Did the Indus Valley Civilisation Grow Without a River?

Many great civilisations in history developed along rivers.  Up to now, historians have assumed that one of the oldest civilisations grew on the banks of the Indus River and its tributaries. Now, scientists may have found proof that people settled in the region after the Indus River had changed its course.

Archaeologists and scientists who have been working the region took probes from dried up river beds.  They found out that water hadn’t run through the Indus Valley for over 8,000 years. That means that when people started settling in the area about 5,000 years ago there was no river.   In addition, some ancient sites were found in the old river bed, which would not have been the case if a river had been flowing through it.

According to experts, the people who lived during that time may have got their water from yearly monsoon rains. There may have also been underground water supplies that they accessed.

Other great cultures used the advantages of a river to bring water to their fields and as a means of transporting goods throughout the region. That happened in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Historians point out that civilisations do not necessarily need to be near a river in order to grow. In fact, not having a river nearby may have advantages as well because people would not have to deal with regular floods.

 

Archaeological ruins along the Indus River in Pakistan
Archaeological ruins along the Indus River in Pakistan – Image : Junhi Han

Words

  • access = use
  • according to = as said by …
  • advantage = good side of something
  • Ancient Egypt = old civilisation that grew along the Nile River thousands of years ago
  • ancient site = a place where something was built a long time ago
  • archaeologist = person who studies old societies by looking at what is left of buildings or the objects that people made at that time
  • assume = think that something is true although you can not prove it
  • bank  = land along the side of a river
  • course = path
  • deal with = handle a problem
  • develop = grow
  • flood = when an area of land becomes covered with water
  • goods = products
  • historian = someone who studies history
  • in addition = also
  • means of transporting = what you use to bring things from one place to another
  • Mesopotamia = area in western Asia along the River Tigris and Euphrates; in ancient times the world’s first cities were built andan advanced  civilisation developed there
  • monsoon = rainy season in India and southeast Asia; it lasts between April and October
  • not necessarily = when you don’t really need something in order for  something else to work
  • probe = rocks from an area
  • proof = facts, information or documents  that show that something is true or has happened
  • river bed = the ground at the bottom of a river
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • settle = to start living in a place for the first time
  • supply = something that you need and use every day
  • tributary = a small river that flows into a larger one

 

Plague May Have Entered Europe in Prehistoric Times

According to recent scientific research conducted by Germany’s Max Planck  Institute, the plague was in Europe as far back as the Stone Age. When scanning the remains of 500 prehistoric skeletons, scientists found plague bacteria in six individuals. The samples come from Russia, Germany and the Baltic countries.

The deadly bacterium came to Europe during the mass migration of people who moved from Central Asia eastwards about 5,000 years ago. The findings suggest that the disease came to Europe in waves during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Some experts think that people may have been moving eastwards to escape the bacterium.

Most of the people at that time were nomadic farmers who travelled with their livestock. Animals may have harboured the plague bacterium and helped spread it.

By analyzing the bacterium scientists hope to find out how it evolved and became more deadly over periods of time.

The plague was responsible for many mass killings in history.  The deadliest was the Black Death which occurred in Europe during the 14th century and killed about a third of the continent’s population.   It still causes deaths in certain areas of the world. Recent outbreaks in Madagascar have killed hundreds of people.

Stone Age people may have spread the plague from Central Asia to Europe - Image: Gugatc
Stone Age people may have spread the plague from Central Asia to Europe – Image: Gugatchitchinadze

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • bacterium, bacteria  = some living things, some of which cause illnesses or diseases
  • Baltic countries = Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
  • Bronze Age = time between  6,000 and 4,000 years ago when bronze was used for making tools
  • century = a hundred years
  • conduct = do, carry out
  • disease = illness
  • escape = get away from
  • evolve = grow; develop; change
  • harbour = here: to have something in them that is dangerous
  • livestock = animals such as cows, sheep, goats that are kept on a farm
  • mass migration = when many people leave their homes, often  in order to escape from a dangerous situation
  • Neolithic = the last period of the Stone Age, about 10,000 years ago, when people started to live in small groups
  • nomadic = people who travel from place to place  instead of living in one place all the time
  • outbreak = when something suddenly starts to happen
  • plague = deadly disease that produces high fever and swollen places in the body; it often leads to deaths of a large number of people
  • prehistoric = time in history before anything was written down
  • recent = a short time ago
  • remains = what is left of a body
  • research = to study a subject seriously so that you can find out more about it
  • responsible = the reason for something
  • scan = look at something carefully
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • spread = take from place to place
  • suggest = imply; to say that something is probably true
  • Stone Age = early time in human history when stone was used for making tools

Mungo Man Returns Home

The remains of Australia’s oldest aboriginal man, who died about 42,000 years ago, has been returned to his original burial ground in  New South Wales. For years, he had been at a university in Canberra for study purposes.

