The Jaguar of the Americas and implications for its origins: part two

Nature dominates and rules our lives. No matter how much material wealth we may have, we cannot buy Nature and all its myriad of miracles. We do try to emulate Nature and today we call this study Biomimetics.
Wikipedia re: Biomimetics:

“Living organisms have evolved well-adapted structures and materials over geological time through natural selection. Biomimetics has given rise to new technologies inspired by biological solutions at macro and nanoscales. Humans have looked at nature for answers to problems throughout our existence. Nature has solved engineering problems such as self-healing abilities, environmental exposure tolerance and resistance, hydrophobicity, self-assembly, and harnessing solar energy”

Humans have been in awe of Nature since our brains evolved to contemplate the amazing world we had emerged into – and we revered it. We still do today, but we extract what we need from it to serve ourselves and to mimic nature in our scientific endeavours. In doing so we chip away at our planet and take more for our needs than the planet can replenish. Our reverence has been eroded.

A few millennia ago, we used a belief system where individuals would try to mimic those creatures they saw around them which had great powers of strength, endurance and cunning.

When humans first arrived in the Americas they would find, depending on their hunter gathering locations, beaches along the Pacific differing in nature to the beaches on the Atlantic. It could only be the narrow isthmus, which is now Panama, where maybe they roamed between the two coasts. Usually the mountainous terrain, such as the Andes, created cultures which were moving between the beaches and the difficult mountainous areas, and in pockets of tribes rarely meeting one another. But all the tribes which grew into populations of millions, before the Spanish arrived, became familiar with the diversity of animal and sea life.

One magnificent creature they could not help but revere was the Jaguar.


Around 1600–1500 BCE, the early Olmec culture had lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco. They were the first Mesoamerican civilization, and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed. It is possible they had a deity which was part human, part jaguar, born of woman which has been named by researchers as a were-jaguar.

Image of Olmec ‘were-jaguar’


The were-jaguar motif is characterized by almond-shaped eyes, a downturned open mouth, and a cleft head.

All major Mesoamerican civilizations prominently featured a jaguar god, and for many, such as the Olmec, the jaguar was an important part of shamanism. 

The shaman was deemed to have access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits. He would enter into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing. The trance was usually induced using mind altering drugs and the shaman would isolate himself and experience what he believed to be the warrior mode. He would have strength and skills to take on the fearful creatures he encountered in his visionary battles. When he came out of the trance he would show his followers that he had attained a higher level of understanding and could therefore offer his wisdom to help overcome problems the community faced. There was much theatre surrounding this practice, but it was important to reduce fear from the daily interaction with Nature, and to increase reverence to the world around them.

The shaman would isolate himself in a place built for this purpose:


Since the first Mesoamerican civilisation, the  Olmec and other  Mesoamerican civilisations which followed them, witnessed the animal’s habits, adopting the jaguar as an authoritative and martial symbol, and incorporated the animal into their mythology. The jaguar stands today, as it did in the past, as an important symbol in the lives of those who coexist with this feline.


God L is one of the oldest Mayan deities, and associated with trade, riches, and black sorcery, and belongs to the jaguar deities: he has jaguar ears, a jaguar mantle and lives in a jaguar palace. Some take him to be the main ruler over the Underworld. In that sense, he would have to be considered the true “Jaguar God of the Underworld”.

Image of God L


Jaguars have long been associated with Mayan civilisation who worshipped jaguar gods. Various inscriptions, murals and sculptures representing jaguars in warrior or god form have been found so far across Central America.

The recent discovery of fragments from feline figures is the second of its kind in almost a hundred years in El Salvador, according to the culture ministry. In 1924, remains of some 20 jaguar figures were found in a box excavated in north Cihuatan, the secretariat said.

This image below is a ceramic sculpture, representing a jaguar warrior, and was discovered in Cihuatan, the largest Mayan site in El Salvador. 

The Chavín Peruvian culture held its second most important deity as the fanged jaguar god, also a popular subject in Chavin art. These days as habitats for the Jaguar are destroyed by human hand to serve their own needs, it is more important than ever to preserve these magnificent creatures in the wild.

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The Jaguar of the Americas and implications for its origins: Part one 

Panthera onca is a genus within the Felidae family that was named and first described by the German naturalist Lorenz Oken in 1816. The British taxonomist Pocock revised the classification of this genus in 1916 as comprising the species lion, tiger, jaguar, and leopard on the basis of cranial features. Results of genetic analysis indicate that the snow leopard also belongs to the Panthera, a classification that was accepted by IUCN Red List assessors in 2008.

The tiger, lion, leopard, and jaguar are the only felines with the anatomical structure that enables them to roar. The ability to roar is due to morphological features, especially of the larynx. In Panthera species, the dorsal profile of the skull is flattish or evenly convex. The frontal interorbital area is not noticeably elevated, and the area behind the elevation is less steeply sloped. The basicranial axis is nearly horizontal. The inner chamber of the bullae is large, the outer small. The partition between them is close to the external auditory meatus. The convexly rounded chin is sloping. All Panthera species have an incompletely ossified hyoid bone. Specially adapted larynx with proportionally larger vocal folds are covered in a large fibro-elastic pad. These characteristics enable all Panthera species except snow leopard to roar.


Image of Jaguar skull fossil


Genetic studies indicate that pantherine cats diverged from the subfamily Felinae between six and ten million years ago. Fossil records that appear to belong within the genus Panthera reach only 2.0 to 3.8 million years back.

Genome mapping research by an international team under Henrique V. Figueiró et al. (See Genome-wide signatures of complex introgression and adaptive evolution in the big cats, Science Advances (2017). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700299 ) has concluded a surprising result. The researchers report that they found over 13,000 genes that were similar through all of the species included in the study. They also found that the cats all diverged from a single ancestor approximately 4.6 million years ago—one that was apparently most like the modern leopard. The team also found that all of the species populations have also declined over the past 300,000 years, which means lower genetic diversity.

All five extant species are represented as follows: lion (Panthera leo), leopard (Panthera pardus), jaguar (Panthera onca), snow leopard (Panthera uncia), and tiger (Panthera tigris).

Diagram of cats



One surprise they found was that the big cats have all engaged in cross-breeding multiple times over the course of their history, and because of that, have evolved new features that have proved useful in other areas. They suspect, for example, that the jaguar, which has the strongest bite of all the big cats, found itself with a larger head after breeding with lions—that may have led to a bite strength increase, which made it possible for them to hunt better protected animals in the New World.

