Archive for the ‘SIberia’ Category

A team of international scientists are extracting high quality DNA from the remains of a woolly mammoth that lived 43,000 years ago, with the aim of joining it with the DNA of an elephant, they told The Siberian Times Thursday. Results from the necropsy of the woolly mammoth in Yakutsk, Sakha Republic — due to wind up Saturday after more than 10 months of analysis — has caused “palpable excitement” within the team of scientists, hailing from Russia, the UK, the United States, Denmark, South Korea, and Moldova.

“The data we are about to receive will give us a high chance to clone the mammoth,” Radik Khayrullin, vice president of the Russian Association of Medical Anthropologists, told The Siberian Times in Yakutsk. He urged responsibility in any attempts to clone the woolly mammoth. “It is one thing to clone it for scientific purpose, and another to clone for the sake of curiosity,” he said. Geneticists are reportedly searching for an Asian elephant whose egg could be injected with cloned material from the woolly mammoth. That same or another female elephant would be the surrogate mother of the resulting fertilzed egg. Any resulting wooly mammoth/elephant hybrid baby would have to be female, since there is no y-chromosome material from the wooly mammoth, who was a female. At any rate, such a procedure would take decades to perfect, experts said.

Semyon Grigoriev, head of the Museum of Mammoths of the Institute of Applied Ecology of the North at the North Eastern Federal University, told The Siberian Times that because the evolutionary paths of the mammoth and the elephant diverged so long ago, cloning will be challenging. However, the samples will allow geneticists to completely decode the DNA of the mammoth.

The Russian woolly mammoth was between 50 and 60 years old when she died. Though the upper part of her carcass has been devoured by animals, the lower part (the legs and a detached trunk) was “astonishingly, very well preserved,” Viktoria Egorova, chief of the research and clinical diagnostic laboratory of the medical clinic of North-Eastern Federal University told The Siberian Times. The mammoth, which may have met her demise by falling through a hole in the ice, lay in the permafrost of Maly Lyakhovskiy Island until it was found last May.
The mammoth as a species disappeared from Siberia at the end of the Pleistocene era about 10,000 years ago, with warming climate and hunting by humans thought to be contributing factors. An isolated population of woolly mammoths persisted on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean, between the Chukchi and East Siberian Seas, until around 4,000 years ago.

‘We have dissected the soft tissues of the mammoth, and I must say that we didn’t expect such results,” Dr. Egorova told The Siberian Times. The necropsy revealed well-preserved muscle and adipose tissues (loose connective tissues which store fat), and “blood vessels with strong walls,” and within intact blood vessels themselves, for the first time ever in an ancient carcass of an extinct animal, erythrocytes, or red blood cells that contain the oxygen-carrying molecule hemoglobin, Egorova told The Siberian Times.

Biologists have been able to discern cells within the woolly mammoth’s blood that had been in the process of migration (involved in growth and healing) within the lymphoid tissue when the woolly mammoth died, a finding Egorova termed “another great discovery.” The intestines contained remains of the vegetation eaten by the mammoth; its multi-chambered stomach was preserved, as was a kidney, which contained fragments Egorova suspects are kidney stones.

One of the Canadian scientists looking foward to anayzing blood samples from the woolly mammoth is Kevin Campbell, a University of Manitoba professor of environmental and evolutionary physiology who has rearched and written on the subject of hemoglobin in woolly mammoths. In 2010, Campbell wrote a letter in the journal Nature Genetics describing how he had genetically resurrected and analyzed woolly mammoth hemoglobin “to reveal for the first time…the structural underpinnings of a key adaptive physiochemical trait in an extinct species.” He discovered that whereas the efficiency of hemoglobin in elephants to offload oxygen to respiring cells is hampered at low temperatures, mammoth hemoglobin has amino acid substitutions that “provide a unique solution to this problem and thereby minimize energetically costly heat loss.” Since then, Campbell has recreated the hemoglobin of woolly mammoths.

Campbell, who described himself as “bitterly disappointed” that he couldn’t make the necropsy of the woolly mammoth in Russia, said he would be doing the next best thing next week; joining one of his collaborators, Roy E. Weber at Aarhus University, Denmark who will be returning from Russia with some muscle and blood samples extracted from the woolly mammoth. If nothing else, the blood samples may allow Campbell to verify the presence of cold-tolerant hemoglobin in woolly mammoths. “It’s one thing to synthesize mammoth hemoglobin in bacteria: It’s quite another story to study the real thing from a 43,000 year-old specimen,” Campbell told the International Science Times. “No other specimen has ever been so well preserved that we could potentially obtain hemoglobin oxygen-binding data from it. This specimen offers the unique opportunity to collect precisely the same kind of physiologically relevant information from an extinct species as I could from those that are still alive.”