The skeleton was discovered in 1974 in a dry salt lake in Mungo National Park about 800 km west of Sydney. The remains were taken to the University of Canberra to be studied. At the time, the Aborigines protested heavily against removing the remains from their original burial grounds.They have been fighting for decades to bring the skeleton, known as Mungo Man, back home.

Mungo Man was probably a hunter-gatherer, who died at the age of 50. Scientists think that the man probably suffered from arthritis. He was found lying on his back with his hands crossed in his lap. His limbs were stretched out and his body was covered with red ochre, which came from some 200 km away.

Aborigines celebrated the return of the remains in a traditional ceremony with green gum leaves burned over a small fire. In an official statement, the university apologized for the pain they have caused by not letting the ancient human rest in peace.

satellite image of Lake Mungo, where the remains of Mungo Man were discovered.
Satellite image of Lake Mungo, where the remains were discovered.

Words

  • aboriginal = connected to someone who has lived in  a place or country from the earliest times
  • Aborigines = someone who belongs to the race of people who have lived in Australia from the earliest times
  • apologize = to say you are sorry about something
  • arthritis = disease that causes bones and flexible parts of your body to become painful and swollen
  • burial ground = place where a person is laid to rest after they have died
  • cause = create
  • celebrate = to show that an event is important by doing something special
  • ceremony = important social or religious event
  • decade = ten years
  • discover = to find for the first time
  • gum leaves = leaves from a gum tree; they produce  a strong smelling oil that is used in medicine
  • heavily = very much; strongly
  • hunter-gatherer = person who lived  by hunting animals and looking for plants that could be eaten
  • lap = the upper part of your legs   when you are sitting down
  • limbs = arms and legs
  • ochre = red-yellowish earth
  • official statement = here: the university announced something in public
  • original = here: for the first time
  • remains = the body or skeleton of someone who has died
  • remove = bring away from the original place
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • skeleton = structure of all the bones in the human body
  • study purposes = when something is looked at or examined closely by scientists and experts
  • suffer = to feel pain because you are ill

Da Vinci Painting Sells For Almost 500 Million

Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Christ was sold for $450 million at an art auction at Christie’s  in New York. It was more than double the price of any art object ever sold.

The painting, Salvator Mundi,  is one of the rare masterpieces of the Renaissance painter. Created at around 1500 it is one of 20 da Vinci paintings still in private possession.

Salvator Mundi was once owned by King Charles I  of England in the middle of the 17th century.  The painting was believed to have been destroyed until it resurfaced in 1900.  In England, it was sold for a mere $125  because art experts at the time thought it was a worthless copy, either done by one of da Vinci’s followers or students. Even today, the painting’s authenticity is still in doubt.

After being restored several times, a Russian billionaire bought the painting in 2013. The new owner intends to remain anonymous.

The oil painting shows the upper body of Jesus Christ as the world’s saviour. In one hand he holds a glass sphere in, while the other hand is raised in blessing.

Currently, there is only one da Vinci in the United States. Ginevra de’ Benci can be observed in public at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

 

Da Vinci's masterpiece "Salvator Mundi"
Da Vinci’s masterpiece “Salvator Mundi”

Words

  • anonymous = not known by name
  • auction = a public meeting where paintings and other things are sold to the person who offers the most money
  • authenticity = the quality of being real or true
  • billionaire = person who has one thousand million dollars, euros etc..
  • in blessing = with the help or protection from God
  • century = a hundred years
  • Christie’s = famous auction house in New York
  • currently = now, at the moment
  • destroy = to damage completely so that you no longer can use it
  • in doubt = here: it may not be real
  • in public = where everyone can see it
  • intend = want to be
  • masterpiece = a work of art that is of very high quality or the best of a famous artist
  • mere = only
  • observe = see something
  • own = possess; if something belongs to you
  • possession = something that belongs to you
  • raise = hold up
  • rare = not found very often
  • Renaissance = period of time in Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries, when art, literature and scientific ideas became very important
  • restore = repair, so that it appears like it once was
  • resurface = to appear again after being lost or missing for some time
  • saviour =  a person who saves someone in a dangerous situation – here: Jesus Christ
  • sphere = shape of a ball
  • worthless = without any value , cheap

Russian Revolution – One Hundred Years Ago

One hundred years ago, in 1917, the Russian Revolution ended the monarchyTsar Nicholas II had to step down and the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin took control of the country. As a result, the Soviet Union evolved and became the biggest Communist country in the 20th century.

