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Cancer Mythologies: The Problem with Making Things Up is Getting Worse

|| April 29: 2018: UCL News ||ά. Mistaken belief in mythical causes of cancer is rife, according to new research from UCL and the University of Leeds. The findings, published in the European Journal of Cancer, show that out of 1,330 people in England more than 40% wrongly thought that stress, 43% and food additives, 42%, caused cancer. A third incorrectly believed that electromagnetic frequencies, 35% and eating GM food, 34%, were risk factors, while 19% thought microwave ovens and 15% said drinking from plastic bottles caused cancer despite a lack of good scientific evidence.

Among the proven causes of cancer, 88% of people correctly selected smoking, 80% picked passive smoking and 60% said sunburn. Belief in mythical causes of cancer did not mean a person was more likely to have risky lifestyle habits. But those, who had better knowledge of proven causes were more likely not to smoke. Dr Lion Shahab, UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health, said, “People’s beliefs are so important because they have an impact on the lifestyle choices they make. Those with better awareness of proven causes of cancer were more likely not to smoke and to eat more fruit and vegetables.”

Dr Samuel Smith from the University of Leeds, said, “It’s worrying to see so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence. Compared to past research it appears the number of people believing in unproven causes of cancer has increased since the start of the century, which could be a result of changes to how we access news and information through the internet and social media.

It’s vital to improve public education about the causes of cancer, if, we want to help people make informed decisions about their lives and ensure they aren’t worrying unnecessarily.”

Ms Clare Hyde from Cancer Research UK, said, “Around four in 10 cancer cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes so it’s crucial we have the right information to help us separate the wheat from the chaff.

Smoking, being overweight and overexposure to UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds are the biggest preventable causes of cancer. There is no guarantee against getting cancer but by knowing the biggest risk factors we can stack the odds in our favour to help reduce our individual risk of the disease, rather than wasting time worrying about fake news.”

This work was supported by a Cancer Research UK and Bupa Foundation Innovation Award. ::: ω.

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Narratives are Created: One for the Purpose of Understanding the Meaning of Human Existence and One for the Purposes of Directing Manipulating and Herding the Mass: That is Why There is Ethics Involved in It: That is Why Professor Hanna Meretoja's Book The Ethics of Story Telling is Timely: Her Book is Discussed at a Symposium at the University of East London Stratford: May 11



|| March 26: 2018: University of Turku News: Maria Vasenkari Writing || ά. Cultural models of sense-making shape our views about who we are and who we could be, what is possible for us as individuals and as communities. Professor Hanna Meretoja’s new book, The Ethics of Storytelling, provides us with tools for analysing cultural narrative models and understanding the power of literary narratives to expand our sense of the possible. The Ethics of Storytelling was published in the book launch organised by the Literature Departments of the University of Turku on March 14. Professor Meretoja’s book will be discussed at the Centre for Narrative Research at the University of East London, University Square, Stratford Campus, London. The Centre organises a symposium around The Ethics of Storytelling on  May 11.

The event involves a roundtable in which the book is to be discussed by Professor Matti Hyvärinen, Dr Maarit Leskelä-Kärki, Professor Jakob Lothe, Professor Ann Phoenix and Professor Brian Schiff. ​The Ethics of Storytelling: Narrative Hermeneutics, History and the Possible, a new research monograph by Professor Hanna Meretoja, of Comparative Literature at the University of Turku, Finland, brings into dialogue narrative ethics, literary narrative studies, narrative psychology, narrative philosophy and cultural memory studies. The book was published by Oxford University Press. The discussion on the ethical significance of storytelling has been dominated by polarised views on the benefits and dangers of narrative.

Against the backdrop of this debate, Professor Meretoja develops narrative hermeneutics as a nuanced theoretical-analytical framework for engaging with the ethical complexity of the roles narratives play in our lives. ''The ethical potential of literature is crucially linked to the ways in which literary narratives open up new possibilities of thought, experience, action and imagination and cultivate our awareness of and sensitivity to different perspectives.'' Professor Meretoja argues.

The key question in the book is how literary and historical narratives shape our sense of the possible. ''The sense of the possible refers to our sense of what was or is possible to experience, think, feel and do in a certain historical and cultural world. Our sense of the possible, also, concerns our ability to imagine how things could be otherwise.'' Professor Meretoja explains. She argues that our sense of the possible is shaped by the relationship between our narrative unconscious and narrative imagination.