Climate change (as destructive a force as it is for the planet) has proven to be a boon for evolutionary physiologists interested in examining extinct animals. “One of the dirty little secrets of this field is that the increased melting of the North affords the finding of many, many more specimens,” Campbell said. “I don’t want to encourage further global warming, but it is a benefit from permafrost melting and so much being exposed, that they are finding woolly rhinos, bison, a crazy number of ancient horses and specimens in the Canadian and Russian Arctic.” Gold mining and industrial development has also unearthed more prehistoric animals than ever before in human history.

The researchers who peformed the autopsy on the woolly mammoth will hold a conference in Greece in May to announce the results.

http://www.isciencetimes.com/articles/6946/20140313/woolly-mammoth-dna-cloning-elephant-clone.htm

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Siberian summers do not last long. The snows linger into May, and the cold weather returns again during September, freezing the taiga into a still life awesome in its desolation: endless miles of straggly pine and birch forests scattered with sleeping bears and hungry wolves; steep-sided mountains; white-water rivers that pour in torrents through the valleys; a hundred thousand icy bogs. This forest is the last and greatest of Earth’s wildernesses. It stretches from the furthest tip of Russia’s arctic regions as far south as Mongolia, and east from the Urals to the Pacific: five million square miles of nothingness, with a population, outside a handful of towns, that amounts to only a few thousand people.

When the warm days do arrive, though, the taiga blooms, and for a few short months it can seem almost welcoming. It is then that man can see most clearly into this hidden world—not on land, for the taiga can swallow whole armies of explorers, but from the air. Siberia is the source of most of Russia’s oil and mineral resources, and, over the years, even its most distant parts have been overflown by oil prospectors and surveyors on their way to backwoods camps where the work of extracting wealth is carried on.

Thus it was in the remote south of the forest in the summer of 1978. A helicopter sent to find a safe spot to land a party of geologists was skimming the treeline a hundred or so miles from the Mongolian border when it dropped into the thickly wooded valley of an unnamed tributary of the Abakan, a seething ribbon of water rushing through dangerous terrain. The valley walls were narrow, with sides that were close to vertical in places, and the skinny pine and birch trees swaying in the rotors’ downdraft were so thickly clustered that there was no chance of finding a spot to set the aircraft down. But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time.

It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.

The four scientists sent into the district to prospect for iron ore were told about the pilots’ sighting, and it perplexed and worried them. “It’s less dangerous,” the writer Vasily Peskov notes of this part of the taiga, “to run across a wild animal than a stranger,” and rather than wait at their own temporary base, 10 miles away, the scientists decided to investigate. Led by a geologist named Galina Pismenskaya, they “chose a fine day and put gifts in our packs for our prospective friends”—though, just to be sure, she recalled, “I did check the pistol that hung at my side.”

As the intruders scrambled up the mountain, heading for the spot pinpointed by their pilots, they began to come across signs of human activity: a rough path, a staff, a log laid across a stream, and finally a small shed filled with birch-bark containers of cut-up dried potatoes. Then, Pismenskaya said,

“beside a stream there was a dwelling. Blackened by time and rain, the hut was piled up on all sides with taiga rubbish—bark, poles, planks. If it hadn’t been for a window the size of my backpack pocket, it would have been hard to believe that people lived there. But they did, no doubt about it…. Our arrival had been noticed, as we could see.”

The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive…. We had to say something, so I began: ‘Greetings, grandfather! We’ve come to visit!’

The old man did not reply immediately…. Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: ‘Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.’

The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—”a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:

The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: ‘This is for our sins, our sins.’ The other, keeping behind a post… sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, “frankly curious.” Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, “We are not allowed that!” When Pismenskaya asked, “Have you ever eaten bread?” the old man answered: “I have. But they have not. They have never seen it.” At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. “When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing.”

Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer—a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.” But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods [940 pounds] of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.

Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power. Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov’s brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.

That was in 1936, and there were only four Lykovs then—Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2. Taking their possessions and some seeds, they had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot. Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family. All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents’ stories. The family’s principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, “was for everyone to recount their dreams.”