The centennial celebrations did not stir up a lot of publicity and Russian media did not report extensively on the topic. The Russian government under Vladimir Putin all but ignored the anniversary.

In contrast, thousands of Communist party members marched through downtown Moscow in honour of the Bolshevists, holding up flags of Lenin and Stalin.

During the Soviet era, November 7th  was always a state holiday with military parades and a display of power on Red Square. It was stopped after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Public opinion on the Russian Revolution is divided . While most citizens have a positive view of Lenin’s role in history they are opposed to the events that took place under Joseph Stalin’s  authoritarian regime. On the other side, many Russians are proud of having won World War II and of the country’s military and scientific achievements.

Lenin’s legacy collapsed in 1991. After years of chaos and a massive gap between the rich and poor, stability returned in the new millennium. While many cities and towns still honour Lenin in some way, others, like St. Petersburg, have returned to pre-revolutionary names.

Poster showing a Bolshevik in 1920
Poster showing a Bolshevik in 1920

Words

  • achievement = something important or successful that you have done  and can be proud of
  • anniversary = a day on which something special happened years ago
  • authoritarian regime = government that forces people to do what it wants and  where the citizens cannot state their opinions
  • Bolsheviks = group of people who supported the communist party at the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917
  • centennial = day or year exactly 100 years after a special event
  • century = a hundred years
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • collapse = break down; when something stops existing
  • divided = split
  • downtown = the centre of a city
  • evolve = grow
  • extensively = in detail, very much
  • gap = big difference
  • ignore = pay no attention to something
  • in honour = to show how much you admire or respect someone
  • legacy = here: what is left over from a certain period in history
  • massive = very large
  • millennium = the beginning of the next one thousand years
  • monarchy = country in which a king, queen or another person rules
  • oppose = to be against something
  • parade = here: public celebration where soldiers and weapons move down the streets for the people to see
  • pre-revolutionary = before the revolution
  • publicity = attention that something gets  from newspapers or TV
  • public opinion = what the people on the streets think
  • Red Square = large open area in the centre of Moscow
  • scientific = about science
  • stability = being in the same condition
  • step down = give up power
  • stir up = cause, lead to
  • tsar = king of the Russian empire before 1917

 

 

Mysterious Chamber Discovered in Egyptian Pyramid

A mysterious chamber in an  Egyptian pyramid has been recently discovered by scientists. A special technique shows a  large void hidden in the Great Pyramid of Giza  near Cairo

The ScansPyramid project, led by the University of Cairo and the Egyptian government,  uses advanced technology to find out more about ancient structures. Scientists from Egypt, France and Japan installed special detectors which could detect small particles called muons. These are a type of cosmic rain which constantly falls down on the earth. Three separate teams have conducted the research and have found the same cavity in the pyramid.

The newly found chamber in the Egyptian pyramid is 30 metres long and about the size of the Grand Gallery which is a known passageway that leads to the King’s Chamber. However, nothing else is known about the new room. It is also impossible to reach the space as there is no passage that leads to it. Experts also warn against having great expectations about new discovery inside the cavity.  It is possible that the void does not have any meaning at all and was just left there for construction reasons.

The Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, was built at around 2650 BC. after the death of the pharaoh. It is the largest of the three remaining pyramids at Giza, which belong to the wonders of the ancient world.

The Great Pyramid at Giza -
The Great Pyramid at Giza – Image: Nina Aldin Thune

Words

  • advanced technology = modern and complicated machines and tools
  • ancient = old; from a long time ago
  • cavity = hole
  • chamber = room
  • conduct = carry out
  • cosmic = coming from space
  • detector = a machine that finds or measures something
  • discover = find something for the first time
  • expectation = here: what you think or hope you will find
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • however = but
  • mysterious = difficult to understand and explain
  • particle = very small piece of something
  • passageway = long narrow area in a building; corridor or hallway
  • pharaoh = king in ancient Egypt
  • recently = a short time ago
  • remaining = … which still exists
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • structure = any kind of building
  • technique = special way fo doing or finding  something
  • void = empty space in which nothing exists

 

Asteroid That Wiped Out Dinosaurs Led to Severe Winter

Scientists have now found out that the asteroid that hit the earth and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago also caused a long period of winter and extremely cold temperatures.

