Evidence of Prehistoric Hunting across Arabian Desert

Evidence of Prehistoric Hunting across Arabian Desert

Oxford archaeologists discover monumental evidence of prehistoric hunting across the Arabian desert. 

They have found over 350 Monumental Hunting Structures labelled and since then known as ‘Kites’ In Northern Saudi Arabia And Southern Iraq Using Satellite Imagery.

Evidence of Prehistoric Hunting across Arabian Desert

Evidence of Prehistoric Hunting across Arabian Desert

Distribution of kite structures in the Levant and in northern Arabia. White: previously documented kites. Red: kites recorded by EAMENA.

 

Archaeologists at the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology have used satellite imagery to identify and map over 350 monumental hunting structures known as ‘kites’ across northern Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq – most of which had never been previously documented.

Led by Dr Michael Fradley, a team of researchers in the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project used a range of open-source satellite imagery to carefully study the region around the eastern Nafud desert, an area little studied in the past. The surprising results, published in the journal The Holocene, have the potential to change our understanding of prehistoric connections and climate change across the Middle East.

Termed kites by early aircraft pilots, these structures consist of low stone walls making up a head enclosure and a number of guiding walls, sometimes kilometres long. They are believed to have been used to guide game such as gazelles into an area where they could be captured or killed. There is evidence that these structures may date back as far as 8,000 BCE in the Neolithic period.

Kites cannot be observed easily from the ground, however the advent of commercial satellite imagery and platforms such as Google Earth have enabled recent discoveries of new distributions. While these structures were already well-known from eastern Jordan and adjoining areas in southern Syria, these latest results take the known distribution over 400km further east across northern Saudi Arabia, with some also identified in southern Iraq for the first time.

Dr Fradley said: ‘The structures we found displayed evidence of complex, careful design. In terms of size, the ‘heads’ of the kites can be over 100 metres wide, but the guiding walls (the ’strings’ of the kite) which we currently think gazelle and other game would follow to the kite heads can be incredibly long. In some of these new examples, the surviving portion of walls run in almost straight lines for over 4 kilometres, often over very varied topography. This shows an incredible level of ability in how these structures were designed and built.’

 

 

 

Evidence suggests considerable resources would have had to be coordinated to build, maintain, and rebuild the kites over generations, combined with hunting and returning butchered remains to settlements or camps for further preservation. The researchers suggest that their exaggerated scale and form may be an expression of status, identity and territoriality. Appearances of the kites in rock art found in Jordan suggests they had an important place within the symbolic and ritual spheres of Neolithic peoples in the region.

 

 

 

From the design of the kite heads to the careful runs of guiding walls over long distances, these structures contrast markedly in scale with any other evidence of architecture from the early Holocene period. The researchers suggest that the builders of these kites dwelt in temporary structures made from organic materials that have left no trace visible on current satellite imagery data.

Desert kite research is a very active field just now – Michael and colleagues explore a significant extension to their distribution pattern, which has major implications for our understanding of the relationship of the kite builders with new mobile pastoralists and the occupation of the region.

Bill Finlayson, Director of EAMENA and Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Oxford 

 

These new sites suggest a previously unknown level of connection right across northern Arabia at the time they were built. They raise exciting questions about who built these structures, who the hunted game were intended to feed, and how the people were able to not only survive, but also invest in these monumental structures.

In the context of this new connectedness, the distribution of the star-shaped kites now provides the first direct evidence of contact through, rather than around, the Nafud desert. This underlines the importance areas that are now desert had under more favourable climatic conditions in enabling the movement of humans and wildlife. It is thought the kites were built during a wetter, greener climatic period known as the Holocene Humid Period (between around 9000 and 4000 BCE).

The largest number of kites were built on the Al Labbah plateau in the Nafud desert, where the absence of later Bronze Age burial monuments suggests that a shift into a drier period meant some of these areas became too marginal to support the communities once using these landscapes, with game species also potentially displaced by climate change.

Whether the patterns of kite construction over space and time represent the movement of ideas or people, or even the direction of that movement, remain questions to be answered.

The project, supported by the Arcadia Fund, is now extending its survey work across these now arid zones to further develop our understanding of these landscapes and the effect of climate change.

The study Following the herds? A new distribution of hunting kites in Southwest Asia is published in The Holocene.