The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them. Their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink. When Agafia was shown a picture of a horse, she recognized it from her mother’s Bible stories. “Look, papa,” she exclaimed. “A steed!”

But if the family’s isolation was hard to grasp, the unmitigated harshness of their lives was not. Traveling to the Lykov homestead on foot was astonishingly arduous, even with the help of a boat along the Abakan. On his first visit to the Lykovs, Peskov—who would appoint himself the family’s chief chronicler—noted that “we traversed 250 kilometres [155 miles] without seeing a single human dwelling!”

Isolation made survival in the wilderness close to impossible. Dependent solely on their own resources, the Lykovs struggled to replace the few things they had brought into the taiga with them. They fashioned birch-bark galoshes in place of shoes. Clothes were patched and repatched until they fell apart, then replaced with hemp cloth grown from seed.

The Lykovs had carried a crude spinning wheel and, incredibly, the components of a loom into the taiga with them—moving these from place to place as they gradually went further into the wilderness must have required many long and arduous journeys—but they had no technology for replacing metal. A couple of kettles served them well for many years, but when rust finally overcame them, the only replacements they could fashion came from birch bark. Since these could not be placed in a fire, it became far harder to cook. By the time the Lykovs were discovered, their staple diet was potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds.

In some respects, Peskov makes clear, the taiga did offer some abundance: “Beside the dwelling ran a clear, cold stream. Stands of larch, spruce, pine and birch yielded all that anyone could take…. Bilberries and raspberries were close to hand, firewood as well, and pine nuts fell right on the roof.”

Yet the Lykovs lived permanently on the edge of famine. It was not until the late 1950s, when Dmitry reached manhood, that they first trapped animals for their meat and skins. Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders. More often than not, though, there was no meat, and their diet gradually became more monotonous. Wild animals destroyed their crop of carrots, and Agafia recalled the late 1950s as “the hungry years.” “We ate the rowanberry leaf,” she said,

“roots, grass, mushrooms, potato tops, and bark, We were hungry all the time. Every year we held a council to decide whether to eat everything up or leave some for seed.”

Famine was an ever-present danger in these circumstances, and in 1961 it snowed in June. The hard frost killed everything growing in their garden, and by spring the family had been reduced to eating shoes and bark. Akulina chose to see her children fed, and that year she died of starvation. The rest of the family were saved by what they regarded as a miracle: a single grain of rye sprouted in their pea patch. The Lykovs put up a fence around the shoot and guarded it zealously night and day to keep off mice and squirrels. At harvest time, the solitary spike yielded 18 grains, and from this they painstakingly rebuilt their rye crop.

As the Soviet geologists got to know the Lykov family, they realized that they had underestimated their abilities and intelligence. Each family member had a distinct personality; Old Karp was usually delighted by the latest innovations that the scientists brought up from their camp, and though he steadfastly refused to believe that man had set foot on the moon, he adapted swiftly to the idea of satellites. The Lykovs had noticed them as early as the 1950s, when “the stars began to go quickly across the sky,” and Karp himself conceived a theory to explain this: “People have thought something up and are sending out fires that are very like stars.”

“What amazed him most of all,” Peskov recorded, “was a transparent cellophane package. ‘Lord, what have they thought up—it is glass, but it crumples!'” And Karp held grimly to his status as head of the family, though he was well into his 80s. His eldest child, Savin, dealt with this by casting himself as the family’s unbending arbiter in matters of religion. “He was strong of faith, but a harsh man,” his own father said of him, and Karp seems to have worried about what would happen to his family after he died if Savin took control. Certainly the eldest son would have encountered little resistance from Natalia, who always struggled to replace her mother as cook, seamstress and nurse.

The two younger children, on the other hand, were more approachable and more open to change and innovation. “Fanaticism was not terribly marked in Agafia,” Peskov said, and in time he came to realize that the youngest of the Lykovs had a sense of irony and could poke fun at herself. Agafia’s unusual speech—she had a singsong voice and stretched simple words into polysyllables—convinced some of her visitors she was slow-witted; in fact she was markedly intelligent, and took charge of the difficult task, in a family that possessed no calendars, of keeping track of time. She thought nothing of hard work, either, excavating a new cellar by hand late in the fall and working on by moonlight when the sun had set. Asked by an astonished Peskov whether she was not frightened to be out alone in the wilderness after dark, she replied: “What would there be out here to hurt me?”