The asteroid hit the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico and created a crater with a diameter of 15 km. As a result about three-quarters of all plant and animal species died, including the dinosaurs. The impact sent tons of dust and sulphur gas into the atmosphere.

Now we know that three times more sulphur gas was catapulted into the atmosphere than previously thought. Sunlight was blocked from getting in, which resulted in much lower temperatures. A new study shows that temperatures worldwide dropped to about -10° Celsius for at least three years after the impact. Thus, the earth was plunged into a deadly winter, which many plants and animals could not survive.

While air temperatures probably rose shortly after impact, ocean temperatures may have been affected for centuries. Scientists also found out that the amount of carbon-dioxide that was released into the atmosphere was probably over-estimated.

In new research on the Yucatan peninsula, scientists drilled into the surface of what’s left of the crater and collected rock samples. This allowed them to examine and reconstruct what happened.

 

Crater caused by a meteor crash
Crater caused by a meteor crash – Image : Steve Jurvetson

Words

  • affected = to do something that leads to a change later on
  • asteroid = one of the many small planets that move around the sun especially between Mars and Jupiter
  • block = stop from getting in
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals or people breathe out or when you burn carbon in the air
  • catapult = when something moves through the air very quickly
  • cause =  lead to; result in
  • century= a hundred years
  • crater = a round hole made by a large object crashing into something
  • diameter = a straight line from one side of a circle to the other
  • drill = to make a hole into the surface
  • drop = go down
  • examine = look at closely
  • extinction = when animals or plants die out
  • impact = crash
  • over-estimated = less than thought at first
  • peninsula = land with water on three sides
  • plunge = here: to suddenly change
  • previously = earlier
  • reconstruct = to see how something happened by putting the facts together
  • release= set free
  • research = to look at something closely in order to find out more about it
  • sample = here: rocks that scientists can study and look at
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • species = group of animals and plants whose members are similar and who can produce babies together
  • sulphur gas = a yellow bright substance that burns and has an unpleasant smell
  • survive  = continue to live after a dangerous situation

US Government Releases Most JFK Files

The American government has released over 3000 documents relating to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.  President Trump, however, has ordered some of the documents with sensitive information to be held back for 6 months after a request from the CIA and FBI. In 1992 President George Bush signed a law that required all documents about the JFK murder to be released within 25 years.

The published documents have not provided any sensational new information on the JFK assassination. The public had  hoped that the released documents would bring more light into the former president’s murder. Experts say that the decision to withhold some of the documents suggests that the government wants to keep some things secret .

Many of the documents are incomplete and some are only memos. The files show how disorganised government agencies were during the 1960s and how they dealt with the assassination.

In a series of memos, the FBI reports on Lee Harvey Oswald’s visit to Mexico City, where he met with a Soviet agent shortly before the Kennedy was killed. The material shows that authorities were trying to find out if a foreign government – Cuba or possibly the Soviet Union – was behind Kennedy’s death.

There is still no evidence that there was a conspiracy to kill the president. Nothing suggests that Lee Harvey Oswald worked with a partner.  There are, however, FBI documents that warned the Dallas police about a threat against Oswald. Kennedy’s killer was shot dead at the Dallas Police Department two days after the Kennedy assassination.

Among the documents are reports that are only indirectly related to the Kennedy killing, for example CIA plans to murder Cuba’s Fidel Castro .

John F. Kennedy in the motorcade shortly before the assassination
John F. Kennedy in the motorcade shortly before the assassination

Words

  • agency = organisation or department in the government
  • agent = person who works for another government
  • assassination = the murder of an important person
  • authorities = organisation or department in the government
  • conspiracy = a secret plan made by two or more people to do something that is against the law
  • deal with = handle
  • decision = to do something after you have thought about it
  • disorganised = without a plan or system
  • evidence = proof that something happened
  • files = documents
  • foreign = from another country
  • former = earlier, in the past
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • incomplete = not having everything that should be there
  • provide = to give; make available
  • public = ordinary people in a country
  • publish = to make public
  • relating to = about
  • release = to make public for everyone to see
  • request = a formal demand for something
  • require = here: the law says you have to do something
  • secret = not for everybody to know
  • sensitive = something that you have to deal with carefully
  • series =  a few
  • sign = to put your name on a document
  • Soviet Union = largest Communist country that existed between 1917 and 1991
  • threat = when someone says that they want to harm or trouble you
  • withhold = to hold back; not release

Che Guevara Died 50 Years Ago

Che Guevara was a Marxist revolutionary who was a close aide of Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution. He was killed in Bolivia 50 years ago.

