Syltholm Woman: A Late Mesolithic Individual with Brown Skin and Blue Eyes

Britain’s Cheddar Man has gotten company: a DNA analysis of remnants left in a wad of chewed birch pitch from 5,700 years ago in Denmark showed that the chewer was a woman and likely had dark skin, dark brown hair, and blue eyes.

BBC Syltholm Individual Artists Reconstruction

The pitch was found at Syltholm, a Late Mesolithic / Early Neolithic site, on the southern coast of Lolland island, Denmark. Apart from the human DNA, it contained also microbial DNA (from the chewer’s oral microbiome) as well as plant and animal DNA potentially from a recent meal.

Nature Jensen et al Syltholm Birch Pitch Map
Denmark’s coastline 6,000 years ago and the findsite of the chewed birch pitch at Syltholm on Lolland

Like the Cheddar Man, the Syltholm individual was genetically more closely related to western hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than hunter-gatherers from central Scandinavia. It’s even possible that some hunter-gatherer groups genetically distinct from Neolithic farming communities survived for much longer than previously assumed, says the study.

The results of the DNA sequencing by Theis Jensen et al. was published in Nature Communications.

It’s very exciting to be able to compare data from DNA analyses with archaeology; maybe one day we can also combine linguistic research to try to tease out even more details about our ancient ancestry.

My only complaint is that the process is so slow—think of how much more we could do in an entirely peaceful world, say, with no military budgets to hog the funding for humanities. (Oh, hey—there might be a bit more of a Star Trek fan in me than I previously thought.) It’s a good time to be an early history geek anyway. 🙂

Found via BBC.

Images: Artist’s reconstruction by Tom Björklund via BBC. Map of Denmark with birch pitch findsite by Jensen et al. via Nature Communications.

First Trailer for Wonder Woman 1984

Good grief, there’s basically a slew of movie trailers out! Just the latest is for Wonder Woman 1984:

Wonder Woman 1984 | Official Trailer by DC on YouTube

Not bad, huh? When I heard the sequel was going to be set in the 1980s, I cringed (I’ve been there once; don’t want a repeat, thank you). But this is actually looking promising—many of the painful bits I remember are hidden away and the period even looks mildly innocuous.

But but but! Chris Pine returns as Steve Trevor?!? I get that this is a superhero movie, but to pretend they can supposedly return people from the dead with 1980s tech? C’mon. Srsly. I don’t think I can suspend my disbelief that much. (Because, if it was mythical Amazon or god tech bringing people back, surely they also would’ve mentioned it in the original and brought back Antiope? Unless they’re also doing that in this film?!? Otherwise it really stinks of a bad case of Deus ex Machina.)

Despite its problems, overall I did like the first WW. Apart from the era and the implausible return of the obligatory heartthrob, I have fairly high hopes of the sequel, too. And apart from Patty Jenkins directing, she also co-wrote the screenplay along with Geoff Johns and Cave Callaham; I’ve seen some of their work and thought it was at least decent. Also, director of photography Matthew Jensen makes a return; along with the first WW, I’ve seen his work in Game of Thrones, CSI, and the 2015 reboot of Fantastic Four, and liked it. Finally, to borrow a line from a friend: “Also they had me at Blue Monday so whatever.” 🙂

According to IMDB, WW84 is expected on June 05, 2020.

Oh, yeah; 2020 is gonna be a pretty good movie year for us!

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Visual Inspiration: Cayuga Duck

The cayuga duck is a breed known for its black to metallic green plumage, and—just like the black squirrels in NYC—to me they look absolutely marvellous!

Flickr Simon Redwood Cayuga Duck

There seems to be disagreement over the breed’s origin, but according to Wikipedia they were popularized around the Finger Lakes region (Cayuga being one) of the state of New York.

Flickr Dana Kee Cayuga Duck

Looking cayugas up also taught me that drake is the English word for a male duck. Live and learn!

Found via Good Stuff Happened Today on Tumblr.

Images via Flickr: side profile by Simon Redwood (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Frontal view by Dana Kee (CC BY 2.0).

The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?

Quotes: The Swan of Tuonela–You Must Have Seen That?

Like I mentioned, I’m reading all of the Hercule Poirot books in English for the first time. I’ve come across one reference to Finland already, but here’s another one:

“Affair with a dancer? But of course, my dear—he had an affair with Katrina. Katrina Samoushenka. You must have seen her? Oh, my dear—too delicious. Lovely technique. The Swan of Tuolela [sic]—you must have seen that?”

– Ambrose Vandel in The Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie (original emphasis)

The Swan of Tuonela is a tone poem about the realm of the dead by composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), and part of his Lemminkäinen Suite of Four Legends from the Kalevala. Considering his international fame at the beginning of the 20th century, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that he was mentioned in a book published in the 1930s, but I confess I was a bit startled.

Christie, Agatha. The Labors of Hercules. New York, NY: Berkley Books, 1986 [orig. published 1939], p. 62.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

World of Warcraft Views: Northern Lights-esque Sky from Drustvar

My 2020 started less than optimally with a cold / flu (jury’s still out). The good thing, though, about being awake at 5 a.m. and incapable of much else, is that flying around Azeroth at a time you don’t normally see shows a whole different side to things.

BfA Drustvar W Coast Early Morning Sky Lights2

This view is westwards from the northwestern shore of Drustvar. Very Northern Lights-esque and pretty!

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Visual Inspiration: Dark Nights in the North

During my years in the U.S., I’ve been asked more than one variation of the question “Is it always cold?” in Finland. (The short answer, of course, is No; the long answer is It depends on your definition, and when and where in Finland you are. It CAN be cold, but “always”, no.)

