Historic Sites to Visit in Morocco

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

Historic Sites to Visit in Morocco

A visit to Morocco is an intoxicating journey back in time where you’ll find snake charmers and bustling bazaars selling a dizzying array of exotic treasures alongside stunning architecture and ruins. Morocco lies along Africa’s northwestern coast with beaches stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. The beautiful coastlines, combined with several mountain ranges and the Sahara Desert, give Morocco a diverse landscape. Given its strategic location just miles from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, Morocco is awash in history with influences from Portuguese, Spanish, French, Roman, Arabian and Berberian cultures. You could spend weeks trekking and exploring Morocco’s multitude of historic sites, but these five shouldn’t be missed!

Ksar at Ait-Ben-Haddou

Credit: Starcevic/iStockphoto

Founded in 757, Ait Benhaddou is an ancient earthen city constructed from clay bricks surrounded by thick, defensive walls and corner towers. The Ksar, which means a cluster of dwellings, has been a favorite of Hollywood producers — the Ksar at Ait Benhaddou was the backdrop in films and shows such as “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Jewel of Nile,” “The Mummy,” “Gladiator,” “Alexander” and “Game of Thrones.” Far more than just a film set, UNESCO added the Ksar at Ait Benhaddou to its list of World Heritage Sites in 1987 for its extraordinary examples of pre-Saharan earthen construction techniques and architectural authenticity. Although people still live in some of the dwellings, you can tour the buildings on your own or with a guide.

Medina of Essaouira

Credit: Jon Chica/Shutterstock

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Medina of Essaouira is an outstanding example of a mid-18th century fortified town loaded with European military architecture. Situated on the windy Atlantic coast, the Medina, or old part, has played an essential role over the centuries as a strategically significant international trading port. Originally called Mogador, Essaouira offers secluded alleyways, colorful fishing boats, ancient fort ramparts built by the Portuguese in the 1500s, abundant marketplaces, enticing food, exhilarating windsurfing and a vibrant music scene. You can also stop by the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah Museum to see pottery, weapons, jewelry, tools and a fantastic collection of photographs of local architecture.

Medina of Fez

Credit: Calin Stan/Shutterstock

You may be starting to see a trend here, as the Medina of Fez has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list since 1981 (Morocco is home to nine World Heritage Sites). With roots back to the ninth century, Fez grew in importance during the 13th and 14th centuries when it replaced Marrakech as Morocco’s capital. Come to Fez Medina to see one of the best-conserved historic towns in the Arab-Muslim world.

You’ll find one of the world’s most complex city labyrinths and its oldest university, the University of Al Quaraouiyine, at Fez Medina. Be prepared to get a little lost among its tangled car-free alleyways and beautiful historic military, civil and religious monuments including palaces, leather tanneries, fountains, mosques and homes. You can even rent some of these exclusive properties and experience how people lived in the ninth century!

Historic City of Meknes

Credit: Leonid Anronov/iStockphoto

Continuing our UNESCO World Heritage Site trend, the Historic City of Meknes was added to the list in 1996 for its superb examples of well-preserved Spanish-Moorish architecture, including the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. The ambitious, ruthless Sultan Moulay Ismail had the imperial city built during the 17th century and is buried in the mausoleum. The tyrannical sultan ruled from 1672 to 1727 and housed as many as 60,000 slaves in a nearby prison whose sole job was to work on his final masterpiece: his resting place. You can visit the eerie, dank dungeons today.

You’ll find massive ramparts reaching almost 50 feet high and several amazing gates, with the largest and most impressive door to the city being Bab el Mansour. Believed to be one of the most stunning gates in Morocco, Bab el Mansour is well worth a visit to marvel at its elaborate patterns of green and white zellige tiles and engraved Koranic panels.

Archaeological Site of Volubilis

Credit: zodebala/iStockphoto

While yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, Volubilis dates back much further than many of Morocco’s other historic sites — Romans built this spectacular city around 40 A.D. on an old Berber settlement dating back to the third century. Volubilis served as the capital of ancient Mauretania and was one of the Romans’ southernmost cities.

Volubilis has seen 10 centuries of occupation, from pre-Roman to the Islamic period, until it was abandoned in the 11th century. Archeologists have discovered a substantial amount of artistic material, including marble and bronze statuary, beautifully preserved mosaics and hundreds of inscriptions. Many Volubilis residents were believed to be wealthy due to the rich agricultural opportunities the surrounding fertile land offered — and their homes reflect this. Be sure to visit the House of Orpheus, a large private home filled with stunning mosaics as beautiful today as the day they were created. The house also includes a private hammam (steam bath) with a solarium and hot and cold rooms. Although long-ago looters have taken the granite and marble to build structures in nearby Meknes and Moulay Idriss, many of the structures are incredibly well-preserved.

Black Sea Adventurers Plan Reed Boat Trip to Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Black Sea Adventurers Plan Reed Boat Trip to Egypt

Friday, 5 July, 2019 – 11:30
A team, led by German explorer Dominique Goertlitz, assembles a 14-meter long reed boat in the town of Beloslav, Bulgaria, July 3, 2019. Picture taken July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
Asharq Al-Awsat
Adventurers are getting ready to set off on a 3,000-km voyage in a reed boat to test a theory that ancient Egyptian merchants used such as vessels to travel as far as the Black Sea, Reuters reported.