Read University of Oxford News & Events

 

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At Yale University, MENA students kick off year with . . .

At Yale University, MENA students kick off year with . . .

At Yale University, MENA students kick off the year with some celebrations. These are for finally being recognised as a stand-alone community deserving space on its own.  A specific Middle Eastern and North African representation on the Yale campus has made the news for some time.

 

MENA students kick off year with celebrations of new space on campus

By , Contributing  Reporter

At Yale University, MENA students kick off year with . . .

MENA student leaders held their first event of the school year in their newly designated room in the Asian American Cultural Center — one student leaders have worked for years to obtain.

 

At Yale University, MENA students kick off year with . . .

Courtesy of Keya Bajaj

On a rainy Tuesday evening this week, students belonging to Yale’s Middle Eastern North African community attended the academic year’s first mixer to meet new students and celebrate the long-awaited opening of a physical space designated for them.

The MENA community, comprising students from 18 countries across the Middle East and North Africa region, welcomed new and returning members alike at their new room, which officially opened its doors this school year. Located on the third floor of the Asian American Cultural Center, or AACC, the MENA room is the culmination of a long effort by student leaders to claim a designated space of their own.

At Tuesday’s mixer, MENA members connected with other Yalies from the region over generous helpings of falafel and baba ghanoush. Leaders also gave students a tour of the new space.

“We hope to find forever friendships here, to celebrate cultural and religious events together,” AACC peer liaison Zahra Yarali ’24 said.

Most of the evening’s conversations took place in the MENA room. Here, in a homey space decorated with Arabic calligraphy wall art and plush floor cushions, community members swapped stories of cultures “split between two continents,” as described by MENA Student Association President Youssef Ibrahim ’25.

But some attendees did note the room’s small size, which was unable to accommodate all of the event’s attendees.

AACC Director Joliana Yee told the News that the room was furnished with the intention of it being a work in progress — a place that MENA members could personalize and make their own.

In the past years, MENA members have shared space with both the AACC and the Afro-American Cultural Center and were assigned peer liaisons from one of the two houses, depending on which region they chiefly identified with.

But student leaders have pushed back on the legacy system, noting that MENA students have an identity distinct from the other two cultural centers.

“We do not fit entirely in either house,” Ibrahim said.

This sense of not belonging, a common sentiment among MENA community members, is fueled by “a lack of awareness of how big the community is here [on campus],” AACC Associate Director Sofia Blenman said.

Blenman added that the new room is a testament to MENA’s goal of “empowering students to feel … that they are seen.”

Still, MENA students face challenges representing themselves on campus. Official documentation, including the Common Application platform, does not offer a Middle Eastern and North African identity option, so there is no administrative record of who on campus identifies as MENA. Group leaders are therefore forced to trawl through residential college class lists to find new recruits and welcome them into the community.

Yee noted the struggle MENA students face of “being racialized as white in the U.S. context but having lived experiences that are drastically different.”

“There is validity to the unique experiences we’ve had,” Yarali added. “We are reclaiming an identity that has been whitewashed for so long.”

“Leaving an impact on the world is a lot about taking up space,” Yarali added, and the newly-inaugurated MENA room may give members of this group a new sense of hope. The group’s plans for the year include celebrations for Ramadan, the Persian New Year, winter solstice and perhaps a cultural fashion show.

MENA is also looking forward to more student-driven events and continued opportunities for collaboration with the AACC, which hosted Tuesday’s mixer.

But the attainment of the room does not mark the end of MENA students’ fight for representation on campus. MENA students have spent years advocating for a cultural center of their own, and that activism will continue, Ibrahim said.

“I aspire for a physical cultural center of our own,” he said. “It is a right for us to be represented.”

The MENA room will host an event with the Arab Students Association this Saturday, Sept. 10, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

 

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New postgraduate degree to put Paris Agreement into action

New postgraduate degree to put Paris Agreement into action


New postgraduate degree to put Paris Agreement into action

Plans are advancing at speed to create a new postgraduate degree specialising on the Paris Agreement on climate change in a bid to develop future leaders able to tackle the challenges of sustainability and advance transformative climate action, the UNESCO World Higher Education Conference (WHEC2022) in Barcelona, Spain, heard.
World Higher Education Conference 2022.
This conference is convened by UNESCO and University World News is the exclusive media partner.