''Cultural narrative models shape how we perceive, for example, good life, gender and success and they condition our actions and attitudes without our awareness. Literary narratives, that make such narrative models visible can enrich our narrative imagination and help us gain critical distance from culturally available narrative identities.

Professor Meretoja analyses literary and autobiographical narratives, that deal with 20th century historical traumas. Most important of these narratives are Julia Franck’s The Blind Side of the Heart 2007, Günter Grass’s Peeling the Onion 2006, Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones 2007 and David Grossman’s To the End of the Land 2008 and Falling Out of Time 2011.

''In dialogue with these narratives, I address our implication in violent histories and argue that it is as dialogic storytellers, fundamentally, vulnerable and dependent on one another, where we become who we are, both as individuals and communities.''' Professpr Meretoja summarises.

The legacy of the Holocaust and the Second World War shows the dangerous power of storytelling. ''The Nazis built a mythology, that provided the Germans with a strong narrative identity as 'Aryans' but, at the same time, it, drastically, diminished the possibilities of the Jews and several other minorities to the point of denying them the right to live. In the book, the European legacy of fascism is discussed in relation to more recent political turmoil, such as, the Israel-Palestine conflict and the rise of right-wing populist narratives.

''In order to understand the atrocities of the past, such as, the Holocaust, and contemporary terrorism, we should, instead of demonising the evil-doers, try to imagine not only the perspectives and experiential world of the victims but, also, that of the perpetrators and various implicated subjects. Only then can we properly engage with the conditions, that made the atrocities possible.

The book develops a heuristic model for evaluating the ethical potential and dangers of different kinds of narratives. It provides six evaluative continuums on which narratives can be placed. These continuums explore whether narratives i: expand or diminish our sense of the possible; ii: develop or distort our self-understanding; iii: promote or impair our ability to understand the experiences of others in their singularity; iv: participate in building inclusive or exclusive narrative in-betweens; v: cultivate or impede our perspective-awareness and vi: function as a form of ethical inquiry or dogmatism. Instead of binaries, these are differentiating continuums on which different narrative practices can be placed. They provide us with analytic tools to engage with the narrative dimension of human existence in all its complexity.

On February 06, the Narrative Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association:AERA awarded Professor Hanna Meretoja the Early Career Award for her 'substantive contributions and commitment to narrative research' and for 'her work with a large cohort of graduate students'. The award is designed to 'recognize a researcher’s outstanding accomplishment in the area of narrative research'.

Caption: Centre image of Professor Hanna Meretoja by Maria Vasenkari

Further information on the book

:: The text is Creative Commons licensed and it is free to use. Please attribute the work to the University of Turku:: ω.

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Trafficking and Migration Continue From St Patrick's Time: Actually Migration Began When Adam and Eve Were Thrown Out of Eden Onto the Earth: What was Jesus Christ Himself If Not a Refugee and Most Importantly Unless Humanity and Compassion Were Shown to Mary and Joseph What Would Have Happened to Jesus: We Want to Make Things Sound Modern and Post Modern and Ultra Modern So We Invent Things Such as Migration This and Trafficking That: How Did Slavery Get Started and Spread Unless It was Originated From Trafficking



|| March 16: 2018: University College Cork News || ά. People trafficking, war, famine and displacement of people are not unique to the 21st century as in the fifth century, when St Patrick was trafficked to Ireland, where his life was one of hardship and migration according to Dr Piaras Mac Éinrí, migration expert at University College Cork. St Patrick’s life story is known through his own extraordinary autobiographical account, The Confessio. ''My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many. My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae. His home was near there and that is where I was taken prisoner.

I was about sixteen at the time.…I was taken into captivity in Ireland, along with thousands of others. …The Lord brought his strong anger upon us and scattered us among many nations even to the ends of the earth.'' ''The 21st century is seeing new waves of people displaced by war, famine and climate change. “Indeed, it would be fair to describe migration as one of the existential challenges of the age.” says Dr Mac Éinrí, Department of Geography and Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century at UCC. So far, we are not handling it with great success in Ireland or the EU Dr Mac Éinrí rightly points out. “Barriers are going up everywhere and people are, even, being denied their legal right to seek refuge.