What southern people don’t usually realize is that it’s not the winter cold but the long dark that affects you most. (Of course, as a counterpoint, we do also have the magical light summer nights.)

Besides, the dark isn’t all bad. Away from light pollution there is the Milky Way on clear nights, and the further north you go, the higher are your chances of seeing northern lights. The latter can range from faint whisps to quite a light show.

For your potential worldbuilding inspiration, here is a small selection of Flickr photos roughly from around where I grew up, including travel destinations in the north.

Flickr Juho Holmi Ritosuo 2

Flickr Juho Holmi Northern Lights over Oulu

Flickr Timo Newton-Syms Northern Lights

Flickr Heikki Holstila Northern Lights II

For me, and indeed most other Finns, winter starts some time in November to December, depending on the temperatures each year. And even though technically I didn’t grow up with the polar night (when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon at all), it was quite dark especially before the snow fell—which is exactly why getting snow on the ground was such a relief.

Flickr pikkuanna Rantavehnää

Flickr pikkuanna Hiihtolatu

Images via Flickr: Ritosuo 2 and Northern Lights over Oulu by Juho Holmi (CC BY-ND 2.0). Northern Lights by Timo Newton-Syms (CC BY-SA 2.0). Northern Lights II by Heikki Holstila (CC BY-ND 2.0). Rantavehnää and Hiihtolatu by pikkuanna (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: A Wheelchair Scooter

Oh my goodness—I am so (so, so, so) overly excited about this wheelchair scooter called Pendel:

NimbleDearArchaeopteryx-mobile via Videopress.com

It’s by Huka, a Dutch company. And it’s SO. AWESOME! Just wheel your chair up the little ramp, stabilize the chair, secure your stuff, lift the ramp up behind you so it’ll form a low “back wall” for the wheelchair area, and go! Aaaaaa!

io9 Tom Hiddlestons Loki Whee Gif

In a sense, I’ve been ridiculously lucky so far—none of my chronic conditions have affected my mobility. I’ve never even sprained a limb, let alone broken one. I have been operated on, though, although fairly lightly and fairly late in my life. However, that one experience was enough to convince me of the absolute, unadulterated value of mobility aids of various kinds, including accessible building.

Twitter Adam Holisky Picard Full of Win

Which reminds me: I just cannot (can-NOT!) understand people who gripe and complain about having to get help, including walkers or wheelchairs or whatnot. Isn’t the tech there precisely to enable us to function more independently for longer, just like glasses?!? Aren’t we social animals who help one another???

Expanse Tedious

(Badly fitted or broken aids, on the other hand, are the worst and should be burninated. And don’t even get me started on how despicably some people choose to treat disabled people who are just out and about, minding their own business…! #JustAskDontGrab)

One thing’s for sure: whenever I get to the stage that I need various aids, mobility or otherwise, BRING ‘EM ON!

Twitter ItsJustJords Sitting Frog

Pendel found via Nicola Griffith.

Images: Tom Hiddleston as Loki whee gif via a comment on io9.com. Captain Picard Full of Win via Adam Holisky on Twitter. “Tedious” screenshot from The Expanse season 3, episode 4, “Reload”. Sitting frog via ItsJustJords on Twitter.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

The King’s Man Trailers

It’s about three months till the next Kingsman continuum movie comes out. This one is set back in time and dubbed The King’s Man, and, as usual, there are trailers:

The King’s Man | Official Teaser Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX on YouTube

The King’s Man | Official Trailer 2 [HD] | 20th Century FOX on YouTube

Based on the two preceding movies it looks like the franchise-wannabe doesn’t quite yet know how serious vs. tongue-in-cheek to go. The King’s Man appears more somber in tone, but we’ll see.

Find it in theares on February 14, 2020.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

First Black Widow Trailer

We’ve had to wait for a movie starring Black Widow for so long, a part of me won’t believe it’s going to happen. But! There’s a trailer now!

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow – Official Teaser Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

I have a hard time figuring out what the story will be from this clip, but sources talk about a character called Taskmaster. Otherwise, looks like we’ll see more European and Russian locations; I do enjoy both. Apparently the story is set between Civil War and Infinity War.

Filming apparently largely takes place in Budapest and elsewhere in Hungary, and Norway seems to stand in for Russia (I assume Siberia and/or other northern locations), which is nice—I’ve never been to Hungary nor the far Norwegian north, so it’ll be nice to gawk and keep my old-cat creature comforts at the same time.

I didn’t use to like Black Widow, but that may have more to do with how little Johansson was given to work with in the first phase of Marvel Cinematic Universe. Indeed, Nat’s road-trip-buddy mini movie with Captain America stuffed in the middle of Winter Soldier is one of my favorite MCU excerpts.

Black Widow is written by Ned Benson and directed by Cate Shortland, both of which are unknown to me. The new cast (i.e., outside the familiar MCU characters) is mostly unknown to me, too, so it will be a big—dare I say it the third time—unknown overall. I’m looking forward to it, though, and fervently hoping it’ll be as awesome as other MCU favourites of mine!

The movie opens May 01, 2020.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

WoW BfA: Flying Again!

My human mistweaver monk and Erik’s paladin were able to open flying for us early last month, and it’s glorious!

To celebrate, I got myself a Stormsong Coastwatcher mount.

WoW BfA Flying Stormsong Coastwatcher

Now we’re slooowwly working on the Honeyback Harvester mount. There aren’t enough fuzzy bee butts in my life yet!

Speaking of flying: I understand most of the arguments on both sides of the flying vs. no flying discussion. Personally, though, even if I strongly prefer to have flying, I think the current solution (introducing the Flight Master’s Whistle with a short cooldown once you hit level cap) works fine. I’m glad they added and kept it.

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.