Of all the Lykovs, though, the geologists’ favorite was Dmitry, a consummate outdoorsman who knew all of the taiga’s moods. He was the most curious and perhaps the most forward-looking member of the family. It was he who had built the family stove, and all the birch-bark buckets that they used to store food. It was also Dmitry who spent days hand-cutting and hand-planing each log that the Lykovs felled. Perhaps it was no surprise that he was also the most enraptured by the scientists’ technology. Once relations had improved to the point that the Lykovs could be persuaded to visit the Soviets’ camp, downstream, he spent many happy hours in its little sawmill, marveling at how easily a circular saw and lathes could finish wood. “It’s not hard to figure,” Peskov wrote. “The log that took Dmitry a day or two to plane was transformed into handsome, even boards before his eyes. Dmitry felt the boards with his palm and said: ‘Fine!'”

Karp Lykov fought a long and losing battle with himself to keep all this modernity at bay. When they first got to know the geologists, the family would accept only a single gift—salt. (Living without it for four decades, Karp said, had been “true torture.”) Over time, however, they began to take more. They welcomed the assistance of their special friend among the geologists—a driller named Yerofei Sedov, who spent much of his spare time helping them to plant and harvest crops. They took knives, forks, handles, grain and eventually even pen and paper and an electric torch. Most of these innovations were only grudgingly acknowledged, but the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists’ camp,

“proved irresistible for them…. On their rare appearances, they would invariably sit down and watch. Karp sat directly in front of the screen. Agafia watched poking her head from behind a door. She tried to pray away her transgression immediately—whispering, crossing herself…. The old man prayed afterward, diligently and in one fell swoop.”

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Lykovs’ strange story was the rapidity with which the family went into decline after they re-established contact with the outside world. In the fall of 1981, three of the four children followed their mother to the grave within a few days of one another. According to Peskov, their deaths were not, as might have been expected, the result of exposure to diseases to which they had no immunity. Both Savin and Natalia suffered from kidney failure, most likely a result of their harsh diet. But Dmitry died of pneumonia, which might have begun as an infection he acquired from his new friends.

His death shook the geologists, who tried desperately to save him. They offered to call in a helicopter and have him evacuated to a hospital. But Dmitry, in extremis, would abandon neither his family nor the religion he had practiced all his life. “We are not allowed that,” he whispered just before he died. “A man lives for howsoever God grants.”

When all three Lykovs had been buried, the geologists attempted to talk Karp and Agafia into leaving the forest and returning to be with relatives who had survived the persecutions of the purge years, and who still lived on in the same old villages. But neither of the survivors would hear of it. They rebuilt their old cabin, but stayed close to their old home.

Karp Lykov died in his sleep on February 16, 1988, 27 years to the day after his wife, Akulina. Agafia buried him on the mountain slopes with the help of the geologists, then turned and headed back to her home. The Lord would provide, and she would stay, she said—as indeed she has. A quarter of a century later, now in her seventies herself, this child of the taiga lives on alone, high above the Abakan.

“She will not leave. But we must leave her, seen through the eyes of Yerofei on the day of her father’s funeral:

I looked back to wave at Agafia. She was standing by the river break like a statue. She wasn’t crying. She nodded: ‘Go on, go on.’ We went another kilometer and I looked back. She was still standing there.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/For-40-Years-This-Russian-Family-Was-Cut-Off-From-Human-Contact-Unaware-of-World-War-II-188843001.html#ixzz2JgLr6Xgw
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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She grew up in one of the poorest spots on earth. She couldn’t read or write. As a child, she scrounged for food each day for herself, her mother, and her brother.

But a chance encounter with a chess coach turned her into a rising international chess star, the subject of a book — and the protagonist in a future Disney movie.

Ugandan teenager Phiona Mutesi is “the ultimate underdog,” her biographer says.

Those who work with her believe she’s 16. But since her birthday is unclear, she might still only be 15, they say.

Her father died from AIDS when Mutesi was around 3.

“I thought the life I was living, that everyone was living that life,” the teenager told CNN, describing her childhood in Katwe, a slum in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

“I was living a hard life, where I was sleeping on the streets, and you couldn’t have anything to eat at the streets. So that’s when I decided for my brother to get a cup of porridge.”

Robert Katende, a missionary and refugee of Uganda’s civil war, had started a chess program in Katwe. He offered a bowl of porridge to any child who would show up and learn.

“It teaches you how to assess, how to make decisions, obstructive thinking, forecasts, endurance, problem solving, and looking at challenges as an opportunity in all cases — and possibly not giving up,” he told CNN. “The discipline, the patience … anything to do with life, you can get it in that game.”