Racism and xenophobia are stronger now than at any time since the 1930s.” he says. “The Irish record in the diaspora is not always the best either. Imagine, if, we were at the receiving end?” poses Dr Mac Éinrí. “We were, once, as on June 20, 1631, a pirate raiding party kidnapped over 100 English and Irish people from the village of Baltimore in West Cork and took them to a life of slavery in North Africa. Some spent their days as galley slaves, others became prisoners of the Sultan. At most, three of them saw Ireland again.

The Pope’s comments on trafficking in February this year are worthy of note.” Dr Mac Éinrí says. The Pope told his weekly general audience, ''Having few possible legal channels, many migrants decide to risk other avenues, where often there awaits abuse of every kind, exploitation and slavery.”

Criminal organisations specialised in trafficking people take advantage of migratory flows 'to hide their victims among migrants and refugees' he added. In an appeal, the Pope invited everyone to 'join forces to prevent trafficking and guarantee protection and assistance to victims'. He prayed to give 'those suffering because of this shameful scourge the hope to regain freedom'.

“These words should resonate in the Irish context.” Dr Mac Éinrí says. “The more than one million Irish, who fled famine and disease in the mid-19th century, at least, had places to go. Even, if, they were sometimes received grudgingly, calls to ‘build that wall!’, if, there were any, went unheeded. Their circumstances were miserable but they were not denounced as murderers, thieves and rapists by the highest politicians of the day.'' Dr
Mac Éinrí says.

“Ultimately, they were seen as downtrodden people, who hauled themselves out of hardship and made something out of themselves wherever they went, without losing a sense of their own culture, history and identity. That is something we can celebrate.” says Dr Mac Éinrí. “But we should, also, recognise our present-day responsibilities in a wider world, where we are no longer at the bottom of the ladder. Even, in Ireland itself, people are still being trafficked, whether into the sex industry or into forms of labour undertaken in appalling and oppressive conditions. In all cases, someone, somewhere knows of these abuses and does not act.

Perhaps, as well as, stressing the centrality of migration as a ‘constant feature of the Irish experience’ we should, also, attend, rather more seriously, to the ongoing and brutal reality of human trafficking and forced migration as a constant feature of human experience. In so doing, we could more fully embrace Patrick’s legacy and our own place and responsibilities in today’s world.”

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Earliest Cave Paintings Were Made by Neanderthals: New Reseach



|| February 26: 2018: University of Southampton News || ά. Scientists have found the first major evidence, that Neanderthals made cave paintings, indicating, they, may, have had an artistic sense similar to our own. A new study, led by the University of Southampton and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology shows that paintings in three caves in Spain were created more than 64,000 years ago, 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe. This means that the Palaeolithic, Ice Age, cave art, including, pictures of animals, dots and geometric signs, must, have been made by Neanderthals, a ‘parallel’ species to Homo sapiens and Europe’s sole human inhabitants at the time.

The research, also, indicates that the Neanderthals, may, have had a similar artistic sense, in terms of thinking symbolically, to modern humans. Published in the journal Science, the study shows how an international team of scientists used an advanced technique, called, uranium-thorium dating to fix the age of the paintings as more than 64,000 years. Until now, cave art has been attributed entirely to modern humans, as claims to a possible Neanderthal origin have been hampered by imprecise dating techniques. However, uranium-thorium dating provides much more reliable results than methods, such as, radiocarbon dating, which can give false age estimates.

The uranium-thorium method involves dating tiny carbonate deposits, that have built up on top of the cave paintings. These contain traces of the radioactive elements uranium and thorium, which indicate when the deposits formed and, therefore, give a minimum age for whatever lies beneath.

Joint Lead Author Dr Chris Standish, an Archaeologist at the University of Southampton, said, “This is an incredibly exciting discovery, which suggests Neanderthals were much more sophisticated than is popularly believed. Our results show that the paintings we dated are, by far, the oldest known cave art in the world and were created at least 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa, therefore, they, must, have been painted by Neanderthals.”

A team of researchers from the UK, Germany, Spain and France analysed more than 60 carbonate samples from three cave sites in Spain, La Pasiega, north-eastern Spain, Maltravieso, western Spain and Ardales, south-western Spain. All three caves contain red, ochre or black paintings of groups of animals, dots and geometric signs, as well as, hand stencils, hand prints and engravings.

According to the researchers, creating the art, must, have involved such sophisticated behaviour as the choosing of a location, planning of light source and mixing of pigments. Professor Alistair Pike, of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Southampton and Co-director of the study, said, “Soon after the discovery of the first of their fossils in the 19th century, Neanderthals were portrayed as brutish and uncultured, incapable of art and symbolic behaviour and some of these views persist today.