The modern jaguar is thought to have descended from a pantherine ancestor in Asia that crossed the Beringian land bridge into North America during the Early Pleistocene. From North America, it spread to Central and South America. The ancestral jaguar in North America is referred to as Panthera onca augusta.


Unlike jaguars in South America, jaguars in Central or North America are fairly small. Those in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve on the Mexican Pacific coast weigh just about 50 kg (110 lb), similar in weight as female cougars. 57.2 kg (126 lb) was the average for six males in Belize, making them similar to South American females in Venezuela.

Today the Jaguar is found in these locations:

Panthera Onca Arizonenis – Arizona and Mexico

Panthera Onca Centralis – Central America

Panthera Onca Goldmani – Mexico and Belize

Panthera Onca Hemandesii – Western Mexico

Panthera Onca Onca – Amazon Rainforest

Panthera Onca Palustris – Paraguay

Panthera Onca Peruvianas – Peru

Panthera Onca Veracrucis – Texas

In North America, the jaguar ranges from the southern part of the United States in the north, to the southern part of Central America in the south. Recently, jaguars of Mexican origin have been spotted in Arizona. Prior to that, the Arizona jaguar was treated as a cryptid cat.

In the early 1900s, the German scientist Alfred Wegener noticed that the coastlines of Africa and South America looked like they might fit together. He also discovered evidence that the same plant and animal fossils were found along the coasts of these continents, although they were now separated by vast oceans. In addition, he noticed that geologic formations, like mountain ranges, on the two continents also matched up. 

In 1915, Wegener published his book, The Origin of Continents and Oceans, suggesting that the earth’s continents were once joined together in one large mass. He called the original landmass (or supercontinent) “Pangaea,” the Greek word for “all the earth.” According to Wegener, over time “Pangaea” split apart and the different landmasses, or continents, drifted to their current locations on the globe.

We now know he was correct. It obviously took billions of years to create the various continents, but life likely sprang from the oceans. Many scientists think life got its start around 3.7 billion years ago in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. If so, life maybe formed first in the oceans, creating amphibian and then terrestrial life forms throughout the continents of the globe.

It is worth noting that wildlife existed in South America before the isthmus formed 2.8 million years ago. Fossils of the condor like bird, Argentavis magnificens (see earlier blog) found in Argentina are dated to over 5 million years old. Once the isthmus formed, species from North and South could intermingle and hybridize through direct species-to-species contact. We still don’t know for certain the origins of the Jaguar in the Americas. Perhaps there was an evolving cat already living in South America before the isthmus formed.

Jaguars are now an endangered species. They once roamed from Argentina in South America all the way up to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Today, jaguars have been almost completely eliminated from the United States and are endangered throughout their range, which stretches down to Patagonia in South America. 

The jaguar makes its home in a wide-variety of habitats including deciduous forests, rainforests, swamps, pampas grasslands and mountain scrub areas. These habitats are continuously being cut back for industrialised purposes and cattle farming. Since Jaguars sometimes prey on calves, they are often killed by farmers on sight.

“Jaguars had been eliminated in the United States. A female was shot by a hunter in Arizona’s White Mountains in 1963. Arizona outlawed jaguar hunting in 1969, but by then no females remained and over the next 25 years only two male jaguars were found (and killed) in Arizona. Then in 1996, Warner Glenn, a rancher and hunting guide from Douglas, Arizona, came across a jaguar in the Peloncillo Mountains and became a researcher on jaguars, placing webcams which recorded four more Arizona jaguars. No jaguars sighted in Arizona in the last 15 years had been seen since 2006. Then, in 2009, a male jaguar named Macho B died shortly after being radio-collared by Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) officials in 2009. In the Macho B incident, a former ADGF subcontractor pleaded guilty to violating the endangered species act for trapping the cat and a Game and Fish employee was fired for lying to federal investigators. In 2011, a male jaguar weighing 200 lb (91 kg) was photographed near Cochise in southern Arizona by a hunter after being treed by his dogs (the animal left the scene unharmed). A second 2011 sighting of an Arizona jaguar was reported by a Homeland Security border pilot in June 2011, and conservation researchers sighted two jaguars within 30 mi (48 km) of the border between Mexico and the United States in 2010.

In September 2012, a jaguar was photographed in the Santa Rita Mountains of Arizona, the second such sighting in this region in two years. This jaguar has been photographed numerous times over the past nine months through June 2013. On 3 February 2016, the Center for Biological Diversity released a video of this jaguar – now named El Jefe (Spanish for “The Boss”) – roaming the Santa Rita Mountains, about 25 mi (40 km) south of downtown Tucson. El Jefe is the fourth jaguar sighted in the Madrean Sky Islands in southern Arizona and New Mexico, over the last 20 years.

On 16 November 2016, a jaguar was spotted in the Dos Cabezas Mountains of Arizona, 60 mi (97 km) from the Mexican border, the farthest north one of these animals has been spotted in many decades. It is the seventh jaguar to be confirmed in the Southwest since 1996. On 1 December 2016, another male jaguar was photographed on Fort Huachuca also in Arizona. In February 2017, authorities revealed that a third jaguar had been photographed in November 2016, by the Bureau of Land Management in the Dos Cabezas Mountains, also in Arizona, some 100.0 km (62.1 miles) north of the border with Mexico. The only picture obtained allowed experts to determine this is a different individual, but it does not reveal its gender.

Conservation

Legal action by the Center for Biological Diversity led to federal listing of the cat on the endangered species list in 1997. However, on January 7, 2008, George W. Bush appointee H. Dale Hall, Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), signed a recommendation to abandon jaguar recovery as a federal goal under the Endangered Species Act. Critics, including the Center of Biological Diversity and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, were concerned the jaguar was being sacrificed for the government’s new border fence, which is to be built along many of the cat’s typical crossings between the United States and Mexico.

In 2010, however, the Obama Administration reversed the policy of the Bush Administration, and pledged to protect “critical habitat” and draft a recovery plan for the species. The USFWS was ultimately ordered by the court to develop a jaguar recovery plan and designate critical habitat for the cats. On 20 August 2012, the USFWS proposed setting aside 838,232 acres in Arizona and New Mexico — an area larger than Rhode Island — as critical jaguar habitat. On 4 March 2014 Federal wildlife officials set aside nearly 1,200 square miles along the U.S.-Mexico border as habitat essential for the conservation of the jaguar. The reservation includes parts of Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties in Arizona and Hidalgo County in New Mexico. In September 2015, El Jefe was photographed via camera trap and analysis of his spots confirms that he has been in southeastern Arizona (30 mi (48 km) south of Tucson) since 2011. Jaguars have been present in this region every year since 1997. El Jefe and other males may have originated from a breeding population in Sonora, Mexico, 125 mi (201 km) to the south of Tucson.