A crew led by German explorer Dominique Goеrlitz is planning to leave the Black Sea port of Varna next month, then try to island-hop around the Aegean and cross the Mediterranean to Alexandria.

The boat Abora IV is still being built in the nearby town of Beloslav, with the help of two members of the Aymara ethnic group from Bolivia – Fermin Limachi and his son Yuri who have flown in to share their expertise using the fragile material.

According to Reuters, Goеrlitz said the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus had cited even older sources suggesting Egyptians “sailed into the Black Sea, to get precious materials they could not find in the Eastern Mediterranean”.

The accounts were supported, he said, by the discovery of Egyptian remains around the Black Sea.

Other members of the Aymara group, who live on Lake Titicaca high in the Andes, were involved in earlier Abora expeditions to other destinations and helped Norwegian writer Thor Heyerdahl, who crossed the Pacific in the “Kon-Tiki” balsa-reed raft in 1947.

4 forgotten (but important) ancient civilizations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

History

4 forgotten (but important) ancient civilizations

The history of humankind is incomplete without honoring some of our ancestral elders. Civilizations move forward and evolve when we work together to solve the challenges and problems of the day. The practice of living in groups with mutual respect and reliance on one another triggered the metamorphosis of isolated groups to large communities, to societies, and finally to civilizations.

The world has since witnessed the rise and fall of several great civilizations. Some ancient civilizations stand out more than others in terms of their enduring influence, power, reach, and lasting contributions to human development. Many ancient civilizations are lost to time, decay, and the lack or loss of historical written chronicles. However, four forgotten but important ancient civilizations serve as a testament to the human spirit, inspiration, and the grace of time.

The Mesopotamian civilization

Credit: espaliu / iStock

Historical location: Sumer in southern Mesopotamia and the land between rivers (ancient Greece)

Present-day location: Turkey, Iraq, and Syria

Major highlights: First known civilization in the world

Timeline: 3500 BC–500 BC

Why the Mesopotamian civilization is important

The concept of urbanization first started with this civilization. Mesopotamia remains the source of the largest set of ancient artifacts, knowledge, and writings. It was the first city built with sun-dried bricks. History records three significant contributions by the Mesopotamian civilization: the invention of the wheel, large-scale agriculture, and the present-day number system technology based on 60.

The Indus Valley civilization

Credit: gueterguni / iStock

Historical location: The basin of the Indus river

Present-day location: Northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India

Major highlights: One of the most widespread civilizations

Timeline: 3300 BC–1900 BC

Why the Indus Valley civilization is important

Thanks to the Indus Valley, or Harappa, civilization, the present world has many things that we take for granted. Their people’s expertise and development of water management systems, drainage methods, town planning, and harvesting practices remain incomparable. Despite the fact that it was one of the earliest civilizations with a huge land mass, the Harappa civilization arose independently.

The Ancient Egyptian civilization

Credit: sculpies / iStock

Historical location: Nile River banks

Present-day location: Egypt

Major highlights: Construction of pyramids

Timeline: 3150 BC–30 BC

Why the Ancient Egyptian civilization is important

Egyptian civilization is widely known and respected based on their artifacts, construction acumen, inventions, art, pharaohs, and culture. Sometimes called the Kemet or Black Land civilization, the ancient Egyptians looked to the heavens and cultivated stargazing into a practical science. Egyptian astronomers used their knowledge to predict many things, such as when to expect the flooding of the Nile and the correct time to sow seeds and harvest.

Ancient Egyptians were also great mathematicians. They expanded the understanding of mathematics and geometry by building the Pyramids. This serves as an enduring tribute to not only the Egyptian kings and queens but also to their engineering prowess.

The Maya civilization

Credit: Starcevic / iStock

Historical location: Around the Yucatan Peninsula

Present-day location: Campeche, Yucatan, Tabasco, Quintana, and Chiapas in Mexico and passing through Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador

Major highlights: Advanced knowledge of astronomy and calendar creation

Timeline: 2600 BC–900 AD

Why the Maya civilization is important

The Maya civilization dominated the Mesoamerican societies of the era. Their distinguished achievements include three accurate calendars. In addition, they are widely respected for their writing system, flourishing trade route, and engraved stone architecture. In order to sustain a viable food supply, the Mayans fostered crop cultivation of beans, vegetables, and maize. There is evidence of their domestication of dogs and turkeys during this time.

We share a modern-day connection and knowledge with those that have come before us. They laid the foundations that we have the privilege to magnify, improve, and create our own legacies from.

9,000-year-old mask from Hebron Hills sheds light on the dawn of agriculture

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

9,000-year-old mask from Hebron Hills sheds light on the dawn of agriculture

Archaeologists say rare stone artifact uncovered in southern West Bank was used in ancestor worship during a pivotal period in Neolithic culture

  • A 9,000-year-old stone mask discovered in the southern Hebron Hills area of the West Bank in early 2018. (Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit, Israel Antiquities Authority)
    A 9,000-year-old stone mask discovered in the southern Hebron Hills area of the West Bank in early 2018. (Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit, Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • A 9,000-year-old stone mask discovered in the southern Hebron Hills area of the West Bank in early 2018. (Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)
    A 9,000-year-old stone mask discovered in the southern Hebron Hills area of the West Bank in early 2018. (Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • Side view of a 9,000-year-old stone mask discovered in the southern Hebron Hills area of the West Bank in early 2018. (Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)
    Side view of a 9,000-year-old stone mask discovered in the southern Hebron Hills area of the West Bank in early 2018. (Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

The Israel Antiquities Authority on Wednesday unveiled what it said was a rare 9,000-year-old stone mask linked to the beginnings of agricultural society. It is one of only 15 in the world.

