The Language of Homer

The Iliad and The Odyssey are two of the most enduring works of fiction (or “fiction”, if you prefer) ever composed.  Although it is doubtful that they were composed in their entirety by a single individual, they are traditionally attributed to a blind bard called Homer.  Recently, The World According to Sound aired a podcast about the language in which these works were composed.  A form of ancient Greek that sounded nothing like its modern descendant.  According to this, this dialect was a tonal language.  An example of a modern tonal language is Chinese.

The story was picked up and, partially, rebroadcast, on NPR’s All Things ConsideredThe Sound Of Ancient Greek.

 

 

LibraryReads September List

library_reads_logo_websiteForman_LeaveMeLibraryReads has released their September list, and the favorite, Leave Me by Gayle Forman, looks pretty good. It’s main character, Maribeth Klein, is a magazine editor, wife, and mother of preschool-aged twins. Her life is so busy, so demanding, that when she has a heart attack and doesn’t realize it. Told to rest, she tries but this seems to be an imposition on the lives on others, she packs up and leaves. Of course, with distance, her life looks very different.

Colgan_BookshopPatchett_CommonwealthThe Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan and Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth also perked my interest. In the first a city librarian loses her job, moves to Middle-of-Nowhere, Scotland, and buys a van which she turns into a bookmobile, and the second features two families closely intertwined by adultery, betrayal, and abandonment.  A married father of four and a married mother of two leave their families to be with each other.  Commonweath explores the aftermath.

Bolton_Daisy I find I’m wavering back and forth about Sharon Bolton’s Daisy in Chains about a man convicted for being a serial killer, and, continuing to protest his innocence, hires a hotshot lawyer famous for getting convictions overturned. When I check, it actually sounds more intriguing on Goodreads than at LibraryReads.

Also on the list is the second book in Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series, The Masked City. I haven’t gotten around to reading the first one, yet, but they sound interesting.

What about you? Anything on this list going on your TBR pile?

Nerdly News

new&nerdlyThe multitude of bison fossils found on the plains of Alberta, or their extracted mtDNA, have shed much needed light on just when the much vaunted Corridor opened between North America’s two great Ice Sheets. It has long been theorized that the First Americans passed through this Corridor to colonize the rest of the Americas.

In the 1970s, geological studies suggested that the corridor might have been the pathway for the first movement of humans southward from Alaska to colonize the rest of the Americas. More recent evidence, however, indicated that the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets coalesced at the height of the last ice age, around 21,000 years ago, closing the corridor much earlier than any evidence of humans south of the ice sheets. The initial southward movement of people into the Americas more than 15,000 years ago now seems likely to have been via a Pacific coastal route, but the Rocky Mountains corridor has remained of interest as a potential route for later migrations…The results showed that the southern part of the corridor opened first, allowing southern bison to start moving northward as early as 13,400 years ago, before the corridor fully opened. Later, there was some movement of northern bison southward, with the two populations overlapping in the corridor by 13,000 years ago…According to Shapiro, archeological evidence suggests that human migration within the corridor was mostly from south to north. Sites associated with the Clovis hunting culture and its distinctive fluted point technology were widespread south of the corridor around 13,000 years ago and decline in abundance from south to north within the corridor region. A Clovis site in Alaska has been dated to no earlier than 12,400 years ago.

“When the corridor opened, people were already living south of there. And because those people were bison hunters, we can assume they would have followed the bison as they moved north into the corridor,” Shapiro said.

Proving, once again, there is truth to found in the old tales, a body found in a well confirms events told in Sverre’s Saga, one of the Old Norse tales of Viking Kings and war.

Agriculture was developed a LOT earlier than previously thought, like 25 to 30 million years ago. You read that right. Million. And, here’s the real kicker, not by humans but by bugs. Termites actually cultivate fungi “gardens” within their mounds. This “fungiculture” began in Africa about the time the Great Rift Valley formed so that probably had something to do with it.

Some Nerdiness: A couple of interesting studies about ancient populations in Europe

new&nerdlyThe largest ever study of global genetic variation in the human Y chromosome has uncovered the hidden history of men. Research reveals explosions in male population numbers in five continents, occurring at times between 55,000 and 4,000 years ago.