Northern Jaguar Project

The Northern Jaguar Project is a conservation effort on behalf of the jaguar that is headed by an Arizona-based organization of the same name, in conjunction with Mexico’s Naturalia. It is focused on protecting the jaguars living near the border between the United States and Mexico. The core of the project is the Northern Jaguar Reserve. The project began in 2003 with the purchase of the 10,000 acre Los Pavos Ranch in northern Mexico, just 125 mi (201 km) south of the border. In 2008 it was expanded to more than double its size when Rancho Zetasora was acquired. Both ranches are remote, difficult to access, and relatively untouched, making them perfect habitat, not just for jaguars, but for many other species as well. The Northern Jaguar Project is the “northernmost location where jaguars, mountain lions, bobcats, and ocelots are all found in the same vicinity”, and the park also features a variety of floral habitats as well.

The project is also focused on efforts to create a stable jaguar population in Northwestern Mexico. However, its long term aspirations include a return of the jaguar to the Southwestern United States. The potential for such a re-introduction is deemed high, since as much as 30% of Arizona alone is considered to be a suitable habitat for the jaguar.”

Extract from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_jaguar
Image of El Jefe

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The Sacred Condor


The magnificent Condor is a familiar and respected scavenger bird which flies over the Americas. Condors are part of the family Cathartidae which contains the New World vultures. The Andean Condor‭ (‬Vultur gryphus‭)‬,‭ ‬is thought to possibly be the most similar living bird to the Late Miocene Argentavis magnificens, but less than half its size.‭ ‬

According to the current consensus, birds, known as Aves and a sister group, the order Crocodilia, together are the sole living members of an unranked “reptile” clade, the Archosauria. Archosaurs Temporal range: Early Triassic–Present, 250–0 Ma . The earliest archosaurs were rauisuchians, such as Scythosuchus and Tsylmosuchus, both of which have been found in Russia and date back to the Olenekian in the Early Triassic.

Archosaurs quickly became the dominant land vertebrates in the early Triassic. Fossils from before the mass extinction have only been found around the Equator, but after the event fossils can be found all over the world.

Four distinct lineages of bird survived the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago, giving rise to ostriches and relatives (Paleognathae), ducks and relatives (Anseriformes), ground-living fowl (Galliformes), and “modern birds” (Neoaves).

Non-avian dinosaurs and pterosaurs perished in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, but birds (the only remaining dinosaur group) and crocodilians survived. Both are descendants of archosaurs, and are therefore archosaurs themselves under phylogenetic taxonomy.

California condors are the largest flying land birds in North America. The Andean condor is second only to the wandering albatross (up to 3.5 m) in terms of wingspan among all living flying birds.


The researchers behind a 2016 study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications analyzed samples from condor museum (California) specimens dating back to the 1820s and found that the historical population was surprisingly diverse, but that a substantial amount of that diversity was lost in the last two centuries. This finding supports the hypothesis that condors were fairly widespread and abundant prior to increases in human-caused mortality, which likely drove their numbers down quickly in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Californian Condors nearly went extinct in the 1980s as a result of hunting, lead contamination, DDT poisoning, and other factors. The last 22 California condors were brought into captivity in 1987 in a last-ditch effort to breed them in safety and save the species from disappearing.

That desperate move was a success. Today, the California condor population has risen and the birds have returned to the skies above California, Arizona, Utah, and Baja, Mexico.

Today, some try to conserve the rapidly diminishing endangered species who have suffered so much from selfish human activities. But relentless industrialisation is reducing species at a frightening rate, and we humans will likewise perish quite soon if the global industrial system continues to recite its mantra of “growth” and obsession with share price investments.

It doesn’t take much imagination to envisage the abundance of condors flying during the Mesoamerican era. They represented god-like powers to those who recognised their special attributes. No-one was going to persecute them, they were too revered.

The Incas believed the Condor was climbing high to freedom. On its wings it carried the spirit of the dead to the upper world. To ‘become’ a condor, a person must first achieve the status of a condor, change, give up old ways, renew oneself, as the snake shed its skin to reveal a new skin. And in this way the person may achieve wisdom and stability as one observes in the puma, then the way home to the afterlife will be opened up. The snake, the condor, the puma represent spiritual levels toward the afterlife. The Incas believed that death is not an end but rather the beginning of a new cycle. The ancestors deemed that time is non-linear, but everything has its cycle that ends and begins again.

It was maybe just as well they held this comforting thought as so many Incas and other indigenous people were to die in a short period of time after the Spanish invaded their homelands.

But what flew before the Condor, before humans ever walked the Earth?

During the 1970s and 80s, researchers found fossils of such birds.

At first Argentavis magnificens seemed to be the largest ever found, but now the record is broken by PELAGORNIS SANDERSI.


Chart of A.magnificens compared to Condor

Let us first find out about the former, then learn about the latter.

Argentavis magnificens ( named by Campbell‭ & ‬Tonni‭ ‬-‭ ‬1980) translated simply as ‘magnificent Argentinian bird’ – stunned the world when it was unearthed.

A. magnificens, sometimes called the giant teratorn, has been identified due to a good number of extinct species fossils being found from three sites in the Epecuén and Andalhuala Formations in central and northwestern Argentina. They have been dated to the Late Miocene, Messinian,(also Huayquerian is used more specifically with South American Land Mammal Ages. It follows the Mayoan and precedes the Montehermosan age).

The Late Miocene Epoch covers 11.6 million to 5.3 million years ago. The Miocene may also be divided into six ages and their corresponding rock stages: from oldest to youngest these ages or stages are the Aquitanian, Burdigalian, Langhian, Serravallian, Tortonian, and Messinian. The Miocene followed the Oligocene Epoch of the Paleogene Period and was succeeded by the Pliocene Epoch.

Argentavis most probably used its large wings to exploit a combination of thermal up draughts‭ ‬as well as dynamic soaring.‭ ‬Dynamic soaring is essentially where a flying creature uses the boundary between two air masses to pick up speed by cartwheeling into oncoming wind and using the wind speed to accelerate itself forward.‭ ‬Repeating this process further increases the speed of the bird and resulting effect of the next manoeuvre resulting in an extremely energy efficient form of flight,‭ ‬one that is now even used by human glider pilots to stay airborne longer.

