Honolulu Star-Bulletin from Honolulu, Hawaii on June 18, 2006 · 76
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Honolulu Star-Bulletin from Honolulu, Hawaii · 76

Honolulu, Hawaii
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Sunday, June 18, 2006
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F4 PULSE ON SCIENCE HONOLULU STAR-BULLETIN SUNDAY. JUNE 18, 2006 Dig boosts biblical view of A complex found in what is now Jordan supports the notion of a cohesive society By John Noble Wilford New York Times IN BIBLICAL LORE, Edom was the implacable adversary and menacing neighbor of the Israelites. The Edomites lived south of the Dead Sea and east of the desolate rift valley known as Wadi Arabah, and from time to time they had to be dealt with by force, notably by the likes of Kings David and Solomon. Today, the Edomites are again in the thick of combat of the scholarly kind. The conflict is heated and protracted, as is often the case with issues related to the reliability of the Bible as history. Chronology is at the crux of the debate. Exactly when did the nomadic tribes of Edom become an organized society with the might to threaten Israel? Were David and Solomon really kings of a state with growing power in the 10th century B.C.? Had writers of the Bible magnified the stature of the two societies at such an early time in history? An international team of archaeologists has recorded radiocarbon dates that they say show the tribes of Edom may have indeed come together in a cohesive society at early as the 12th century B.C., certainly by the 10th. The evidence was found in the ruins of a large copper-processing center and fortress at Khirbat en-Nahas, in the lowlands of what was Edom and Is now part of Jordan. Thomas E. Levy, a leader of the excavations, said in an interview last week that the findings there and at abandoned mines elsewhere in the region demonstrated that the Edomites had developed a complex state much earlier than previously thought. Levy, an archaeologist at the University of California-San Diego, said the research had yielded not only the first high-precision dates in the region, but also such telling artifacts as scarabs, ceramics, metal arrowheads, hammers, grinding stones, and slag heaps. Radiocarbon analysis of charred wood, grain, and fruit in several sediment layers revealed two major phases of copper processing, first in the 12th and 11th centuries, later in the 10th and 9th. KHIRBAT EN-NAHAS is 30 miles from the Dead Sea and 30 miles north of Petra, Jordan's most famous archaeological site. The name means "ruins of copper" in Arabic. One of the first ancient occupation sites in the Edomite lowlands to be intensively investigated, the ruins of its buildings and grounds spread over 24 acres, and the fortifications enclose an area 240 by 240 feet "Only a complex society such as a paramount chiefdom or primitive kingdom would have the organizational know-how to produce copper metal on such an industrial scale," Levy concluded. The first results of the research by Levy and Mohammad THE SCIENCE WHY Human eyes differ from dogs' Question: When I photograph a person using a flash, I often get "red eye," but when I photograph my dog, I get "blue eye." What difference in their eyes accounts for this? Answer: The difference lies in the layers of cells at the back of the eyeball, where the flash of light strikes.. When people are photographed in dim light, their pupils are wide open to let in enough light to see. As the flash hits the retina, which is richly supplied with blood vessels that are close to the surface, a red reflection may result. In most dogs, and in most cats as well, there is a reflective layer beneath the light receptors of the retina called the tapetum lucidum, Latin for bright carpet. This mirror helps the animals maximize their seeing ability in dim light by Excavations have uncovered a Najjar, director of excavations and surveys at the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, were described two years ago at a conference at the University of Oxford, England, and in a report in the British journal Antiquity. Reverberations of support and criticism have shaken the field of biblical archaeology ever since. With the addition of new dates and more evidence of the importance of copper in the emergence of Edom, the two archaeologists have amplified their interpretations in an article being published this month in the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review. "We have discovered a degree of social complexity in the land of Edom," they wrote, "that demonstrates the weak reed on the basis of which a number of scholars have scoffed at the idea of a state or complex chiefdom in Edom at this early period." The findings, Levy and Najjar added, lend credence to biblical accounts of the rivalry between Edom and the Israelites in what was then known as Ju-dah. By extension, they said, this supported the tradition that Judah itself had by the time of David and Solomon, in the early 10th century, emerged as a kingdom with ambition and the means of fighting off the Edomites. The Hebrew Bible mentioned the Edomites no fewer than 99 times. In Genesis, Esau, Jacob's twin brother, is described as the ancestor of the Edomites, and a reference is made to "the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites." Levy said reflecting any light not absorbed during its first passage through the retina back for a second opportunity to be absorbed. The color of the tapetum varies, and with it the color that is reflected back to the camera, but for most adult dogs the resulting flash is blue or green. Blue-eyed dogs and cats may lack pigment in this layer, and so huskies and Siamese cats often show red eyes in photos. Puppies and kittens are also likely to show red eyes because their eye structures have not finished developing. Readers are invited to submit questions by mail to Ques'ion. Science Times, Tlie Sew York Times, 229 West 43rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10036-3959, or by e-mail to questionnytimes.com. I It 7 copper - processing center and fortress at Khirbat en-Nahas in the Archaeologists Thomas E. Levy, left, and Mohammad Najjar "discovered a degree of social complexity" in Edom. this statement showed that the Israelites acknowledged Edom's early political development. In the context, Levy and Najjar wrote, "the biblical references to the Edomites, especially their conflicts with David and subsequent Judahite kings, garner a new plausibility." Historians and archaeologists who generally endorse the new findings welcomed the more precise dating of ruins in the under-explored region and the attention focused on copper production in Edomite history. But they cautioned against SCI-FILE Chemists reshape salt so it shakes out easily Here is something to take with a grain of salt if it doesn't roll away from you. Scientists have made salt granules that are almost round. "I am sure everyone has experienced the annoyance with table salt which does not come out of the salt shaker," said Pushpito K. Ghosh, a researcher at the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute in Bhavnagar, India. Table salt is sodium chloride, and because the atoms of sodium and chloride stack up in a cubic pattern, salt crystals are generally cubic in shape. The flat surfaces of a cube make it easy for the crystals stick to one another, especially when the air is humid. And that clumping keeps salt from shaking out of salt shakers. One answer might he to employ millions of tiny elves to sand off the corners of the cube-shaped crystals. Chemistry offers another solution. A half-century ago, scientists found that adding the amino acid glycine to a salty brine solution slows the $rroith around the 12 edges of a cubic crystal. The crystal grows not into a cube but into a 12-sided, almost spherical shape known as a rhombic dodecahedron. Round salt, not surprisingly, flows more eas ily and is less likely to stick - '."