The issue of just how human-like Neanderthals behaved is a hotly debated issue. Our findings will make a significant contribution to that debate.” Joint Lead Author Dirk Hoffmann, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said that symbolic material culture, a collection of cultural and intellectual achievements handed down from generation to generation, has, until now, only been attributed to our species.

The emergence of symbolic material culture represents a fundamental threshold in the evolution of humankind. It is one of the main pillars of what makes us human. Artefacts whose functional value lies not so much in their practical but rather in their symbolic use are proxies for fundamental aspects of human cognition as we know it.”

Early symbolic artefacts, dating back 70,000 years, have been found in Africa but are associated with modern humans. Other artefacts, including, cave art, sculpted figures, decorated bone tools and jewellery have been found in Europe, dating back 40,000 years ago. But researchers have concluded that these artefacts, must, have been created by modern humans, who were spreading across Europe after their arrival from Africa.

There is evidence that Neanderthals in Europe used body ornamentation around 40,000 to 45,000 years ago but many researchers have suggested this was inspired by modern humans, who, at the time, had just arrived in Europe.

Study Co-author Mr Paul Pettitt, of Durham University, said, “Neanderthals created meaningful symbols in meaningful places. The art is not a one-off accident. We have examples in three caves 700km apart and evidence that it was a long-lived tradition. It is quite possible that similar cave art in other caves in Western Europe is of Neanderthal origin, as well.”

The research was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, the National Geographic Society, the Max Planck Society and a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award. 

Caption: Colour enhanced image of three Neanderthal hand stencils, centre right, centre top and top left: Image: H.Collado: ω.

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Witches Witches Bewitching All: Kill 'Em One and Kill 'Em All: But Why Sir May I Venture to Ask: For They Practise Dark Arts: But Sir Beg I for You to Show Me What Dark Arts Are: Need I Not Bother for I Say So

|| November 04: 2017: University of Southampton News || ά. The fear of witchcraft was rife in Exeter in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, according to new research from the University of Southampton, which has showed the extent of court cases and executions in the Devon city over a 100-year period. Historian Professor Mark Stoyle has discovered that Exeter was not only the last place in England, where people were hanged for practising ‘dark arts’, but that these were just the last in a series of executions, which, may have, begun as early as 1566. In fact, Exeter, may have, been one of the first places in the kingdom to sentence a witch to death. New evidence shows that, between the accession of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558 and the accession of King Charles II in 1660, more than 20 local women and men were accused of being ‘witches’ or ‘sorcerers’ and denounced to the local magistrates. Many of these individuals were believed to possess ‘familiar spirits’: demons in the shape of small animals, like rats and toads, which unleashed their evil powers to ‘waste’ both livestock and humans on the witches’ behalf.

“It’s long been known that Exeter witnessed the last English witch-executions.” says Professor Stoyle. “In 1683, three elderly women from North Devon, Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles, were hanged at Heavitree Gallows, while in 1685, another Devon woman, Alice Molland, was sentenced to death at the Exeter Assizes. What we didn’t realise before was that further alleged witches were, also, executed in Exeter over the preceding 100 years.” And here is the most fundamental point, it is time, that these historical terrible injustices are acknowledged as such and these very souls, that have been 'murdered' are declared innocent. Why is it necessary, because as a civic society, it is necessary, not to eradicate the past, which can not and must not be done, but accept and show that, even, when current society can not rectify the injustices but it can acknowledge and declare the innocent slaughtered to be innocent so that their names exist in posterity as innocent human beings, who were terribly and utterly violated by a society, that did the highest harm to them by killing them.

Professor Stoyle said, “The world-famous witch trials at Salem, in colonial America, have been the subject of many books and films, as has the mass witch-hunt led by Matthew Hopkins, the so-called Witch-finder General, in East Anglia in the UK between 1645 and 1647. Yet, it’s too rarely appreciated that there were other centres of witch-prosecution in Tudor and Stuart England as well. In Exeter, there was a long succession of indictments and prosecutions during the 16th and 17th centuries, which resulted in many unlucky women and men being banished, imprisoned or sent to the gallows.''

Witchcraft in Exeter: 1558-1660. Sourced from centuries-old court records, manuscript chronicles and registers of births, marriages and deaths, it charts the progress of each case of alleged ‘witchcraft’ from accusation to ultimate sentence.

