A visitor to the Coral Castle will see a stone fantasy garden with carved coral stones and blocks weighing several dozen tons each. The mystery of the garden is not in the blocks themselves but in how they were carved and put into place.
This feat of engineering was accomplished entirely by one man—Edward Leedskalnin—who carved, transported, and set all of the stone slabs and blocks by himself with no help or modern machinery. He used only hand tools he bought from a junkyard. Additionally, the blocks are cut and set with intricate precision, locked into place without mortar.
Leedskalnin, born in Latvia on Aug. 10, 1887, was a quiet, private man who was just over 5 feet tall, weighing just over 100 pounds. He somehow managed to carve and sculpt more than 1,100 tons of coral rock, transporting the rocks 10 miles and setting them into place using only a crude wooden tripod, a borrowed tractor, and a truck.
All of his work was done during the night between midnight and 6:00 a.m., according to the documentary Mystery at Coral Castle. Whenever someone would try to catch a peek at his work, he would stand upon his watchtower and announce: “As soon as you leave, I will continue my work.”
People could see the blocks being transported down the highway, but no one ever saw Leedskalnin move, lift, or set any of the blocks. The only witnesses are two children who supposedly saw Leedskalnin “float” the blocks into place like moving balloons. The mysterious man was also known for his extensive theories on magnetism.
The Coral Castle walls themselves weight 125 pounds per cubic foot, and each section is 8 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and 3 feet thick, according to the Coral Castle Museum. Weighing approximately 30 tons, the greatest stone in the castle is twice as massive as any used in the pyramids, according to the documentary In Search of Coral Castle.
Another particular oddity of the castle includes a 9-ton swinging stone door that moves when just a little force is applied; a child could move it with ease. A raised obelisk weighing 28 tons is another curious feature, as well as a carved stone crescents sitting atop 20-foot high walls.
The story regarding the inspiration for the Coral Castle is that of a tragic romance. When Leedskalnin was still a young man, at the age of 26, he was engaged to a woman who left him the day before they were to be wed. Leedskalnin vowed to create the structure as a symbol for his love for her.
The stones were quarried near his original home in Florida City. After a developing subdivision threatened his privacy and the privacy of the Castle, he bought property in Homestead, Fla., just 25 miles from Miami, and moved all of his pieces over the course of three years.
Leedskalnin started the endeavor in approximately 1923 and finished around 1951. Through the ‘40s up until his death in December of 1951, he would charge 10 cents admission for visitors to his castle and garden.
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By Tara MacIsaac
The Viking sword Ulfberht was made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists. It was thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution.
About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D. A NOVA, National Geographic documentary titled “Secrets of the Viking Sword” first aired in 2012 took a look at the enigmatic sword’s metallurgic composition.
In the process of forging iron, the ore must be heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to liquify, allowing the blacksmith to remove the impurities (called “slag”). Carbon is also mixed in to make the brittle iron stronger. Medieval technology did not allow iron to be heated to such a high temperature, thus the slag was removed by pounding it out, a far less effective method.
The Ulfberht, however, has almost no slag, and it has a carbon content three times that of other metals from the time. It was made of a metal called “crucible steel.”
It was thought that the furnaces invented during the industrial revolution were the first tools for heating iron to this extent.
Modern blacksmith Richard Furrer of Wisconsin spoke to NOVA about the difficulties of making such a sword. Furrer is described in the documentary as one of the few people on the planet who has the skills needed to try to reproduce the Ulfberht.
“To do it right, it is the most complicated thing I know how to make,” he said.
He commented on how the Ulfberht maker would have been regarded as possessing magical powers. “To be able to make a weapon from dirt is a pretty powerful thing,” he said. But, to make a weapon that could bend without breaking, stay so sharp, and weigh so little would be regarded as supernatural.
Furrer spent days of continuous, painstaking work forging a similar sword. He used medieval technology, though he used it in a way never before suspected. The tiniest flaw or mistake could have turned the sword into a piece of scrap metal. He seemed to declare his success at the end with more relief than joy.
It is possible that the material and the know-how came from the Middle East. The Volga trade route between the Viking settlements and the Middle East opened at the same time the first Ulfberhts appeared and closed when the last Ulfberhts were produced.