The IAA said the pink and yellow sandstone object was discovered in a field near Pnei Hever, a West Bank settlement east of Hebron, and handed in to authorities in early 2018.

The rare mask may have been worn by people as part of rituals surrounding ancestor worship, according to IAA archaeologist Ronit Lupu.

“Discovering a mask made of stone, at such a high level of finish, is very exciting. The stone has been completely smoothed over and the features are perfect and symmetrical, even delineating cheek bones. It has an impressive nose and a mouth with distinct teeth,” Lupu said.

Archaeologists believe it was meant to be worn or attached to an artifact for display, because it has four holes drilled into its edges to enable it to be tied.

Its smooth finish was achieved by painstaking work with the stone tools of the Neolithic or “new stone” age.

Only 15 such masks have ever been found anywhere in the world, and just two have a usable provenance — that is, archaeologists know where they were found and can therefore place them with relative confidence in the context of a period and place.

The remaining 13 “are in private collections throughout the world, which makes it more difficult to study them,” the IAA announcement said.

A 9,000-year-old ritual mask discovered in the southern Hebron Hills area of the West Bank in early 2018. (Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

The mask will shed new light on a time of profound transformation, as humans were moving from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to permanent settlement and systematic agriculture, a shift that led to the rise of the first cities and, eventually, the first complex states and writing.

“Stone masks are linked to the agricultural revolution,” according to Omry Barzilai, head of the IAA Archaeological Research Department. “The transition from an economy based on hunting and gathering to ancient agriculture and domestication of plants and animals was accompanied by a change in social structure and a sharp increase in ritual-religious activities. Ritual findings from that period include human shaped figurines, plastered skulls, and stone masks.”

This was a time of ancestor worship, explained Lupu, and of an artistic culture that seemed focused on human faces.

“It was part of the ritual and retention of family heritage that was accepted at the time. For example, we find skulls buried under the floors of domestic houses, as well as various methods of shaping and caring for the skulls of the dead,” Lupu said. “This led to plastering skulls, shaping facial features, and even inserting shells for eyes. Stone masks, such as the one from Pnei Hever, are similar in size to the human face, which is why scholars tend to connect them with such worship.”

Side view of a 9,000-year-old stone mask discovered in the southern Hebron Hills area of the West Bank in early 2018. (Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Lupu explained that not only the mask’s discovery, but also knowledge of its provenance, made it a rare find.

“The mask is a unique finding in the archaeological world. It is even more unusual that we know which site it came from. The fact that we have information regarding the specific place in which it was discovered makes this mask more important than most other masks from this period that we currently know of,” Lupu said.

The southern Hebron Hills area has been the source of other masks dated to the same time, known to specialists as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period. Its discovery thus bolsters the prevailing belief among archaeologists that this area served as a key center for the production of such masks, “and most likely also for ritual activities” associated with them, the statement said.

Initial conclusions from the study of the mask by scientists at the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Geological Survey of Israel are to be presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Israel Prehistoric Society at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately described the way in which authorities acquired the mask

READ MORE:

Finland: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Ancient North European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Finland

Introduction Finland was a province and then a grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809. It won its complete independence in 1917. During World War II, it was able to successfully defend its freedom and resist invasions by the Soviet Union – albeit with some loss of territory. In the subsequent half century, the Finns made a remarkable transformation from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy; per capita income is now on par with Western Europe. A member of the European Union since 1995, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro system at its initiation in January 1999.
History Prehistory

Prehistoric red ochre painted rock art of moose, human figures and boats in Astuvansalmi in Ristiina, the Southern Savonia region from ca. 3800–2200 BCE

According to archaeological evidence, the area now composing Finland was first settled around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice shield of the last ice age receded. The earliest people were hunter-gatherers, living primarily off what the tundra and sea could offer. Pottery is known from around 5300 BCE (see Comb Ceramic Culture).The arrival of the Battle Axe culture (or Cord-Ceramic Culture) in southern coastal Finland around 3200 BCE may have coincided with the start of agriculture. However, the earliest certain records of agriculture are from the late third millennium BCE. Even with the introduction of agriculture, hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy, especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

The Bronze Age (1500–500 BCE) and Iron Age (500 BCE–1200 CE) were characterised by extensive contacts with other cultures in the Fennoscandian and Baltic regions. There is no consensus on when Finno-Ugric languages and Indo-European languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland.

Swedish era (until 1809)

The sea fortress of Suomenlinna was founded by a discusion of the Swedish Diet in 1747 as a defence works and naval base, to be built on the islands off Helsinki.

Sweden established its official rule of Finland in the 13th century by the crown. Swedish became a dominant language of the nobility, administration and education; Finnish was chiefly a language for the peasantry, clergy and local courts in predominantly Finnish-speaking countries. The Bishop of Turku was usually the most important person in Finland during the Catholic era.