Among the cases highlighted is one, which occurred soon after a Parliamentary statute of 1563 first decreed that those convicted of using ‘conjurations, enchantments and witchcrafts’ should suffer the death penalty. Two local women, Maud Park and Alice Mead, appeared before the city court in 1566 and were charged with causing death and physical injury through the exercise of ‘magic art’. Park and Mead were both found guilty, and although, no record of their execution survives, if they did, indeed, fall victim to the noose, as seems all too likely, than they were among the first people in England to be executed for witchcraft following the passage of the statute.

Further hangings of witches certainly took place in the city soon after this case. In 1585, for example, an Exeter woman named, Thomasine Shorte was convicted of killing the entire family of an unfortunate local weaver through the exercise of the ‘black arts’ and was executed at the city gallows. Then, in 1609, an Exeter labourer named Richard Wilkyns was, likewise, hanged, after having been convicted of killing and hurting both people and livestock through witchcraft.

Other cases discussed in the book include those of Mary Stone, an Exeter widow, who in 1620 was accused of killing chickens, infesting a household with lice and killing a man by bewitching him, causing him to fall from a field stile. She was, also, alleged to have commanded a familiar, in the shape of a rat, to spy on a woman and ‘do her harm’. Similarly, accused of conspiring with familiars was Joan Baker, whom witnesses claimed kept toads in a pot and who was, even, seen with a toad sitting in her lap. It’s believed Stone somehow escaped a death sentence and continued to live among her suspicious neighbours. The fate of Baker, who appeared in court in 1653, is unknown.

Professor Stoyle’s research provides numerous other individual stories of black magic, sorcery, curses and alleged murder, which combine to tell an intriguing tale, shedding powerful new light on occult belief in Tudor and Stuart Exeter and on the dark, uneasy world of the urban ‘witch’.

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Researchers Look Into the Meaning of Ancient Geometric Earth-Works in South Western Amazonia


Jacó Sá and Seu Chiquinho sites featuring circular, square and U-shaped earthworks. Geometric patterns provided people with qualities, such as, knowledge and power. Image: Sanna Saunaluoma


|| August 30: 2017: University of Helsinki News: Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen Suvi Uotinen and Karin Hannukainen Writing || ά. 

Researchers examinepre-colonial geometric earthworks in the south-western Amazonia from the point of view of indigenous peoples and archaeology. The study shows that the earthworks were once important ritual communication spaces. The geometric earthworks, found in this region of Amazonia have raised the interest within the scientific community, as well as, the media and the general public and they have been explored recently by several international research teams. These unique archaeological sites have been labelled as, the Geoglyphs of Acre, as most of them are located in the Brazilian State of Acre.

Nearly 500 sites have already been registered and have been included on the Brazilian State Party's Tentative List for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The construction period and use, span the time period of approximately 3000-1000 BP. The earthwork ditches form geometric patterns, such as, squares, circles, U-forms, ellipses and octagons. They can be several meters deep and enclose areas of hundreds of square meters. Dr Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland, has conducted research with indigenous peoples in the study area for a long time.

Dr Sanna Saunaluoma, Post Doctoral researcher at the São Paulo University, Brazil, is specialised in Amazonian archaeology and made her doctoral dissertation on Acre's earthwork sites. Their article published in the American Anthropologist, 2017, already in early view, examines pre-colonial geometric earthworks from the point of view of indigenous peoples and archaeology.

The study shows that the sites were once important ritual spaces where, through the geometric designs, certain members of the community communicated with various beings of the environment, such as, ancestor spirits, animals and celestial bodies. Thus, people were constantly reminded that human life was intertwined with the environment and previous generations. People did not distinguish themselves from nature, but non-humans enabled and produced life.

The geometric earthwork sites were, especially, used by the experts of that era, who specialised in the interaction with the non-human beings. The sites were important for members of the community at certain stages of life and the various geometric patterns acted as 'doors' and 'paths' to gain the knowledge and strength of the different beings of the environment. Visualisation and active interactions with non-human beings were constructive for these communities.

The geometric patterns inspired by characteristics and skin patterns of animals still materialise the thinking of indigenous people of Amazonia, and are, also, present in their modern pottery, fabrics, jewelry and arts. As the theories of Amerindian visual art, also, show, geometric patterns can provide people with desired qualities and abilities, such as, fertility, resistance, knowledge and power.

