New Zealand – the mysterious southern islands

New Zealand – the mysterious southern islands

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In this book there is no ready-made answers to the most complex questions of origin and development of the human race. Relying on a vast collection of facts, many of which have not yet been published in Russian, the author invites the reader himself to think about these problems and find their own solutions. From our days in the depths of thousands of years go the roots of numerous anthropological mysteries: what kind of mysterious people, who left behind grandiose megalithic buildings, inhabited Europe before the arrival of the Indo-Europeans? What connects the indigenous people of Spain – Basques with the inhabitants of the far north of Canada – the Eskimos? Where did the legends of white and black Native Americans come from? How people settled Australia and what kind of strange people lived in New Zealand before the arrival of the Polynesian Maori? The book “Mysteries of Anthropology” is dedicated to these and many other mysteries of mankind.

Humans and apes

The resounding announcement that man evolved from apes, sounded long before the first real facts were discovered to support or refute this claim.

The history of discoveries of fossil remains of the higher primates (hominids), which at different times were ascribed a direct relationship to the human lineage, began rather late – only in the XX century. This history is replete with all sorts of misconceptions and dead ends, the story of which could take a weighty volume. The first actual findings of the remains of creatures that, morphologically, can be attributed to the predecessors of modern man (precursors, not ancestors) are associated with the name of Raymond Arthur Dart (1893-1988).

A native of Queensland, Australia, Dart studied and began his scientific career in England, where he gained a reputation as an unorthodox thinker who recognized no authority. In 1922, Dart was offered a professorship of anatomy at the newly founded Witwatersratsd University in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1924, geologists, geologists and geologists at the Witwatersratsadt University in Johannesburg, South Africa, were invited to join him as a professor of anatomy.

In 1924, geologists working in a limestone quarry near Tung station sent Dart a strange find. It was a fossilized casting of the skull of some creature, which the quarry workers mistook at first for the skull of a baboon. But Darth immediately determined that it was clearly not a monkey. In response to his inquiry to see if anything else like this had been found in Tunga. – The geologists sent Dart two more baskets of all kinds of fossils, among which Dart found other fragments of the mysterious creature’s head skeleton. A month later, after carefully clearing and gluing all the fragments together, Dart had an almost complete skull in his hands. The frontal bone, the right zygomatic arch, part of the temporal region, the entire upper and almost complete lower jaw with all the teeth, and the entire cavity of the brain box was filled with a mineral formation. All of this allowed Dart to understand at a glance that he was faced with a baby skull with milk teeth, in their structure clearly resembling those of modern humans. The skull itself, however, had many of the characteristics of an ape-like creature.

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Dart concluded that the “infant Tung,” as he dubbed his find, was a fossil humanoid creature, one step above the apes in its development, but still very far from being human. The scientist called this creature “Australopithecus” – “southern ape.

Dart sent a photograph of the skull of the “baby Tung” and a preliminary report of his discovery to the popular English magazine Natchur. The article, published on February 7, 1925, under the title “Australopithecus Africanus: A Man-Ape from South Africa,” caused a bomb blast effect in the scientific world. The first reaction was strongly negative: most scientists were convinced that the find at Tung Station was merely the remains of a fossil ape akin to a chimpanzee or gorilla. At the time, the scientific world was extremely fascinated by the problem of the so-called Piltdown Man, which a group of researchers led by Arthur Woodward and Teilhard de Chardin declared to be the “ancestor of modern man”. Later it turned out that the bones of the “Piltdown man” were a crude forgery, fabricated by amateur paleontologist Charles Dawson in “good faith”, and today this unpleasant mishap has entered the annals of paleoanthropology as its most embarrassing page. But that was later, but for now, against the backdrop of all the hype with the “Piltdown man”, Dart’s finding looked very modest and, therefore, did not arouse any serious interest – nothing more than some monkey there…

Dart’s views were supported only by his colleague, the well-known paleontologist Dr. Robert Broom (1866-1951), Director of the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria. Seeking to confirm the right of Australopithecus to life with new findings, he began to intensively search for new remains of this hominid.

The first success came in 1936. The manager of the quarry, Sterkfontein, sent Broom a fossilized casting of the skull of a fossil anthropoid in which the scientist recognized the Australopithecus unmistakably! From that time on, Broome devoted himself entirely to excavations at Sterkfontein. Within a few years, he managed to find here several casts and imprints of cranial boxes, occipital bones, a large piece of the upper jaw with teeth and with the adjacent frontal and temporal regions. This fragment allowed Broom to easily reconstruct the appearance of the fossil creature: it was an adult, very close to the “ape-man from South Africa,” skull fragments of which Dart had found. “Broom dubbed “his” ape “Australopithecus transvaalis. Apart from the skulls, other parts of the skeleton were also discovered so that scientists gradually got a more accurate idea of the australopithecine appearance.

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In 1938, not far from Sterkfontein, Broom found some more bone fragments from which he was able to reconstruct the skull. It was another enigmatic hominid that was very different from both the African Australopithecus and the Transvaal Australopithecus. Broome called it a “paranthropus,” or Australopithecus massive.

The age of the finds was particularly difficult to determine. As the Australopithecus remains were studied, more and more new dating was accepted and today it is accepted that the antiquity of these South African finds ranges between 2-3 million years.

The scientific world followed the news from South Africa with great interest. By the end of the 1940s, the most prominent experts had already recognized the results of Dart and Broom’s research and agreed that the South African finds were indeed the remains of creatures standing between apes and humans. A weighty argument in this discussion was the work of Wilfred Le Gros Clark published in 1950 who concluded that Australopithecines were closer to man than to ape on the basis of morphological examination of teeth and jaws. However, later discoveries demonstrated such a wide distinction between various groups of Australopithecines – many differed from each other as a wolf from a cow – that the question of these creatures being related to modern man disappeared by itself and was removed from the agenda. It is interesting that some anthropologists classify Australopithecines as “pygmies” and others as “giants,” but in any case, most of them today no longer see any connection between Australopithecines and humans.

