The celestial maps of Su Song, Chinese polymath of the Song dynasty, the oldest known star charts in existence, dating from 1092 AD.
Were the First Artists Mostly Women?
That’s the conclusion behind new analysis of cave painting handprints by Penn State’s Dean Snow. Several years ago, a British biologist found that men and women’s hands differed in the relative lengths of their fingers. Men tended to have a ring finger that was longer than their index finger (although I do not).
When Snow applied that pattern to the measurements of handprints found in prehistoric cave art (similar to the example above from France’s legendary Chauvet Cave), he found that the pattern more closely resembled female hand ratios. Were our first artists women?
It’s an intriguing hypothesis, but there are alternative explanations. Perhaps these handprints belonged to adolescent boys, sneaking into dangerous caves and doing a little “five-finger graffiti”? As more cave handprints are analyzed, perhaps the dusty picture will become a little bit clearer.
The ultimate question, of course, is why did they draw such things? No handprint can tell that story, buried in history, hidden in the dark shadows of ancient caves.
Oh, and I command you to watch Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams. It’s a dream journey back in time, through the lens of cave art.
(more on the handprints at National Geographic)
Source: National Geographic
The photo above shows the oldest known zero in India, dating from a Vishnu temple built in 876 CE. It’s from a fascinating article called “Understanding Ancient Indian Mathematics" featuring accounts of ancient Indian scholars’ independent derivation of concepts like pi, Pythagorean ratios, powers of ten and the decimal system. It’s an important reminder that ancient science wasn’t limited to Western cultures, and the East-West transfer of theories and concepts was the world’s first information superhighway.
About 7,000 years ago, high in Spain’s northern Cantabrian mountains, a pair of weary hunters took refuge in a deep cavern, never to emerge again. Until 2006, that is, when these early humans were uncovered by cave explorers.
Dating from pre-agricultural Europe, these remains predate Ötzi the Iceman by nearly two millenia. Recently, scientists were able to piece together about 1% of each caveman’s genome, using techniques right out of CSI: Iceman.
The DNA of these early Iberians does not appear related to modern Spanish and Portuguese, but rather more closely related to Northern Europeans. Certain parts of their DNA show that early Europeans from Poland and Lithuania were brethren of those as far away as Spain … truly nomadic hunter-gatherers!
These represent the earliest genome sequences of modern humans. The percentage of the genome that they sequence should go up as the team continues its work, and we’ll know even more about how the earliest humans in Europe contributed to the world we see today.