Contemporary indigenous peoples of Acre still protect earthwork sites as sacred places and, unlike other Brazilian residents in the area, avoid using the sites for mundane activities, such as, housing or agriculture, and therefore, protect these peculiar ancient remains in their own way.

Contact: Dr. Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Assistant Professor: Indigenous Studies: University of Helsinki, Finland: Tel. +358 50 318 2400, pirjo.virtanen at ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Oh How the Same Death Connected Us Together as Life Except We Do Not Accept the Connection in Life So That We Fall Victims to Famines: Famine in Ireland and Finland and the Search for Famine Monuments

The memorial in Iisalmi and Ronan Newby. Kuva: Andrew Newby


|| July 09: 2017: University of Helsinki News: Pia Purra Writing || ά.  Famine killed nearly one-tenth of the Finnish population 150 years ago. Academy Research Fellow Andrew Newby has toured the country, mapping monuments erected to memorialise the famine. So far he has found 78. On the winter solstice in December 2016, the Espoo-dwelling Irish native Mr Andrew Newby found himself in Sonkajärvi cemetery in Eastern Finland with a shovel and a flashlight. It was only two thirty in the afternoon, but it was already pitch black. The historian was digging in the snow to find a monument for the famine years. He did realise he was quite the sight for any passers-by.

However, Mr Newby was not indulging in a macabre hobby, but surveying monuments for his research project 'Famine in Ireland and Finland'. As part of the project, Newby travels around Finland, looking for monuments of the famine. “I originally became interested in the monuments because I noticed there were none. In Ireland there are so many monuments to the Great Famine, that you can’t miss them. There are, also, monuments to the Great Famine everywhere in the world, as it is linked closely to Irish emigration.” Mr Andrew Newby explains. The famine years of the 1860s caused a major population disaster in Finland, just like the Irish famine did in Ireland. While the Irish famine stemmed from potato blight, Finland’s was the result of several consecutive years of failed crops. The worst years were 1867 and 68, i.e, 150 years ago.

“The famine is not a part of Finland’s national narrative in the same way as it is in Ireland. The anniversary years of the famine are, also, inevitably overshadowed by bigger events, such as, Finland’s centenary this year. My son’s trackand-field hobby has required trips to different parts of Finland, to areas I would probably never have otherwise visited. To pass the time, I went to the cemeteries of villages in Ostrobothnia and found monuments of the famine there. I realised that even though they, may be, no national monument, there are many local ones.” Mr Newby explains.

He began systematically surveying the monuments two years ago. Andrew Newby has gone through archives, poured over old newspapers and talked to people. He has found the Suomen muistomerkit book and the archives of the Finnish National Board of Antiquities, particularly, helpful, as they led him to approximately 30 monuments. Geo-caching has, also, proved to be useful for the researcher, as caches are often hidden near monuments.

“So far I’ve found 78 monuments to the famine around Finland. I haven’t had the chance to visit all of them yet, but the plan is to photograph every one. Sometimes it’s not easy to find the monuments. For example, I was at a cemetery in Ristiina and I knew there was a monument there, I even had a photo of it. But during the wintry day I spent looking, I couldn’t find it. I’ll have to go back to Ristiina.”

The monuments are most common in the areas where mortality was the highest: Ostrobothnia, Satakunta, Northern Karelia and along the railway connection between Riihimäki and St Petersburg. The tracks were constructed as a form of emergency aid. The oldest monuments are in Varkaus and Iisalmi, and the biggest one is in Lahti. Several monuments were erected in 1967, the centenary of the famine.

Monument research is not without its dangers. Driving on a partially frozen road in spring around southern Ostrobothnia or Satakunta, Mr Newby’s car hit a soft shoulder, flipped and landed in a ditch. A passer by stopped and alerted a local farmer, who arrived with his tractor to pull the car back onto the road.

“I tried to tell them that I was from abroad and unused to gravel roads and that we don’t have ditches like that in Ireland. But the locals didn’t seem to care that I was Irish, they found it hilarious that a man from Espoo had wound up in a ditch.” ω.

Further reading

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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So Tell Us About Sami


|| June 25: 2017: University of Helsinki News: Reetta Toivanen Writing || ά. International negotiations on human rights gives the Sami people the opportunity to make their voices heard outside Finland. But how can international agreements be amended to suit their specific, local situation? The attempts of Finnish Sami to protect their traditional livelihoods have led to appeals to the United Nations Human Rights Council. United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz was among the representatives expressing their grave concerns on the draft natural resources management legislation and its negative impact on people with traditional livelihoods. However, the Finnish Parliament approved the law as such, with no heed to national or international criticism.