The Middle Ages ended with the Reformation when the Finns gradually converted to Lutheranism. In the 16th century, Mikael Agricola published the first written works in Finnish. The first university in Finland, The Royal Academy of Turku, was established in 1640. In the 18th century, wars between Sweden and Russia led to occupation of Finland twice by Russian forces, known to the Finns as the Greater Wrath (1714–1721) and the Lesser Wrath (1742–1743). By this time “Finland” was the predominant term for the whole area from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Russian border.

Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire (1809–1917)

Main article: Grand Duchy of Finland

On March 29, 1809, after being conquered by the armies of Alexander I of Russia in the Finnish War, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. During the Russian era, the Finnish language started to gain recognition, first probably to sever the cultural and emotional ties with Sweden and thereafter, from the 1860s onwards, as a result of a strong nationalism, known as the Fennoman movement. Milestones included the publication of what would become Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala, in 1835; and the Finnish language achieving equal legal status with Swedish in 1892.

Despite the Finnish famine of 1866-1868 – the last major famine in Europe – in which about 15 percent of the population died, political and economic development was rapid from the 1860s onwards. The disaster of famine led Russian Empire to ease regulation and investment rose in following decades.[7] The GDP per capita was still a half of United States and a third of Great Britain.

In 1906, universal suffrage was adopted in the Grand Duchy of Finland, the second country in the world where this happened. However, the relationship between the Grand Duchy and the Russian Empire soured when the Russian government made moves to restrict Finnish autonomy. For example, the universal suffrage was, in practice, virtually meaningless, since the emperor did not approve any of the laws adopted by the Finnish parliament. Desire for independence gained ground, first among radical nationalists and socialists.

Civil War (1917–1918) and early independence

On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence, which was approved by Bolshevist Russia.

Contrary to Lenin’s and Finnish socialists’ expectations, the majority of Finns voted non-socialists parties in 1917 general elections. Soon in 1918, the violent wing of social democratic party started a coup, which led a brief but bitter Civil War that affected domestic politics for many decades afterwards. The Civil War was fought between “the Whites”, who were supported by Imperial Germany, and “the Reds”, supported by Bolshevist Russia. Eventually, the Whites overcame the Reds. The deep social and political enmity between the Reds and Whites remained. The civil war and activist expeditions (see Heimosodat) to the Soviet Union strained eastern relations.

After a brief flirtation with monarchy, Finland became a presidential republic, with Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg elected as its first president in 1919. The Finnish–Russian border was determined by the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, largely following the historic border but granting Pechenga (Finnish: Petsamo) and its Barents Sea harbour to Finland. Finnish democracy didn’t see any more Soviet coup attempts and survived the anti-Communist Lapua Movement. The relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union was tense. Finnish ethnicity was targeted by genocide in the Soviet Union, though little of that was known in Finland. Finland disliked all forms of socialism, leading Germany’s national socialism to deteriorate relations with Germany. Military was trained in France instead and relations to Western Europe and Sweden were strengthened.

In 1917 the population was 3 million. Land reform was enacted after the civil war, increasing the percantage of capital-owning population.[7] About 70% of workers were occupied in agriculture and 10% in industry.[8] The largest export markets were United Kingdom and Germany. Great Depression in the early ’30s was relatively light in Finland.

Finland during World War II

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–40 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland and in the Continuation War of 1941–44, following Operation Barbarossa in which Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Following German losses on the Eastern Front and the subsequent Soviet advance, Finland was forced to make peace with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–45, when Finland forced the Germans out of northern Finland.

The treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included Finnish obligations, restraints, and reparations as well as further Finnish territorial concessions (cf. the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940). Finland ceded most of Finnish Karelia, Salla, and Pechenga, which amounted to ten percent of its land area and twenty percent of its industrial capacity. Some 400,000 evacuees, mainly women and children, fled these areas. Establishing trade with the Western powers, such as the United Kingdom, and the reparations to the Soviet Union caused Finland to transform itself from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrialised one. Even after the reparations had been paid off, Finland continued to trade with the Soviet Union in the framework of bilateral trade.

Cold war

In 1950 a half of the workers was occupied in agriculture and a third lived in urban towns.[9] The new jobs in manufacturing, services and trade quickly attracted people towns. The average number of births per woman declined from baby boom peak 3.5 in 1947 to 1.5 in 1973.[9] When baby boomers entered the workforce, the economy didn’t generate jobs fast enough and hundreds of thousands emigrated to the more industrialized Sweden, migration peaking in 1969 and 1970.[9] This mass migration is largely the reason why 4.7 percent of Sweden’s population speak Finnish today.

Officially claiming to be neutral, Finland lay in the grey zone between the Western countries and the Soviet Union. The “YYA Treaty” (Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance) gave the Soviet Union some leverage in Finnish domestic politics. This was extensively exploited by President Urho Kekkonen against his opponents. He maintained an effective monopoly on Soviet relations, which gave him a status of “only choice for president”. There was also a tendency of self-censorship regarding Finno-Soviet relations. This phenomenon was given the name “Finlandisation” by the German press (fi. suomettuminen). When Finlandisation was not enough, direct censorship was used, including in 1700 books and many movies, and asylym-seeking defectors were returned to be killed by the Soviet Union. Soviets created and financed anti-Western and pro-Soviet youth movements peaking in 70s, when communist-led Teen Union harassed teachers suspected of bourgeois ideas, and their former members have still a lot power. Soviet intelligence services sometimes used their contacts to install personnel in the administration, mass media, academia, political parties and trade unions. Politicization was widespread and public sector workers were often dependent on having the correct political party membership.