It has been established that Australopithecines, even within South Africa, did not constitute a single species. The fossils found show that Australopithecus africus and Australopithecus massive differed significantly from each other both in appearance and way of life.

New Zealand: a walk through the mythical islands of the Earth

New Zealand is the land of green hills and the flightless wonder bird, the kiwi. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed here, the north is warmer than the south, and the sun goes counterclockwise by sunset.

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1. Hatching. Long historical isolation and remoteness from other continents have created a unique and in many ways unique natural world of the New Zealand islands, characterized by a large number of endemic plants and birds. (Photo by Christina Karliczek):

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2. Milford Sound is a fjord in the southwestern part of New Zealand’s South Island. Named “the eighth wonder of the world” by Rudyard Kipling. (Photo by Tom Walker):

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3. Steep cliffs, reaching a height of 130 meters. Penguins live here. (Photo by Mark Macewen):

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4. A guard penguin. (Photo by Mark MacEwen):

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5. Luminous worms attracting flying insects in a trap of sticky threads.

In the limestone caves of New Zealand’s Waitomo region there is an amazing phenomenon called the “lure” of luminous worms. In fact, it is a type of mushroom mosquito that lives only in a few regions of New Zealand. On the walls and ceilings of caves, these insects form whole galaxies of amazing beauty. (Photo by Alex Hasskerl):

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Even about 1,000 years ago, before there were permanent human settlements on the islands, mammals were historically completely absent. The exceptions were two species of bats and the whales, sea lions and harbour seals living in the coastal waters.

Simultaneously with the arrival of the first permanent inhabitants, Polynesians, small rats and dogs appeared on the islands. Later the first European settlers brought pigs, cows, goats, mice, and cats. The development of European settlements in the 19th century brought more and more animal species to New Zealand.

The appearance of some of them has had an extremely negative impact on the flora and fauna of the islands. Such animals include rats, cats, ferrets, rabbits (brought into the country for the development of hunting), and ermines (brought into the country to control the rabbit population).

6. Ermine. (Photo by Nick Easton):

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7. New Zealand’s topography is mostly uplands and mountains. More than 75% of the country lies more than 200 m above sea level. Most of the mountains of the North Island do not exceed 1,800 m in height. Nineteen peaks on the South Island are higher than 3,000 m. (Photo by Colin Pilliner):

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8. This is it! Of New Zealand’s fauna, the most famous are the kiwi birds, which have become a national symbol of the country.

It is thought that the ancestors of the Kiwi came to New Zealand from Australasia about 30 million years ago. These flightless birds, the size of an ordinary chicken, are so different from other birds that zoologist William Calder called them “honorary mammals.” (Screen Grab photo):

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9. New Zealand is located on two large islands (North and South) and a large number (approximately 700) of adjacent smaller islands. The population, according to Statistics New Zealand as of June 2015, is 4,596,700. (Photo by Colin Pilliner):

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10. Another local inhabitant. This is the gatteria. It lives on several small islands in New Zealand. Gatteria is an endangered relict species and is to be protected. Included in the IUCN Red List, it now has protected status as a vulnerable species. (Photo by Claire Thompson):

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11. There are 129 geothermal zones in New Zealand. This “Champagne Basin” hot spring is located in the Waiotapu geothermal area on the North Island of New Zealand. The name “Champagne Pool” comes from the constant outflow of carbon dioxide, similar to bubbling champagne in a glass. The vibrant colors of the amazing geothermal spring come from the rich deposition of minerals and silicates. The spring is 900 years old. (Photo by Nick Easton):

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12. native gray fantail. One of New Zealand’s smallest and most nimble birds. (Photo by Tom Walker):

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13. New Zealand is one of the most late populated areas. Various types of analysis suggest that the first eastern Polynesians settled here in 1250-1300 after long voyages to the South Pacific islands. (Photo by Paul Furborough):

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14. The sea lions in New Zealand are among the rarest of species. (Photo by Christina Karliczek):

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15. Reflections of New Zealand autumn. (Photo by Kevin Jeffries):

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16. The kakapo, or owl parrot, is a nocturnal, flightless bird that is endemic to New Zealand. It is probably one of the oldest living bird species. (Photo by Holly Wallace):

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17. These flowers are some of the highest living buttercups in the world (over 1500 meters high). They bloom in the summertime. The flora of New Zealand has about 2,000 species of plants. (BBC Pictures photo):

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18. Veta is the collective name for the more than 100 species found throughout New Zealand. This particular species is 3.6 cm in size and very creatively rescues itself from predators – it jumps into the water and sits there for up to 5 minutes until the predator loses interest in it. (Photo by Nick Easton):

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19. Scary Predator. Predatory and able to smell their prey in the forests, these snails feed mostly on earthworms. (Photo by James Reardon):

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20. There are 3,280 lakes in New Zealand. It is one of the few countries in the southern hemisphere with glaciers (Tasmanian, Fox, Franz Josef, etc.). (Photo by Lorenzo Montezemolo):

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21. Only in New Zealand are the remains of giant flightless moa birds which were extinct about 500 years ago and were up to 3.5 m high. (Photo by Nick Easton):

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22. Несмотря на то, что съёмки кинофильмов начались в Новой Зеландии ещё в 1920-х годах, активное развитие киноиндустрия получила лишь начиная с семидесятых годов того же века. Особую известность получили трилогии “Властелин Колец” и “Хоббит”, кинофильмы “Последний самурай”, “Хроники Нарнии”. (Фото Ник Истон):

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