The problem with the International Labour Organisation’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Convention and the Nordic Saami Convention, which is currently under negotiation, lie in the land-use rights of the Finnish government. The government wants to own the lands in Lapland and exploit its riches. Consequently, politicians give lip service to the Sami: while they are encouraged to get involved, they are given no opportunity to make a real difference in political decision-making. Finland wants to be considered a forerunner in minority rights. Therefore the Sami have been recognised as an indigenous people, they have been granted cultural autonomy, and the Parliament of Finland must hear the Sami. Finland is committed to arranging the Sami issue according to international human rights norms and to clearing away the factors that have prevented the ratification of ILO’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Convention.

For more than 28 years, one Finnish government after another has strived towards this goal without coming any closer to actually reaching it. International human rights agreements are drafted and approved far removed from our daily lives. They are based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948, which is founded on equality and freedom from discrimination. In our modern world, no place, time or situation exists in isolation. Consequently, the Sami find themselves amidst a complex web of issues where global markets intertwine with political discourse. Local interpretations of human rights are based on personal experiences, local histories and expressions of power between groups of people.

The interests of the Sami have not been presented on public forums on their own terms. The political identity of the Sami began to take hold when the Sami began to work together with the world's other indigenous peoples. This co-operation emphasised awareness of long-term oppression caused by governmental assimilation efforts, which sought to absorb the indigenous culture into majority society.

In his 1974 work Power: A Radical View, Steven Lukes describes the strongest form of power as one that is nearly impossible to identify as such. It’s important to try to understand the context, in which, the language of international law is used. That way it becomes possible to recognise the motivations for singling out individual sections from international agreements for rhetorical use.

The Finnish Sami have developed their own strategies to function in Finnish society. The interests of the Sami have not been presented on public forums on their own terms. For example, Sami fishermen have been all but ignored, as the dominant stereotype of the Sami involves reindeer husbandry. Forty years ago, Erik Allardt wrote his observations on the Finnish myth of unity in his book Att ha, att älska, att vara. Finns cling to this myth as they believe it will help achieve a conflict-free society.

Thus, it is unsurprising that in an opinion poll from 2007, Finns identified 'equality' as the word, that best describes Finland. The myth of the equal distribution of power is strong. To protect their livelihood, many people involved in reindeer husbandry learned to invoke international human rights clauses. If the Sami were included in this principle of equality, they would have to be heard in matters where their involvement would erode the myth of unity.

This could solve the lawless situation of the Sami, who lack full indigenous status. The Sami Parliament might make their policies more open to the people most damaged by the government's intense assimilationist policies. Two parties are typically blamed for the failure of Finland’s Sami politics: the Sami themselves, who do not promote their own rights with sufficient vigour and the municipalities in the Sami regions, who refuse to allocate funding to the Sami. However, the real culprit, the Finnish government, who is officially responsible for Sami rights, claims to have no say in the matter.

In such a case, the language of international human rights, may, provide crucial tools to change the situation. This happened in the Nellim forest conflict, where Metsähallitus was about to destroy an area in northern Lapland, which was a vitally important winter grazing ground for reindeer, with no respect for international agreements. To protect their livelihood, the people involved in reindeer husbandry learned to invoke international human rights clauses. Thanks to this, the deforestation project was recognised as a human rights problem and, thus, an issue to be handled by the international community.

Human rights rhetoric has tremendous potential for making voices heard. At the same time, it carries a significant risk, as legal language carries the expectations of people as representatives of specific cultures. In these cases, it is important, which definitions are restrictive and which are liberating.  ω.

: Reetta Toivanen: Reetta Toivanen, docent, university lecturer in social and cultural anthropology, University of Helsinki:

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Look Not for the Bones: Seek for the DNA: To Know That We Were There: The Neanderthals

Image: Bournemouth Universtiy


|| April 29: 2017: Bournemouth University News || ά. DNA from sediment at known archaeological sites has confirmed the presence of Neanderthal remains, even when no bones are present, for the first time. Researchers from Bournemouth University were part of a multinational team, which collected and analysed 85 sedimentary samples from nine established archaeological sites with known hominin occupation.
The research, led by Viviane Slon, Matthias Meyer and Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, investigated whether hominin DNA, may, survive in sediments at archaeological sites, known to have been occupied by ancient hominins. The Bournemouth Associate Professor John Stewart and PhD student Monika Knul, alongside site Director Dr Rebecca Miller from the University of Liège, took samples from the Trou Al’Wesse cave site in Belgium, the only site in the study with no Neanderthal remains.