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I have moved in their footsteps as in a waking dream where the fragrance from a full-blown
peony is no longer a fragrance but a shimmer; where the deep red color of a maple leaf
in autumn is not a color but a privilege; where a country is no longer a place but a
lullaby. And where an outstretched hand is no longer just a gesture, but
a moment of love that continues into sleep,
into awakening, into everyday life.
~ Kim Thuy
(This is my translation, I’ve read her book Ru and these lines are just so beautiful. I guess that if you want the exact translation you have to read her book. And that is not a waste of time…)
By Tim Gebhart
The Italian peninsula has long been a land where the fine arts have flourished under a meticulous eye and in an idyllic setting. Wealthy and demanding benefactors connected their prestige and power to art.
Nowhere else has fine art played such an iconic role: it set a precedent to guide humanity toward lofty ideals beyond the purely material, and shaped our view of the world through its images.
Listed here are a few of the most significant artists that pushed the realm of fine art to new heights either in technique or expression.
Fra Angelico (1395–1455)
As his name suggests, Fra Angelico means “angelic friar.” Fra Angelico was said to have stirred the transition from late Gothic paintings, which resembled iconography, to the classic Grecian style. When not working for wealthy patrons, he revealed his devout, humble nature through frescoes painted in the San Marcos friary.
The images he portrayed varied from his counterparts in that he depicted Mary and the saints as people rather than lofty, inaccessible beings. His constrained palette and gentle, relaxed figures give his paintings a surreal quality.
“Annalena Altarpiece.” Tempera on wood, 1437-1440, 70.87 inches by 79.53 inches. Museo di San Marco (Florence, Italy).
Read more: 8 Italian Artists Who Changed the World
By Tara MacIsaac
Irving Finkel, British Museum curator and author of “The Ark Before Noah,” has found a 4,000-year-old tablet that describes the materials and measurements for building Noah’s Ark.
It also describes the Ark in a way never before conceived by archaeologists—as round.
Finkel writes in a museum blog post of his discovery. Douglas Simmonds had approached him at the museum with a tablet given to him by his father. His father had picked up some artifacts from Egypt and China after the war in the late 1940s.
The tablet “turned out to be one in a million,” said Finkel. Dating from 1750 B.C., it tells the Babylonian “Story of the Flood.” The Babylonian story, and its similarities to the story recounted in the Book of Genesis, were already known, but this table “has startling new contents,” Finkel said.
He lists off some of the materials a God told the Babylonian Noah to use for his ark: “Quantities of palm-fibre rope, wooden ribs and bathfuls of hot bitumen to waterproof the finished vessel … The amount of rope prescribed, stretched out in a line, would reach from London to Edinburgh!”
The ark would have had an area of about 2.2 miles squared (3.6 kilometers squared)—about the size of one and a half football fields—with walls 20 feet high.
The aspect of the description that most stunned Finkel, however, is that the ark was round. He said: “To my knowledge, no one has ever thought of that possibility.”
Finkel told the Associated Press that the tablet is “one of the most important human documents ever discovered.”
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Junheng Li writes about her journey from China to America, shattering conventional wisdom along the way
For a China skeptic, reading this book is like listening to a sermon. For a China bull, it will start ringing the alarm bells. For anyone interested in how the world’s second-largest economy works, this book provides a great overview, neatly packaged within the life story of a remarkable and interesting woman.
“My father’s quintessential tiger parenting ultimately resulted in an American success story built with Chinese strengths,” Junheng Li tells us about her upbringing in the suburbs of Shanghai in the 1980s, her American college experience in Vermont in the 1990s, and her successful Wall Street career in the 2000s.
Having lived in both cultures and having experienced both education systems, Li offers her insights on the differences between China and America. She builds a compelling case for why the mainstream perception that “China will rule the world” won’t come to fruition in the near future, and why America, despite its problems, is better equipped for a long-term contest.
“Until the software—the quality of its citizenry and society—matches the government-led hardware of infrastructure buildup, China is far from constituting a credible threat to America,” she writes.
Drawing on her experience as a Chinese citizen and an American businesswoman—Li now runs a boutique investment research firm specializing in Chinese companies—she sheds light on deep issues such as declining moral values in a communist state, and more practical matters like the risks hidden in the Chinese banking system.
