Ancient toolmakers’ fiery secret

first_imgHeat-treated silcrete (right) anduntreated silcrete (left).(Image: Kyle Brown, SACP4) MEDIA CONTACTS • Lynne CableDepartment of Archaeology, UCT+27 21 650 2353• Curtis MareanInstitute of Human Origins, ASU+1 480 727 6580 USEFUL LINKS• SACP4• Science• University of Cape Town• Institute of Human Origins, ArizonaState UniversityJanine ErasmusNew evidence has emerged that 72 000 years ago ancient Southern Africans used pyrotechnology, or the controlled use of fire, to make stone tools.This pushes back the earliest signs of heat treatment by at least 45 000 years and signals a breakthrough in human evolution, researchers say.The results of research carried out by an international team of scientists from the universities of Arizona, Liverpool, New South Wales, Bordeaux, Wollongong, and Cape Town were published in the journal Science in mid-August 2009.Studies were carried out at Pinnacle Point, a sea cave in the cliffs near Mossel Bay on South Africa’s southern Cape coast. Signs of occupation show that the first inhabitants arrived at the site 164 000 years ago.Kyle Brown, an archaeology doctorate student at Cape Town University whose research focuses on experimentally replicating ancient tools, was the study leader and the paper’s chief author.Brown is also a director at the South African Coast Paleoclimate, Paleoenvironment, Paleoecology, Paleoanthropology Project (SACP4), located at Pinnacle Point.Tool makingOver the course of his research, Brown noticed that many ancient arrowheads and other implements found at the site were made of silcrete, a conglomerate of gravel and sand cemented by silica.Ancient inhabitants of the time used the technique of flaking, or hitting one piece of rock with another to chip off sharp flakes, to make spearheads or meat-cutting implements. The smaller of the two pieces so produced is the flake, while the larger one is the core. The core may be used again to produce more flakes until it is completely reduced.Wishing to reproduce the tools, the researchers tried to locate the silcrete’s source but, said Brown, they could not find any that matched the fine-grained, reddish implements they found at the site.The idea of heat treatment was sparked by their fortunate discovery of a large piece of silcrete, almost 10cm in diameter, embedded in ash.This chunk, said Brown, looked “like it had been accidentally lost in a fire pit”. Then the idea of heat treatment occurred, and the team began to test the silcrete in fires, burying stones in the sand and building a fire on top, keeping it going for hours at a time.After some experimentation, according to the Science report, they were able to make exact replicas of the glossy, reddish implements found in the Pinnacle Point cave.But heat-treated tools were no accident. It took the team a long time to find the right recipe, which called for between 20kg and 40kg of hardwood, and a firing time of around 30 hours with the stone item buried under the coals. It took a lot of planning for ancient people to successfully complete this process, said Brown.Further tests were needed to substantiate the theory. These included archaeomagnetic analysis, which works on the fact that heating changes the stone’s magnetic polarity; optically stimulated luminescence dating, which measures the time since material containing crystalline structures was heated or exposed to sunlight; and maximum gloss, which measures reflectance of the surface.Evolutionary breakthroughThe research team views the development of controlled heat treatment as a breakthrough in human evolution.Heat treatment is a behaviour traditionally associated with the Upper Palaeolithic epoch (45 000 – 10 000 years ago), but Pinnacle Point features only a large Middle Palaeolithic (300 000 – 30 000 years ago) occupation. The Palaeolithic era is distinguished by the development of the first stone tools.Skilfully using heat to modify stone required a cognitive link between improved flaking qualities and other changes in the material, and fire. This could indicate that complex thinking may have developed earlier than previously thought.“These early modern humans commanded fire in a nuanced and sophisticated manner,” said Brown. “This is the beginnings of fire and engineering, the origins of pyrotechnology, and the bridge to more recent ceramic and metal technology.”Even more exciting are indications that heat treatment could have begun at Pinnacle Point at the same time that people moved in – that is, 164 000 years ago.According to the study, the earliest signs of heat treatment of stone were previously seen in Europe, and no later than 25 000 years ago.“We push this back at least 45 000 years,” said project director and co-author Curtis Marean, a paleoanthropologist with Arizona University’s Institute of Human Origins in the US, “and perhaps 139 000 years, and place it on the southern tip of Africa at Pinnacle Point.”Other significant behaviours discovered at Pinnacle Point include the harvesting of shellfish for food, and the use of ochre pigment for personal adornment.The paper concludes that such an early expression of cognitive ability in technology gives further impetus to the theory that the southern tip of Africa is the origin of modern humans’ genetic lineage.Modern humans appeared between 100 000 and 200 000 years ago in Africa, leaving the continent about 50 000 years ago for the cooler climates of Europe and Asia. The Neanderthals living there at the time died out eventually, leaving modern humans to populate the northern and southern continents.Marean said their discovery provides a reasonable explanation for the rapid spread of modern humans over their new domain. “They were masters of fire and heat and stone, a crucial advantage as these tropical people penetrated the cold lands of the Neanderthal.”Marean goes on to describe the Pinnacle Point team as a leader in revealing the process of how humans developed into the species they are today.last_img read more

