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Hindu Notes from General Studies-01

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Excavations in Kutch shed light on early Harappan custom

News

  • Archaeological excavations undertaken by a group of researchers in Kutch (Gujarat) have shed light on the custom and burial rituals that were prevalent during the early Harappan phase.

Beyond News

  • The 47-member team, which camped in Khatiya village of Kutch for a month-and-a-half, unearthed several skeletal remains from a cemetery-like burial site where 26 graves out of the nearly 300-odd ones were excavated.
  • The rectangular graves, each of varying dimensions and assembled using stones, contained skeletons that were placed in a specific manner. They were oriented east-west with the heads positioned on the eastern side.
  • Next to the legs on the western side, the archaeologists found earthen pots and pottery shards and other artefacts, including conch-shell bangles, beads made of stones and terracotta, numerous lithic tools and grinding stones.
  • While the burial of belongings next to the corpse could possibly suggest the prevalence of the concept of afterlife, much study was required before we could arrive at any such conclusions.
  • Of the 26 graves that were excavated, the biggest was 6.9 metres long and the smallest 1.2 metres long. The skeletal remains of human beings in most of them were found to be disintegrated. The presence of animal skeletons along with those of humans were also recorded in a few graves.
  • Researchers found the mode of burial to be non-uniform. Instances of primary burial and secondary burial (when the remains of the primary burial are exhumed and moved to another grave) were found. The remains of those who were possibly cremated were also found in a few graves.
  • The excavation team managed to recover a complete human skeleton, which was later placed in a box structure made of plaster of Paris.
  • The recovered skeleton and artefacts will be kept for display at the museum of the Kerala University’s Archaeology Department. The other skeletal remains will be sent to various laboratories to run tests to understand the age, gender, circumstances that could have led to the death and the salient features of the respective DNA.

Lending credence to the trade network that could have existed during the early phase of the Harappan civilisation from 3300 BCE to 2600 BCE, the researchers claimed that the mud pots bore similarities with those that were unearthed from other Harappan sites in Kot Diji, Amri and Nal in Pakistan, Nagwada, Santhali, Moti Pipli and Ranod in North Gujarat, and Surkotada and Dhaneti in Kutch.

Hindu Notes from General Studies-02

Pak. assured U.S. that it will deal ‘firmly’ with terrorists: Bolton

News

  • Pakistan has assured the U.S. that it would deal “firmly” with all terrorists operating from the country, and take steps to de-escalate tensions with India.

Beyond News

  • The assurance was given by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a phone call, on a day when Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale called on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo here and discussed the need to bringing those responsible for the Pulwama attack to justice and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil.
  • The FM assured me that Pakistan would deal firmly with all terrorists and will continue steps to de-escalate tensions with India.
  • Tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish- e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Plastic in focus at UN environment forum

News

  • Countries from around the world set their sights on a pivotal deal to curb plastic waste, a source of long-term pollution and worsening contamination of the ocean’s food chain.

Beyond News

  • Thousands of delegates, business leaders and campaigners are in Nairobi for the five-day UN Environment Assembly, the top annual forum on the planet’s environmental crisis.
  • The UN wants individual countries to sign up to “significantly” reduce plastic production, including a phasing out of single-use plastics by 2030 a goal inspired by the 2015 Paris Agreement on voluntary reductions of carbon emissions.
  • In the field of (plastic) pollution we don’t have such agreements. This is the first time to convince member states to make international commitments.”
  • A landmark report due to be out this week is expected to ram home the warning of the threat to ecosystems from rampant plastic and chemical waste.
  • The world currently produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastics annually, and there are at least five trillion plastic pieces floating in our oceans. Microplastics have been found in the deepest sea trenches and high up the earth’s tallest peaks, and plastic consumption is growing year-on-year.
  • The Nairobi meeting comes against the backdrop of series of UN reports outlining in stark terms the damage mankind is doing to the planet, much of it due to reckless consumption.
  • The cost of ecosystems loss through agriculture, deforestation and pollution was a much as $20 trillion since 1995.
  • The One Planet Summit will bring together heads of State, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta to lend political clout to the process.

Hindu Notes from General Studies-03

India’s biodiversity-rich zones also ‘hotspots’ of human impacts

News

  • Human impacts on species occur across 84% of the earth’s surface, finds a study.
  • Southeast Asian tropical forests including India’s biodiversity-rich Western Ghats, Himalaya and the north-east also fall in this category; India ranks 16th in such human impacts, with 35 species impacted on average.

Findings

  • A team of scientists found this when they mapped the distribution of eight human activities including hunting and conversion of natural habitats for agriculture in areas occupied by 5,457 threatened birds, mammals and amphibians worldwide.
  • Using sources, including the recently-updated Human Footprint data, they found that a staggering 1,237 species are impacted by threats in more than 90% of their habitat; 395 species are affected by threats across their entire range. While the impact of roads is highest (affecting 72% of terrestrial areas), crop lands affect the highest number of threatened species: 3,834.
  • Malaysia ranks first among the countries with the highest number of impacted species (125). India ranks 16th (35 threatened species affected on average). Southeast Asian tropical forests including those in India’s Western Ghats, Himalaya and north-east are among the ‘hotspots’ of threatened species.
  • For instance, the average number of species impacted in the South Western Ghats montane rainforests is 60 and in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, 53. The maps show that roads and croplands are extensive in India and conversion of habitat for such activities could be a main threat.
  • However, these very areas are also ‘cool-spots’ (the world’s last refuges where high numbers of threatened species still persist). Cool-spots could be the result of protection or because of intact habitat that has not been cleared yet.
  • India still has crucial refuges that need protecting. Identifying such areas could aid conservation and development planning for countries. However, these refugia do not necessarily have to be off-limits to human development, just free of the actions that directly threaten species there.
  • With India having the world’s second largest road network, they really need to plan for development that keeps wildlife conservation as a primary goal in biodiversity-rich areas. Similarly, if wildlife-friendly cropping patterns lead to conservation of wildlife, that would be a victory too. For instance, agricultural crops such as pulses have supported the conservation of the critically endangered great Indian bustard.

Wood snake, last seen in 1878, rediscovered by scientists

News

  • A species of wood snake that wasn’t seen for 140 years has resurfaced in a survey conducted by scientists in the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary. The species, endemic to the Meghamalai forests and the Periyar Tiger Reserve landscape, was recently rediscovered.

Findings

  • The snake is a ‘point endemic’ (found only in Meghamalai). It was found in the same region that Colonel Beddome alluded to, and the morphological characters match with his specimen.
  • The snake discovered was 235 mm long and uniformly dark brown.
  • The local population of wood snakes was last spotted and recorded by British military officer and naturalist Colonel Richard Henry Beddome in 1878, who went on to describe it as a new species, Xylophis indicus.
  • The documentation of the existence of this species will aid in both the management and conservation of biodiversity in this region.
  • This discovery is a sign that the biodiversity in this area should be protected. Meghamalai has a range of snakes, butterflies and ants, apart from the large mammals that we know of. Establishing a tiger reserve here will ensure that there is proper protection of this landscape.It will also help in the restoration of the Vaigai river.

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