Caves of the ‘Star Man’: Homo naledi

New species of archaic humans seem to pop up pretty frequently these days.  If you accept the evolution by natural selection model, then the human lineage is less of a linear progression from primate ancestors, and more of a messy demolition derby of sub-species which came and went, branching out into dead-end alleys of development.  Only one line survived the ravages of the last few hundred thousand years – us.  The remains of the rest, the human species which didn’t make it and succumbed to extinction, like Homo floresiensis, are being dug out of caves around the world.

The latest of these discoveries are the Homo naledi hominins, who appear to have lived in southern Africa some 300,000 years ago around the same time that early humans were emerging as a species (1).  The remains of these hominins was discovered in the complex Rising Star system of caves in South Africa a couple of years ago (2).   The bones littered a pit-like chamber which was very difficult to access.  The bones  provide palaeontologists with a curious set of archaic specimens.  The small skull size of Homo naledi, providing space for a brain just half the size of a modern human, indicated a primitive hominin.

The small brain size led the palaeontology team, led by the maverick academic Lee Berger, of Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, to conclude that the species had lived perhaps 2 – 3 million years ago.  The shape of the skull was suggestive of early Homo species, including Homo erectusHomo habilis or Homo rudolfensis.  However, various aspects of the skeleton more closely resembled modern humans – their wrists, the feet, the lower part of the pelvis, some of their teeth (3).  It’s a very odd mix indeed:

““You could almost draw a line through the hips—primitive above, modern below,” said Steve Churchill, a paleontologist from Duke University. “If you’d found the foot by itself, you’d think some Bushman had died.”” (2)

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Recent updates on the Search for Planet Nine

It’s a year since proposed the existence of Planet Nine (1).  Despite the fact that its discovery remains elusive, there have been a great many academic papers written on the subject, and no shortage of serious researchers underpinning the theoretical concepts supporting its existence.  Many have sought evidence in the solar system which indirectly points to the perturbing influence of this mysterious world; others have provided data which have helped to constrain the parameters of its orbit (by effectively demonstrating where it could NOT be).  Throughout 2016, I have been highlighting these developments on the Dark Star Blog.

RedPlanetX_1

At the close of 2016, two further papers were published about Planet Nine.  The first of these delves more deeply into the possibility that Planet Nine (Brown’s new name for Planet X, which seems to have caught on among astronomers keen to distance this serious search from, well, the mythological planet Nibiru) has a resonance relationship with some of the objects beyond the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt which it is perturbing.  These kinds of resonance relationships are not unusual in planetary orbital dynamics, so such a suggestion is not that odd, even given the eccentricities of the bodies involved here.  The new research, from the University of California, Santa Cruz, bolsters the case for this kind of pattern applying to Planet Nine’s orbit:

“We extend these investigations by exploring the suggestion of Malhotra et al. (2016) (2) that Planet Nine is in small integer ratio mean-motion resonances (MMRs) with several of the most distant KBOs. We show that the observed KBO semi-major axes present a set of commensurabilities with an unseen planet at ~654 AU (P~16,725 yr) that has a greater than 98% chance of stemming from a sequence of MMRs rather than from a random distribution.” (3)

Their randomised ‘Monte Carlo’ calculations provide a best fit with a planet of between 6 and 12 Earth masses, whose eccentric orbit is inclined to the ecliptic by about 30 degrees.  They are unable to point to a specific area of the sky to search, but provide a broad-brush region which they favour as most probable.  Dr Millholland has also helpfully provided a 3D manipulable 3D figure of the cluster of extended scattered disk objects allegedly affected by the purported Planet Nine, alongside their extrapolated orbit for it (4).  Read More…

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Zecharia Sitchin and Cuneiform Script

One of the accusations levelled at the late Zecharia Sitchin was that he was not able to read and translate the cuneiform scripts of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and other ancient Mesopotamian cultures.  There aren’t that many people who can read cuneiform, and Sitchin was not a recognised linguistic scholar of ancient languages.  As a result, it’s easy for scholars to question his ability to read, transliterate and interpret the ancient Mesopotamian writings.

I came across this issue first-hand in 2003 when appearing in a short university project documentary alongside some noted British Sumerologists and astronomers, discussing Planet X (1).  The Sumerologists, curators from the British Museum in London, were sceptical of Sitchin’s knowledge of cuneiform, and his expertise with the ancient languages that used this script:

Christopher Walker (Deputy Keeper, Cuneiform Collection, British Museum): “It’s basically a very subjective interpretation of individual pictures, individual ideas. But he [Sitchin] doesn’t actually sit down and work with the texts.  And people think this is a nice idea, this is a nice story, let’s have the next chapter of the story…It’s like Harry Potter.” (2)

Dr Irving Finkel (Assistant Keeper, Cuneiform Collections, British Museum): It is very easy to use Sumerian and the Sumerian culture as your explanation for things because hardly anyone in the world can read Sumerian, and if you can give the impression you can read these texts you can say what you like. And I do think this is a factor. The number of people who can read Sumerian reliably and properly you could fit into this room. I think it would be a bit of a squeeze, you would have to move the furniture, but you could get everyone in the world onto this room.” (2)