Black luxury property ownership grows

first_img15 March 2013Growth of black owners in the South African property market has more than doubled in the last 10 years, according to the 2013 Property Report by property data provider Lightstone.The report found that this change had yet to be reflected in the rest of the property market.“Despite this, it is interesting to note that black ownership in the luxury property market – properties valued at R1.5-million or more – has more than doubled to 7.8% from 3.3%,” managing director of Lightstone, Andrew Watt, said in a statement.“This is clearly attributable to the increasing spending power of the middle- to upper-income black consumer; however it should be noted that this originates from a small base where the volumes remain marginal.”Watt also said that South African property ownership patterns generally had shifted over the years.“Looking at the market as a whole across all races, it is interesting to note that female-only ownership has increased over the last 10 years – even slightly outstripping male-only ownership,” he said.“As a result, the market is now fairly evenly divided between female-only, male-only and properties co-owned by both genders.”According to the report, female-only growth is highest in the black population; if the affordable/township market is excluded, however, black female-only ownership is in line with trends in the white community.“The South African property market has been through a difficult period over the last five years, but it is heartening to see that even with the introduction of the National Credit Act and more stringent lending conditions, we are continuing to see transformation in the owned-property market,” Watt said.SAinfo reporterlast_img read more

How to Adapt Your Feature Idea Into a Short Film

first_imgFilmmakers are often faced with the challenge of reworking a feature film screenplay into a short film. Here’s the best way to go about it.Top image from New York Film AcademyOne of the most common approaches to feature film development today involves writing a feature length screenplay and then shooting a short film based around it. The idea behind this approach is that the short film will act as a proof of concept and essentially show potential collaborators what the director/producer team is able to do stylistically, even on a small scale.Image from ShutterstockAlthough many filmmakers seem to understand the importance of adapting their feature length material into a short, many of them aren’t able to actually execute on it in an effective way. The reason being that features and shorts are in some ways completely different art forms, and an idea that works well as a feature doesn’t always work as well as a short film… Or vice versa.Throughout this post, I’m going to explore a few tips for improving your ability to translate your feature material into short form content.1. Tell a small story within the greater story.Image from IMDbThe optimal length for most short films is 10 minutes, which means you have very little time to tell a complex story or explore a lot of character detail. The number one mistake that filmmakers make when it comes to adapting their material, is trying to cram way too much information into a ten minute short. Having just developed a feature length screenplay idea, many filmmakers feel very close to their material and it’s hard for them to leave out important moments, characters, or ideas from the short version of their story. But the reality is that you need to lose 90% of your feature in order to make an effective short.Rather than thinking of how you can trim down your 110 page script into 10 pages, think about one of the small stories that you can tell within the larger story at play. Maybe you want to tackle the catalyst moment from the first act, or show the first time that two characters meet. You might even want to shoot a short prequel that would take place before the first scene of the film. As long as the slice of the story that you are telling can be executed in ten pages or less, you’re headed in the right direction. But the second that it feels like you are forcing a bigger story onto the page, it’s time to rethink your idea.2. Focus on character.Image from New York Film AcademyAlthough you might not be able to explore the extent of your feature idea in a short, you can explore your characters very deeply. Characterization and character in general can be conveyed far more quickly and effectively than plot through the use of powerful imagery and short concise visual scenes. You should be taking advantage of that when making any short film (but especially one based around a feature), because you are trying to show potential investors, collaborators, actors, etc. what the characters are made of.So rather than focusing too heavily on plot, ask yourself what short film you can make that will give insight into who the lead character of your story is on a fundamental level, and everything else will fall into place.3. Show off your style.Image from New York Film AcademyOne of the best opportunities that you have as a filmmaker is your ability to show off your personal and artistic style in a short film. In many cases, this is far more important than plot (at least in the context of a proof of concept), and can benefit your overall process immensely. Chances are, if you’re chatting with development executives, producers, talent, or anyone else that you might want to involve on your film, above all else they want to understand your style and abilities. Story is always important, don’t get me wrong — but they will probably already know the feature length story you want to tell to an extent, and may have already read your screenplay. The short film gives you an opportunity to really show them what you’re made of and let them start to visualize how your script will translate to the screen.4. Be careful about adapting a single scene.Image from Osoyoos TimesThe most common solution that filmmakers come to when adapting feature length material is shooting a single scene from their film. Rather than creating a short film that can stand on it’s own, filmmakers will often pick one of their favorite scenes from the screenplay and just go out and shoot it. There may be some instances where this can work well, but in general I highly advise against doing this.The truth is that any scene is part of a greater sequence, and that sequence is part of an act which has its own arc, and is part of the greater story as a whole. For that reason, most scenes don’t have a concrete beginning, middle, and end to them in the same way that a sequence or act would in a film, and therefore don’t translate that well as is to the short format. They might be fun to shoot and a good experience for your actors, but the goal of really representing your film as a whole can get lost when going down this path.Final ThoughtsShort films are challenging enough to create as it is, but the process is even more arduous when you’re adapting feature material. Almost every filmmaker at one point or another falls into the trap of attempting to tell a story that is way too big for a short format. The end result always suffers from excessive dialogue and exposition, unfocused scenes, and a general lack of style and tone.Shorts should never be thought of as an abbreviated version of their feature counterparts, but rather as supplementary material to them. You want to be able to approach collaborators with your feature script and a short film that gives a glimpse into the style, character, and tone of the project. But at the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm the viewer with so much information that it turns them off of your project entirely.Want some more insight into screenwriting and filmmaking? Check out these posts from PremiumBeat.8 Screenwriting Tips for the Emerging WriterWriting The Hollywood Blockbuster – Screenwriting MasterclassTips for Success: Adapting a Novel Into a ScreenplayDo you have any experience adapting feature films into short films? How did it work out for you? Tell us in the comments below.last_img read more

