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July 5, 2018 |

Archive for » July 5th, 2018«

Remote Israeli Cave Holds A Potted Mystery | Ancient Origins

Two ancient jars dated to over 2000-years-old are mystifying archaeologists, as they were lowered down an “almost totally inaccessible… sheer 30 meter cliff-face” and stashed inside a tiny cave in Israel, right on the border with Lebanon.

Baffled by how these pots might have got there, Dr. Yinon Shavtiel, a speleologist from the Safed Academic College, told reporters at Haaretz that “Somebody had to be terrified to reach and hunker down in that inaccessible hole in the sheer cliff.” Even though these pots were ancient cookware, the team of experts told reporters that, “nobody could possibly have lived in the hole” and that getting the jars into the cave wouldn’t have been an easy task.

Climbing with ropes to reach the cave. (Image: Yoav Negev, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

The cave was discovered last summer by Dr. Yinon Shivtiel, who has surveyed caves around Galilee for 20 years, documenting the hideouts of Jewish rebels during the Great Jewish Revolt (66-70 AD). “Hiding from dedicated Roman warriors,” said Shivtiel, required hideouts located off the beaten track, which describes the desolate location of this tiny cliff face hole perfectly.

According to a report in The Jewish Press , the salvage of the fragile, 2,000 year old find was made possible with, “the cooperation of Vladimir Boslov and Boaz Langford of the Israel Cave Research Center of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, as well as volunteers from the Israel Cave Explorers Club” and the excavation was permitted by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, with assistance from the Israeli military and the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

Archaeological investigations at this curious cave have just begun and, “carbon-14 dating will likely happen but hasn’t yet – but it is already known that the findings have nothing to do with the Great Revolt,” Shivtiel told Haaretz, and the pottery type indicates that it was, “placed in the cave centuries before the great revolt of 70, when the Romans vanquished the Jews.

Dr Danny Syon (right) and Dr Yinon Shivtiel in the cave. Image: Omri Gaster / Israel Antiquities Authority

Dr. Danny Syon of the IAA told reporters, “Considering that cooking and serving vessels were found, it would appear that those who brought them planned to live there for a while,” but Shivtiel is convinced that nobody lived in the cave because it’s “only about 1×2 meters square [3.3×6.6 ft],” and, “You can’t climb into that cave,” he explains. “It’s 30 meters [98ft] above the ground and the cliff face up to it is absolutely sheer.”

So what then might these pottery vessels, including jars used to store wine and olive oil have been doing there? Shivtiel theorizes that, “people in stress were hiding in other caves in the area. This one served as a sort of storage cave for food.” What strikes me as curious here is that more often than not when artifacts are discovered with no rational explanation they get hurled into that great big archaeological catch-all ‘ritualistic or ceremonial.” Why then, not here?

The vessels have not yet been assigned as ‘ritual’: Omri Gester / Israel Antiquities Authority

Only last year  Haaretz published the findings of Prof. Dani Nadel from the University of Haifa, and his colleagues, from the Raqefet cave in Mt. Carmel in Israel, that proved “The earliest evidence of using flower beds for burial” began some 13,700 years ago! And, they provided evidence of the widespread use of plants during cave burial rituals.”

Might it be the case that the two pots found in the “almost impossible cliff face” contained plants? And that this cave was used for ritual purposes? And while it was common for priests to choose hard to reach places for meditation, prayer and worship, who is to say a wooden scaffolding didn’t make access relatively easy when the cave was in use?

My speculations, like all others, will soon find judgement as the tests results come in. Where some will be hoping for evidence of food to support their habitation, or survival cave theories, I will be looking for signs of Phytoliths, those resilient, microscopic siliceous plant particles that live on long after a plant decomposes.

And finally, it would not come as surprise to me if they find that the pots contained plants used for burning as incense, another custom in ancient Israel which required pots, and which might lend reason to this otherwise “pointless” discovery! You can read up on the burning of incense in ancient Israel here, in this Journal Article.

