January 13 Link Roundup

Artificial arrangements of stalagmites in Bruniquel cave in France were known to be of Neanderthal origin. However, recent uranium dating has pushed the date of their construction to 176,500 years before present (BP). This is yet more evidence that Neanderthals had culture similar to humans. In an appropriately-timed piece, Jon Mooallem writes about the research going on in Gibraltar at the Neanderthal cave sites alongside his own realizations about our idea of human (sapiens) superiority. This may be the first NYT mention of some of the Victorian and Edwardian scientists I cite in my thesis; their ideas on the Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon (European early modern human) tibias echoed into the next century, perpetuating race-based theories of anatomy.

“This is like putting together a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle where you only have five pieces,” Finlayson said. He somehow made this analogy sound exciting instead of hopeless… But it was like looking for needles in a haystack, and the entire haystack was merely the one needle they had managed to find in an astronomically larger haystack. And most of that haystack was now inaccessible forever.

In a hopefully more scientific rehash of the Easter Sunday experiment, researchers at Johns Hopkins are giving psilocybin to religious leaders to investigate mystical experiences. The PI, Anthony Bossis, has also led trials testing how psilocybin trips ease existential pain in terminally ill cancer patients (more here).

In this week’s “so adorable it hurts,” Sam Barsky knits sweaters featuring popular landmarks and then takes pictures in front of them.

The island of St. Helena, famous for being the location of Napoleon’s exile, is the burial place of 8,000 skeletons of Africans who were liberated from slavery. The island is at the center of the Middle Passage, the route across the Atlantic that carried millions of captured Africans to lives of slavery in the Americas. (Further note: I recently had the opportunity to visit the Slave Lodge museum in Cape Town. While the museums there are generally underfunded and little run down, the content was well-presented and devastating.)

Apparently Mengele’s skeleton has been used in a teaching collection in Brazil for decades.

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