However, Finland maintained a democratic government and a market economy unlike most other countries bordering the Soviet Union. Property rights were strong. While nationalization committees were set up in France and UK, Finland avoided nationalizations. After failed experiments with protectionism, Finland eased restrictions and made a free trade agreement with the European Community in 1973, making its markets more competitive. Local education market expanded and an increasing number of Finns also went to have education in the United States or Western Europe, bringing back advanced skills. There was quite common, but pragmatic-minded, credit and investment cooperation by state and corporations, though it was considered with suspicion. Support for capitalism was widespread.[7] Savings rate hovered among the world’s highest, at around 8% until 80s. In the beginning of the 1970s, Finland’s GDP per capita reached the level of Japan and the UK. Finland’s development shared many aspects with Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan.[7]

Having been targeted by Soviet intelligence and youth propaganda, liberals lost support and socialist-majority generations seized power in 70s and 80s. Corporatism and taxes were increased. The power of social democrats and the almost overnight-grown trade union SAK became hegemonic in politics.[10] In 1991 Finland fell into a Great Depression-magnitude depression caused by combination economic overheating, depressed Western, Soviet and local markets, and disappearance of Soviet barter system. Stock market and housing prices declined by 50%.[11] The growth in the 1980s was based on debt, and when the defaults began rolling in, GDP declined by 15% and unemployment increased from a virtual full employment to one fifth of the workforce. The crisis was amplified by trade unions’ initial opposition to any reforms. Politicians struggled to cut spending and the public debt doubled to around 60% of GDP.[11] After devaluations the depression bottomed out in 1993.

Liberalization and integration with the West

Like other Nordic countries, Finland has liberalized the economy since late 80s. Financial and product market regulation was removed. The market is now one of the most free in Europe. State enterprises were privatized and taxes were cut. However, unlike in Denmark, trade unions blocked job market reforms, causing persistent unemployment and a two-tier job market. Trade unions also blocked social security reform proposals towards basic income or negative income tax. Finland joined the European Union in 1995. The central bank was given an inflation-targeting mandate until Finland joined eurozone.[11] The growth rate has since been one of the highest of OECD countries and Finland has topped many indicators of national performance.

In addition to fast integration with the European Union, safety against Russian leverage has been increased by building fully NATO-compatible military. 1000 troops (a high per-capita amount) are simultaneously committed in NATO operations. Finland has also opposed energy projects that increase dependency on Moscow.[12] At the same time, Finland remains one of the last non-members in Europe and there seems to be not enough support for full membership unless Sweden joins first.[13]

The population is aging with the birth rate at 10.42 births/1,000 population or fertility rate at 1.8.[9] With median age at 41.6 years Finland is one of the oldest countries [14] and a half of voters is estimated to be over 50 years old. Like most European countries, without further reforms or much higher immigration Finland is expected to struggle with demographics, even though macroeconomic projections are healthier than in most other developed countries.

Geography Location: Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland, between Sweden and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 64 00 N, 26 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 338,145 sq km
land: 304,473 sq km
water: 33,672 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Montana
Land boundaries: total: 2,681 km
border countries: Norway 727 km, Sweden 614 km, Russia 1,340 km
Coastline: 1,250 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm (in the Gulf of Finland – 3 nm)
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 12 nm; extends to continental shelf boundary with Sweden
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: cold temperate; potentially subarctic but comparatively mild because of moderating influence of the North Atlantic Current, Baltic Sea, and more than 60,000 lakes
Terrain: mostly low, flat to rolling plains interspersed with lakes and low hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Haltiatunturi 1,328 m
Natural resources: timber, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, chromite, nickel, gold, silver, limestone
Land use: arable land: 6.54%
permanent crops: 0.02%
other: 93.44% (2005)
Irrigated land: 640 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 110 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.33 cu km/yr (14%/84%/3%)
per capita: 444 cu m/yr (1999)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: air pollution from manufacturing and power plants contributing to acid rain; water pollution from industrial wastes, agricultural chemicals; habitat loss threatens wildlife populations
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: long boundary with Russia; Helsinki is northernmost national capital on European continent; population concentrated on small southwestern coastal plain
Politics Politics of Finland takes place in a framework of a semi-presidential representative democratic republic and of a multi-party system. The President of Finland is the head of state, leads the foreign policy, and is the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Forces. The Prime Minister of Finland is the head of government; executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the Parliament of Finland, and the government has limited rights to amend or extend legislation. The president has the power of veto over parliamentary decisions although it can be overrun by the parliament.

Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Judiciary consists of two systems, regular courts and administrative courts, headed by the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, respectively. Administrative courts process cases where official decisions are contested. There is no “Constitutional Court”, i.e. the constitutionality of a law cannot be contested.