Although the subtitle, “Winning Business Strategies from Shanghai to New York and Back,” over-promises a little, specific investment and real-life examples, as well as many Wall Street anecdotes, illustrate her main points.
As a result, the narrative never gets too dull or technical, so the book remains accessible to the average reader. In addition, most investors, whether professional or not, can learn a few things from Li’s contrarian methods.
Drilled for Success
For Li, education is the determining factor in her personal life, and in how China and America compete. In what she refers to as “tiger parenting,” Li’s father drilled her to be successful from a very young age.
She had to complete arithmetic exercises while kneeling on a rugged washboard with sharp edges. Her dad threw her in a swimming pool as a toddler with a small flotation device so she would learn how to swim.
“It was the only way his daughter would gain an edge in China’s highly competitive education system,” Li writes, adding she knew he was doing it for her, so she could be successful later in life.
She writes that the basic rigor of learning mathematics and grammar as a child is an asset she would use for the rest of her life. However, the Chinese system is based mostly on memorization, whether it is mathematics or Communist Party propaganda. Independent thinking and innovation are not taught.
“The [regime], represented by the Ministry of Education, still holds onto Marxist and Maoist teachings because it is afraid to part with the bygone era—parting with it would mean reform, and the party inherently fears reform,” Li writes.
This is a major flaw, which constrains the full potential of the country’s citizenry, according to Li. Rampant cheating in high schools and universities explains why Chinese companies have been successful mostly by working hard and copying others, fielding few innovations of their own.
Thanks to her father, who never believed communist propaganda and was an avid Voice of America listener, Li got inspired by the American classic movie “Gone With the Wind,” and set her sights to move to the United States.
After another round of hard work and memorization, Li aced her Chinese university and the TOEFL English exams, and got a scholarship for Middlebury College in Vermont.
In America, it wasn’t the academics of her economics course material, but rather the way education was approached in the United States that baffled Li.
“The hardest changes lay in the social and ethical rules that governed the campus.” She writes about the relaxed supervision, yet strict code of ethics at her college. Students were expected to complete their work independently and honestly, something she had never heard of in China.
According to Li, this approach of accountability, as well as risk taking and independent thinking in class and group work is a cornerstone of American innovation—a big advantage it has over China.
“China’s education system has failed to produce either an honorable or an innovative society,” is Li’s shattering verdict.
An Honor Code
Ultimately, the differences in the two countries’ education systems reflect a different moral code, which also translates into business practices.
“It [seems] counterintuitive. China had delivered impressive economic growth since I was a child. One would think that as a country gets richer, its people would no longer need to fight for their livelihoods. Shouldn’t they therefore hold themselves to higher moral standards, like the honor code we had at Middlebury?” Li asks.
Apparently not. Li then astutely analyzes this moral dilemma: Having robbed the Chinese nation of its spiritual beliefs by persecuting religious believers and indoctrinating the masses with atheist communist ideology, the Chinese Communist Party replaced a noble code of ethics with money worship and belief in the Party itself, which cares for nothing but power.
According to Li, solely caring about profit and outdoing others are the direct reasons for China’s creativity-stifling education system, slew of corporate scandals, widespread official corruption, and destruction of the environment, all of which Li documents with numerous examples.
“Social values remain weak because the system does not encourage citizens to believe in a power higher than the state—and given the personal tragedies and inequalities that many Chinese have witnessed in the last 30 years, the state is hard to believe in,” she writes.
Poised for a Crash
All of these factors have played a role in creating a lopsided behemoth economy that is ripe for a huge adjustment.
“Many people living in China, from the top leadership in Beijing to corporate executives to average citizens, believe the country is nearing an inflection point that will force it to reflect and reform.”
For Li, the command nature of the economy, the lack of morality, and the problems in the education system have left the Chinese economy with a one-size-fits-all solution of exploiting cheap labor and massive debt expansion, mostly for infrastructure investment and real estate.
She argues that while the export model of manufacturing cheap goods was successful in lifting 500 million people out of poverty during the past 30 years, it has now hit its limits as wage growth has surpassed the level of productivity growth.
