Ostrich eggshell beads reveal 10,000 years of cultural interaction across Africa

Ostrich eggshell beads are some of the oldest ornaments made by humankind, and they can be found dating back at least 50,000 years in Africa.

…”In the modern world, migration, cultural contact, and economic change often create tension,” says Sawchuk, “ancient peoples experienced these situations too, and the patterns in cultural objects like ostrich eggshell beads give us a chance to study how they navigated these experiences.”

…The ostrich eggshell beads reflect different responses to the introduction of herding between eastern and southern Africa. In southern Africa, new bead styles appear alongside signs of herding, but do not replace the existing forager bead traditions. On the other hand, beads from the eastern Africa sites showed no change in style with the introduction of herding. Although eastern African bead sizes are consistently larger than those from southern Africa, the larger southern African herder beads fall within the eastern African forager size range, hinting at contact between these regions as herding spread. “These beads are symbols that were made by hunter-gatherers from both regions for more than 40,000 years,” says lead author Jennifer Miller, “so changes—or lack thereof—in these symbols tells us how these communities responded to cultural contact and economic change.”

…This study shows that examining old collections can generate important findings without new excavation,” says Miller, “and we hope that future studies will take advantage of the wealth of artifacts that have been excavated but not yet studied.”

Ostrich eggshell beads reveal 10,000 years of cultural interaction across Africa



Stone-age ‘likes’: Study establishes eggshell beads exchanged over 30,000 years

Lesotho is a small country of mountain ranges and rivers. It has the highest average of elevation in the continent and would have been a formidable place for hunter-gatherers to live, Stewart says. But the fresh water coursing through the country and belts of resources, stratified by the region’s elevation, provided protection against swings in climate for those who lived there, as early as 85,000 years ago.

…In Lesotho, archeologists began finding small ornaments made of ostrich eggshell. But ostriches don’t typically live in that environment, and the archeologists didn’t find evidence of those ornaments being made in that region—no fragments of unworked eggshell, or beads in various stages of production.

So when archeologists began discovering eggshell beads without evidence of production, they suspected the beads arrived in Lesotho through these exchange networks.

…Brian Stewart and colleagues establish that the practice of exchanging these ornaments over long distances spans a much longer period of time than previously thought.

…”These ornaments were consistently coming from very long distances,” Stewart said. “The oldest bead in our sample had the third highest strontium isotope value, so it is also one of the most exotic.”

Stewart found that some beads could not have come from closer than 325 kilometers from Lesotho, and may have been made as far as 1,000 kilometers away. His findings also establish that these beads were exchanged during a time of climactic upheaval, about 59 to 25 thousand years ago. Using these beads to establish relationships between hunter-gatherer groups ensured one group access to others’ resources when a region’s weather took a turn for the worse.

…”These exchange networks could be used for information on resources, the condition of landscapes, of animals, plant foods, other people and perhaps marriage partners.”

Stone-age ‘likes’: Study establishes eggshell beads exchanged over 30,000 years


The ‘Ghost’ of an Unknown Human Species Has Been Found in West Africans Living Today

It is well-known that people from Europe and Asia have traces of Neanderthals and Denisovans in their DNA. These are markers from where early modern humans interbred with other hominin species, producing children that inherited genes from both. 

…Neanderthals and Denisovans bred with modern humans that had already left Africa, the birthplace of modern man. As a result, people in Africa have less genetic input from Denisovans and Neanderthals.

“Results strongly support that an African archaic (ghost) lineage that diverged from modern humans slightly before Neanderthals and Denisovans, perhaps 600,000 years ago, met and interbred with the ancestors of West African populations,” he told Newsweek. “Interestingly, this might have happened even before the split between African and non-African populations, whereby global human groups might carry ancestry from this ghost lineage.

“This work sheds light on the complex patterns of human evolution, where a simple narrative does not conform to the data. The picture will only get more complex, especially when more work is done in Africa, the birthplace of humanity.”

The ‘Ghost’ of an Unknown Human Species Has Been Found in West Africans Living Today


Facebook removes accounts from UAE, Nigeria, Egypt and Indonesia

Citing “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” aimed at misleading social media users. 

A total of 443 Facebook accounts, 200 pages and 76 groups, as well as 125 Instagram accounts, were removed, the social media platform said on Thursday.

