sweeping purge” was the withdrawal of the tax-free legal status of a small proportion of the country’s nonprofit organizations: just 440 over a period of four years. In more than half the cases, these non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have simply ceased to function or no longer exist. In other cases, they have failed (or refused) to comply with legal requirements, such as producing annual accounts or declaring the sources of their funding. Modest legal steps that would go unnoticed in most countries are—in Nicaragua’s case—clear evidence that it is “inching toward dictatorship.”

None of the media reports asked basic questions, such as what these nonprofits have done that led to the government taking this action, whether other countries follow similar practices, or what international requirements about the regulation of nonprofits Nicaragua is required to comply with. There is a much bigger story here that corporate media ignore. Let’s fill in some of the gaps.

Three basic questions

There are three basic questions. First, is Nicaragua exceptional in closing nonprofits on this scale? No, the practice is widespread in other nations. While figures are difficult to find, government agencies in the United States, Britain, Australia and elsewhere have closed tens of thousands of nonprofits in the last few years.

For example, between 2006 and 2011, the IRS closed 279,000 nonprofits out of a US total of 1.7 million; it closed 28,000 more in 2020. The Charity Commission in Britain closes around 4,000 per year. And in Australia, some 10,000 nonprofits have been closed since 2014, one-sixth of the total. In Nicaragua, four years of closures have so far affected only 7% of a total of more than 6,000 nonprofits.


Journalist's disappearance in Brazil shows risk of reporting in the Amazon


They disappeared Dom. That was the first thought that crossed my mind when I learned about the disappearance of the smiley British man whom I met at Copacabana beach back in 2018 surfing on a stand up paddle board. Dom Phillips, an experienced reporter, was accompanied by Bruno Pereira, one of the greatest experts in the Amazon region, where both went missing without a trace on Sunday, June 5.

After a couple of phone calls that mostly rejected the hypothesis of an accident, a friend of mine told me that some local residents had conducted a painstaking search in the surroundings. They found nothing. Then that same thought came to my mind repeatedly: They disappeared Dom.

Reporting on the Amazon has always been a hard, dangerous task, but it has become particularly lethal in recent years. In 2021, the number of deaths caused by conflict in local communities increased by over 1000% from the prior year. Eighty percent of the violent deaths in rural areas in Brazil take place in the Legal Amazon region. It was a matter of time until something like this occurred.

Three years ago, Dom Phillips attended an event with President Jair Bolsonaro. He questioned Bolsonaro about the rising and disturbing deforestation in the Amazon. He talked about the dismantling of the law enforcement meant to protect the environment. He commented on the criminal links between officials, the minister of the environment and illegal loggers. Contemptuous as usual, Bolsonaro said: “The first thing you must know is that the Amazon belongs to Brazil, it doesn’t belong to you.”


How Mexico ensures access to safe abortion without legalizing it

By Annalisa Merelli
Senior reporter based in New York City

Published June 6, 2022

When it comes to abortion, Mexico offers a glimpse of a possible future for the US.

Like its northern neighbor, the country is a federal republic of 32 states in which the legality of abortion varies. It does not have a federal law, or Roe v Wade-like constitutional decision legalizing abortion—a position the US is likely to find itself in by the end of June, when the Supreme Court is expected to officially announce its decision on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The decision, a draft of which was leaked last month, might overturn the precedent stating that a woman has a right to obtain abortion as part of her right to privacy. If the leak is confirmed, it would end the federal protection of abortion, and making its legality dependent on the individual state.

This would open the way to restrictive laws in Republican-majority states, many of which have trigger laws ready to go into effect as soon as the Supreme Court ruling is out, including ones that could lead to the arrest of women experiencing miscarriages. But in Mexico, the situation is different in a small, but very significant way: Abortion is not legal, but has been decriminalized federally. On Sept. 7, 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that it was unconstitutional to punish abortion as a crime.

The effects of decriminalization
The 2021 Mexican supreme court decision was propelled by the so-called marea verde, or green wave, a Latin American transnational movement promoting abortion rights, which pushed for the approval of abortion laws in countries including Argentina and Columbia, and in Mexican states. While it stops short of full legalization, its effects are significant in effectively giving women, including those who don’t qualify for an abortion in their home state, broader access to safe abortion.

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