DNA recovered from the sediment there now provides direct evidence for the past occupation of the site by Neanderthals. Dr Stewart said, “This is exciting because we have actually managed to find evidence of humans without the actual bones themselves. We have found, what are effectively, Neanderthal remains, but biochemical rather than physical remains.” “This highlights the fact that we can still get human genetic information out of sedimentary evidence, if you don’t have the Neanderthal bones themselves.

“It can, also, help confirm theories around items like the stone tools that had been found at the site, as there was still some ambiguity around who lived there.

DNA is often better than bones and findings like this are important in trying to understand how and when Neanderthals became extinct and when modern humans arrived.”

The study detected sedimentary Neanderthal remains at three other sites in Spain and Russia. Skeletal remains of ancient hominins are rare and so evidence of Neanderthal occupation is often restricted to artefacts and other traces of human activity, such as bones with cut marks.

The research, published in Science today, demonstrates the feasibility of extracting DNA from sedimentary samples to confirm the presence of ancient hominins, even when no bones or other physical remains are found.

“By retrieving hominin DNA from sediments, we can detect the presence of hominin groups at sites and in areas, where this cannot be achieved with other methods.”, said Svante Pääbo, Director of the Evolutionary Genetics department at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and co-author of the study.

“This shows that DNA analyses of sediments are a very useful archaeological procedure, which, may, become routine in the future.” ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Discover and Decipher: The Lost Writing of the Inkas: What Did They Write About

Collata coloured khipu cords. Image: University of St Andrews


|| April 21: 2017: University of St Andrews News || ά. The lost 'written' language of the Inkas, which used twists of coloured animal hair rather than ink and paper, has been partially deciphered by an anthropologist at the University of St Andrews, potentially shedding light on the mysterious South American civilisation. Dr Sabine Hyland, of the School of Philosophy, Anthropology and Film Studies at the University, has managed to translate the meaning of some names recorded on these twisted cords, which are known as 'khipus'.

This discovery opens up the possibility of deciphering the mysterious Inka string writing, which would dramatically increase the current understanding of Inka civilization, the largest indigenous empire of the Americas. It had already been established that the khipus, which are made using cotton or different coloured fibre from animals, such as alpacas, llamas and deer, were used by the Inkas to record numerical accounts but until recently, there was no evidence that they had been used to record narratives.

However, Dr Hyland has now discovered that the khipus were used in a logosyllabic system like Classic Mayan, where each logo, in this case a, khipu pendant cord, represents a phonetic syllable, the first evidence that the Inkas possessed phonetic writing.

She has managed to phonetically decipher two lineage names on the khipus so far and is continuing field and archival research to decipher the rest. Dr Hyland was able to make her discovery after being granted the rare opportunity to examine two logosyllabic khipus, guarded by residents of the remote village of San Juan de Collata in the Peruvian Andes, in research funded by the National Geographic Society.

Village authorities invited Hyland to examine their khipus, which were created in the 18th century as letters exchanged by local leaders in a revolt against Spanish authority and are the only Andean phonetic khipus ever identified.

The Collata khipus, as they are known, contrast sharply with the regional accounting, khipus. They are the first ever reliably identified as narrative epistles by the descendants of their creators and indicate a widespread, shared writing system, used in the Huarochiri province in the 18th century.

Analysis of the khipus showed that they contained 95 different symbols, a quantity within the range of logosyllabic writing systems and notably, more symbols than in regional accounting khipus. At the end of each khipu, three-cord sequences of distinct colours, fibres and ply direction appear to represent lineage, 'ayllu' names.

The Collata khipus express syllables in a profoundly Andean fashion, using differences among the fibres of various animals, such as vicuña, alpaca and deer to indicate meaning. The reader must often feel the cords by hand to distinguish the fibre sources of these three-dimensional texts.

Collata khipus share unique structural features with Inka animal fibre khipus, underscoring the continuity between Inka woollen khipus and the Collata ones. The epistolary khipus of Collata indicate that Andean khipus could constitute an intelligible writing system. ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion