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Google Earth discovers ancient stone gates in Saudi Arabia

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Ancient stone gates

Scientists have discovered about 400 previously undocumented stone structures known as ‘Gates’ in Saudi Arabia with the help of Google Earth imagery.

While Saudi Arabia is largely thought of as barren mountains and desert, it was also home to an immense number of archaeological sites that were yet to be identified, recorded and mapped, said David Kennedy, researcher at University of Western Australia.

Image result for ancient stone gates saudi arabia

Photo Credit: Google Earth

“You can not see them in any intelligible way at the ground level but once you get up a few hundred feet, or with a satellite even higher, they stand out beautifully,” Kennedy said.

The structures look like flat field gates from top in the images obtained from Google Earth.

“I refer to them as Gates because when you view them from above they look like a simple field gate lying flat, two upright posts on the sides, connected by one or more long bars,” he said.

They do not look like structures where people would have lived nor do they look like animal traps or for disposing of dead bodies. It is a mystery as to what their purpose would have been, researchers said.

Since 1997, Kennedy has flown in helicopters over Saudi Arabia’s neighbour Jordan, photographing tens of thousands of stone-built structures scattered over its lava field or ‘harrat’.

Image result for ancient stone gates saudi arabia

Mystery of Saudi Arabia’s ancient ‘gates’: Google Earth spots 400 stone structures found on the edge of volcanoes

Shapes range from giant circles of stone that may be 400 metres across to kites that may have been used as animal traps, pendants used as funerary monuments, and many more.

Not much is known about the people who built the edifices, but they are thought to have constructed them 2,000 to 9,000 years ago, researchers said.

They are believed to be the ancestors of the modern-day Beduin in the region who describe them collectively as ‘The Works of Old Men’, they added.

 

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Flamingos migrated from Gujarat’s Kutch seen at Mumbai’s Airoli, Watch video

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Flamingo
Flamingos migrating from Kutch

Flock of flamingos which migrated from Gujarat’s Kutch seen at Mumbai’s Airoli on Saturday. Every year Mumbaikers witnesses an estimated 20,000-25,000 flamingoes.

Flamingos

The places where the birds can be seen in abundance are Thane creek, Airoli, Mahul and Sewri. Most of the flamingo population that comes to the city consists of Lesser Flamingoes; the rest are Greater Flamingoes.

 

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The strange trio of Sex, Science and the State — and its consequences

Though her thesis is not brought out very exhaustively, she makes a fair enough case and that is enough to make this a must read — especially for ministers.

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Sex and Gender

An Indian minister has made himself notorious all over social media for his comments questioning Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, but can we take this to show that the two worlds — of politics and science — are exclusive or even antagonistic? Not at all, and scientific disciplines that apparently seem farthest placed from human affairs may be the most influential.

For science has done more for setting the course of nations and their governance and economy than we can suspect — beyond its part in helping develop powerful weapons or technologies.

While this alliance of politics and science is a far more recent development than we think, it owes its genesis to botany, and two 18th century natural scientists who furthered this combination, as Patricia Fara shows in this book, part of a special set chronicling key turning points in science.

And this — in the last three decades or so of the 18th century — qualifies well enough for it shows how science progressed beyond the pastime or patronage of rich, idle noblemen to become institutionalised with government support.

And as Fara, from the History and Philosophy of Science department at Cambridge University, shows it not only saw the rather incongruous trio of the “Three Ss” — sex, science and the state — coming together with so many consequences, but also brought the subject of sex out into the public discourse, though against much opposition.

It also set in train a process — in Britain initially — that would lead a few decades later to Darwin boarding HMS Beagle to make the observations that enabled him to formulate his theory of man’s origin and development — a theory which has stood the test of time despite what some misguided or willfully ignorant politicians may think.

At the heart of this development, shows Fara’s account, were two naturalists, not as famous as Issac Newton or Darwin but contributing to science’s progress at a time “science started to become established and gain prestige”.

And both of Carl Linnaeus and Joseph Banks, along with the other Enlightenment contemporaries, “fought hard to establish that scientific knowledge was valid and valuable”.

Linnaeus was a gifted but eccentric and self-propagandising Swede whose classification system for all living organism still rules today, but raised hackles of his conservative society by using sexual parts to order flowers and using human terminology for the purpose.

Banks was his British “disciple” -turned-science administrator — and no less self-propagandising — but also managed to make “science work for the state — and the state to pay for science”. A key cameo is played by that intrepid explorer, Captain James Cook.

And in telling their story, Fara ranges over small Swedish towns and the country’s unforgiving terrain, the mansions and the seats of power of Georgian England as well as its lush countryside, hazardous voyages over uncharted oceans, encounters with uninhibited, pre-industrial societies in South Pacific islands, ambition and professional jealousy, to show how the underlying root was something more heartlessly mercenary.

For, as she contends, “scientific exploration in the Age of Reason was driven by an imperialist agenda to own, to conquer and to exploit”. But apart from the above spin-offs, there were some other positive benefits too, as she brings out. Say the way, men, especially white Europeans, began to see rest of humanity and themselves in the world, or what women could be allowed to study or not — though it would still take time before all these would be tangibly realised for all.

Along with her lucid and telling discourse on the birth of modern botany with Linnaeus and Banks — almost concurrently with its economic uses, Fara also enlivens it with a colourful account of their explorations in various climes and encounters with exotic races and, above all, the contemporary public reactions to their discoveries and doings. And this could have a thing or two to teach protesters today.

Though her thesis is not brought out very exhaustively, she makes a fair enough case and that is enough to make this a must read — especially for ministers.

By : Vikas Datta

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at [email protected]

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France ditches plans for controversial west coast airport

Activists on the 1,600-hectare rural site say they have developed it into a utopia of organic farming and political debate.

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Edouard Philippe

The French government on Wednesday formally abandoned decades-old plans for a controversial new airport on the west coast that became a site of resistance for environmental activists.

In a keenly awaited announcement, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the divisions unleashed by the proposed new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes near the city of Nantes made it impossible to proceed.

“The project cannot go ahead in a climate of bitter opposition between two sides of the population that are nearly equal in size,” he said, adding: “The project is therefore abandoned.

The decision ends years of debate over a project first mooted in the 1960s — but sets the stage for a possible standoff with environmental activists who have been occupying the airport site for the past decade.

Activists on the 1,600-hectare rural site say they have developed it into a utopia of organic farming and political debate.

Philippe gave them until the spring to leave voluntarily, after which they would be evicted.

“We will put a stop to the no-go zone which has flourished in this area for nearly 10 years,” he said.

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