Professor Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi, director of the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) in Tokyo, Japan, outlined the aims when opening the session at WHEC2022 on how higher education can accelerate climate action under the Paris Agreement.

She described the UNU-IAS, which she assumed leadership of in 2019, as a bridge between UN agencies and higher education, and told delegates to the Barcelona conference that work was progressing well on launching a new postgraduate degree on the Paris Agreement and climate sustainability, which was first mooted at COP26 (the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow.

First of its kind

“The degree will be the first of its kind in the world and the goal is to provide the skills needed across the world to teach action… to implement the Paris Agreement through higher education.”

Professor Yamaguchi said: “Our UNU institute in Tokyo is dedicated to realising a sustainable future for the people and our planet through policy-orientated research, education and capacity development focusing on sustainability, including looking at climate change and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

The new postgraduate degree specialisation on the Paris Agreement on climate change is being developed in close collaboration with governments, leading universities and development partners and builds on an existing MSc in Sustainability and a PhD in Sustainability Science offered by UNU-IAS.

Together these two programmes currently have 38 students from 20 developing countries, with scholarships provided to over half of the students.

Develop future climate action leaders

“We are aiming to develop future leaders who will be at the forefront of the climate and sustainable development agenda,” said Yamaguchi, who announced that applications for the new Paris Agreement postgraduate degree will be invited at the end of 2022 and the programme will start in September 2023.

COP26 in Glasgow called on the world to keep the global increase in temperatures to 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial level, but to implement the measures requires a huge amount of knowledge and government cannot do everything, she said.

“You need large stakeholder coalitions to tackle issues such as phasing out coal and all parties acknowledge the importance of education about environment,” said Yamaguchi.

Transparency a key issue

Transparency, monitoring and accountability are going to be key issues for governments and businesses in meeting the Paris Agreement goals and higher education will play a key role, so people understand climate science.

“We need to develop dynamic training for experts, and coordination across sectors and institutions to collect and share data… and lack of coordination is a problem in many countries,” Yamaguchi told the conference.

Dr Won Jung Byun, programme specialist at UNESCO’s Section of Education for Sustainable Development, welcomed the new qualification from the United Nations University and told the conference that only half of national curricula worldwide mention climate change and fewer than 20% of teachers are able to explain action needed to tackle climate change.

Education systems around the world need to do much more to provide learners with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to overcome the climate crisis and sustainability challenges, she said.

Can’t just be left to higher education

But it can’t just be left to higher education, speakers at the session at the UNESCO conference stressed.

Laurent Cortese, deputy head of the Education-Vocational Training-Employment and Higher Education Division of the French Agency for Development, which mainly works in education and development in countries in Africa, said: “If we leave it to higher education, it is too late. We need a holistic approach and to work on environmental and climate issues with the rest of the education system.”

Teacher training is part of higher education in many countries, he pointed out, adding: “We need to ensure coordination between those in charge of higher education and education as a whole and show the importance of issues like climate change and biodiversity.”

Akio Takemoto, programme head at UNU-IAS in Tokyo, agreed it was important to start explaining the impact of climate change at the primary and school level and there was a need for innovative ways to provide a continuous and high-capacity educational system.

Need to look at all levels

“While there was a lot of talk about Masters degrees and PhDs, we also need highly skilled technical people and it is important we train engineers to work with these technicians. We have to look at all levels of higher education.”

Dr Kanako Morita, senior researcher at the Center for Biodiversity and Climate Change with the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Tsukuba, Japan, told the session: “Youth education is important, but so are other actors, including the companies and financial institutions and local government, who are keen to learn more about climate change. We need to consider education at all levels and social scientists have a big role to play.”

Produce ‘maestros’ to get message across

Cortese said the education system needed to produce “maestros” able to get the message across and with the capacity to handle the difficult questions on a scientific basis.

“We can help identify students who can participate in such programmes in the countries where we intervene. Too often, we all work among ourselves with people who we agree with, but that’s not always the most productive.

“We need to set up partnerships with people who don’t necessarily think the same way we do, [and] that would force students to examine their arguments and to review them.

“It is important to develop soft skills and to meet the needs of different people and not just work with university partnerships with the same outlook.

“We need to establish partnerships with companies, so people go outside their comfort zone and are prepared when they meet people who might not think as they do and who are able to see things in a different way.”


