On the Indonesian island of Borneo, in the remote mountains of the province of East Kalimantan, lives the world's oldest depiction of an animal. Or rather, three animals. A painting of three cows covers a wall inside the Lubang Jeriji Saléh cave. And one cow appears to have a spear in its flank. Dating back 40,000 years, they are now considered the oldest known figurative painting. We have older paintings, but they depict abstract shapes, not real-life objects.
Two megalithic statues of Polynesian style on the Mount Srobu site in Indonesia's Papua Province. These statues are in a different style from others, found in the area, making their find particularly interesting. Decorated pottery fragments, stone axes, and shell tools estimated to be about 3,800 years old were also recovered from the site.
Mt. Pinatubo on the Philippine island of Luzon erupted on June 15, 1991, and created the largest mushroom cloud in history. That we humans know about. Mt. Pinatubo's eruption ejected 10 billion metric tons of magma and 20 million tons of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere.
In Sesetan, a village on the island of Bali, a kissing festival known as Omed-Omedan is held every year. Believed to ward off bad luck in the upcoming year, the festival is held the day after Nyepi, a day of silence for Balinese Hindus which marks the Saka New Year. Omed-Omedan starts with teenagers gathering along the main road and say a brief prayer. Then let the kissing begin! Teens dance and kiss and generally have a good time, while other-age onlookers spray them with water. No one is sure when Omed-Omedan began. Its origins are lost to history.
The International Commission on Stratigraphy recently announced the creation of a new unit in the scale of geological time, the Meghalayan Age, from 4200 years before present, or 2200 BCE, to the present. That means we are currently living in the Meghalayan Age! Our age began with a megadrought. A "megadrought" means at least twenty years of drought, but this one was two centuries of low water, which research has linked to the collapsing of civilizations in Egypt, Syria, Greece, Palestine, Mesopotamia, the Indus River Valley, and the Yangtze River Valley. Geologic time scales are reflected in layers of rock or geologic strata. The best evidence of this sudden, global megadrought can be found in chemical signatures in a stalagmite in a cave in the Indian state of Meghalaya; hence the name.
But this new geologic age, less than a year old, is now the subject of controversy. There are three main arguments (so far) against the new Meghalaya Age. First, that all these civilizations did not collapse at once. Local city-states in Mesopotamia flourished, for instance, even as the Akkadian Empire shrunk. Second, that the archaeological and historical record suggests the civilizations destabilized due to specific, local problems -- not a worldwide megadrought. For instance, Egyptian civilization had slowly decentralizing for about a hundred and fifty years before 2200 BCE, but there was no disruption to Egyptian civilization, no dark age, and no mass starvation and death. Third, that the environmental determinism suggested by naming a new age after the Meghalayan megadrought takes away the importance of human agency, of cultural and sociopolitical factors, to drive change. By saying a drought caused all these civilizations' problems, we deny that humans are capable of causing such large-scale changes.
The debate has just begun. Initial arguments have been made for both sides. There are many more archaeological and historical discoveries to be made, scientific checking to do, and debates to be had. I personally am very excited to see what happens to the Meghalayan megadrought!
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By Lillian Audette
This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!