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Much Like Stonehenge, Solstice Sunlight Would Have Danced on the Walls of This Neolithic Spanish Tomb

The excavations of White Stones Tomb. credit – ATLAS research group, University of Seville.

Reprinted with permission from World at Large, an independent news outlet covering conflict, travel, science, conservation, and health and fitness.

Archaeologists working in Spain’s most famous archaeological site have uncovered a 5,400-year-old tomb that perfectly aligns to the summer solstice sunrise in such a way as to be described as “domesticated sunlight”.

That strange term is used because of the rich variety of designs that appear in shadow on a stone stele on the right-hand side of the tomb when hit by the light of the rising sun on June 21st, producing an effect not unlike Newgrange in Ireland.

The tomb was discovered in the Antequera Dolmens UNESCO World Heritage Site near the town of Antequera, southern Spain. The 6,100-acre (2,446-hectare) site contains a mix of megalithic and dry stone Neolithic burial architecture unsurpassed in all of Europe, many of which contain archaeo-astronomical alignments.

“Newgrange is much bigger and more complex than the tomb we have discovered [in Spain], but they have something in common — the interest of the builders to use sunlight at a specific time of the year, to produce a symbolic—possibly magic—effect,” Leonardo García Sanjuán, an archaeologist at the University of Seville, told Live Science reporting on the discovery.

In the case of this tomb, called Piedras Blancas, or “White Stones” the base had exposed bedrock layers that tilted away from the sunrise, and so workers deliberately carved out a channel for light to enter and dance with shadows upon the walls inside.

The tomb was found quite near a remarkable limestone formation called La Peña de los Enamorados—the Rock of the Lovers—named after a legend that says two star-crossed lovers once killed themselves by jumping off it. It’s even closer to the Matacabras rock shelter, which is adorned with pictographs thought to be painted about 5,800 years ago.

“Antequera illustrates the power by which nature presided over the Neolithic worldview, inspiring and guiding the creation of monuments,” Sanjuán and his colleagues wrote in a paper on the site, published in Antiquity. “Is it mere chance that the largest and most sophisticated Neolithic monumental landscape in Iberia is in a region with not one but two remarkable natural formations?”

“Due to their different textures and carbonate content, processes such as dissolution, gelation, and wind action have differentially dissolved the limestones to form corridors, sinkholes, and caves. Neolithic settlers in the region may not have understood the formation processes that created El Torcal, but for a millennium and a half they lived among geological towers, corridors, and chambers that very much resembled a natural architecture”.

A side-by-side view of the oldest strata of the tomb (left) and a second period of use dating to about 500 years later (right) that began with a filling in with sediment of the earlier surface. credit – M. Ángel Blanco de la Rubia, Cambridge University Press.

What was found inside

Built probably around 3,400 BCE, or 5,400 years ago, the site was still regularly inhabited or at least visited 1,400 years later at the onset of the Bronze Age in Andalusia, highlighting its importance in local culture.

The tomb contained a large “assemblage” of human remains, compared to other megalithic tombs at Antequera whereby no human bones have ever been found.

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At White Stones, the entrance to the tomb was free of all cut rock and human remains, and in fact played host to funerary offerings, to which 10 complete ceramic vessels bear witness. Further towards the back of the chamber, a complex arrangement of medium-sized stones tightly bonded with mud appears to have acted as a platform on which to place bodies and/or bones.

All this was recorded in the layer of earth closest to the bedrock, and dates to the oldest period of use around 3,000 BCE. Then about 500 years later, a dramatic transformation occurred which saw all these features buried with a layer of sediment.

In this layer were discovered two adult skeletons, one male, one female, of about 75% completeness, but nothing that could be construed as grave goods. The tomb was then subject to yet another renovation, with yet more skeletons.

Perhaps more interesting than anyone found inside were two slabs of rock that made up the right-hand side wall. The first, covered in undulating wave or scale-like shapes, was taken from an area that used to make up the shallow seabed. It was on this rock that the light from sunrise on the summer solstice would fall.

OTHER PREHISTORIC DISCOVERIES: Prehistoric Human Footprints Unearthed in Spain are Nearly 300,000 Years Old and Unique in All of Europe

Just below it, two flat stones were affixed to the bedrock of the tomb’s floor with mud mortar, which point directly to the rising sun on the solstice circ. 3,400 BCE. The orientation of the pointing stone passes exactly through the gap between the eastern end of the wall and two stones placed there, perfectly channeling the light onto the stone with the wave patterns.

“These people chose this stone precisely because it created these waving, undulating shapes,” Sanjuán told Live Science. “This was very theatrical… they were very clever in producing these special visual effects”.

