Cueva de las Manos

This is the Cueva de las Manos (Spanish for Cave of the Hands), a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina (south of the town of Perito Moreno). Its name and claim to fame are obvious, although a variety of other art subjects are present. The art in the cave dates from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago, the oldest being 9,300 BCE. The site was last inhabited around 700 CE (or AD), possibly by ancestors of today’s Tehuelche people.

The age of the paintings was calculated from the remains of a very interesting tool: bone-made pipes used for spraying the paint. The inhabitants, who varied over time as different groups moved in and out, had actually developed stenciling, not an art style we usually associate with ancient people (note that most of the hands are left, suggesting that they used their right hands to hold the pipe).

The binder used to combine the paint is unknown, but these people were pretty sophisticated: they knew which mineral pigments to utilize and how to do so. Iron oxides, for example, were used to produce reds and purples, kaolin for white, natrojarosite for yellow, and manganese oxide for black. Art was serious business to them.

Other depictions include human beings, guanacosrheas, felines and other animals. Most amazing to me is the presence of geometric shapes and zigzag patterns, which shows that these people had conceptions of abstract art forms, rather than merely painting what they saw (although humans probably developed that far earlier anyway, it’s still fascinating to see it on display given the popular perception of prehistoric people as lacking such cognitive abilities).

There are also naturalistic portrayals of a variety of informative hunting techniques, including the use of bolas, a throwing weapon that was used like a sling. Perhaps they were just depicting everyday life, but maybe this was meant to be educational. I’d like to think they sat their kids down and went over these images like a teacher at a chalkboard.

Curiously, there are also red dots on the ceilings, probably made by submerging their hunting bolas in ink, and then throwing them up in the air. This suggests that these folks might have been experimenting with different art forms, although perhaps it was just some sort of ritual or form of practice.

Either way, it must be breathtaking to see this in person, to be able to put my hands close and realize that these were the physical marks of human beings just like me. And wonder what else they did in their spare time? What was their idea of fun? Maybe this art was recreational rather than utilitarian? Either way, it’s beautiful and a wonderful reminder of where we came from.

What Makes a Human

A human is made of the following:

  • Oxygen (65%)
  • Carbon (18%)
  • Hydrogen (10%)
  • Nitrogen (3%)
  • Calcium (1.5%)
  • Phosphorus (1.0%)
  • Potassium (0.35%)
  • Sulfur (0.25%)
  • Sodium (0.15%)
  • Iron (0.70%)
  • Magnesium (0.05%)
  • And trace amounts of Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Molybdenum, Fluorine, Chlorine, Iodine, Manganese, Cobalt,  Lithium, Strontium, Aluminum, Silicon, Lead, Vanadium, Arsenic, Bromine.

It’s hard to realize that everything we are, down to the smallest sub-atomic level, is a product of nature. We share the same origins and atoms of a tree, rock, insect, or star. Everything around us, everything in this entire universe, has the same origin. How strange it is that we’re all so connected in this way.

And just as our bodies are made off the atoms of previous organisms and stars, so too will future substances contains our atoms once we die. Nothing is ever destroyed. Our matter merely moves on to take another form, to make up some other part of our wonderful universe. As a great physicist once said, we are literally made out of star stuff – and visa versa.

High Resolution Image of Earth

A high resolution image of Earth taken from a Russian weather satellite. While watching this, it’s hard to image that I’m somewhere on that planet, sharing it with 7 billion other people who are going about their little lives. It makes me feel so insignificant, yet I hardly mind. There is something beautiful, even liberating, about realizing and accepting that fact.

See more breathtaking videos from this satellite here.

Ugly Yet Beautiful

How is it the world can be so cruel and tragic, yet also kind and beautiful? One moment I read about genocides, oppression,and injustice; then shortly after, I find stories of altruism, self-sacrifice, and progress. I see this contrast play out in my everyday life: I’ve encountered both the worst and best that humanity has to offer.

This duality puts my mood in flux. Sometimes, I feel the warmth of hope as I read about humans being progressive and good, followed by the despair at our demonstration of corruption and immorality.

 

Color Ink on Water

The following are high-Speed photographs of color ink on water, by Alberto Emiliano Seveso.

There is so much beauty in this world, even in the most mundane things. Who would imagine that some ink blots in water could be this awe-inspiring? We just have to know where to look.

One of the Best Feelings in the World

That moment when you discover something new and enriching to your life: beautiful music, a delicious flavor, new sights, a companion. Arguably, life is all about experience: our existence is just a compilation of all the things we’ve seen, done, and learned. The fragile and finite nature of time on Earth means we should savor everything while we can. Curiosity is one of our greatest gifts. Embrace the world. Make the most of it. Do what you can, while you ca

Sarajevo Rose

 

Photo: Reuters / Danilo Krstanovic 

 

This is known as a Sarajevo Rose, a concrete scar caused by an artillery explosion that was later filled with red resin. They mark the areas where people were killed.

Sarajevo was a central zone of conflict during the Bosnian War. The Bosnian Serb Army deployed troops and artillery in the surrounding hills, and on May 2, 1992 began imposing a blockade on all traffic in and out the city, starting what was to be known as the Siege of Sarajevo. They constantly bombarded the civilian population for nearly four yearslaunching an estimated 300 rounds of artillery every day.

I chose this particular one because of the context: young people casually walking by a place where some years ago, a human life was lost.

Life

From the aptly named damnlol.com:

Many humans on this planet aren’t so fortunate to have the opportunities we do. We should never take the beauty we experience and see for granted. That can’t be stressed enough, since we often forget it.