Advancements in productivity are limited by an education system that fails to promote innovation, and therefore prohibits the progression toward more value-added products and services.
According to Li, the second wooden leg of the Chinese growth miracle is its massive debt expansion and investment in unproductive projects. Because the Chinese regime is obsessed with growth, when growth threatened to slow as part of a normal economic adjustment, it always forced banks to expand lending.
This prevented the occurrence of smaller cleansing cycles and created one massive debt super cycle, which has to come to an end sooner or later. More money funneled into unproductive investments by state decree will not result in more value creation. Instead, it looks like the whole economic system is poised for a crash—sooner, rather than later.
“The country’s trajectory seems similar to that of an athlete on steroids. As with most athletes on steroids whose temporary outperformance is inevitably followed by a long period of underperformance, the truth will eventually find its way out,” she writes.
The astute analysis found in “Tiger Woman on Wall Street” goes far deeper than the hyped-up numbers of Chinese GDP growth, currency reserves, or self-made millionaires. Li’s accurate and vivid description of China’s cultural fabric and its economy makes this a must read for anyone interested in the country’s economy and its people.
“Tiger Woman on Wall Street” is available from the McGraw-Hill Companies in print and in Amazon Kindle format.
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By Cassie Ryan
Scientists in China have aligned fragments of bamboo with Chinese calligraphic writing on it to recreate a mathematical device used 2,300 years ago, making it the world’s oldest known decimal multiplication table.
In 2008, the researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing received almost 2,500 decrepit bamboo strips from a donor, who had bought them at a market in Hong Kong. They date back to about 305 B.C. from the Warring States period before China was unified in the Qin Dynasty.
Each strip was around 0.3-0.5 inches wide and up to 20 inches long with a vertical line of calligraphy in black ink.
Twenty-one of the strips were marked with only numbers, and formed a matrix structure when arranged correctly. The top row and right-hand column contain the same 19 numbers (from right to left and top to bottom–0.5, the numbers 1 to 9, and multiples of 10 from 10 to 90.
“The strips were all mixed up because the strings that used to tie each manuscript together to form a scroll had long decayed,” said researcher Li Junming, according to the journal Nature, adding that it was “like putting together a jigsaw puzzle” because some parts were broken and others were missing. “It’s effectively an ancient calculator.”
The matrix can be used in several ways, for example the entries where each row and column meet are the results of multiplying those numbers, and any whole or half integer between 0.5 and 99.5 can be calculated.
The team think the system may have been used by officials to calculate land surface area, crop yields, and taxes. “We can even use the matrix to do divisions and square roots,” historian Feng Lisheng told Nature. “But we can’t be sure that such complicated tasks were performed at the time.”
“Such an elaborate multiplication matrix is absolutely unique in Chinese history,” he added. Previously, the earliest known Chinese tables were used during the Qin Dynasty from 221 to 206 B.C.
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Madame de Florian was a French socialite and actress who fled to the south of France during World War II. She kept her apartment in Paris on the Right Bank near the Opéra Garnier, though, in case she wanted to return. However, she never went back to it after the war. Since 1942, the apartment has been sitting untouched, until recently when an auctioneer entered her apartment. What he found was a time capsule, full of treasures.
By Carol Wickenkamp
Police recently detained two popular Tibetan singers, as the Communist Party CCP continues to crack down on freedom of expression in Tibet, further implementing President Xi’s Maoist “mass line” campaign of repression and surveillance. These arrests follow several other recent arrests of Tibetan writers and musicians.
Singers Trinley Tsekar and Gonpo Tenzin were detained late in November. Both men are from Driru (Biru) County, where the CCP has been implementing a highly unpopular campaign to force Tibetans to display loyalty to China and fly the Chinese flag from their rooftops.
Both singers had released and distributed DVDs with lyrics on Tibetan culture, literature and language, and the pains of the Tibetan people under the rule of the Chinese, said the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).
The arrest of the singers follows the recent arrests of Tibetan writers.
Tobden, 30, a nomad and writer who was arrested on Oct. 28, was sentenced to a five-year term on Nov. 30, along with two other residents of Shakchu township in Driru county.