They were traced to three separate and “unconnected” operations, one of which was operating in three countries, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Nigeria; and two others in Indonesia and Egypt, to spread misleading posts and news articles.

…In all, the accounts on Facebook and Instagram commanded an estimated 7.5 million followers.

Facebook removes accounts from UAE, Nigeria, Egypt and Indonesia | News | Al Jazeera


Slavery, black history, DNA genealogy: Learnings from a trip to Africa

In a land that had tried to rob their people of dignity, strip them of their identity and steal their labor, the Tuckers knew they were somebody.

As she grew up, Wanda came to realize that history was an ever-changing story, and it depended on who was telling it.

…Two Angolans named Anthony and Isabella, along with 20 or so others, staggered off a ship into Point Comfort in what is now Hampton, Virginia. They’d been taken from the Ndongo kingdom in the interior of Angola and marched to the coast. They’d endured months packed in the bottom of a ship named the San Juan Bautista. When raiders attacked in the Gulf of Mexico, the captives were rerouted to Virginia aboard the White Lion, changing the course of a nation.

Anthony and Isabella probably weren’t their real names. Their Angolan names were likely subbed out by whichever Catholic priest baptized them for the journey.

The reason they are remembered and other Africans are not is the anomaly that someone bothered to record their names at all. A 1625 census noted that they belonged to the household of Capt. William Tucker and that they had a child named William. Wanda and her family believe they are descended from William, the first named African born in what would become America. An American forefather most history ignores.

…Anthony and Isabella came from the powerful Ndongo kingdom, whose descendants still lived in the Angolan interior near the Lukala and Kwanza rivers. Many from the kingdom were skilled iron workers and farmers.

…Angola was barely mentioned in most histories of the slave trade, but this was where it had begun. Historians had learned fairly recently that the first Africans had been captured here.

…In the time of Anthony and Isabella, Wanda also learned, the slave trade had been dominated by the Portuguese. The Portuguese would stoke tensions between African tribes and reap the captives from those battles. The English were not yet as involved – they were plundering gold and silver from Ghana.

…Father Gabriele Bortolami, an Italian Capuchin priest and professor of anthropology ….took a thick book from a wooden cabinet. The cover barely clung to the binder, but the words – in Italian – were bold against the white pages. “Istorica Descrittione De’ Tre Regni Congo, Matamba Et Angola.”

Historical description of the three kingdoms of Congo, Matamba and Angola.

It was written in 1690.

…Njinga, queen of the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms, fought to defend her people from Portuguese conquerors in the 1600s.

Njinga, who came to power five years after Anthony and Isabella were captured, is the most awe-inspiring of the Angolan ancestors.

…Njinga demanded the Portuguese treat her as an equal. When they showed up to a meeting with chairs only for themselves, expecting her to sit on the floor, she had a servant kneel on all fours and used his back as a stool. She made the Portuguese look her in the eye.

But even Njinga has seen her legacy questioned. She submitted to baptism by the Portuguese – a political move some saw as weak. She gave up prisoners of war to placate the Portuguese, who betrayed her.

…The elders spoke a mix of Portuguese and Kimbundu, the Bantu language Anthony and Isabella likely spoke. They told of villagers captured and sent away. They told her they had a word for the sea: kalunga – death. No one who crossed those waters ever returned.

“We suffered a lot,’’ said the soba, whose name was Antonio Manuel Domingos. The slave trade devastated communities, and many never recovered.

Wanda asked what she should tell fellow African-Americans back at home.

“You have relatives here,” he replied.

Slavery, black history, DNA genealogy: Learnings from a trip to Africa


After Cheeto’s ‘send her back’ chants, Pelosi and Omar visit Africa together

Omar is visiting Ghana this week along with Pelosi and the 13 members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they observe the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in America.

..The group is visiting slave castles and meeting with Ghana’s parliament during the trip.

…Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) Thursday posted a picture of herself alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on their current trip to Africa.

In the tweet, Omar joked about people who have chanted “send her back,” saying Pelosi “didn’t just make arrangements to send me back, she went back with me.”

…Trump singled out “the squad,” a nickname for Omar and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), after Pelosi in an interview cast doubt on the lawmakers’ influence.

Since Trump lashed out at them, though, Pelosi has voiced her support for the women and met with Ocasio-Cortez in private to address the tensions within the Democratic Party.