A. magnificens wingspan is estimated at 4 m (13 ft). A.magnificens could spot carrion and would behave much like that of a scavenger bird today, perhaps similar to the Condor. Scavenging would also require little in the way of active movement,‭ ‬reducing the required number of calories to keep its body going.

In 2014 there was enough data to declare to the world that the largest bird fossil to date had been found, named  PELAGORNIS SANDERSI . The fossil was unearthed in 1983 in Charleston, South Carolina. At the time the bird lived, 25 million years ago, this area was an ocean. The bird is named after Albert Sanders, the former curator of natural history at Charleston Museum, who led the excavation. It was so big they had to remove it using a JCB.

They flew during the Oligocene ( /ˈɒlɪɡoʊsiːn/) a geologic epoch of the Paleogene Period which extends from about 33.9 million to 23 million years before the present. 

Working from a fossil skull, as well as wing and leg bones, researchers calculated the likely size of the bird and modelled possible flight styles – including flapping and gliding. From computer modelling it was estimated the bird weighed up to 180lbs (81.5kg), yet it managed to fly and soar on the thermals just like the Condor today. The skeletal wingspan (excluding feathers) of P. sandersi is estimated at 5.2 m (17 ft) while that of A. magnificens is estimated at 4 m (13 ft).

Its paper-thin hollow bones, stumpy legs and wing shape made it similar to birds that fly today, and this would have made it awkward when on land.

Its size and telltale beak suggested the creature was a previously unknown species of pelagornithid – an extinct group of giant seabirds believed to be ancestors of pelicans and storks.

They were known for bony ‘teeth’ that lined their jaws.

The more we seek knowledge about past life forms, the greater we respect the wonder within this special planet. 

When wealthy elites seek to gain kudos from seeming to campaign to ‘save the planet’ whilst cynically increasing their wealth through dark means, we may foolishly follow them to human extinction. We must be careful to avoid their manipulation of our good intentions and natural caring and direct our energies where it really counts.

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The cult of Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl and the feathered pterosaur reptiles

Looking to the skies, the Mesoamerican peoples all revered the power of the great birds which flew above them, such as the eagle and condor. They also had respect and wonder for the many snakes which inhabited the land. It was the power of these creatures to kill so effectively and yet to inhabit their domains with such regal strength which made them bow to their mightiness. Their belief system incorporated the symbolism of both snake and bird in the famous Feathered Serpent icons which began appearing a few hundred years BC right up to the Incas, the last of the evolution of Mesoamerican tribes to be unhindered by the Spanish invasion.

See below map of area where the icons of the Feathered Serpent have been found. All these civilisations had this in common though the Aztec named the deity Quetzalcohuātl [ket͡saɬˈkowaːt͡ɬ] – (Nahuatl language) and the Mayans used the name Kukulkan among the Yucatec Maya, and Q’uq’umatz and Tohil among the K’iche’ Maya.  
The cult of Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl was the first Mesoamerican religion to transcend the old Classic Period linguistic and ethnic divisions. This cult facilitated communication and peaceful trade among peoples of many different social and ethnic backgrounds. Although the cult was originally centred on the Mayan ancient city of Chichen Itza in the modern Mexican state of Yucatán, it spread as far as the Guatemalan Highlands. This is an early example of a belief system uniting diverse tribes.

Image of Temple of Kukulkan


The Feathered Serpent is the marrying of the rattle snake with the feathers of the quetzal bird. This iconic form would intensify the power which their belief system desired.

Image of Quetzal


Image of Snake


Quetzals are fairly large (all over 32 cm or 13 inches long), slightly bigger than other of their species. 

The resplendent quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. The name quetzal is from Nahuatl quetzalli [keˈt͡salːi], “large brilliant tail feather” . The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. This region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, and the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, and the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain.

The feathers of iridescent Quetzal were used in Royal costume and ceremonial garb for kings and priests. The Quetzal symbolized the movement of Creation and the will of the Creator come to earth. As the Serpent moves side to side on the ground, the Quetzal flaps and glides through the jungle. That is,  it moves up and down between the skies and the earth. The Maya knew that Creation moves from Day to Night or Creation to Destruction in a wave like pattern.

Serpent skins, bones and rattles were used in most Maya’s clothing and personal effects as sacred decoration. Serpent venom was used as a prescription by Maya shaman for a number of  treatments or cures. 

Aztecs added Quetzalcoatl as symbolic of the west direction.

According to this myth, the four sons of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, one of them being Quetzalcoatl, represent the four cardinal directions.

The west is represented by Quetzalcoatl who is also the White Tezcatlipoca and the god of light, justice, mercy, and wind.

Teotihuacan: Temple of Feathered Serpent



Aztec feathered serpent sculpture


Mayan mural and snake sculpture


In the Guatemalan Highlands, Postclassic feathered serpent sculptures have been found with open mouths from which protrude the heads of human warriors. Hundreds of North and South American Indian and South Pacific legends tell of a white-skinned, bearded lord who traveled among the many tribes to bring peace about 2,000 years ago. This spiritual hero was best known as Quetzelcoatl, thus merging Christianity brought by the Spanish conquest, with ancient deities. Most conversions around the world involved Pagan deities being merged with Christian ideology.

And the first Mesoamerican Olmec civilisation appreciated the serpent in their sculptures:


And birds were also popular icons in ancient Peru. The 1500 year old mysterious Peruvian Nazca Lines lie in the high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 km (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana, about 400 km (250 mi) south of Lima, contain amazing geoglyphs. These were cut into the desert by digging trenches to create spectacular drawings of humans, animals and birds, include the hummingbird and the condor. The hummingbird geoglyph is 93 m (310 ft) long, the condor is 134 m (440 ft).


Before humans there were pterosaurs which flew over Central America. The Feathered Serpent is not such a fantastical creature after all, indeed a giant feathered reptile actually enjoyed the freedom of the skies, and the fossils found have been named after the Feathered Serpent of Mesoamerica, the Quetzalcoatl. The amazing fossil was a flying reptile, though not a snake, more like a lizard. Yet it combined the attributes of a reptile and the flying abilities of a bird.