-it".- i -. ... -w, - 1 .'- - It I interpretations that might encourage uncritical reliance on the Bible as a source of early history. MOST CRITICISM has come from advocates of a "low chronology" or "minimalist" school of early biblical history. They contend that in David's time Edom was a pastoral society, and Judah not much more advanced. In this view, ancient Israel did not develop into a true state until the eighth century B.C., a century and a half after David. together. In re- rOQ Edom , T ..'I T'''.-c--' 1 j f, . PHOTOS BY NEW YORK TIMES lowlands of what was Edom. More widely held in recent years, is the estimate that Edom did not become a complex society and kingdom until the eighth or seventh centuries, presumably as a consequence of rule by the Assyrian empire. Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University and a leading proponent of the low-chronology model, has said the new research does "not shed new light on the question of state formation in Edom." He argues that perhaps the copper operations were controlled by chieftains in Beersheba, to the west, and supplied material for urban centers west and north of Edom. Levy and Najjar said their excavations showed that "this image of external control is not convincing." Piotr Bienkowski, of the University of Manchester, England, and Eveline van der Steen, of East Carolina University, in Greenville, N.C., who have excavated the Edomite highlands, criticized the statistical analysis of the new dating and suggested that the data had been used to support an unjustified interpretation. "One 'fortress' does not make a kingdom," they argued in a paper. Levy said the most advanced statistical methods were applied in analyzing the radiocarbon dates, and the laboratory work was conducted at Oxford and the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. "We realize that our work is far from complete, " Levy said, and a large team from the University of California will return this fall to Khirbat en-Nahas for a deeper look into the early history of the Edomites. NEW YORK TIMES Round salt flows more easily and is less likely to stick together. search scheduled to appear in the July 5 issue of the journal Crystal Growth & Design, Ghosh and colleagues report that adding a step to wash the newly formed crystals in a new batch of brine could make the process practical for mass production. The salt, Ghosh said, tastes like salt, no matter what shape it is. New York Times EARTH TALK Southeastern logging push hurts forests Dear "Earth Talk": Is it true that logging companies have switched their focus from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeastern United States? And what have been the environmental effects? David Older, New York When the logging business began to die down in the Pacific Northwest, beginning in the 1980s, timber companies started looking increasingly to the southeastern United States for the wood pulp it would need to satisfy the rapidly expanding global demand for paper. Today, more logging is conducted in the Southeast than anywhere else In the world, and Southeast pulpwood is in three-quarters of ail paper sold in the US. What makes all the logging in the U.S. Southeast so egregious is not so much the sheer amount of wood harvested, but the destruction of biodiversity that the creation of single-species wood plantations in the region has wrought. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Southeast played host to the highest tree species diversity on the continent. But a 2001 study by the US. Forest Service found that 40 percent of the region's formerly diverse native pine forests have been turned into intensively managed single-species pulp plantations designed for maximum yield of wood pulp for making paper. According to Harvard biologist Edward Wilson, plantation forests are 90 to 95 percent less biologically diverse than natural forests. One problem with this scenario is susceptibility to pests and disease. For instance, the invasive pine bark beetle has thrived across the Southeast as mixed forests have been clear cut and replaced with its favorite delicacy, pulp-friendly loblolly pine. The logging industry has, in turn, used the beetle infestation as an excuse to "salvage-log" much of the timber in the region, including that which has been unaffected by the beetles. The result has been ongoing problems with erosion on forest lands and watershed damage. The end product of all this activity, postage stamp-size wood chips, often ends up exported to Japan and used to make toilet paper, says Allen Hershkovitz, of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDQ. "Most consumers don't even think about the fact that toilet paper comes from trees," he said. Stemming the tide of biodiversity loss in the region is an uphill battle because 90 percent of the affected forests in the Southeast are on private land. While advocacy groups like NRDC successfully lobbied to limit logging on public lands in the Pacific Northwest, which is partly what drove the industry south, they have had a much more difficult time convincing the more than 5 million private forest land owners in the Southeast to adopt more environmentally sound practices. NRDC is working with a coalition of advocacy groups in the region, such as the Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics, to create public awareness as well as a boycott of tissue made from Southeastern forests. Such boycotts were effective in the past at getting home improvement superstores to limit their procurement of virgin timber from the Pacific Northwest, but it is too early to tell whether such actions can help the ailing forests of the Southeast Contacts: the Dogwood Alliance, www.dogwoodal-liance.org; ForestEthics, www.forestethics.org; Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), www.nrdc.org. Got an environmental question? Send it to EarthTalk, co EThe Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06SS1; submit it at www. emagazine. com earthtalkthisweek; ore-mail: earthtalkemagazine.com i

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