Here’s a more Euro-centric, and less sciencey, spin:

A research team led by Prof. FU Qiaomei from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IVPP of CAS) and other international scientists has analyzed genome-wide data from 51 Eurasians from ~45,000-7,000 years ago and provided the first vivid look at the genetic history of modern humans in Eurasia before the start of agriculture ~8,500 years ago.

Neanderthals may have been infected by diseases carried out of Africa by humans, say researchers | University of Cambridge

A new study suggests that Neanderthals across Europe may well have been infected with diseases carried out of Africa by waves of anatomically modern humans, or Homo sapiens. As both were species of hominin, it would have been easier for pathogens to jump populations, say researchers. This might have contributed to the demise of Neanderthals.

Source: Neanderthals may have been infected by diseases carried out of Africa by humans, say researchers | University of Cambridge

Nerdly News

Lots of nerdly morsels to feed the brain this morning.

Archaeologists in Italy have discovered what may be a rare Etruscan sacred text likely to yield rich details about Etruscan worship and early beliefs of a lost culture fundamental to western traditions. The lengthy text is on a large 6th century sandstone slab uncovered from an Etruscan temple, said Gregory Warden, principal investigator of Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, which made the discovery, and professor emeritus, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, main sponsor of the project.

Source: Text in lost language may reveal god or goddess worshiped by Etruscans at ancient temple – EurekAlert! (Southern Methodist University)
March 29, 2016

An ancient species of pint-sized humans discovered in the tropics of Indonesia may have met their demise earlier than once believed, according to an international team of scientists who reinvestigated the original finding. Published in the journal Nature this week, the group challenges reports that these inhabitants of remote Flores island co-existed with modern humans for tens of thousands of years.

Source: Indonesian ‘Hobbits’ may have died out sooner than thought – EurekAlert! (Griffith University)
March 30, 2016

The heavily studied yet largely unexplained disappearance of ancestral Pueblo people from southwest Colorado is not all that unique, say Washington State University scientists. Writing in the journal Science Advances, they say the region saw three other cultural transitions over the preceding five centuries. The researchers also document recurring narratives in which the Pueblo people agreed on canons of ritual, behavior and belief that quickly dissolved as climate change hurt crops and precipitated social turmoil and violence.

Source: Ancient Southwest marked by repeated periods of boom and bust – EurekAlert! (Washington State University)
April 1, 2016

The first large-scale study of ancient DNA from early American people has confirmed the devastating impact of European colonization on the Indigenous American populations of the time.

Source: Ancient DNA shows European wipe-out of early Americans – EurekAlert! (University of Adelaide)
April 1, 2016

With the help of detailed satellite images, scientists have uncovered what may be a previously unknown Viking settlement in Newfoundland, Canada, news sources report.

Source: Satellite Images Reveal Possible Viking Settlement in Canada – Live Science
April 1, 2016

Earliest tea as evidence for one branch of the Silk Road across the Tibetan Plateau : Scientific Reports

Phytoliths and biomolecular components extracted from ancient plant remains from Chang’an (Xi’an, the city where the Silk Road begins) and Ngari (Ali) in western Tibet, China, show that the tea was grown 2100 years ago to cater for the drinking habits of the Western Han Dynasty (207BCE-9CE), and then carried toward central Asia by ca.200CE, several hundred years earlier than previously recorded.

Source: Earliest tea as evidence for one branch of the Silk Road across the Tibetan Plateau : Scientific Reports

Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle | Science | AAAS

Grisly find suggests Bronze Age northern Europe was more organized—and violent—than thought

Source: Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle | Science | AAAS

A man’s discovery of bones under his pub could forever change what we know about the Irish – The Washington Post

Scientists say these bones may challenge our understanding of Irish identity.

Source: A man’s discovery of bones under his pub could forever change what we know about the Irish – The Washington Post

400,000-year-old fossils from Spain provide earliest genetic evidence of Neandertals

Source: 400,000-year-old fossils from Spain provide earliest genetic evidence of Neandertals