Top image: Two of the jugs excavated from the hard to reach cave on the Israeli/Lebanon boarder.  Source: Yinon Shivtiel / Israel Antiquities Authority

By Ashley Cowie

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Upcoming Events

Voelker Reunion

The Voelker Family Reunion, descendants of William and Louisa Scholwin Voelker (parents of Anna, Adolph, Theresa, Otto, Gustav, Frank, Agnes, Paul and Bertha), will be held Sunday, July 15, at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church Parish Hall located south of Altamont.

Registration will begin at 11:45 a.m. followed by a potluck meal at 12:30 p.m. Drinks and table service will be provided.

All relatives and friends are invited to attend.

McCoy Reunion

Descendants of William Creighton and Nancy (Ward) McCoy will host a family reunion on Sunday, July 15, at The Kluthe Center in Dieterich.

The Kay (McCoy) Winterrowd family will serve as host. A basket dinner will be at noon. Chicken, drinks and dinnerware will be furnished. A fundraising event this year will be a bake sale and a raffle only. Bring something to donate for the raffle or bake sale, whichever you prefer. Bring any vital statistic information since the last reunion.

Waldhoff Reunion

The 63rd annual Waldhoff Reunion will be held at noon Sunday, July 22, at Dieterich Park Pavilion. The reunion will start with a basket dinner at noon.

All relatives and friends are invited. Bring a basket dinner, drinks and your own table service.

This year’s reunion is hosted by Frank and Ann (Waldhoff) Hemmen family.

Community-wide garage sale

Grove Township Community Center, 5251 East 1800th Ave, Montrose, community-wide garage sale is set for Saturday, Aug. 4.

If you would like to have a spot at the community center or your house on the map, contact Kim Will at 217-683-2688, 217-663-2505 or or message on Facebook. Those interested must respond by Friday, July 20.

The center is accepting donations to sell to help raise funds for the center. Contact Kim Will if interested.

Duck Race

St. Thomas School will present its seventh annual Duck Race Sunday, Aug. 12, at 10:30 a.m. at the Newton Aquatic Center.

First-place duck wins $500; second place, $200; and third place, $100. Ducks are $5 each and only 500 will be sold.

There will be free swimming until noon for those who had a duck in the race.

All proceeds benefit St. Thomas School. For more information call St. Thomas School at 618-783-3517.

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Blackbeard Is the Scratch-Resistant Pan Your Kitchen Needs

There’s a lot of commandments for proper nonstick cookware usage: Thou shalt not use sharp metal tools. Thou shalt not blast it on too high a heat. Thou shalt not try to cook eggs in anything other than a nonstick pan. But Netherlands-based start-up Crowd Cookware is looking to throw out that holy rulebook with Blackbeard, a new product that combines the best of nonstick and stainless steel cookware into a single pan.

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Imagine Blackbeard as the first thing that would come out of Tony Stark’s lab if he decided to trade Iron Man suits for high-tech skillets. The pan’s secret weapon lies in its surface: Protruding ever so slightly above the nonstick layer is a stainless steel honeycomb pattern that prevents chipping and scratching, which the company says “extends the life span of the current nonstick layers to at least five years.” An aluminum core also helps to evenly distribute heat, while making Blackbeard friendly for all cooktops, including induction burners.

Crowd Cookware’s team also consulted with various Michelin chefs and home cooks for the pan’s design: Thoughtful touches include a riveted handle that’s connected via a minimal amount of steel (reducing heat transfer and keeping it cool to the touch), plus a Goldilocks thickness of 2.6 millimeters (two millimeters ended up being too flimsy and three millimeters too heavy for everyday use). So while Blackbeard can keep up with your cast iron in durability, you won’t need to strength-train your forearms for a one-handed omelet flip.

And similar to other new-wave cookware like Made In and Misen, Crowd Cookware is going the direct-to-consumer route to keep its price semi-reasonable. A nine-and-a-half-inch skillet can be backed for $45 now on Kickstarter, with the eventual retail price being closer to around $65 when the pan ships at the end of the year.