A European thing

The authors note in their study that Neolithic Europeans in Spain, Ireland, England, and even Sweden, have aligned megalithic structures to solar movements, such as sunrise or sunset during the solstices, or the vernal and autumn equinox.

Sanjuán notes that the importance of the sun is of obvious focus: the sun was the center of the worldview for Neolithic Europeans. It kept them warm, allowed them to see, grew plants, melted the snow, and guided the changing of the seasons.

MORE ARCHAEOLOGY NEWS: 7,000-year-old Road Uncovered in Croatia is Paved in Stone–A ‘Sensational Find’

The Dolmen de Menga pictured above is one of the largest in Europe, but it isn’t aligned with any astronomical event. Instead, its opening points directly at La Peña de los Enamorados, with White Stones at its base.

Clearly, the hill was of great importance to the people of Neolithic Antequera, but why such an enormous megalithic monument would be made to point at a much smaller one, by comparison, was not something the archaeologists could answer at this time.

At the end of their work, they had nevertheless proven once again the incalculable value of Antequera for understanding the history of Europe.

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Global Warming Fueled Both the Ongoing Floods and the Drought That Preceded Them in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna Region – Inside Climate News

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Rarely inundated floodplains in Asia, Africa face higher risk now, says study. Here’s why

With increasing hazard extremes due to climate change, people settled in places that flood rarely are at risk

In floodplains sensitive to rare and extreme floods, the population density is higher compared to places that place frequent, low-magnitude floods. With hazard extremes increasing due to climate change, this distribution puts the first population group at risk, according to a new report.

Laterally unconfined floodplains experience flood extents that grow most rapidly during rare, extreme magnitude events. Populations show a tendency to settle on these rarely flooded zones worldwide, the report published in Nature Communications showed.

Although only making up 5 per cent of the populated river reaches, laterally unconfined floodplains are home to 412 million people, thus accounting for 21 per cent of the total population exposure globally.

The highest population density on laterally unconfined floodplains is found in Asia and North Africa. These regions also have the highest density of exposure per river reach on these floodplains, with 4,519, 2,536, 1,973 and 902 people exposed per kilometre of reach length in South, East, South-East Asia and North Africa, respectively. 

In comparison in North America and Europe, this comes to only 183 and 247 people exposed per kilometre of reach length.

With potential increases in the frequency of extreme river flows in the projected future for these regions, an exponential growth in population impacted by flooding could be experienced in locations that typically would not have flooded within living memory, the study warned.

For example in China, 82 per cent of the reaches with laterally unconfined floodplains have the highest density of exposure found in the rare, extreme magnitude flood zones — “69 million people living in the 100-year flood zone or greater”.

These regions have experienced rapid population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation in the last two decades, including the growth of some of the world’s largest urban agglomerates on large river floodplains and deltas, such as Shanghai, Cairo, Dhaka and Bangkok. 

Not prepared

Urban population is expected to continue to grow in the future with 90 per cent of the projected increase taking place in Asia and Africa. This continued growth will put additional strain on the existing floodplain settlements, placing even more people at risk from flooding in the future.

When it comes to frequently flooded zones of floodplains, more people live in these areas as they also cover a greater area. This means that people have either found ways to cope with flooding from frequent, low-magnitude events, or have taken on risk through choice or necessity, said the study led by Laura Devitt, University of Bristol, United Kingdom. 

Some of the countries that have larger populations on frequently flooded floodplains also have high standards of protection, the study found. 

In Europe, 22 countries (58 per cent) have a mean standard of protection of at least a 50-year return period, while 10 countries (26 per cent) have very high standards of protection of at least a 100-year return period (Austria, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia). 

Around 39 million people are settled on partially confined floodplains in these countries, accounting for 48 per cent of the total exposure on this floodplain type in Europe.

Regional differences

Flood extents on partially confined floodplains grow most rapidly during frequent, low-magnitude events. On this floodplain type, nearly all countries are found to have the highest density of exposure in the rarely flooded zones of the floodplain. However, the study found regional differences in whether more people are living in the frequently or rarely flooded zones. 

In Europe, countries exhibit a mostly even distribution of population density throughout all flood zones, with population totals being greatest on areas of the floodplain that would naturally flood frequently, given that they make up the largest areas. For Europe and North America, this is likely due to significant investments in structural defences to protect against flooding from frequent events.

However, structural protection tends to encourage development in flood-prone zones, a socio-hydrological process known as the “levee effect”. This effect can lead to floodplain settlements becoming vulnerable to low-probability but potentially high-consequence flood events, which is “problematic under climate change induced non-stationarity of flood extremes”. 

This effect was for example seen during the catastrophic 2005 flooding of New Orleans brought by Hurricane Katrina and the devastating impacts of the European floods of 2021.