Mutesi did not become a top player overnight. But from the time she first showed up in 2005, her aptitude was clear.

Her talent is “extraordinary,” said Katende.

Mutesi liked chess, and started training and practicing regularly. “It took me like a year” to get very good, she said.

She walked about four miles a day to practice — and to get that precious food.

Soon she found herself beating the older girls and boys in the program.

Mutesi and her family faced pressure from some people in Uganda who insisted chess was a white man’s game, or at least not something girls should be playing, according to her biographer, Tim Crothers.

But in her slum, so few people even knew what chess was that they didn’t give her a hard time, Mutesi told CNN.

Eventually, she became her country’s champion — and represented Uganda at international tournaments. In 2009, she traveled to Sudan. Then, in 2010, she boarded an airplane to Siberia.

When the flight took off, “I thought that I was maybe in heaven,” she wrote in a letter to her mother quoted in Crothers’ book. “I asked God to protect me because who am I to fly to the europlane.”

Mutesi had also never seen ice before.

This year, she played in Istanbul.

Mutesi is not one of the world’s top chess players. But she is the first titled female Ugandan player. She has a fighter’s instinct to reach the top level — and to achieve much more.

“Chess gave me hope, whereby now I’m having a hope of becoming a doctor and … a grand master,” she said.

A grant from a program called Sports Outreach has allowed her to go back to school. She’s learning to read and write.

Meanwhile, Mutesi is becoming an inspiration to people all over the world.

Some learned about her through Crothers’ article for ESPN, which went viral. Others have seen a brief documentary about her on YouTube.

Crothers’ book about her, “The Queen of Katwe,” was published this fall.

“That she’s from Africa makes her an underdog in the world. The fact that she’s from Uganda makes her sort of an underdog in Africa, because it’s one of the poorer countries in Africa. The fact that she’s in Katwe makes her an underdog in Uganda because it’s the most impoverished slum in the entire country. And then to be a girl in Katwe — girls are not treated as equals to the boys,” said Crothers.

“Every hurdle that the world can place in front of her it has placed in front of her.”

The extreme poverty and deprivation in Katwe is hard for many around the world to imagine. Crothers wrote that “human waste from downtown Kampala is dumped directly into the slum. There is no sanitation.”

Mutesi wakes at 5 a.m. every morning to “begin a two-hour trek through Katwe to fill a jug with drinkable water, walking through lowland that is often so severely flooded by Uganda’s torrential rains that many residents sleep in hammocks near their ceilings to avoid drowning,” he wrote.

In the country of 34 million people, about one-fourth live below the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook. About three-quarters of the men in Uganda are literate; only 58% of women are.

Mutesi told CNN she’s never heard of Idi Amin, the so-called butcher of Uganda, who helped plunge his country into economic chaos throughout the 1970s.

She does know the name Joseph Kony, a brutal Ugandan warlord who was the subject of a viral video earlier this year. Kids talk about him, Mutesi said.

“He was in northern Uganda torturing people and could kidnap children. That’s what I know.”

Chess could prove to be Mutesi’s ticket out of a hard life — particularly through a project that lies ahead.

Disney has optioned the rights to “The Queen of Katwe,” and is starting work on a movie, Crothers said.

It’s all too much for Mutesi to fathom.

“I feel happy,” she said when asked about the growing attention. “I’m excited. I didn’t have hope that one time, one day, I would be like someone who can encourage people, and they start playing chess,” she told CNN.

As her world travels take off, she’s in for more and more culture shock.

“I don’t like New York because there’s too much noise in it,” the teenager said with a big smile.

But while it may be somewhat overwhelming for her, Mutesi’s success at the game she loves is bringing joy to her family.

“Some of them cried. Years back we didn’t have hope that … one day it can happen,” she said. “So they are very excited.”

http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/10/world/africa/uganda-chess-teen/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

 

 A headless mummified body found in a ditch in central Russia was there because of a failed Biblical miracle, not murder, Yaroslavl Region investigators said on Monday.

The man, a Pentecostal missionary, died of an illness, but his wife, a member of the same Christian denomination, preserved the corpse for three years, the local branch of the Investigative Committee said.

The woman expected him to return to life, the report said.

The mummified body was found in the village of Semibratovo in July, stashed in a plastic bag. It was missing an arm and head, soon discovered in a nearby trash dump.

