‘Ain Ghazal is a Neolithic site located in North-Western Jordan, on the outskirts of Amman. It dates as far back as 7250 BC, and was inhabited until 5000 BC. It’s one of the largest known prehistoric settlements in the Near East.
‘Ain Ghazal people buried some of their dead beneath the floors of their houses, others outside in the surrounding terrain. Of those buried inside, often later the head was retrieved and the skull buried in a separate shallow pit beneath the house floor. Also, many human remains have been found in what appears to be garbage pits, where domestic waste was disposed, indicating that not every deceased was ceremoniously put to rest. Why only a small, selected portion was properly buried and the majority just disposed of, remains unresolved.
‘Ain Ghazal is renowned for a set of anthropomorphic statues found buried in pits in the vicinity of some special buildings that may have had ritual functions. These statues are half-size human figures modeled in white plaster around a core of bundled twigs. The figures have painted clothes, hair, and in some cases, ornamental tattoos or body paint. The eyes are created using cowrie shells with a bitumen pupil.
In all, 32 of those plaster figures were found in two caches, 15 of them full figures, 15 busts, and 2 fragmentary heads. Three of the busts were two-headed, the significance of the two headed statues is not clear.
Beautiful and elegant, the Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus) is native to a relatively small area in South Africa (where it is the national bird).
Populations of this bird have seriously declined since the 1970s for a number of anthropogenic reasons. They face habitat loss, bioaccumulation of toxins from insecticides, and life-threatening collisions with power lines. Conservation programs are now in place to aid the recovery of this species.
Eastern Emerald Elysia
Elysia chlorotica is a “solar-powered” marine sea slug that sequesters and retains photosynthetically active chloroplasts from the algae it eats and, remarkably, has incorporated algal genes into its own genetic code. It is emerald green in color often with small red or white markings, has a slender shape typical of members of its genus, and parapodia (lateral “wings”) that fold over its body in life. This sea slug is unique among animals to possess photosynthesis-specific genes and is an extraordinary example of symbiosis between an alga and mollusc as well as a genetic chimera of these two organisms.