Tobden’s writings on the suffering of Driru’s people and calling for the world to “urge justice for the county’s residents, who suffer under unjust laws and regulations,” are judged by the CCP to be threatening, a source told Radio Free Asia.
Earlier in October, Chinese police detained popular writer Tsultrim Gyaltsen,27, and a friend, charging them with “allegedly engaging in activities to destroy social stability and for splitting the Chinese motherland,” a source told The Tibet Post International (TPI).
Since this spring, at least seven other Tibetan writers or musicians have been either jailed or sentenced, including two who were “disappeared” and later found to be in detention.
The CCP says its “mass line” campaign in Tibet is meant to bring the Party officials closer to the people. The reality of the campaign, says the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, “is the policy is aimed at bringing every Tibetan under the direct surveillance of the party’s human and technological surveillance machinery.”
On November 1, the CCP’s top-ranking official in the Tibet region, Chen Quanguo, wrote in an editorial in Party policy journal Qiushi that he would “ensure that the voices of hostile forces and the Dalai group are not seen or heard.”
He pledged that local officials would “make sure that the voice of the party is heard and seen everywhere in this vast 120 million square kilometer region.”
Recently released China Law Yearbook 2013, an official Party publication, states “[We must] resolutely fight the crimes of splittism, subversion, terrorism and all kinds of cult organizations in accordance with the law to maintain state security and social and political stability, consolidate the party’s ruling position, and defend the socialist regime.”
Any writer, artist, musician, blogger, or religious figure who articulates or expresses any term or example of Tibetan culture is considered a “splittist,” a threat to the CCP and is thus severely punished.
“By daring to refute China’s official narrative of events surrounding the 2008 Tibetan uprising, these courageous Tibetans represent a significant new challenge to the Chinese authorities,” said Tsering Tsomo, the director of the TCHRD, regarding the targeted writers and singers.
By Sunny Skyz
The city of Heracleion was engulfed underwater 1500 years ago. This grand city had been mentioned by the Greek writer Herodotus, the 5th-century BC historian. He had told a wonderful tale of Helen of Troy, who traveled to Heracleion, then a port of ‘great wealth’, with her Trojan lover, Paris.
When French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio stumbled upon some relics, it led them to one of the greatest finds of the 21st century; a city underwater. The discovery took place when Goddio had been in search of Napoleon’s warships from the 1798 Battle of the Nile, when he had been defeated by Nelson in these very waters, but to his surprise, he stumbled upon this magnificent discovery.
Lucia – Ljus i mörkret HD jonnajinton.se
This song wins 2013 “Best Song for Indie/Documentary Film” at Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
By Tara MacIsaac
Two camps of scientists have faced off on the issue of the underwater structure known as Bimini Road off the coast of the Bahamas since it was first discovered in 1968.
One camp says it is a 12,000–19,000-year-old man-made structure—flouting the conventional understanding that advanced civilizations only emerged some 5,000 years ago.
The other camp says it is a natural formation.
Dr. Eugene Shinn dismisses as “New Age” the claims that a culture advanced enough to build such a structure existed in that region so long ago. He has behind him the heavy weight of current scientific understandings.
Dr. Greg Little realizes his claims to the contrary are viewed with “outright ridicule,” as he explains in a 2005 paper on the subject. “I have no expectation that any of the skeptics will actually change their views or even consider any alternatives to their beliefs,” he writes.
“All contradictions to their beliefs are probably perceived as a direct threat to them professionally and psychologically,” Little says. “The long history of science has countless examples of widely held beliefs that were proven wrong by research. But even in the face of incontrovertible proof that these beliefs were wrong, many so-called scientists refused to accept the new evidence.”
Little is a psychologist who has taken a keen interest in Bimini and has participated in multiple dives with archaeologist William Donato along the structure.
Donato explains in an email to the Epoch Times that the line of stones form a wall, known as a breakwater, built to protect a prehistoric settlement from waves. During their dives (documented by film and photographs), Donato and Little found the structure to be multi-tiered and to include prop stones they say must have been placed there by humans.
The duo also say they found anchor stones with rope holes carved into them and at least one stone later analyzed at the University of Colorado, which was found to have tool marks, deliberate shaping, functional wear, and erosion features similar to steps.