There’s a general disillusionment with experts these days.  Sometimes, experts get it horribly wrong:  Economists failing to see a looming crash, or bursting of an economic bubble; environmental scientists cooking the books to solidify their stance on climate change; politicians expounding doom and gloom if a particular decision is made, only to see markets lift when it comes to pass.  This may be a similar situation.  Read More…

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Nibiru and the Younger Dryas Boundary

I’m really enjoying Graham Hancock’s new book “Magicians of the Gods” (1), which is a rather belated sequel to his bestseller “Fingerprints of the Gods” (2) – a book which steered my interest in the direction of ancient cataclysms and their impact on Ice Age peoples and their (possible) lost civilisations.  The incredibly ancient site of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey strongly indicates how far humanity had already come as the Ice Age drew to a close, and other (often submerged) archaeological sites offer similar tantalizing evidence of Ice Age civilizations.

gobekli_tepe_pillar43

Those interested in archaeo-astronomy have been quick to discern sky markers to constellations at Göbekli Tepe, perhaps indicating that these ancient post-Ice Age folk were trying to tell us something about what had taken place.  The famous Pillar 43, for example, seems to clearly show the constellation of Scorpius, with an enigmatic central disk lying within the non-zodiacal constellation of Cygnus (represented here by a vulture) (3,4).  The central belt of Orion also seems to feature heavily in the monument’s ancient alignments (3).
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Early Solar System Catastrophism

The two moons of Mars have always presented planetary scientists with something of a mystery. These tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos, whizz around Mars at no great height at all: Phobos whips around the red planet in less than 8 hours, at a height of only 3,700 miles – the closest of any moon to its parent planet. I say ‘parent’ advisedly because a new theory of the origin of these peculiar little moons suggests that they emerged from a major impact between mars and a dwarf planet. It has generally been assumed that they were captured asteroids, but the relative circularity of their orbits argued against such a capture. Work on the possibility of a catastrophic origin was carried out last year by two separate teams of researchers, after decades of battling intense scepticism within the scientific community (1). An important finding of the modelling at that time was that the resultant debris would circulate around the red planet at a relatively low altitude, which is in keeping with the orbits of the two extant moons.
More recently, further computer modelling of various impact scenarios carried out by one of those teams has narrowed down the range of masses of an impactor to about the size of Pluto. The resultant debris field was initially far more extensive than the two moons left today:
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Dark Star Symbolism in the Zohar

Last month, I discussed the assumed orbital period of Nibiru, 3600 years, and how Zecharia Sitchin may have arrived at that figure (1).  This included a description of a journey to ‘Olam’ through seven heavens of 500 years each mentioned in a conversation between a heretic and the Jewish savant Rabbi Gamliel.  Sitchin may have been influenced by this Hebrew text when he considered the likely orbital period of Nibiru/Marduk, a Planet X body which he described from his reading and interpretation of various ancient Sumerian texts (2).

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Was Sitchin right about 3600?

The figure of 3600 is a core component of the late Zecharia Sitchin’s vision and argument for the properties of his Planet X body, Nibiru. The number 3,600 stems from the unusual sexagesimal numbering system used by the Sumerians (1), and was known to them as the sar, or shar in Akkadian.  I’ve often wondered why Sitchin decided on this number for the orbital period of Nibiru.  Sitchin carefully thought things through before committing his ideas to paper, and such a central tenet of his work had to have something more behind it than an arbitrary choice from a series of important sexagesimal numbers.  Aspects of his writings that mesh with this number pertain to:

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Planet Nine Constellations Predicted by Sitchin, and IRAS

A week on from Caltech’s announcement, Dr Mike Brown and Dr Konstantin Batygin, the two astrophysicists proposing the existence of their ‘Planet Nine’, sketched out the range of orbits which their object might be moving through, including its all-important approximate perihelion and aphelion positions.  Essentially, Brown and Batygin consider the perihelion position of the Planet Nine body to be in a broad region around the zodiacal constellations Scorpius/Sagittarius (R.A. = ~16hrs), whilst the aphelion positionof Planet Nine is likely in the equally broad Orion/Taurus area (R.A. = ~4hrs) (1,2).

caltech_position_planet9

Image credit:  Caltech

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Massive Planet X Now Urgently Sought by Top Planet-Hunters

We seem to be getting very close now to a discovery of a massive Planet X in the outer solar system.  I heard this report on the evening BBC news, a slot which indicates the seriousness with which this subject is now being taken by the scientific community:

“American astronomers say they have strong evidence that there is a ninth planet in our Solar System orbiting far beyond even the dwarf world Pluto.  The team, from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has no direct observations to confirm its presence just yet.  Rather, the scientists make the claim based on the way other far-flung objects are seen to move.  But if correct, the putative planet would have 10 times the mass of Earth.

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