Image of fossil of Quetzalcoatlus


When it was first named as a new species in 1975, scientists estimated that the largest Quetzalcoatlus fossils came from an individual with a wingspan as large as 15.9 m (52 ft). More recent estimates based on greater knowledge of azhdarchid proportions place its wingspan at 10–11 m (33–36 ft). Remains found in Texas in 1971 indicate that this reptile had a minimum wingspan of about 11 m (36 ft). Generalized height in a bipedal stance, based on its wingspan, would have been at least 3 m (9.8 ft) high at the shoulder.

Quetzalcoatlus dominated the skies of North America at the end of the Dinosaur Age and flew high over such famous creatures as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. 

The pterosaurs were reptiles, and their close cousins were dinosaurs who evolved on a separate branch of the reptile family tree, just as humans evolved into mammals from reptiles.

The Pterosaurs were also the first animals after insects to evolve powered flight—not just leaping or gliding, but flapping their wings to generate lift and travel through the air. They evolved into dozens of species. Some were as large as an F-16 fighter jet, and others as small as a paper airplane.

Quetzalcoatlus comes from a family of pterosaurs limited to the Cretaceous period, the time between 144 and 66 million years ago (66 million years ago the meteorite that struck the Yucatan Peninsula marked the great extinction of most dinosaurs). In other words, the family spanned the entirety of the Cretaceous, a period of roughly 80 million years.

An animal the size of Quetzalcoatlus could consume victims as large as small dinosaurs, picking them up in its huge toothless jaws. 

Comparison graph


Like all flying reptiles, they launched off the ground in a four-footed leap. This launch style was supported by an immense amount of power. Quetzalcoatlus’ torso, though small in comparison to its body, was very dense and packed with huge muscles. A single leap could get one of these giants into the air, and it needed just a few flaps to keep it aloft. They could likely travel nonstop for 16,000 kilometers after launching, only rarely flapping to keep themselves in the air and to steer their path. Its short wings were not just thin membranes of skin, but densely packed muscle fibers called actinofibrils. Like all other pterosaurs, Quetzalcoatlus was warm-blooded and had an incredible metabolism to power its lifestyle.
Drawing of Quetzalcoatlus

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Migration from colder climates to tropical areas

Costa Rica is one of the countries in Central America, first inhabited around 10000 years ago by tribes who had travelled across the world to this spot, and they found it covered with rainforest. Central American rainforests are environmentally sensitive and play an important role in global climate balance, but large areas have been cleared for cattle ranching and for sugar cane plantations. This is detrimental for indigenous people, flora and fauna and endangered species.

Map of global rainforests


Like other major rainforests, the jungles and mangrove swamps of Central America contain many plants and animals found nowhere else.  Central America is famous for its large number of tropical birds, including many kinds of parrots. But there are many political forces stressing the populations of these countries and the ecologically important environment.

Professor Nina Jablonski, head of the Penn State Department of Anthropology has said (in 2009) that we only need to trace our ancestry back 2500 years and we would find our ancestor lived in another place in the world. We didn’t have a country then, the world was our country. We roamed in tribes, and these tribes may have grouped into larger tribes to form early civilisations, but the territories changed as civilisations grew and declined.

Maybe the ancestors of those who finally arrived in Central America had race memory of the rainforests in Asia which stretch from India and Burma in the west to Malaysia and the islands of Java and Borneo in the east.  Bangladesh has the largest area of mangrove forests in the world.

In Southeast Asia the climate is hot and humid all year round. In the mainland Asia it has a subtropical climate with torrential monsoon rains followed by a drier period. This may have seemed familiar to the ancient tribes who had sought a suitable habitat to end their thousands of years journeying over generations.

The tribes who made it from Africa, to Asia, to the Americas were evolving as the generations moved across continents. Our ancestors followed the animals they hunted or herded to seasonal pastures where food and fresh water could be found. They gathered food and utilised everything they could find to make into tools, clothing, cooking vessels and the like. Their belief system was likely spiritual and showed respect for the animal kingdom and the environment. Our ancestors handed wisdom and knowledge down to us to enable us to survive as best we could in a range of environments and climates they had experienced.

Before Columbus arrived in the Caribbean, the pre-Hispanic populations were a mix of tribes, and the isthmus which joins Mexico to South America was both tropical and lush, and highly seismic.

Christopher Columbus arrived in Costa Rica in 1502 on his last trip to the Americas. Costa Rica received its name from Gil Gonzalez Davila when he arrived and thought he had found the most gold he had ever seen; therefore naming it the “Rich Coast”. 

By 2018, Costa Rica had a population of 5,000,000 people. The population growth rate between 2005 and 2010 was estimated to be 1.5% annually, with a birth rate of 17.8 live births per 1,000 inhabitants and a mortality rate of 4.1 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants. By 2016, the population had increased to about 4.9 million. This is a predominantly Catholic country since the times of the Spanish Conquistadors.

Costa Ricans, also called Ticos, are a group of people from a multiethnic Spanish speaking nation in Central America called Costa Rica. Costa Ricans are predominantly whites, castizos (halfway between white and mestizo), harnizos and mestizo, but their country is considered a multiethnic society, which means that it is home to people of many different ethnic backgrounds. As a result, modern-day Costa Ricans do not consider their nationality as an ethnicity but as a citizenship with various ethnicities. Costa Rica has four small minority groups: Mulattoes, Blacks, Asians, and Amerindians. In addition to the “Indigenas”, whites, mestizos (usually Spanish speaking, mixed race of Spanish/European ancestry) blacks and mulattoes, Costa Rica is also home to thousands of Asians. Most of the Chinese and Indians now living in the country are descendants of those who arrived during the 19th century as migrant workers.

The problems of migration from colder climates to tropical areas: 

People at high latitudes in Europe and East Asia seem to have independently evolved lighter skin to produce vitamin D more efficiently with less sunlight, says Nina Jablonski, a biological anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.( watch https://www.ted.com/talks/nina_jablonski_breaks_the_illusion_of_skin_color) But, “People have been scratching their heads” about which variants do this in East Asians. Now, researchers know MFSD12 is one. The ancestors of Native Americans presumably carried that variant over the Bering Strait into the Americas. “There was variation [in skin tone] present in Latin America long before Europeans got there,” Jablonski says.


“The larger lesson,” says geneticist Andrés Ruiz-Linares of Fudan University in Shanghai, China, chair of CANDELA, “is the pitfalls of a Eurocentric view.”………… “Our study shows that going beyond Europeans one can find additional genes, even for well-studied traits. Clearly the bias towards Europeans has led to a restricted view of human diversity.”