Nic Mitchell is a UK-based freelance journalist and PR consultant specialising in European and international higher education. He blogs at www.delacourcommunications.com.


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Fossil fuel research ties undermine universities’ climate change response

Fossil fuel research ties undermine universities’ climate change response

Accepting industry money risks distorting research and allowing polluting firms to greenwash their reputations, says Zak Coleman. However before A fossil fuel divestment ‘how-to’, it is advisable not to overlook or ignore what has been said before now.

Fossil fuel research ties undermine universities’ climate change response

Fossil fuel research ties undermine universities’ climate change response
Zak Coleman

I became the University of Cambridge’s students’ union undergraduate president in the wake of the university’s historic decision to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. I felt hopeful. The university was waking up to the urgent need to combat the climate crisis. It finally understood the damaging consequences of lending its reputational legitimacy to the industry driving this emergency. 

Or so I thought. 

Working at the students’ union, I became increasingly aware that the university’s involvement with fossil fuel companies extended far beyond its investments. The BP Institute and the professorship of complex physical systems sponsored by offshore drilling company Schlumberger are just two of the countless industry links that Cambridge retains. Everywhere I looked, I saw the university inviting the very same companies it had just condemned as unconscionable investments to be senior partners in its core research activities.

This felt like an enormous betrayal. Universities are supposed to be committed to supporting young people and our futures. But here was my university collaborating extensively with the companies destroying that future. 

But it’s not just the hypocrisy that concerns me. Universities’ research partnerships with the fossil fuel industry also undermine their ability to effectively address the climate emergency. 

Let’s be clear. Industry executives have known about the devastating climate impacts of their business for more than 50 years. Instead of acting on the science, however, they spent millions of pounds spreading climate disinformation and expanded their fossil fuel operations. They continue to engage in extensive anti-climate political lobbying and resolutely focus the overwhelming majority of their business on fossil fuels, including building new infrastructure and exploring for new reserves.  Meanwhile, the world’s top scientists and energy experts are clear that no new fossil fuel infrastructure can be built if the world is to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and avoid runaway climate breakdown. 

In contrast, universities like Cambridge are respected globally for upholding the highest standards of scientific integrity and intellectual rigour. Like it or not, partnerships between such higher education institutions and companies that have spent decades ignoring, silencing and discrediting these universities’ very own scientists are a PR gift for the fossil fuel industry. They allow these firms to misrepresent themselves as reformed leaders of the green transition. They send a clear message to governments, policymakers and wider civil society: if universities like Cambridge deem these companies serious on climate-related issues, why shouldn’t we? Ultimately, they help to stall desperately overdue political action to address the climate emergency.

Accepting funding from the fossil fuel industry also raises serious questions about researchers’ ability to conduct truly independent climate-related research. Academics must be free to determine their own research agendas, speak their minds and publish their findings without fear of censorship, reprisal or the denial of funding for future projects. Yet numerous studies demonstrate that industry funding skews research agendas and outcomes in directions favourable to industry interests, and that common safeguarding measures are often inadequate mitigation. This is why, for decades, research institutions have rejected tobacco industry funding for public health research. The same principle must be extended to fossil fuel funding of climate-related research. Independent climate research is just too important to tolerate such risks.

Governments and universities now have a profound responsibility to provide alternatives to industry funding. This is especially true for our wealthiest universities, which frequently accept the most fossil fuel research funding. Indeed, despite being Europe’s wealthiest university, Cambridge accepted more from oil companies between 2017 and 2021than all other UK universities bar one – Imperial College London.

Such universities have large, well-established fundraising departments capable of raising phenomenal sums. Philanthropic giving to US universities rose by 6.9 per cent in 2021 alone, topping $52 billion (£40 billion). The notion that there are no alternatives to fossil fuel industry funding is dangerously false.

Last month, more than 500 leading academics signed an open letter calling for universities to cut research ties with the fossil fuel industry. Among those supporting the letter, which is still open for signatures, are Nobel Prize winners; the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson; and numerous scientists on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

We know the fossil fuel industry will continue to ignore the calls of these distinguished climate experts. But we expect better from our universities. Our planet is in ecological cardiac arrest, yet it is the fossil fuel industry that our universities are helping keep on life support. It is long past time for this to end.