After ‘send her back’ chants, Pelosi and Omar visit Africa together | TheHill


Divers Uncover Ancient Temple Submerged Within The ‘Egyptian Atlantis’

In their most recent underwater expedition, Egyptian and European experts have found significant remains of a large temple under the sea, as well as several ships laden with treasure such as coins and jewellery.

Archaeologists led by Franck Goddio, who was also in charge of the very first underwater exploration of Heracleion, think they have found the stone columns from the city’s main temple (called Amun Garp), as well as the remains of a smaller Greek temple.

…Heracleion (also known as Thonis) is thought to have been built during the 8th century BCE on the banks of the Nile river, and is so named because the hero Hercules himself once visited it – or so the legend goes.

…Exactly how it ended up underwater remains a mystery to historians, but the best guess is that rising sea levels, seismic activity, and crumbling foundations caused the entire city to slide into the Mediterranean, at least 1,000 years ago.

…As for the other finds besides the temples, the divers report coming across bronze coins from the reign of King Ptolemy II (283 to 246 BCE), plus pottery, jewellery, and storage utensils found in the remains of several ships.

The archaeologists also dug up coins from the Byzantine era, which means it’s likely that the city was inhabited from at least the fourth century BCE.

Divers Uncover Ancient Temple Submerged Within The ‘Egyptian Atlantis’


Surrounded by chaos, Niger is a nation on the edge

Niger is surrounded by chaos. Though it is a country of myriad woes—deep poverty, rising population, a shortage of arable land made worse by desertification, and a shaky political system—it is not the incubator of violence that its neighbors are. It is a country people flee through, not flee from. Niger’s fate depends on whether it holds off the chaos and maintains a semblance of order, or succumbs to it altogether.

…Unrest is the abiding narrative of West Africa. It is a region thrashed by economic despair, spiking and drastically shifting population, environmental degradation, political instability, and, increasingly, violence. It is spinning out of control. And Niger, haloed as it is by five of the continent’s greatest incubators of Islamist extremist groups—Algeria and Libya to the north, Mali to the west, Chad to the east, and Nigeria to the south—is poorer than all of them and yet the most pacific, for now. As the U.S. ambassador to the country, Eric Whitaker, gently puts it, “Niger is a good country in a rough neighborhood.”

…Eventually he muttered, “The European community has blocked everything. Tourism, migration, the mines. What else is there to do but sleep? Someone bites you and then tells you not to cry.”

Even by a troubled continent’s standards, Niger’s predicament is grave, bracketed by two sobering statistics: a GDP per capita of about a thousand dollars, one of the world’s lowest, and a fertility rate of seven births per woman, which is the highest. But demography does not fully explain the precarious state of Niger. As a landlocked desert country, it has faced punishing droughts, and climate change is expected to make them harsher. Poverty and environmental fragility have in turn exacerbated political instability.

Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Niger has endured four military coups, the latest in 2010. In the past 30 years, it has also experienced two bloody Tuareg rebellions. The most recent, which ended a decade ago, left an abiding scar across the largest of Niger’s eight regions, Agadez. Until then, the city of Agadez had been a tourist gateway to the Sahara, receiving up to 20,000 visitors annually, many via direct flights from Paris. The three years of violent skirmishes between the rebels and Niger’s army had the effect of vaporizing the predominant industry. 

…After the European Union offered financial inducements, Niger’s government in 2015 criminalized transporting migrants. In Agadez the police confiscated scores of pickup trucks. Coxeurs and drivers were arrested, along with the Boss, who spent three weeks in jail. The city’s number one source of revenue had been officially banned, in effect consigning Agadez’s post-tourism economy to the black market.

…ung men enumerating their all but exhausted options. They had attended school, looked for work, played by the rules. With few jobs to be had, some found their place in the Boss’s racket. After seeing friends get arrested and their trucks impounded, they withdrew. And now they are waiting for whatever might come next.

…Meanwhile they were hearing about other young men making appeals: Looking for a job? We will pay. Need money for a wedding? We will pay. The YouTube videos and WhatsApp texts from the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram were making the rounds.

…“Do I have hope?” says a 46-year-old man named Jamal, who then pulls his scarf away to reveal his sand-caked face. “Look at my beard. It’s turning white from hoping.”

Surrounded by chaos, Niger is a nation on the edge