Ex-wife of NBA star Lorenzen Wright charged with murder in his death

first_imgBasketball Authorities said on Saturday the ex-wife of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright has been charged with first-degree murder in his death more than seven years ago.Memphis police director Michael Rallings said Sherra Wright had been charged in the death of her ex-husband, a Memphis native who played for five teams over 13 seasons as a forward and center.Police in Riverside County, California, arrested Sherra Wright on Friday night on a fugitive from justice warrant, online records showed. Wright’s decomposing body was found in suburban Memphis on 28 July 2010 – 10 days after the 34-year-old was reported missing. He had been shot multiple times. The seven-year investigation into his death has been one of the Memphis police department’s most high-profile unsolved cases. Billy R Turner was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in Wright’s death on 5 December. He has pleaded not guilty. Media reports have said Turner, a landscaper, and Sherra Wright attended the same church. Rallings would not discuss the connection between Turner and Wright, but said police were confident they knew each other. A release from the Shelby County district attorney’s office said Turner and Sherra Wright conspired to kill Lorenzen Wright. Sherra Wright was scheduled to appear in court on Monday in California. Officials were not certain when she would be returned to Memphis. The DA’s office said the first attempt at killing Wright occurred between April and July 2010 and involved Turner traveling to Wright’s home near Atlanta. The indictment said Sherra Wright and Turner acquired firearms and recruited a co-conspirator, who was not named. Rallings said police were looking at other people in the investigation. Police said last month that they had found a gun used in the killing in a lake near Walnut, Mississippi, about 75 miles east of Memphis. “The weapon was key,” Rallings said, adding that police were looking at other people in the investigation. Sherra Wright received $1m from her ex-husband’s life insurance policy. She agreed to a settlement in 2014 in a court dispute over how she spent the insurance money meant to benefit their six children, the Commercial Appeal has reported. Born and raised in Memphis, Lorenzen Wright was a fan favorite thanks to his charity work with youth and his father’s involvement as a coach in summer leagues. He played for the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis GrizzliesFormer NBA players and friends including Anfernee Hardaway and Elliot Perry attended a memorial service for Wright in the days after his body was found. Sherra Wright spoke to police then. According to an affidavit, she told police she saw Lorenzen Wright leave her home carrying money and a box of drugs on 18 July 2010, as he left her home. Before he left, Sherra Wright said, she overheard her ex-husband on the telephone telling someone that he was going to “flip something for $110,000”, the document said. Sherra Wright said Lorenzen Wright left her home in a car with a person she could not identify. The affidavit said Sherra Wright gave the statements to police in the Memphis suburb of Collierville, where she lives, on 27 July – nine days after he left her house for the last time. In the early morning of 19 July, a police dispatcher in the suburb of Germantown received a call from Wright’s cellphone. Dispatchers acknowledged they heard noises like gunshots before the call was dropped. Dispatchers said they did not alert patrol officers or commanders because they could not confirm the call came from their jurisdiction. They did not send a patrol officer or relay the information to Memphis police until days later. Wright’s mother filed a missing-person report with Collierville police on 22 July 2010. Authorities in Collierville were accused of dragging their feet in the days after the report was filed, and an apparent lack of communication kept authorities from linking the 911 call to the missing-person report. Wright’s body was found in a field near some woods at the height of summer, complicating the investigation because evidence had likely deteriorated in the heat. An autopsy report showed bullet fragments were lodged in Wright’s skull, chest and right forearm. This article was amended on 18 December 2017 to add the monetary figure Sherra Wright received from Lorenzen Wright’s life insurance policy. Share on Facebook US crime Tennessee Memphis Since you’re here… NBA Share on LinkedIn US sports Reuse this content … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on Messenger Share on Twitter Share on WhatsApp Support The Guardian Share via Email Topics Share on Pinterestlast_img read more