The committee opened a case on murder charges, but eventually discovered the truth was quite different.

The man, whose name was withheld, worked as a missionary for the Pentecostals, including in the Siberian republic of Buryatia, the investigators said.

The family led an isolated life, with their five children brought up by the missionary’s wife, a certified preschool teacher.

The head of the family expired in 2009, but his wife could not bring herself to accept it, the report said. She preserved the body in the apartment and told the children he would come back to life.

The children were made to attend to their late father every day, speaking to him and “feeding” him broth. They reported to their mother that he conversed with them, but she never entered his room, afraid that contacting him prematurely could spoil the resurrection.

The family kept acquaintances at bay by telling them the man was too ill to speak to anyone. They used air fresheners to mask the odor of the rotting body.

The pretend play continued until last summer, when the family decided to relocate elsewhere in the region. Fearing that the body would be discovered, two of the missionary’s three daughters, aged 9 and 14, carried the corpse away to dump it. The arm and the head broke away in the process and had to be discarded separately.

The case was closed without any charges against the woman, who did not need hospitalization, the investigators said. But child protection services were looking into the incident.

Pentecostal groups have more than 1,300 churches across Russia, according to Cef.ru, a website for the United Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith, a Pentecostal organization.

http://en.ria.ru/russia/20121119/177589653.html

The ancient mummy of a mysterious young woman, known as the Ukok Princess, is finally returning home to the Altai Republic this month.

She is to be kept in a special mausoleum at the Republican National Museum in capital Gorno-Altaisk, where eventually she will be displayed in a glass sarcophagus to tourists.

For the past 19 years, since her discovery, she was kept mainly at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk, apart from a period in Moscow when her remains were treated by the same scientists who preserve the body of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin.

To mark the move ‘home’, The Siberian Times has obtained intricate drawings of her remarkable tattoos, and those of two men, possibly warriors, buried near her on the remote Ukok Plateau, now a UNESCO world cultural and natural heritage site, some 2,500 metres up in the Altai Mountains in a border region close to frontiers of Russia with Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.

They are all believed to be Pazyryk people – a nomadic people described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus – and the colourful body artwork is seen as the best preserved and most elaborate ancient tattoos anywhere in the world.

To many observers, it is startling how similar they are to modern-day tattoos.

The remains of the immaculately dressed ‘princess’, aged around 25 and preserved for several millennia in the Siberian permafrost, a natural freezer, were discovered in 1993 by Novosibirsk scientist Natalia Polosmak during an archeological expedition.

Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, perhaps more likely a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman than an ice princess.

There, too, was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold.  And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander.

‘Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated, and the most beautiful,’ said Dr Polosmak.

‘More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps – but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks.

‘It is a phenomenal level of tattoo art. Incredible.’

While the tattoos, preserved in the permafrost, have been known about since the remains were dug up, until now few have seen the intricate reconstructions that we reveal here.

‘Tattoos were used as a mean of personal identification – like a passport now, if you like. The Pazyryks also believed the tattoos would be helpful in another life, making it easy for the people of the same family and culture to find each other after death,’ added Dr Polosmak.

‘Pazyryks repeated the same images of animals in other types of art, which is considered to be like a language of animal images, which represented their thoughts.

‘The same can be said about the tattoos – it was a language of animal imagery, used to express some thoughts and to define one’s position both in society, and in the world. The more tattoos were on the body, the longer it meant the person lived, and the higher was his position.

‘For example the body of one man, which was found earlier in the 20th century, had his entire body covered with tattoos. Our young woman – the princess – has only her two  arms tattooed. So they signified both age and status.’

The tattoos on the left shoulder of the ‘princess’  show a fantastical mythological animal: a dear with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. The antlers are decorated with the heads of griffons. And the same griffon’s head is shown on the back of the animal.

The mouth of a spotted panther with a long tail is seen at the legs of a sheep.

She also has a dear’s head on her wrist, with big antlers. There is a drawing on the animal’s body on a thumb on her left hand.

On the man found close to the ‘princess’, the tattoos include the same fantastical creature, this time covering the right side of his body, across his right shoulder and stretching from his chest to his back.

His chest, arms, part of the back and the lower leg are covered with tattoos. There is an argali – a mountain sheep – along with the same dear with griffon’s vulture-like beak, with horns and the back of its head which has a griffon’s heads and an onager drawn on it.

All animals are shown with the lower parts of their bodies turned inside out. There is also a winged snow leopard, a fish and fast-running argali.

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.