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A move of heart





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IKEA brings European home furnishings closer to Indian homes

Swedish home furnishing company IKEA’s first India store in Hyderabad has all the ingredients of becoming a new tourist attraction in the city, considering its size, and the range, number and quality of products, coupled with price points that seem affordable to many middle income families.

Once it opens on July 19, it will be the only store in India till the company’s next facility gets ready in Mumbai some time next year. Urban households in Hyderabad will have access to almost all of the home furnishing products and kitchen accessories found in European homes under one roof.

“Of 9,000-odd products that we sell elsewhere in our stores, we have 7,500 here. We did not bring the rest of those products because they have not met the quality standards that we set for our India store,” John Achillea, managing director of IKEA Telangana and store manager of Hyderabad facility said when asked whether the store offers everything that the European homes have today. Of course, some of the products like roti-making tawa or a plastic lunch box have found a place in an IKEA store for the first time as it entered the Indian shores.

Starting from tables to sofas and from wardrobes to other storage items, the IKEA store designers have ensured the presence of different sizes that will fit the smallest of living rooms to average-sized or slightly bigger homes in India. The company has created 46 room models and five fully-furnished home sets in this store. In order to get people with diverse income levels to find a connect with the store, the company has lined up every type of chair or a sofa and other item of the same category side-by-side in one part of the store just to leave the ultimate buying choice to the customer.

In some cases the choice has also been extended to the colour of a table’s legs or top, while a full design studio was created for those who seek to create their own kitchens with the help of in-house designers. This is going to be a new experience for those who would visit the store to buy things for their homes in the coming days.

Some of the products in the store are quite inexpensive. The company has specially designed a collection of plastic cutlery for schoolkids, priced at only Rs 15 a pack. On the more expensive side you find sofas, wardrobes and modular kitchen sets. Most of them are in the range of Rs20,000-30,000 and around Rs 250,000 in the case of a modern kitchen. The company offers a ten-year guarantee for all the kitchens.

A senior marketing executive observed that when it comes to prices of articles sold in the store, the only difference one will find here is the size of the store and nothing else. “Only the store is big. The prices are not,” he said. However, IKEA has followed the footsteps of other Indian retailers as it mentioned the MRP and the sale price with a significant gap between the two on almost every big product in the store.

Big items like sofas also carries different set of prices that indicate how much it would cost if the customer do not use the home delivery service or a company service for assembling the product at home. “There is nothing free in life. There is only a hidden cost. Here we tell our customers what will they pay for the product and what will they pay for the additional service,” John says.

While the entrance side of the store looks more or like any shopping mall with the only difference being a kids fun corner to allow parents to fully focus on shopping when they are in the store, the other side looks like a big factory floor with a line of bays for entry of big trucks to unload the stock followed by vertical storage area to have enough buffer to ensure the supply of every product.

While most of these products are being imported and taken here from the company’s big distribution center in Pune, IKEA already found some local vendors whose products have not only found a place in this all new store but also being exported to other markets by the company. The company is sourcing the mattresses of all types entirely from a Hyderabad-based manufacturer and also started exporting it to other countries besides putting out for sale in Hyderabad store, according to John.

IKEA India country communication manager and interior design manager Mia Ollson Tuner is particularly proud of how the company’s products put children at the center of a family home.

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What Mexico’s next president means for Trump

The electoral dust has settled in Mexico, and voters did not defy what the polls had been predicting for months. Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s landslide victory on Sunday signals a tectonic shift in contemporary Mexican politics not seen since the Institutional Revolutionary Party was vanquished in 2000 after 71 years of continuous one-party rule. This also entails a dramatic partisan realignment as a result of the shellacking of the three main political parties.


During the campaign, some claimed that Mexicans were favoring López Obrador in response—or as a foil—to President Donald Trump. Nothing could be further from the truth. While favorable perceptions of the United States in Mexico have certainly plummeted during the past 18 months, and more than 80 percent of all Mexicans currently have an unfavorable view of Trump, neither was a factor in who won on election day.