Though Finland has a primarily parliamentary system, the president has some notable powers. The foreign policy is led by the president, “in co-operation” with the cabinet, and the same applies to matters concerning national security. The main executive power lies in the cabinet headed by the prime minister. Before the constitutional rewrite, which was completed in 2000, the president enjoyed more power.

Finns enjoy individual and political freedoms, and suffrage is universal at 18; Finland was the first country to give full eligibility to women. The country’s population is ethnically homogeneous with no sizable immigrant population. Few tensions exist between the Finnish-speaking majority and the Swedish-speaking minority, although in certain circles there is an unending debate about the status of the Swedish language. According to Transparency International, Finland has had the lowest level of corruption in all the countries studied in their survey for the last several years.

The labor agreements also pose significant political questions. Bargaining is highly centralized and often the government participates to coordinate fiscal policy. Finland has universal validity of collective labour agreements and often, but not always, the trade unions, employers and the government reach a Comprehensive Income Policy Agreement. Significant trade unions are SAK, STTK, AKAVA and EK.

People Population: 5,238,460 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 16.9% (male 449,548/female 433,253)
15-64 years: 66.7% (male 1,768,996/female 1,727,143)
65 years and over: 16.4% (male 344,798/female 514,722) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 41.6 years
male: 40 years
female: 43.1 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.127% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 10.42 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 9.93 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.78 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.038 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.024 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.958 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.52 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.84 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.66 years
male: 75.15 years
female: 82.31 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.73 children born/woman

Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SCIENCE MAGAZINE)

 

An 72-meter ice core drilled in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes,  storms, and human pollution.

NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018

Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

Ask medieval historian Michael McCormick what year was the worst to be alive, and he’s got an answer: “536.” Not 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. Not 1918, when the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people, mostly young adults. But 536. In Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” says McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year,” wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record “a failure of bread from the years 536–539.” Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.

Historians have long known that the middle of the sixth century was a dark hour in what used to be called the Dark Ages, but the source of the mysterious clouds has long been a puzzle. Now, an ultraprecise analysis of ice from a Swiss glacier by a team led by McCormick and glaciologist Paul Mayewski at the Climate Change Institute of The University of Maine (UM) in Orono has fingered a culprit. At a workshop at Harvard this week, the team reported that a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed ash across the Northern Hemisphere early in 536. Two other massive eruptions followed, in 540 and 547. The repeated blows, followed by plague, plunged Europe into economic stagnation that lasted until 640, when another signal in the ice—a spike in airborne lead—marks a resurgence of silver mining, as the team reports in Antiquity this week.

To Kyle Harper, provost and a medieval and Roman historian at The University of Oklahoma in Norman, the detailed log of natural disasters and human pollution frozen into the ice “give us a new kind of record for understanding the concatenation of human and natural causes that led to the fall of the Roman Empire—and the earliest stirrings of this new medieval economy.”

Slivers from a Swiss ice core held chemical clues to natural and human made events.

NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018

Ever since tree ring studies in the 1990s suggested the summers around the year 540 were unusually cold, researchers have hunted for the cause. Three years ago polar ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica yielded a clue. When a volcano erupts, it spews sulfur, bismuth, and other substances high into the atmosphere, where they form an aerosol veil that reflects the sun’s light back into space, cooling the planet. By matching the ice record of these chemical traces with tree ring records of climate, a team led by Michael Sigl, now of the University of Bern, found that nearly every unusually cold summer over the past 2500 years was preceded by a volcanic eruption. A massive eruption—perhaps in North America, the team suggested—stood out in late 535 or early 536; another followed in 540. Sigl’s team concluded that the double blow explained the prolonged dark and cold.

Mayewski and his interdisciplinary team decided to look for the same eruptions in an ice core drilled in 2013 in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps. The 72-meter-long core entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes, Saharan dust storms, and human activities smack in the center of Europe. The team deciphered this record using a new ultra–high-resolution method, in which a laser carves 120-micron slivers of ice, representing just a few days or weeks of snowfall, along the length of the core. Each of the samples—some 50,000 from each meter of the core—is analyzed for about a dozen elements. The approach enabled the team to pinpoint storms, volcanic eruptions, and lead pollution down to the month or even less, going back 2000 years, says UM volcanologist Andrei Kurbatov.

Darkest hours and then a dawn

A high-resolution ice core record combined with historical texts chronicles the impact of natural disasters on European society.

530530550640650660540540550560570580590600610620630640650660536Icelandic volcano erupts, dimming the sun for 18months, records say. Summer temperatures drop by1.5°C to 2.5°C.536–545 Coldest decade on record in 2000 years. Crops fail in Ireland, Scandinavia, Mesopotamia, and China.540–541 Second volcanic eruption. Summer temperatures drop again by 1.4°C–2.7°C in Europe.541–543 The “Justinian” bubonic plague spreads through the Mediterranean, killing 35%–55% of the population and speeding the collapse of the eastern Roman Empire.640 After declining in the mid-500s, a surge in atmospheric lead signals an increase in silver mining because of economic recovery.660A second lead peak reflects silver mining, probably at Melle, France, tied to a switch from gold to silver for coins and the beginnings of the medieval economy.
(GRAPHIC) A. CUADRA/SCIENCE; (DATA) C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL.ANTIQUITY 2018; M. SIGL ET AL., NATURE 2015; M. MCCORMICK

In ice from the spring of 536, UM graduate student Laura Hartman found two microscopic particles of volcanic glass. By bombarding the shards with x-rays to determine their chemical fingerprint, she and Kurbatov found that they closely matched glass particles found earlier in lakes and peat bogs in Europe and in a Greenland ice core. Those particles in turn resembled volcanic rocks from Iceland. The chemical similarities convince geoscientist David Lowe of The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, who says the particles in the Swiss ice core likely came from the same Icelandic volcano. But Sigl says more evidence is needed to convince him that the eruption was in Iceland rather than North America.