Che was born into a middle class Argentinian family   in 1928  and studied medicine in his youth. From the beginning he was influenced by left-wing ideas and strongly opposed the government of Argentine leader Juan Peron.

Instead of finishing his studies, the young rebel decided to travel around South America, where he witnessed widespread poverty  and oppression among the population. In the 1950s he travelled to Guatemala where he saw how the CIA helped overthrow a leftist government.

In Mexico, Che Guevara met Fidel Castro and his brother Raul.  Together , they planned to overthrow the pro-western government in Cuba. After Castro took power in 1959 , Che Guevara held some top posts in his government and also became Castro’s military adviser.  He strongly opposed the United States and its policies. Instead he tried to strengthen ties with the Soviet Union and spread socialism to Central America.

The Marxist revolutionary was sent to developing countries  in order to show  them how Cuban socialism worked. In Congo, he trained rebels to fight against government soldiers. Che Guevara was finally captured in Bolivia where he was  he was executed in 1967.

 

Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara
Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara

Words

  • adviser = person who gives you advice because they know a lot about a topic
  • aide = person who helps a politician or leader
  • capture = to catch a person and keep them as a prisoner
  • developing country = poor country in Africa, Asia or America
  • execute = to kill someone as a from of being punished
  • influence = to affect or change the way someone behaves or thinks
  • instead = in something’s place
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • Marxist = person who supports the ideas of Karl Marx.  He explained changes in history as a result of the struggle between social classes
  • oppose = to be against
  • oppression = when you treat a group of people in an unfair way and do not give them the same rights that others have
  • overthrow = remove a leader or a government
  • policy = the way a government plans to handle a topic or problem
  • poverty= the situation of being poor
  • revolutionary = person who joins or supports a revolution
  • socialism = system in which many industries are owned by the state  and rich people pay more taxes than poorer ones
  • strengthen = make stronger
  • take power = here: become a leader or the head of a government
  • ties = relationship with another country
  • widespread = all over the place
  • witness = to see something because you are there

60 Years Ago – Sputnik First Satellite in Space

60 years ago , on October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union  launched the first man-made satellite into space. Sputnik showed that the Soviets were willing to overtake American technology.  The launch was also the beginning of a new episode in the Cold War – the Space Race.

Sputnik looked like a big basketball and weighed 84 kilograms. Two radio transmitters  and four antennae were attached to it. The satellite sent out a beeping signal and could be seen on Earth with the naked eye.

The Soviet satellite orbited the Earth over 1,400 times in a period of three months before it burned up in the atmosphereA month later Sputnik 2 was launched, this time with the first animal on board, a dog named Laika.

Sergei Korolev was the father of the Soviet space program. He oversaw the creation of a booster rocket that sent Sputnik into orbit. Korolev was also responsible for bringing  German engineers to the Soviet Union after World War II.

While Sputnik took the rest of the world by surprise, the Soviet Union told their people about the historic launch only a few days later.

In January 1958 the Americans were able to launch their first satellite into orbit. Explorer I  remained in orbit until 1970 and was the  first satellite to detect the Van Allen radiation belt.  Later that year Congress passed a law that created NASA , the American space agency.

 

Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1

Words

  • antenna = a long  piece of wire used to receive radio or television signals
  • atmosphere = the mixture of gases that is around the Earth
  • booster rocket = a rocket that has enough power to send a satellite into Earth orbit
  • Cold War = unfriendly relationship between the USA and the Soviet Union after World War II
  • detect = to show that something existed
  • engineer = here: person who can understands how to build rockets and satellites
  • episode = time during which something happens
  • launch = start ; here: send into space
  • naked eye = without the help of a telescope
  • orbit = to go around a planet or star
  • oversee = to be in charge of ; the leader of
  • overtake = here: to do something more quickly than someone else
  • remain = stay
  • Soviet Union = largest Communist country in the world ; it existed between 1917 and 1991
  • space agency = government organisation that controls space travel and the study of space
  • transmitter = object that sends out radio signals
  • Van Allen radiation belt  = particles of energy that are kept together by the Earth’s magnetic field
  • weigh = how heavy something is

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