Little writes that a neutron activation analysis compared nearby shore stones to the Bimini Wall stones and showed the Bimini stones had fewer trace elements, suggesting they were formed elsewhere and transported to that location.
“We know what the Bimini Road is now,” Donato says. “The natural feature theory has been totally discredited. Shinn has no background in archeology and [Marshall] McKusick [who worked with Shinn to promote the natural-formation theory] seems to know nothing about marine archeology.”
Shinn, a retired geologist who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, argues Bimini Road is made up of beachrock—the climate in the region causes sand and other materials on the shore to cement into rock relatively quickly, creating “beachrock”—that was covered by water as the sea level rose.
Rocks of similar shape and in a similar formation have been found in some other regions, says Shinn. The information he sent the Epoch Times in response to inquiries, however, did not seem to explain exactly how the rock forms into the large, thick block shapes seen in Bimini.
Shinn carbon dated some rock samples and found them to be only about 5,000 years old or younger. But, he later admitted to Little, the accuracy of his dating is questionable. Little explains that bulk dating is inaccurate because the samples can be contaminated by materials from later dates.
Shinn told Little, according to Little’s 2005 paper: “You are right, dating of beach rock is not very precise especially if it is a bulk sample. The dates listed in the Nature article were bulk dates done at a later date by a student learning the carbon 14 method.”
Little also accuses Shinn of changing the results of some of his studies.
One of the proofs Shinn has given in recent writings and interviews that Bimini is naturally formed involves core rock samples he took to show a dip toward deep water. If all the cores show a dip toward deep water, explains Little, this would indeed prove the rock formed where it is and did not form elsewhere later to be transported by humans to its present location.
In 1978, Shinn’s published study of Bimini states that 25 percent of his samples showed a dip toward deep water. Little points out that Shinn’s later writings claim all of his samples showed this dip.
When Little confronted Shinn on his discrepancies, Shinn replied: “You must realize that because of all the craziness surrounding the Bimini site and the unusual people, it was hard to take the exercise with the same seriousness we would have employed with our regular research. We did it for fun. There was not the peer review usually associated with our real jobs. The details you have pointed out are evidence of minimal peer review. I got a little carried away to make a good story.”
The Epoch Times asked Shinn to confirm he said this to Little and asked him to clarify the discrepancies pointed out by Little.
Shinn said via email: “I am not going to nit-pick over Little’s concerns.”
He called into question the funding behind Little’s work. Little is funded by the Edgar Cayce Foundation, says Shinn, which was started by people who believe in the writings of Cayce (1877–1945), a purported psychic who had visions of Atlantis.
Little states in his 2005 paper that his work on Bimini is not a quest to find Atlantis. “Skeptics invoke emotion-laden, ridiculing terms,” Little wrote.
Little states: “For obvious reasons, mainstream archaeologists have avoided Bimini as if it was infected with a deadly virus. They have been convinced by reading others’ summaries of the early research—not by digesting the actual facts—that Bimini has to be nothing but natural beachrock and that a harbor cannot be there—therefore it is not there.”
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This girl can really sing. A voice from the heaven. So mature… for her age.
“Skull 5,” as it has been called, could link Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus–the classified earliest members of the Homo genus, according to researchers.
“Unlike other Homo fossils, this skull, known as Skull 5, combines a small braincase with a long face and large teeth,” reads a press release from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The skull was found in the country of Georgia around 96 miles southwest of the capital, Tbilisi, in the Dmanisi excavation site.
Georgian National Museum anthropologist David Lordkipanidze, who led researchers in finding the skull, said it was discovered eight years ago.
“It is really an extraordinary find in many respects,” Christoph Zollikofer of Zurich’s Anthropological Institute and Museum said, according to NBC News. He took part in the discovery.
He added: “[The Dmanisi finds] look quite different from one another, so it’s tempting to publish them as different species. Yet we know that these individuals came from the same location and the same geological time, so they could, in principle, represent a single population of a single species.”
“Had the braincase and the face of Skull 5 been found as separate fossils at different sites in Africa, they might have been attributed to different species,” he said, adding that Skull 5 has a tiny braincase and large face, which have not yet been observed in a Homo fossil.