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Ligabue Magazine n° 77
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Ligabue Magazine

Year X
Number 19
2nd Semester - 1991

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Editorial

On July 28th the incredible news reached Italy from Ulan Bator that dinosaur eggs had been found in Mongolia by a Ligabue Research and Study Centre expedition. This must have set many readers of our magazine wondering how on earth the Study Centre was able to find the right spot in a region, the Gobi Desert, seven times the size of Italy. The answer is simple. They know where to look. But of course there is also an element of luck, the same kind of luck that helped Luigi Galvani discover the principle of animal electricity instead of just producing frog fricassee for lunch. The Ligabue Research and Study Centre expeditions are organized down to the last detail after having collected enough information to be sure what to look for and where. The Study Centre experts are highly adept at this method.
They study geological charts, ancient documents, organize surveys and reconnaissances, keep their ears open not only for communications between the university institutes concerned but also for descrptions by casual travellers, missionaries, unauthorized excavators, anyone who can offer precious clues. Then, of course, they must have conviction, enthusiasm, passion and perseverance - all the kind of supreme qualities to be found in the prodigious archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered Homeric Troy. Schliemann had an almost fabled life and Gabriele Rossi-Osmida gives a fascinating outline of it on page 126. The article focuses on the dreamer and romantic in the archaeologist, for without his intense childhood passion for ancient Greece, he would never have undertaken such an apparently vainglorious enterprise. His childhood and youth were spent in misery, exile and ill-health, with only Homer to sustain him. Then, after various dramatic peregrinations, Schliemann found a job as an errand boy in an Amsterdam office. He became an accountant and trading agent at Memel, where he went on to make his fortune. He then undertook various educational trips, studying languages and archaeology, until he was ready to dedicate all his energies to exploring the remains of the Mycenaen civilization and thus become something of a legend himself.
Another person who I would dare describe as legendary is the Canadian ethologist, Birute Galdikas. Twenty-five years ago she set off for the tropical forests of Borneo. She has now lived there permanently since 1971 with her Indonesian husband and two apes. One of the apes, a female orang-utan called Sapinah, is described by Birute as being her "best friend ". In his article on page 56, Massimo Cappon provides an astonishing piece of information: orang-utans, chimpanzees and African gorillas "share 99 per cent of man's genetic pool. All the difference between us and them, all our history, art and culture are contained in that one per cent of DNA". Perhaps we'd already heard this explained somewhere, but seeing it again, printed in black and white, always comes as a shock and leaves us wondering whether we really should be quite so pleased with ourselves, instead of a little less presumptuous and more humble. Humility is not a commonly found virtue. The lack of it can be seen in a number of stylish new publications on archaeology, which has become as fashionable as astrology or the interpretation of dreams. Telling tall stories is all very well if it is just to pamper to curiosity, but when it comes to scientific affairs, no matter how genuine the interest in popularizing the history of mankind, well then its a case of absit iniuria verbis - that one percent of DNA turns out to be a mere fraction.
But I must apologize for straying and in no way wish to offend a number of praiseworthy admirable exceptions. I doff my cap, for example, to Prof. Viktor Sarianidi, head of the Archaeological Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Recently, along with the Deputy Minister of Culture for the Preservation of Monuments in Turkmenistan and the Ligabue Research and Study Centre, he signed an agreement for the next two-year excavation campaign on a third-millennium BC cultural site in the Margiana region, in the heart of the Kara-Kum desert. Turn to page 36, Sarianidi's article is absolutely fascinating.
The experimental archaeology described on page 74 by Kathy Schick and Nicholas Toth (Archaeology Department of Indiana University) is almost a new science. It is a way of reproducing life models from millions of years ago to understand the evolution of the chimpanzee to homo habilisin his use of basic tools for survival.
On 17 February 1944 Truk Lagoon, the Japanese Imperial Navy base seven thousand miles southeast of Hawaii, was attacked by the American Air Force. In two days the Japanese lost 400 planes and 60 naval or merchant ships. These vessels now lie on the sea bed. Lenora Carey-Johanson dived down to explore them and came up with a thrilling account and beautiful pictures, see page 94.
Like all polite hosts I have left our own house writers to last. On page 110 Giancarlo Ligabue provides a brief and effective summary of the documentation on the continental shift, by now surely proved beyond all doubt Fossil finds have demonstrated that 200 million years ago what is now the Antarctic continent broke off from Southern Africa and South America and drifted towards the South Pole. The discovery of a Lystrosaurus and the bones of a new species of dinosaur in the Beardmore Glacier have confirmed the theory of the great movements that took place in Gondwana, the earliest Southern land mass, and have encouraged further research despite the enormous difficulties involved in working so near the South Pole.
From 1431 to 1789, the Venetian Lagoon froze over at least six times. The ice was thick enough to be walked on and the Venetians got up to all sorts of fun. Some enterprising spirits even began selling their wares on ice. In more recent times, and even last winter, the city has again been surrounded by ice, if not quite to the same dramatic extent. We celebrate the frozen lagoon with some historic engravings accompanying an article by myself on page 140.
But what about the dinosaur eggs found in Mongolia? A little patience is required. Analyzing and studying this remarkable find can't be reported like a news item in a gossip column. The results will be published in the next issue along with some spectacular pictures of the Gobi desert and scenes from everyday life in Mongolia.

Real all editroial... Ettore Della Giovanna
In This Number...
Drifting Dinosaurs

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Experimental Archaeology: Journeying into Prehistory

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Heinrich Schliemann's Dream

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Our Lady of the Apes

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The Legend of Truk Lagoon

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Treasures on Nameless King

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Venice in an Icy Mirror

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