Either way, the winds and weather systems in 536 must have been just right to guide the eruption plume southeast across Europe and, later, into Asia, casting a chilly pall as the volcanic fog “rolled through,” Kurbatov says. The next step is to try to find more particles from this volcano in lakes in Europe and Iceland, in order to confirm its location in Iceland and tease out why it was so devastating.

A century later, after several more eruptions, the ice record signals better news: the lead spike in 640. Silver was smelted from lead ore, so the lead is a sign that the precious metal was in demand in an economy rebounding from the blow a century before, says archaeologist Christopher Loveluck of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. A second lead peak, in 660, marks a major infusion of silver into the emergent medieval economy. It suggests gold had become scarce as trade increased, forcing a shift to silver as the monetary standard, Loveluck and his colleagues write in Antiquity. “It shows the rise of the merchant class for the first time,” he says.

Still later, the ice is a window into another dark period. Lead vanished from the air during the Black Death from 1349 to 1353, revealing an economy that had again ground to a halt. “We’ve entered a new era with this ability to integrate ultra–high-resolution environmental records with similarly high resolution historical records,” Loveluck says. “It’s a real game changer.”

Tenea, the lost ancient city built by Trojan Prisoners Has Been Found

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF USA TODAY)

 

Tenea, the lost ancient city built by Trojan prisoners, is found for the first time

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Greek archaeologists discovered for the first time remnants of the long-lost ancient city of Tenea, Greece’s culture ministry said this week.

Having been previously documented only in ancient texts, Tenea was excavated in the southern region of Peloponnese, and the dig uncovered “proof of the existence of the ancient city,” the ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

Tenea is believed to have been a city settled by Trojan prisoners permitted to build their own city after the Trojan War. Past digs have found clues near the city, but the most recent excavation uncovered the “city’s urban fabric,” including floors, walls and door openings, the culture ministry said.

Taking place from September to early October, the excavation found remnants of residences, pottery, coins and tombs, among other discoveries.

“It is significant that the remnants of the city, the paved roads, the architectural structure, came to light,” lead archaeologist Elena Korka told CNN. “We’ve found evidence of life and death … and all this is just a small part of the history of the place.”

More: Archaeologists opened a mysterious Egyptian sarcophagus. Here’s what they found

More: Strange ancient animal fossil is the oldest on record, scientists say

Korka also told CNN that her team found child burials, a key clue to determining they had uncovered residences because only children were buried in buildings during Roman times.

Korka and her team had been digging in the area since 2013, but only in nearby cemeteries, she told the Associated Press.

This recent excavation also indicated that the city experienced economic prosperity under Roman rule. The city had been believed to survive Rome’s invasion of nearby Corinth.

Specifically, coins discovered in the dig dated to the era of Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who ruled from 193 to 211, indicating economic success, the ministry said.

“The citizens seem to have been remarkably affluent,” Korka told the Associated Press.

More: Oldest weapons discovered in North America tell us more about first Americans, researchers say

More: Extinct gibbon discovered in an ancient tomb. It might have been a pet.

However, archaeologists determined that the city was likely damaged by Visigoths between 396 and 397 and abandoned some 200 years later during Slavic raids, the ministry said.

Korka and her team plan to continue their excavation work moving forward to uncover more of the city’s history.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

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Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb

Men carry mummified cats from a tomb at the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt on Saturday.

Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

The more archaeologists continue to explore the tombs of ancient Egypt, the more evidence mounts that ancient Egyptians admired cats — and loved mummifying them.

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday that a team of Egyptian archaeologists excavating a 4,500-year-old tomb near Cairo has found dozens of mummified cats. Also in the tomb were 100 gilded wooden cat statues, as well as a bronze statue of Bastet, the goddess of cats.

The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.

The Ministry of Antiquities was clear about its goals in announcing the discoveries: attracting visitors back to Egypt’s heritage sites, as the country has experienced a significant drop in tourists since the 2011 mass protests that overthrew dictatorial President Hosni Mubarak.

The ministry tweeted photos of the findings. Pictures of the cat statues took front and center — with the ancient felines looking proud and cool, like an upscale, 4,500-year-old version of what a cat fancier today might try to commission.

The mummified cats themselves … well, those images are more unsettling, though they offer incontrovertible evidence that mummification is highly effective.

While ancient Egyptians saw cats as divine, they didn’t exactly worship them, Antonietta Catanzariti, curator of the Smithsonian Sackler Gallery exhibit Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt, told NPR last year.

“What they did is to observe their behavior,” she said, and create gods and goddesses in their image — much as they did with other animals, including dogs, crocodiles, snakes and bulls.

And while cat mummies are fascinating, Catanzariti said they were also pretty common in ancient Egypt, where cats were bred for the purpose. “In the 1890s, people from England went to Egypt and they collected all these mummies. One cargo was 180,000 of them.”

