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Neolithic settlement in Cádiz: Dig in southern Spain reveals decapitation, trepanation and other extraordinary burial rituals | USA

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The woman was trephined while still alive and then decapitated. Her skull was deposited next to that of a man 25 years older than her and, possibly, of a high social standing. A lamb or goat was slaughtered as well and painstakingly decorated ceramic vases laid alongside them. The scene took place between 4,800 BC and 4,500 BC in the Dehesilla caves in the mountains of Cádiz in southern Spain at a time when burials were commonly individual or multiple and performed outside or in simple cavities in the rock. The mix of ritual elements, including stone tools, plant residues and stones arranged as a type of altar make Dehesilla a unique place for studying the culture of the mid-Neolithic age. Excavations at the site, led by University of Seville archeologist Daniel García Rivero, will continue when the coronavirus pandemic permits. “The cave has been social distancing,” jokes Rivera, who is putting the finishing touches on a batch of new findings.

Evidence of trepanation and other injuries on the skull of the woman found at Dehesilla.
Evidence of trepanation and other injuries on the skull of the woman found at Dehesilla.Daniel García Rivero

The community that lived at Dehesilla was ahead of its time. A paper on the most important discoveries to date, published in the scientific journal Plos One, notes that “the monumental nature of some of the earth and stone funerary structures is a distinctive trait of the Late Neolithic and the appearance of megalithic elements is generally associated with this period,” which is dated to between the third and fourth millenniums BC. However, centuries beforehand in the mountains around Cádiz, a group of men were already performing extraordinary burial rituals as confirmed by the discoveries at Dehesilla.

Determining the age and gender of the Dehesilla couple has not been easy, due to a lack of teeth and pelvic bones, but detailed examinations of the morphology of the remains have allowed researchers to conclude they belong to a man and a woman. Estimates of their ages vary between the different models employed but based on dental decay on a canine and a molar and other dating methods, the woman is believed to be between 24 and 40 years old and the man between 30 and 50.

The site of the archeological dig at the Dehesilla cave.
The site of the archeological dig at the Dehesilla cave.Daniel García Rivero

Their skulls were deposited within 20 centimeters of each other with both facing to the west. García Rivero – who has been researching the site for five years – explains that the remains of the woman display a “fissure from an unfinished trephination, but one that is very deep and reached to within a few millimeters of the brain.” Initially, it was thought that this could have been the cause of her death but further investigation revealed signs of healing in the bone, meaning that the procedure, possibly with surgical intent, was performed before she died. Both sets of remains show signs of “physiological stress,” which the researchers have attributed to anemia. The woman’s remains show three indications compatible with a benign tumor.

Decapitation

Based on the cut marks on the occipital of the woman’s skull, the researchers believe that decapitation occurred shortly before her death. “Although it cannot be stated categorically, it is quite possible that death was chronologically close to the time of deposition of the skull (if not at the time of death itself, before complete tissue decomposition).” The male skull showed no evidence of similar cuts. “The stratigraphic information guarantees the contemporaneous deposition of both skulls and several other elements of the context. Although the simultaneous natural death of both individuals (or the secondary burial of one of them) cannot be ruled out, the natural death [of] one and the ritual sacrifice of the other, or the sacrifice of both, may be equally likely,” the report concludes.

The remains of an animal, either a goat or sheep, found without its head during excavations.
The remains of an animal, either a goat or sheep, found without its head during excavations.Daniel García Rivero

Among these “elements” was the striking discovery of the headless remains of an infant sheep or goat. “It is possible that it was also decapitated,” says García Rivero. This find, the paper states, lends weight to the theory of “new anthropological scenarios, perhaps sacrifices (human and animal) related to propitiatory activities, divine prayers and/or commemorative festivities (cosmogonic, seasonal rites…).”

These festivities, the study suggests, may have been linked to the arrival of spring due to the youth of the discovered animal. Its ritualistic nature is supported by the stone platform situated in a natural alcove in the wall of the cave, which the researchers believe could have been used as a form of altar. What’s more, researchers also discovered ceramic vases featuring a ramiform design common in the schematic rock art of the era, but with a very unique design. Along with these finds, objects and tools made of flint, carbonized seeds and branches and carved bones were also uncovered. “It’s a unique combination,” notes García Rivero.

The archeologist explains that the presence of skulls at similar sites can usually be attributed to the remains of enemies, placed there as trophies of war, or if the location was considered to possess magical properties. But in the case of Locus 2, as the Dehesilla site has been named, the hypothesis is that this was a place of ritual significance that was maintained for a long time and held special significance. “The sacrifice discovered in Cádiz doesn’t appear to have taken place as the result of a punishment based on the time invested in the ritual, in the putting together of the stone structures and given the characteristics of the objects uncovered,” explains García Rivero. “Everything points to the two skulls belonging to people who had religious or social relevance in the population. The age of the man could indicate a prestigious elder in the community.”

Fragments of a decorated vase found in the Dehesilla cave.
Fragments of a decorated vase found in the Dehesilla cave.Daniel García Rivero

The exceptional preservation of the remains – which have survived the passing of millennia and the actions of water, animals and humans – the accumulation of objects and the age of the site make Dehesilla a unique location. The presence of human skulls has been documented at other settlements but these are much more recent. Maria Giovanna Belcastro, an archeologist at the University of Bologna, has unraveled the mystery of one belonging to a woman who died between the ages of 24 and 35 sometime between 3,630 BC and 3,380 BC. In an article also published in Plos One, Belcastro says that the find, made in 2015 in an indentation in the wall 12 meters off the ground in the Marcel Loubens cave in France, showed signs of mutilation that took place after a funerary ritual. The location of the skull had perplexed researchers but Belcastro believes that it was probably pushed to its eventual resting place by the movement of water and earth in the cave. Another study by a team at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, notes the presence of sacrificial dogs in ceremonies dated to between 4,200 BC and 3,600 BC.

But the discovery of a combination of ritual elements on the Iberian peninsula, where they are most documented, as well as the date of the find, make the Dehesilla cave a unique site that could rewrite the pages of prehistory.

English version by Rob Train.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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