But lighter skin means less protection from the sun. It was reported in 2013 that 6 people in Costa Rica die every week from skin cancer (http://www.ticotimes.net/2013/01/15/6-people-die-every-month-in-costa-rica-from-skin-cancer). “Costa Rica receives more UV radiation in the mountains than at sea level. There is 20-40 percent more UV radiation at an altitude of 1,500 meters than at the beach,” a Caja statement said……”Five sunburns before the age of 18 increase by 100 percent the possibility of skin cancer after 40 years.”

Costa Rica is one of the countries with the highest incidence and mortality rates for gastric cancer. Helicobacter pylori infection rates are high in the whole country. Some postulate the volcanic soil is a contributing factor as people ingest foods grown there. Japan also has a high incidence of gastric cancer.

Indigenous people of Costa Rica:

Due to the global spread of tribes, the indigenous peoples never had a thriving culture such as the empires of the Mayan, Aztec or Inka people. The native people were culturally influenced by Mesoamerican tribes from Central America and cultures from northern South America (mostly today’s Colombia). Most indigenous groups lived on simple subsistence economy and were ruled by a chief called “cacique”. When the Spaniards arrived, many tribes moved back into the mountains in order to avoid slavery and taxation by the Spaniards.

The indigenous peoples of Costa Rica have been pushed off their lands into reserves; their land was sold step by step to the mestizo population of mainly European descendance. As with most reservation land, it is relatively unfertile and a varied agriculture did not develop; corn is one of the only products grown by Hueta, one of the indigenous tribes found in Province of San José, Canton de Puriscal, Zapatón, Region of Cerrito Quepos. Other tribes are the Bribri and Cabécares, some consider them as part of the same ethnicity. They share the same religious belief in Sibo as supreme God and creator of the universe. While parts of the Bribri tribe live the lowland areas of the Cordillera de Talamanca, the Cabecarés are isolated in the mountains of the Cordillera. They maintain a complex clan system. 

The Bribri retained their spoken language and use the Latin alphabet and a number of additional characters for phonetic transcription in writing.

They grow cocoa, bananas, corn, beans, pig breeding, bird hunting. They do basket weaving and manufacture of musical instruments with natural materials, fabrics and fiber with natural pigments. To cross the river Sixaola on the border of Panama, they use dugout boats and rafts.

There are around 10,000 Cabecares, who still preserve their language, natural medicine and patrimonial culture (caciques are allowed to marry several women). They have a rich corpus of stories and legends, some of which are written down in Spanish and the Cabécar language.

They live along the Southern Atlantic Coast, Limón province, Chirripó (Pacuare valley), valley of the Rio Estrella and the Talamanca reserve. Ujarrás de Buenos Aires and China Kichá. This is probably the indigenous group with the most distinct cultural identity. The original Cabécar language is still spoken next to Spanish. The Cabécares have retained many of their customs and traditions and clan ties are still very tight. They grow coffee, cocoa and bananas, they carry out bird hunting and fishing.

It’s possible to visit areas where Cabecar Indians still live in their traditional way. See http://www.travelcostarica.nu/indigenous-costa-rica

Finally, there are the Térrabas in Costa Rica. They live in Canton of Buenos Aires in the Reserve of Boruca-Térraba. This ethnic group has preserved its cultural identity, but the original language Terraba is no longer spoken today. They grow corn, beans, rice, bananas, citrus fruit. Today their territory is populated by many non-indigenous peasants.

Map showing location of Costa Rica in Central America

The only significant artefact left by the ancient peoples are Las Bolas. The spheres are commonly attributed to the extinct Diquis culture and are sometimes referred to as the Diquís Spheres. They are the best-known stone sculptures of the Isthmo-Colombian area. They are thought to have been placed in lines along the approach to the houses of chiefs, but their exact significance remains uncertain.

Image of Las Bolas

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Cowed by climate change 

Image of map of Peru
In March 2017, Reuters reported ‘Abnormal El Nino in Peru unleashes deadly downpours; more flooding seen’ https://www.reuters.com/article/us-peru-floods-idUSKBN16O2V5

In the article it also says,”While precipitation in Peru has not exceeded the powerful El Nino of 1998, more rain is falling in shorter periods of time – rapidly filling streets and rivers,”said Jorge Chavez, a general tasked with coordinating the government’s response. Reuters also reported, ‘Some scientists have said climate change will make El Ninos more frequent and intense.’

People often live on flood plains which have been dry for a decade or more. The poor people usually have no choice, as they are rarely offered safer lands. They are the first to be swept away when catastrophic rains fall, and it is almost a form of genocide as they find themselves in danger’s way when no proper planning to protect such populations has taken place.

Human settlements along Peru’s north coast are susceptible to climactic disruptions caused by El Niño weather cycles. Scientists have found the chemical signatures of warmer sea surface temperatures and increased rainfall caused by El Niño in coral specimens that are around 13,000 years old.

Researchers, led by University of Colorado-Boulder professor of aerospace engineering sciences Steve Nerem, used satellite data dating to 1993 to observe the levels of the world’s oceans.

Nerem and his team took into account natural changes in sea level thanks to cycles such as El Niño/La Niña and even events such as the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, (https://www.thoughtco.com/mount-pinatubo-eruption-1434951) which altered sea levels worldwide for several years.

The result is a “climate-change-driven” acceleration: the amount the sea levels are rising because of the warming caused by manmade global warming. For more on the reasons for rapid melting of glaciers globally seè https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-melting-glaciers-humans-environment.php

In recent decades, accelerating glacial melt is adding to the issue of unleashed water. In the Andes this surplus water ‘has enabled a gold rush downstream, contributing to the irrigation and cultivation of more than 100,000 acres of land since the 1980s’. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/world/americas/peru-climate-change.html)

In some areas the rapid ice melt has created a bonanza for farmers, but this will not last much longer. The parched Peruvian coast is already suffering from shortages of fresh water since the rhythm of natural glacial ice melt providing water to irrigate the land in a more predictable fashion has become a thing of the past.  Glaciers have turned into blackened rocks as the ice recedes. The poverty in Peru makes people desperate to access fresh water, plus the population of these Catholic people is still increasing. Many places in the world are increasingly seeing their fresh water supply drying up – some corporates like Nestle see this as a business opportunity and are much reviled for that belief (see https://www.zmescience.com/science/nestle-company-pollution-children/)

Mining in Peru is a major activity with international companies working with the Peruvian government and achieving higher output than Mexico for lead, zinc, phosphate, gold, silver,copper – but no responsible plan seems forthcoming to provide a reliable fresh water supply for the local populations – see http://denjustpeace.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Peru-Conga-REM-Rept-English-March-84.pdf

Back in 1945, the impact of ice melt was illustrated vividly in a tragic happening. The story is told by Hugh Thomson who tells us of his travels searching for Ancient Peru, in his vividly expressed book, A Sacred Landscape, 2006.

