National Geographic June 2016, Part 1

Peru’s World Apart, by Emma Marris, photographs by Charlie Hamilton James

We return to the Power of Parks series with Manu National Park, a park in Peru that is home to “uncontacted” tribes of indigenous people, including (but not limited to) the Mashco-Piro and the Matsigenka. I put “uncontacted” in quotes because that is how they are generally referred to, but some of the indigenous tribes that had previously been keeping to themselves (and, by policy, outsiders were forbidden to initiate contact with) are starting to reach out to the outside world.

Of course Peru and Brazil are two different countries with different policies, despite their proximity to one another. Brazil’s ban on contacting their indigenous people dates back to the 1980s. Peru’s only goes back to 2006. One of Marris’s guides, Glenn Shepard, has been living with the Matsigenka for “30 years,” so before the limits on contact were put in place.

There is a lot on the history of the area and also on the geography, geology, and natural history of the area. Natural history is, of course, not really history as we think of it. It’s the study of the flora and fauna of a place (we get another of those strange trap camera photos that make the animal look more like taxidermy than like life, this time of an ocelot). And we get some idea of the llifestyle of the Matsigenka. We go along as Marris goes monkey hunting with them, for example.

Plundering the Past, by Tom Mueller, photographs by Robert Clark

Mueller takes us into the world of illegal artifact trafficking. We are introduced to the mummy of Shesep-amun-tayesher (who, for some unknown reason, loses her hyphens after the first time she’s named) and as we watch how her mummy got transported from Egypt to Birmingham, Alabama, we also see how the business of trafficking works with other artifacts as well.

We also see the conflict that museum curators and others who work with these artifacts are trying to deal with. You see, a lot of these artifacts are being trafficked by terrorists and so, by dealing with them, the collectors and the museums and other institutions are probably supplying terrorists with money. However, if ransoming these artifacts weren’t lucrative, there’s a good chance that the terrorists would just destroy them, or that the artifacts would be “collateral damage” of the wars in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question, and there probably never will be, until some farflung future date when the terrorism in the Middle East finally stops.

National Geographic July 2013, Part 2

Last Song, by Jonathan Franzen, photographs by David Guttenfelder

Last Song is about songbird hunting and/or poaching in countries near the Mediterranean (primarily Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Croatia, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Morocco, Romania, Spain, and Syria). One of the nice things about this article is that Franzen is against this poaching and he isn’t afraid to admit that he’s emotionally affected by the things he sees in the article.

Albania might be of the worst countries for hunting of songbirds.  At one point, Franzen says that almost none of the songbirds that enter the country ever leave it.  I did a little digging and the government of Albania finally did something about it in 2014, when they forbade all hunting in the country.  It was a pilot program that was supposed to last two years, but in February of 2016, it was extended for another five. While this has lessened the hunting somewhat, it has, obviously, only increased the level of poaching and Albania doesn’t have the resources to really crack down on poaching. Of course, what this means is that eventually only songbirds whose ancestors took migratory routes around Albania will survive to reproduce, and eventually Albania will lose all of its songbirds.

6/13/2016 Note: We went on a road trip yesterday and I finished reading July, 2013 and February, 2016.  I didn’t finish this post last night because I was exhausted when I got back.  I will, however, be able to knock out those three posts pretty quickly once I have some time to sit down and write (some of which will be after I finish today’s road trip). Now on to get started reading June 2013 . . .

The Case of the Missing Ancestor, by Jamie Shreeve, photographs by Robert Clark

In the 18th Century, a hermit named Denis supposedly lived in a cave in Siberia. Around three hundred years later, a piece of a pinkie bone was found in that cave, known as “Denisova.” When the scientists examined the DNA of that bone, they found that the owner of the bone, a girl estimated to have been around eight years old, had been of a species distinct from, but related to, modern humans.  They now call her people the Denisovans.

The Case of the Missing Ancestor goes into the discovery of the phalanx along with the discovery of two Denisovan molars, a Neanderthal toe bone, and part of a stone bracelet that, at press time was deemed probably too recent to have been made by a Denisovan or a Neanderthal, but may actually have been made by a Denisovan after all.

Speaking of things that have changed since press time, Shreeve says that the only living descendants of the Denisovans live in Oceania, including on the Aborigines of Australia and the Melanesians of Papua New Guinea. DNA studies done later indicate that there are also descendants of the Denisovans living in Tibet, including the Sherpa.

National Geographic: March 2014, Part 1

Okay, so I can write up whole issues at a time, but I really cannot do justice to that many stories at once. So I guess I am going to go back to doing two or three articles at a time. If someday I am far enough ahead that I can paste several posts together into one entire issue, then I’ll do that. Either way, though, from now on, the most articles I will write up at one time will probably be three, no matter how they end up being posted.

Syria: The Chaos of War: Damascus: Will the Walls Fall? by Anne Barnard, photographs by Andea Bruce

That titles’s a mouthful. I’m not sure if Syria: The Chaos of War is going to be a series, or is just the title of this section of this issue, so I’m putting it in the title section here just in case.

The Syrian Civil War and/or Syrian Revolution, depending on whom you talk to, has been going on since 2011. This article is a look at what was the current state of the capital city, Damascus, in March 2014.

Damascus, the site of the conversion of the Apostle Paul, has always prided itself on being cosmopolitan. In the city, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have lived and worked in relative peace for centuries. That peace is now being threatened by the ongoing war. As this article went to press, no fighting was taking place within the city, but the military was stationed in the city and was shelling the suburbs. In words and pictures, we see the people of the Old City of Damascus living their lives as best they can in the middle of a war zone.

Syria: The Chaos of War: Journey Without End, photographs by Lynsey Addario, text by Carolyn Butler

Journey Without End is a pictorial of refugees fleeing the war in Syria. We see refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and there is a map showing where in each country the refugees have settled.

Where the Greenstone Grows, by Kennedy Warne, photographs by Michael Melford

In Where the Greenstone Grows, Warne and Melford take us to Te Wahipounamu, part of the Te Wahipounamu-South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. We get a glimpse into the history and culture of the area, focusing on the nephrite jade, known in Maori as “pounamu,” that gives the area its name.  Warne talks about the type of nephrite jade known as inanga pounamu, which takes its name from whitebait fish that are a delicacy in New Zealand and also the connection of the World Heritage Area to Gondwana, the southern part of the land mass known as Pangaea.

I am saving up for a trip to New Zealand (our goal is to go in 2019), and Alex is something of a rock hound. I suspect we may be taking a trip to the beaches of Te Wahiponamu.