Fed up with politics and politicians as usual and driven by the tone-deafness and hubris of the three mainstream political parties, Mexicans chose someone to kick the legs out from under the table instead of simply resetting the dinnerware. And whereas corruption in some nations occurs under the table and in others over the table, for a resounding majority of Mexican voters, the perception is that corruption these past years has included the table itself.

The impending and most pressing question in the immediate aftermath of López Obrador’s resounding victory is what to expect during the next six years of his administration. There are still too many open-ended questions today as to what his governing style and decision-making will look like, and whether some of the flip-flops, inconsistencies and lack of clarity regarding his public policies during the campaign were an electoral tactic or a worrisome trait. The short answer is that we really don’t know. And it most likely won’t be until the end of the long transition between now and Dec. 1, when he takes office, that we will acquire a more granular understanding of which López Obrador will govern—the pragmatist or the firebrand.

One of the big lingering question marks is how López Obrador will engage with the United States at large and in particular with his soon-to-be counterpart in the Oval Office. Yet what happens in the next six years in the U.S.-Mexico relationship depends less on López Obrador and more on Trump. The way Trump chooses to respond to López Obrador and treat Mexico in the months ahead will set the tone for relations going forward.

So far, things are not encouraging. In an interview aired Sunday, as Mexicans went to the polls, Trump threatened to “tax” Mexican car exports to the United States if things are “not fine” as a result of the elections. Trump would do well to recognize the whopping mandate Mexicans have given López Obrador, the political strength he will derive from a majority in Congress and the hope for change sweeping across Mexico. There’s no doubt that, thanks to Trump’s Mexico-bashing and despite yeoman’s work from officials on both sides of the border in seeking to contain the damage, ties between the two neighbors are at a nadir not seen since the 1980s.

During the run-up to the election, as Trump continued his anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant tirades, presidential contenders in Mexico unsurprisingly adopted, to varying degrees, a robust anti-Trump stance. And while Trump didn’t move the needle on how Mexicans voted, he might certainly impact the appetite and bandwidth with which the new Mexican government, conceivably composed of cabinet and subcabinet officials who have previously had precious little diplomatic U.S.-Mexico diplomatic experience, will devise policies toward their northern neighbor.

Notwithstanding, López Obrador underscored throughout the campaign that his objective was to strive for productive, mutually respectful relations with the United States and to support the successful renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He even began to articulate some half-baked but nonetheless forward-looking proposals for joint and holistic engagement in Central America to foster economic growth and institutional resilience as a tool to reduce transmigration and enhance security there.

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Mexico’s next leader does need to fully comprehend what drives Trump’s view of Mexico. It’s first and foremost a personal issue, turbocharged by political-electoral expediency and dynamics fundamental to mobilizing his base. Any proactive or containment-driven strategies devised and implemented by the next Mexican government need to take this into account. Arguing that the strategy is to “make Donald Trump respect Mexico” not only smacks of Panglossian optimism, it will most likely fail.

Washington has for too long taken for granted Mexico’s cooperation on a host of fronts like counter-narcotics, intelligence sharing, counterterrorism and curbs to Central American transmigration through Mexico. Many of these facets will most likely be up for a full-fledged and overdue review under a López Obrador administration. In many ways, the next president of Mexico will likely approach ties with the United States in a way that’s familiar to the Trump White House: Mexico First. And while Mexico will certainly not go rogue on the United States, bilateral ties under López Obrador might well pivot back to the very basic, meat-and-potatoes relationship of yore—formal and correct but lacking strategic depth.

Both leaders today stand at a crossroads: they can ensure that Mexico and the United States remain partners in success, or they can become accomplices in failure. At stake is the security and prosperity of millions of Americans and Mexicans and, despite the challenges inherent to such an asymmetrical relationship, more than two decades of a success story of convergence and greater interdependence.

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15 Home Trends to Avoid at All Costs

Speckled granite


Granite is still a popular choice when it comes to kitchen countertops, but there are other options that are easier to maintain, less expensive, and more modern looking. Depending on your style, try quartz, concrete, or even butcher block.

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