A tragedy hit a tiny place, difficult to reach by road at that time, a place sited at the confluence of two rivers, high up at 10,000 ft. The place is called Chavín. It lies between the coast and the Amazon, and the Andes in both up and down directions. The ‘white mountains’ of Cordillera Blanca displayed huge amounts of snow and glaciation back in 1945, and for millennia before that.

Pilgrims and travellers have learned that Chavín de Huantar is the wellspring of Andean culture, which lay unnoticed until Julio C. Tello arrived here in 1919. It is now known that the place not only pre-dates the Incas, but also the Machu Picchu, built between 1200 and 200 BC. But in 1919 this was not known; Tello put it on the map. He excavated and located massive jaguar heads on the side of the main temple, the so-called Castillo. With the help of a lively five year old local boy, Marino Gonzalez, he was able to explore the interior of the temple, a maze of tunnels and passageways, full of imposing sculptures. The little boy went happily down ventilation shafts and entrances to ascertain how to clear them. Tello worked repairing the site over 25 years with the help of his assistant, Marino, who learned from the great man. When he grew up he took over the dedicated work Tello had begun, and continued until he died aged 83 years.

Peru was now of greater interest to other archaeologists and Tello hoped tourists would visit Chavín and that would inspire new roads to be built leading there and improve the economy for those peasants living in the town. 

By 1945, Tello was 65 and living now in Lima. He suggested the prefect of the area, who lived in Huarez, visit with a view to opening Chavin to tourism and he accepted. He took a party of people, including his 18 year old daughter, who was keen to become an archaeologist one day. Marino was supposed to meet the party, but he slept in and missed the bus taking them.

They arrived on 17 January, 1945. The party descended into the darkened labrynthine galleries that honeycomb the temple. Once inside, they heard a distant roar. After making their way through the narrow passageways, they surfaced back to the temple top.

Unknown to them, as they experienced the wonders of the temple, a block of ice had fallen from a glacier into a lake high above them, blocking it temporarily. Gradually as the water rose it flowed over the block of ice and that was when the roar of unleashed water was heard. The floodwaters triggered a landslide, and mud and rocks were carried with the floodwaters and submerged the visiting party and much of the south west of the town was destroyed. It was a horrible death for those caught up in it, some dying slowly in the mud where no one could reach them.

But Marino worked with others to restore the temple and new areas were also unearthed to add to the fascination of the place. To see a gallery of the Chavín sculptures and discoveries over recent years, see https://web.stanford.edu/~johnrick/chavin_wrap/chavin/galleries4.html

Image of ruins of the Castle or Castillo


Image of reconstruction of the Temple and its environs

The Castillo presented as an impregnable castle with seemingly no entrance. Hugh Thomson used the now known entrance at the ‘blind side’ along a narrow strip between the ancient ruins and the river to describe the ruin he visited in the early 2000s.

Image of a granite sculpture of a fearsome entity within the bowels of the temple.

Andean existence has been dogged by extremes of weather, and water is both welcome for irrigating the parched deserts areas but also terrifying when flooding waters caused by torrential rain or, as described above, disasters occur due to melting glaciers, bringing landslides and death to all in their path. 

The Ancient Andeans allowed those amongst them with confidence to tackle the frightening spirits who wielded such forces causing death and devastation.

These were their priests, who practised shamanism. The spiritual forces were part animal, metamorphing into human and other creatures, forming their fearful bodies. 

Fresh water plays such a vital role in our struggle to survive that we must work to keep it safe and available for all of us. We can understand how the people of Chavín expected their priests to negotiate just enough, but not catastrophic amounts, of fresh water.

In Peru, the ingenious irrigation by terracing the slopes was developed when early settlers worked out sympathetic natural systems which promoted a variety of crop production to satisfy the food supply of increasingly settled populations. Working with nature through observation of river courses and respecting flood plains was something not of academic interest but central to successful farming. 


The experience of El Niño could teach how something can happen on an annual basis and be controlled for, but that the behaviour of this event can become erratic, violent and overwhelming. Thus, through the times when it seemed the forces which caused this event were more predictable, it is understandable to believe this power has negotiated a relatively manageable annual event. The early Andean culture of high priests carrying out the negotiation is found in many cultures across the world. But too severe an event, the powers must be displeased and priests might lose credibility and then perhaps to save their skin, they might suggest human sacrifice. Healthy children and llamas were shockingly sacrificed and their remains have recently been located in Peru. This happened only 550 years go (see https://www.livescience.com/62434-massive-child-sacrifice-ancient-peru.html). This may have been done in a desperate bid to appease the mighty El Niño forces. Or, like Canute thinking he can command the elements,  it may be that present day opinion leaders choose to turn a blind eye and deny climate change is even happening.

The theatre of shamanism is powerful and is still practised today. It appears to involve the art of confronting the focus of fear rather than cowering before it. 

The Chavín priests would put themselves in trances by using coca leaves, mescaline from San Pedro cacti, certain mushrooms and a snuff made from powdered anadenanthera seeds. These latter named seeds contain DMT (dimethyltryptamine) which requires a preparation of mescaline prior to the hard hitting DMT. The resulting contortions, growls and grimaces exhibited by the user are typically understood by Amazon cultures as feline transformation. This is usually a solitary experience making the subject hunch in a ball, eyes closed, absorbed in an interior world.

Image of snuff receptacle


Image of cacti drink vessel


The temple’s labrynthine styling was tailored for this solitary experience where priests could be alone and battle the spirits one on one. But they could also use incense to create smoke atop the temple, and appear to those far below them whilst musical sounds from singers and shell trumpets accompanied their awesome appearance. This theatre was essential to persuade the villagers that they truly had battled on their behalf. The strong jaguar sculpted heads on the side of the temple invoke the power of frightening spirits which must be fought and subdued with negotiation.

Shamanism, to me, is one of the most logical and powerful original belief systems since it places evolving human existence in a relationship with Nature. Ghengis Khan was a practising shaman when he first led his armies. Ashkenazic Jews likely originated from the Ashina elite and other Khazar clans, who converted from Shamanism to Judaism.

