Friday, April 12, 2013

Early humans survived on fertile plain in Persian Gulf

New research is suggesting some of the earliest humans could have lived in a a once fertile landmass flooded by the Persian Gulf some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago. At its peak, the floodplain now below the Gulf would have been about the size of Great Britain, and then shrank as water began to flood the area. Then, about 8,000 years ago, the land would have been swallowed up by the Indian Ocean.

The study is detailed in the December issue of the journal Current Anthropology and it has broad implications for aspects of human history. For instance, scientists have debated over when early modern humans exited Africa, with dates as early as 125,000 years ago and as recent as 60,000 years ago, according to study researcher Jeffrey Rose, an archaeologist at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

The Inca Empire - Uniting the Andes

In establishing their state (Tahuantinsuyu or "land of the four quarters") the Inca refined borrowed institutions and technology to create an empire of a size previously unimaginable in the Andes region.

Never before had a government ruled so much territory, such a variety of environments, so many people, or such a diversity of ethnic groups.  To bring a measure of unity to this vast realm required administrative and organizational genius.

The Inca took existing roads and joined them to create an intricate highway system.  They carefully counted their millions of subjects and made sure that each labored for the state and that products of those labors were correctly distributed or stored away.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Machu Picchu - An Inca City of the Sun

When famed explorer Hiram Bingham first saw the overgrown ruins of the "lost city" of Machu Picchu in 1911 Peru he was stunned by the huge size of its stone blocks and the masterful way they were fitted together.

"It seemed like an unbelievable dream," he later wrote.  "What could this place be?  Why had no one given us any idea of it?"

After a century of study, experts now agree that Machu Picchu was one of a series of royal estates built in the Urubamba Valley on the Inca's eastern frontier.  The valley, which lies at a lower, warmer altitude than the Inca capitol of Cusco, provided an escape from the Andean winters.

Climate Change and the Sahara Desert

There has not been an area much more drastically affected by climate change other than the Sahara Desert in Africa. The huge desert's sudden geographical transformation centuries ago was one of the planet's most dramatic climate shifts. You see, 5,000 years ago the area that is now the vast Sahara Desert was a vast land of grasslands and lakes with hippos, lions and giraffes.

A new study shows that the transformation was immediate and took place nearly simultaneously across the continent's northern half. The results will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Inca and Chimu - Imperial Rivals

We are discussing the The Chimu and Inca Empires of Peru.  The two cultures were rivals in the 12th - 15th centuries.  The Chimu was a coastal empire that rose on the ruins of the Moche kingdom.  They rose to power through warfare and grew wealthy from tribute and trade.

Though a culture based on agriculture, the Chimú had skilled artisans who created ceramics, wove baskets and particularly textiles, but most of all, developed metallurgy. Artisans worked the most with gold and silver, and the nobility accumulated large quantities of gold and silver, as well as other other Chimú products in the capital of Chan-Chan in the Moche Valley. Chimú workers built buildings primarily out of adobe and decorated them with bas-relief and stucco.