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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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Nature

‘World Ozone Day an opportunity to focus on ozone layer protection’

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world ozone day

New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan on Monday said the World Ozone Day was an opportunity to focus global attention on protecting the ozone layer.

Observing the 24th World Ozone Day with this year’s theme ‘Keep Cool and Carry on: The Montreal Protocol’ the Minister stressed upon the need to strengthen active collaboration between the government, industries and all stakeholders.

According to the ministry, implementation of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) programme has not only led to the phase-out of around 98 per cent chemicals, but also averted more than 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.

“Nearly two million cases of skin cancer per year have been averted globally” it said.

The ministry has already undertaken an important initiative for up-skilling of one lakh refrigeration and air-conditioning servicing technicians in collaboration with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, he said.

He underlined the Montreal Protocol — international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion.

Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Secretary C.K. Mishra said it was critical to identify the usage of gases and not merely replacement of gases.

“There are alternative ways to cooling that should be looked at. Another issue is an army of trained manpower to handle manufacturing and maintenance,” Mishra said.

On the occasion, the Minister released the draft India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), a booklet on ‘Montreal Protocol – India’s Success Story’ and refurbished website on the Ozone Cell.

The event was attended by senior officials of the ministry, UN Environment representatives, officials of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

September 16 was marked by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as the International Day for ozone layer prevention.

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254 copper coins of medieval era discovered at Khirki mosque

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Khirki Mosque Coin

New Delhi, Sep 12 : The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has discovered a hoard of 254 copper coins of medieval period within the Khirki mosque compound here during the conservation of the monument, said Ministry of Culture on Wednesday.

The mosque built by Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah, the prime minister of Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88), lies on the southern periphery of the village Khirki, the ministry said in a statement, adding it was believed to be one of the seven mosques built by the latter.

The ministry said that while cleaning the Khirki mosque, the ASI found a hoard of 254 coins of medieval period near the entrance of the monument.

“A few coins got cleaned by ASI experts and on the basis of preliminary observation, it can be said that some of the coins belong to the reign of Sher Shah Suri and his successors” it said.

On the same premises, in the year 2003, ASI had found over 63 coins during cleaning and conservation, ministry said adding the Delhi circle has started scientific clearance of the area under technical supervision of archaeologists.

IANS

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Analysis

Planet sending a clear message to act now: UN Environment’s Eric Solheim

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United Nations Environment head Erik Solheim

San Francisco, Sep 12 : The planet is sending a clear message — to act and that too within a short time-frame or lose the ability to turn things around, says United Nations Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim.

“Typhoons and floods are not new, but we are seeing a broader pattern of more severe and more frequent extreme weather events,” Solheim told IANS in an interview here.

His concerns came ahead of the three-day Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) that began on Wednesday with the participation of 4,000 plus business and political leaders, investors, citizens and government representatives from all over the world in this California city.

“That’s (natural calamities) what the scientists predicted, and it’s what we’re seeing play out now right in front of our eyes. Our planet is sending us a clear message. We have to act, and we’re a short time-frame to do so before we lose the ability to turn things around.”

He was replying to a question on his thoughts for the people of Kerala in India and Osaka in Japan that have been recently affected by floods and a typhoon.

Solheim, who is also attending the summit, which aims to “take ambition to the next level” and persuade the world’s Presidents and Prime Ministers to go further and faster to reduce emissions, said: “The bottom line is that we need to step up the ambition and create a momentum.”

On India playing a leading role in driving down global emissions, he said “absolutely”.

“I think Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has shown incredible leadership in driving the shift to renewables and steering India towards being a greener, cleaner economy. The innovation that we’re seeing, not just in terms of renewables deployment but also the wider shift to a more circular economic model, is really encouraging.”

From India, Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra is one of the Global Climate Action Summit’s Co-Chairs.

In a plenary on September 13, he will provide an update on how many companies that have adopted Science-Based Targets — aligning their pollution reduction plans with the Paris agreement.

Solheim saw business value in companies adopting science-based climate targets.

“We’re seeing more and more examples of businesses wanting to do this, and dozens of global giants on that path.

“For me it’s important for two reasons: Firstly, companies are showing how sustainability can be a core part of business, rather than an on-the-side CSR (corporate social responsibility) exercise. They’re moving beyond PR (public relations),” he said.

“Secondly, the companies doing this are seeing strong support from shareholders and investors. They’re seeing that these targets are also about efficiency and innovation. That makes a business less exposed to environmental risk, which is good for business.”

One recent example he has seen is the company IKEA, which is aiming to be climate positive by 2030 and this requires an 80 per cent cut in emissions, the UN Environment head said: “It’s a sound move as the company will have a head start in making the transition to a low carbon economy.”

“In India I was also really impressed when I visited the Infosys campus in Hyderabad. They have clear targets on waste, cooling, power consumption and overall efficiency, which make them not only commendable from the environmental perspective, but also a compelling investment.”

Favouring electric vehicles that will play a role in decarbonising of the economy, Solheim said: “We have to see the introduction of electric vehicles as part of the wider change we need to see in transport. That includes more public transport or transport-sharing solutions.”

He said the developed countries need to look at the shift not as a constraint or an obligation, but as an opportunity for greater energy security, a more inclusive economy and the lower healthcare burden that comes from tackling the causes of pollution.

“India isn’t making the change because it wants to shoulder the burden of climate action, but because it makes perfect sense from an economic perspective. That’s how more countries need to see it,” he said.

(Vishal Gulati is in San Francisco at the invitation of the Climate Trends to cover the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS). He can be contacted at [email protected])

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