Asian countries have a similar settlement pattern on partially confined floodplains. Given the particularly high density of population on this floodplain type in this region — 14 per cent of total land area experiences flooding but 35 per cent of the total population are settled there. It is likely that pressures on land have resulted in people settling in areas of the floodplain at risk from frequent flooding.

South America is the only continent where more people live in rarely flooded areas of partially confined floodplains relative to the frequently flooded areas. These countries also have the highest population densities in these low-hazard zones. 

Standards of protection are generally low, however, the relatively low population density on floodplains in general has allowed for preferential settlement in less hazardous locations.

The study found that around 24 per cent of total land area in South America has potential for flooding, but only 13 per cent of the total population lives there.

The researchers looked at the three dominant floodplain categories — confined, partially confined and laterally unconfined.

Confined floodplains are typically found alongside steep streams in mountainous bedrock regions. In these confined floodplains, flood extents typically grow most rapidly during rare, extreme magnitude events due to the steep slopes next to the river channel.

Partially confined floodplains are the most common type. They are found on transitional streams like valley bottoms, and in these floodplains, flood extents typically grow most rapidly during frequent, low-magnitude events.

Laterally unconfined floodplains (like deltas) are very wide, flat and unbound, which allows for exponential growth in the inundation area. 

The extent of flooding is typically discharge-limited, making them sensitive to changes in extreme discharge, and therefore flood extents grow most rapidly during rare, extreme magnitude events.

The study can help in understanding the global flood risk and the relationship between rivers, their floodplains and human settlements. Clear regional differences can be seen in settlement patterns that are related to whether floodplains are most sensitive to flooding from frequent and low magnitude, or to rare and extreme magnitude events.

Adaptation will be a critical factor in determining the severity of impacts from flood hazards in the coming decades. However, the flood-prone states in India have not identified or demarcated affected areas, in spite of recommendations by multiple committees, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in 2017 found.

In 1975, the Central Water Commission (CWC) circulated a model bill for flood plain zoning among states for enactment. Flood plain zoning demarcates zones or areas likely to be affected by floods of different magnitudes or frequencies the damage can be mitigated. 

The CAG report observed that only three states — Manipur, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand — had enacted Flood Plain Zoning Acts.

The report said that if these acts were implemented, the destruction in the 2013 floods of Uttarakhand as well as the Chennai floods of 2015 would be lower.

7,000-year-old Road Uncovered in Croatia is Paved in Stone–A ‘Sensational Find’

Korcula road University of Zadar Facebook

The island of Korcula is something Croats are exceptionally proud of—and rightly so. It is said to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, and it’s the oldest part of the world where documents can prove that slavery was abolished (1214 CE).

Along with its stunning natural beauty, Korcula has a secret—a truly ancient past where a ‘stacked stone’ road was found underwater dating to a period 5,000 years before the Roman Empire.

At the submerged Neolithic site of Soline, an astonishingly modern-looking road of stacked stone was found under deposits of sea mud. It connected an artificial island associated with a people known as the Hvar Culture, with the coast of the island of Korcula.

The road was four meters broad, or about 12 feet. The date 7,000 BCE was determined via radiocarbon dating of preserved wood from buildings of the Hvar culture’s settlement.

Other underwater sites ringing Korcula have yielded stone axes and flint tools. The whole research endeavor was conducted by an all-Croat team of archaeologists from several museums and universities in the country.

To grasp the magnitude of this discovery, it’s necessary to watch the video below of the divers. But putting this find into its proper context almost necessitates a brief re-writing of the history of civilization.

Unsurprisingly, the confirmed oldest ‘constructed’ road, excluding blazed tracks shared by humans and animals together, dates back to 4,000 BCE to probably the world’s second-oldest city of Ur, part of ancient Sumeria. Much of Ur’s history was borrowed from the even-older Sumerian ‘capital’ of Eridu, so we can be generous and go back a few hundred years more.

Brick roads begin appearing in India about 3,000 BCE, which is also around the time they begin appearing in Greece.

MORE PREHISTORIC HISTORY: Evidence of Amputation in Prehistoric Times Shows Patient Surviving for a Decade–Proves Medical Expertise Existed

But Korcula road, featuring sophisticated stone-stacking and some sort of material to encase the stones in their positions, was made around 1,000 years before Ur and Eridu, to an epoch where agriculture and animal domestication were still developing or state-of-the-art technologies.

Korcula is already one of Croatia’s top tourist destinations. It seems that the ancients, just like us today, found its beauty irresistibly captivating.

WATCH a diver cross the road below… 

SHARE This Unbelievable Discovery With Your Friends… 

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