To act without sensitivity, respect and humility to the greater forces which retain the balance of this Planet is to sign our own death warrant. We’ve been busy doing that for too long.

The Chavín priest warriors used hallucinogenic drugs to enter the world of Natural forces, taking these powers on as warriors doing battle, using cunning and mastery; it must have seemed the pinnacle of human relations with the daunting greatness holding the fate of tiny humans. In this way, once these solitary battles had been fought, the priests could believe they could take on fellow humans when they chose, using their inner powers gained from the battles of the interior world. This gave Ghengis Khan massive self belief to impress his people to the extent he remains a legend today due to his conquering successes creating the largest empire ever to exist in this world.

The priests took it upon themselves to battle the gods who could bring on tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, powerful storms and seemingly endless rains or continually drying winds. (Peru is in a highly seismic zone – see https://earthquaketrack.com/p/peru/recent)

Before these Andean cultures arose, the tribes had previously lived for millennia along the coast of the Pacific, and at some point moved toward the mountains and harsh landscapes.

Matthew Des Lauriers, an archaeologist at California State University in Northridge, has found simple stone tools, flakes like razors, used, no doubt, to cut open mollusc shells, on Cedros Island off Baja California. The coastal human tribes are thought to have been in existence at least 13,000 years ago. They had travelled the Pacific coast and were adept at surviving using simple methods.

Another coastal site has been discovered by Tom Dillehay, an archaeologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He led a study digging down into a mound at Hueca Prieta. This is one of the oldest sites in the Americas, at around 15,000 years old. There he found artefacts of human community life, with similar flake stone tools as were found on Cedros Island.

Creatures encountered at these coastal sites feature in the beautifully carved sculptures, paintings and pot designs found more inland up in the mountainous areas of the Andes, such as Chavín. These populations in their thousands grew out of the coastal tribes. They carried with them the strong awareness of spirits in the form of animals of the sea and land continuing down through millennia in their art and oral tradition.

If you look at http://valhalladsp.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/picture-21.png we can see the importance of the shell trumpets, brought from the coast to the mountains, to play ceremoniously to add to the imposing theatre the priests engaged in on behalf of their people. This was not fake news. It was confronting their fears in the only way they knew how, just as we all try to will something to happen, such as to make a war stop, to save a child buried in rubble, to rescue young children trapped in a cave. Who can say that our joint will cannot achieve success?  

But we must also ‘be careful what we wish for’; if we take what we don’t need at the expense of the planet or fellow humans we are more likely to displease the forces out there and suffer the consequences.

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Salts: global trade and mining

Salts are mined to meet the need of humans, and these needs are many. Phosphates, for example, are needed by present day intensive farming for fertiliser for quality crops and animal feeds which contain minerals ‘essential’ for the development of healthy animals. 

Limestones and mudstones are common phosphate-bearing rocks. Phosphate rich sedimentary rocks can occur in dark brown to black beds, ranging from centimeter-sized laminae to beds that are several meters thick.

We have mined minerals over hundreds of years, but the resources are running low, and that presents a problem for future industrial scale farming.

Industrial models search for new trading partners, new customers, diversification of products and a relentless year on year growth expectation. This model has been shaped since trade began expanding for the various empires which have existed, beginning with the largest which was initiated by the Mongolian Khan, Ghengis.

Image of Ghengis Khan

 (See my early blog https://borderslynn.com/2017/07/01/trade-and-destruction/)

Human interaction with the planet to exploit its generous abundance began in a humble way and grew to the present day ‘profit first, planet second’ attitude as we take out more than can be replenished. 

We are running short of, what we humans have identified, as ‘essential’ minerals to aid our future existence. We are now considering plundering other planets within our universe, or trying to harness passing meteorites to explore their mineral content.

The food industry is said to be so huge in response to world populations. There are fewer farmers but billions of machines now doing the work, all part of a massive industrial complex. A human can work sympathetically with Nature, but machines are not employed to be used in such a way.

An example of the present day reasoning by investors to continue to guarantee their choice of mining for such minerals as phosphates is outlined here, an enlightening read:

https://www.openpr.com/news/1333145/Yara-International-PotashCorp-Profied-in-Feed-Phosphate-Market-Forecast-2018-2024-Top-Players-EuroChem-PhosAgro-AG-The-Mosaic-Company.html

The land degradation caused by mining, and in this case, for phosphates, on this planet is symbolically demonstrated on Nauru, in the Pacific, located in Oceania, near Australia. This island was formerly known as Pleasant Island.

I have written about the Pacific Islands in various previous blogs and I have highlighted the threatening sea level rises which they face in the near future. But before this was a known problem, the beauty of Pleasant Island, now Republic of Nauru, was to be destroyed by phosphate mining.

Nauru was one of three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean. The others were Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia. 

Phosphate mining in the central plateau has left a barren terrain of jagged limestone pinnacles up to 15 m (49 ft) high. Mining has stripped and devastated about 80% of Nauru’s land area, and has also affected the surrounding Exclusive Economic Zone; 40% of marine life is estimated to have been killed by silt and phosphate runoff.

The mining began in 1906 and never stopped. Even today, though it was thought all phosphate was mined out, a second layer beneath the first has been found and even that is being dug out. The island is an ugly mass of mining trenches. This relentless attack on this small island,  scarring and robbing it of its previous beauty and sustainability, is symbolic of what we humans are doing to the entire planet.

There is a gallery of pictures of Nauru with its indigenous inhabitants living there before the mining became extensive at http://www.janeresture.com/nauru_picture_gallery/index.htm

Here one of the pictures depicts the children and missionary teachers who arrived earlier to convert the population to Christianty and teaching English.


Below, the images as a result of mining on the tiny island:

Paradise lost image:


Trucks and mining activity image:

And the sadness and travesties continue on this speck in the Pacific Ocean. I’ve put a link to a 2016 Guardian article below to illustrate how humans continue to increase harm upon one another, and on Nauru, a helpless resident population wanting only to remain on their island. Industry justifies continuing their plunder to supply all of us with ‘essentials’. Then read how cynically governments/corporates utilise so called ‘reparation funds’, meant to make life more bearable on this island, yet use the funds to build ‘correction facilities’ for stranded refugees who had been bound from their lands of misery in the futile hope of a new life in Australia.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/10/a-short-history-of-nauru-australias-dumping-ground-for-refugees

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