Friday, March 29, 2013

Come see!

Few things are harder to grasp or are more exciting than a world we've never seen. One look can change your mind forever, ending years of not knowing.

It's available for the price of a few days on the road.

Come see for yourself!

These are bright, energetic folks who work hard to be good parents, good business people.

The face in the photos is a nice young lady we met in Africa. She and her siblings laughingly waved me down (photo; right) and asked for money. It was more recreational than real begging. They took me home to meet mom and dad; nice folks, tough minded and practical. They raise goats and  camels, generating a small income to support a family of nine. They welcomed me each time I was there and made a place for me in their social circle. We laughed a lot and parted tenderly at the end of my cycle of travels to their country.  I so hope to see them again.

"And can you promise that I will come back?" ~ Bilbo Baggins
    "No."     ~ Gandalf
         "And if you do, you'll not be the same."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Poo Flinging

Poo flinging isn't the normal precursor to great discovery.  In the 1974 Leakey expedition, however, it was.

At the work site in Tanzania, Andrew Hill and David Western were two members of the expedition; they took advantage of cannonball-sized dry elephant dung for a little humorous interchange.  Dodging one flying poo-ball and laughing, Dr Hill fell on the dry river bed and, since he was now close enough to examine it carefully, found an unusual fossil pattern that turned out to be raindrops.  Further search uncovered the animal tracks and finally, bipedal hominids; the oldest such record at around 3.6 million years old.  The well-preserved tracks might well have been parents and child, walking along the migratory route of the animals in the region.  They were nomads, and the first to stand on their feet as they walk, just like we do.

So despite what your mother told you, perhaps poo flinging isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The Laetoli Trail has become recognized as one of the wonders of the world, down which three somebodies or somethings ambled splashily across a mudflat. The smallest somebody or something halted and half-turned for a moment to gaze sideways. The third one came along a little later, and amused itself by putting its feet rather imprecisely in the first one’s prints. They were tiny people or creatures, but the high arch of their insteps and the splay of their toes (the wet mud squeezing up between them) is entirely modern. No relic in paleontology is as charming and touching as the trail of the Laetoli walkers.
Interestingly, the results of the years of labor by the Leakey teams turned much of paleontology upside down. The popularized 'killer-ape' of the 20th century literature turned out to be a fiction as did other extrapolations from similarly small evidence. Thirty-five years later, there's still a bit of contention about who left the footprints; was it Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy's family) as originally proposed, or perhaps the poorly known A. anamensis or even an as yet undiscovered candidate might be in the running. The impact of the discovery remains regardless of the outcome of that particular academic debate.
Because of Laetoli, because of all the archaeological toil of the Leakey dynasty in Olduvai Gorge and Turkana, because of “Lucy’s” skull in the Afar desert, the world now accepts that the human species originated in Africa. More recently still, the so-called African Eve” hypothesis indicates a single common female ancestor, located in Africa at that place where the countless ramifications of the gene tree run together.

Africa has changed in terms of place and relevance. ... the place which Europeans for five hundred years regarded as a stagnant backwater has turned out to be the fountain-head of all human development. Man began there.  
Africa’s Lost History JUNE 11, 1992 Neal Ascherson
An emerging understanding, Africa is perhaps the greatest illustration of large-scale human failure. Magnificence and nobility, spoiled by spoiled minds, civilizations shattered by invading colonialists and slavers. It will take further centuries, perhaps, before we understand what has been done. Africa is attempting to recover from the blows; we all have much yet to learn.

(Thanks and a hat tip to the movie 'Madagascar', of course.  Great good humor.)