An Egyptian archaeologist cleans mummified cats in the necropolis at Saqqara, south of Cairo, on Saturday.

Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps that’s why the antiquities ministry made a bigger deal about something else they discovered in the tomb: mummified scarab beetles. Two large specimens were found wrapped in linen, apparently in very good condition. They were inside sarcophagi decorated with drawings of scarabs.

“The (mummified) scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told outlets including Reuters.

“A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs. I never heard about them before.”

Theology Poem: Their Is Only One Thing We Own

Their Is Only One Thing We Own

 

We bought us a Hector of land about 3 yrs ago

It even had a three bedroom planted upon its face

We’re even blessed with two old sleds, but they ride

Could we all be more alive if we just owned more toys

Own the Business, but, do we really ever own the fame

 

There are many generations of those whom have owned this land

How many striped backs have worked this very place that I stand

Grass to timber, back to grass, then back to trees, again and again

Did a Red Man before me own it, if so, which people were they of

Did a Cave Man or maybe a Monkey or even a Chimp lay claim to it

 

Do the Trees think they own the Stars as well as the Ground below

The Skies hold the Rain but are the Skies beholding to the night breeze

How is it that I think to my self, yes I do own this, and I also own that

The Air owns the Man, the Man has never been in control of his Air

The Only Thing that We Own is Our Own Name, waiting in Line Up There

Snowy dirtballs streak across sky in dazzling meteor shower

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ST. GEORGE NEWS)

 

Snowy dirtballs streak across sky in dazzling meteor shower

Composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Earth’s ancient relative, the Smith-Tuttle comet, is set to be the headliner for three nights in August, producing a brilliant light show as fragments of the 4-billion-year-old snowy dirtball streak across the skies during one of the most active meteor showers of the year.

The Perseid meteor shower will make its peak three-night appearance from Aug. 11-13, and is known to be a rich, steady meteor shower that sends 60-70 meteors slamming into the Earth’s atmosphere at more than 130,000 mph every hour. This year’s meteor shower event will be make even more spectacular by the “slender waxing crescent moon,” according to EarthSky’s 2018 Meteor Shower Guide. 

Star map depicting outline of constellations, including Perseus, where the Perseid meteor shower originates | Image courtesy of EarthSky, St. George News

Meteors are small fragments of cosmic debris entering the earth’s atmosphere at extremely high speed. They are caused by the copious amounts of particles produced each time a comet swings around the sun and eventually spread out along the entire orbit of the comet to form a meteoroid stream.

If the Earth’s orbit intersects with the comet’s orbit, as it does with the Swift-Tuttle Comet, then it passes through that stream, which produces a meteor shower. If that intersection occurs at roughly the same time each year, then it becomes an annual shower, according to the American Meteor Society.

Swift-Tuttle has an eccentric, oblong orbit around the sun that takes 133 years. The comet’s orbit takes it outside the orbit of Pluto when farthest from the sun, and inside the Earth’s orbit when closest to the sun, releasing particles of ice and dust that become part of the Perseid meteor shower.

Perseid showers last for weeks instead of days and have been streaking across the sky since July 17, and while they are heaviest during the three-day period beginning Saturday, they will continue for at least 10 days after.

The fast, bright meteors appear in all parts of the sky, roughly 50 to 75 miles above the earth’s surface and leave continual trains, which is the persistent glow caused by the luminous interplanetary rock and dust left in the wake of the meteoroid, and often remain long after the light trail has dissipated.

These meteors, which can reach temperatures of more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, start from northerly latitudes during mid-to-late evening and tend to strengthen in number as the night continues, typically producing the greatest number of showers in the hours just before dawn, which is also moonless and makes them easier to see against the black backdrop.

Because meteor shower particles are all traveling in parallel paths at the same velocity, they appear to radiate from a single point in the sky, similar to railroad tracks converging to a single point as they vanish beyond the horizon. The Perseid shower originates from a point in front of the constellation Perseus, which ranks 24 on the list of largest constellations and is visible from August to March in the Northern Hemisphere.

Here are Perseid meteor shower viewing tips:

  • An open sky is essential as these meteors streak across the sky in many different directions and in front of a number of constellations.
  • Getting as far away from city lights will provide the best view, and the best time to watch the showers is between midnight and dawn.
  • Provide at least an hour to sky watch, as it can take the eyes up to 20 minutes to adapt to the darkness of night.
  • Put away the telescope or binoculars, as using either one reduces the amount of sky you can see at one time, and lowers the odds that you’ll see a meteor.
  • Let your eyes relax and don’t look in any one specific spot. Relaxed eyes will quickly catch any movement in the sky and you’ll be able to spot more meteors.
  • Be sure to dress appropriately – wear clothing appropriate for cold overnight temperatures.
  • Bring something comfortable on which to sit or lie. A reclining chair or pad will make it far more comfortable to keep your gaze on the night sky.
  • Avoid looking at your cell phone or any other light, as both destroy night vision.

To mix things up a bit, the Delta Aquariids meteor shower, which peaked July 27, the same night as the century’s longest lunar eclipse, is still showering icy space dust across the sky and is running simultaneously with the Perseid’s.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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