Zak Coleman is undergraduate president of the Cambridge Students’ Union. Twitter: @SU_PresidentUG

Read the original article here.

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Students demand action on the climate crisis

Students demand action on the climate crisis

COP26 is the world’s best – and perhaps last – chance to get runaway climate change under control, and to reach net zero HE needs to act swiftly, says Manveer Gill.
Students demand action on the climate crisis now – not later is reported by Times Higher Education. Would however the rest of society follow by perhaps making it a “civic virtue” or merely by being a “good” citizen, through the vital and full participation of each and every one?

Students demand action on the climate crisis now – not later

Students demand action on the climate crisis now – not later
Manveer Gill

Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education

Manveer Gill

There is now no doubt at all that today’s younger generation (and future generations) will face an array of impacts stemming from an increasingly destabilised climate, from heat waves and flooding becoming more frequent and more severe, to supply chain disruptions and food insecurity. 

Universities must prepare themselves for these changes and develop action plans to bring their own greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, thus contributing to the mitigation of a higher global temperature and the associated, more severe impacts. How they prepare themselves and what they focus on is key. There is both a significant opportunity and a moral duty for universities to support their students in the face of impending climate-induced adversity.

As highlighted by Students Organising for Sustainability UK’s research in 2021, most students do not currently have access to the educational opportunities that will provide them with the knowledge and skills needed to tackle the climate emergency and adapt to a changing world, both socially and economically.

This omission within personal and professional development will lead to difficulties for graduates in gaining sustainable careers − both within the sustainable development field itself and working for wider businesses as they are mandated to shift in line with a low-carbon reality.

Additionally, without proactively supporting students to develop the knowledge, skills and values needed to respond to the climate emergency on a personal level, the health and well-being of students is expected to suffer further as the impacts of climate change increase.

It is imperative, therefore, that universities provide climate education to all and embed “education for sustainable development” within curricula. Doing so will also reduce the chances that students and graduates will require retraining to be able to contribute further to net-zero futures.

Rather than a one-way line of communication and action, there is an opportunity for students to be engaged and consulted in the creation and delivery of such reforms, and indeed this should be the case for broader institutional sustainability plans. Being open and transparent will pave the way for stronger relations between students, staff and their institutions. It is precisely because climate change will have such alarming impacts that universities will need to empower their students during this transition.

For universities to mitigate their own climate impacts, they will need to rethink how they organise themselves. Whether their efforts are sufficient to reach net zero can only be determined if universities provide transparent and comparable statistics as part of regular emissions reporting.

At present within the UK, only Scottish universities are mandated to report institutional emissions, with an expectation for targets for net zero to be included in 2022 submissions. This lack of a regulatory reporting framework for the sector, specifically on climate action and disclosure of emissions and targets, has restricted progress by HE in this regard.

It puts HE institutions at risk of greenwashing audiences without taking the necessary steps to address the climate emergency or being held to account in doing so. We have already seen the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority mandate climate disclosure for premium listed UK companies in line with recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. For HE to keep up and become leaders in the global transition to net zero, we need to see the creation and implementation of a mandatory reporting framework, which includes Scope 3 emissions – indirect emissions resulting from institutions’ activities, such as business travel and employee commuting – as well as target- and strategy-setting requirements.

The Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education is working to support a sector-wide approach to the climate emergency, with four senior-level institutional commissioners joined by four student commissioners in directing and leading this work.

As part of this, the student commissioners have published a student statement using input and feedback from student focus groups. The student statement includes nine demands for addressing identified gaps or issues within the UK’s HE sector in tackling the climate emergency. This statement will be sent, along with signatures from supporting students across the UK, to COY16 delegates who will present these views at COP26 in Glasgow next month.

COP26, the UN’s annual global climate summit, is the world’s best – and perhaps last – chance to get runaway climate change under control. To reach net zero and help protect the world’s communities, HE needs to act swiftly − and the UK government must support and mandate this action while also financing the transition.

HE plays a pivotal role in creating countries’ future leaders and others involved across our economies, while also acting as social and economic hubs for local communities. The action that the sector takes will have implications for society collectively. We owe it to the students of now and the future to lead by example.

Manveer Gill is one of four student climate commissioners at the Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education. He is also a maths graduate from the University of Warwick and an honorary fellow of the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (EAUC).

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