Lidia Zotkina
Lidia Zotkina

Are These the Oldest Petroglyphs in Siberia?

Lidia Zotkina
Lidia Zotkina

A new analysis of intriguing rock art has archaeologists wondering whether they've found the earliest petroglyphs in Siberia, according to The Siberian Times. First discovered in 1992 on the Ukok Plateau—a remote, high-elevation region of grasslands in the Altai Mountains near Russia's border with China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia—the petroglyphs have gotten a new look this summer by archaeologists from Novosibirsk State University, with assistance from some French colleagues.

The petroglyphs, which depict horses and bison, were carved into glacier-polished rhyolite, a volcanic rock. The wind-swept plateau has little sediment for archaeologists to date, so they looked for help from geomorphologists, who determined when glaciers retreated from the site. They say that could have happened between 8000 and 10,000 years ago. If the rock art is that ancient, it's thousands of years older than any other known rock art in Siberia. 

"We have converging data suggesting that the petroglyphs could be Paleolithic and thus the most ancient known in Siberia," NSU's Lidia Zotkina told the Siberian Times. "When the French archaeologists first arrived on the Ukok Plateau and saw the petroglyphs they said: 'If we had found them somewhere in France, we would not doubt they are Paleolithic, but here, in Siberia, we need to ascertain their age.'"

They're currently testing to see whether the etchings were made by stone or metal tools. Stone tools would indicate an early age, though not necessarily as old as the Paleolithic. Metal tools, however, would firmly place the petroglyphs in a far more modern era. So far, the tests seem to indicate they were made with stone tools.

The Ukok Plateau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is well established as a region that different peoples called home for millennia. Its most famous resident by far is the so-called Ice Maiden (also known as the Princess of Ukok), whose elaborately tattooed skin has made her famous since she was discovered on the plateau in 1993, her remains having been immaculately preserved by the permafrost for more than 2500 years. She is believed to have been a member of the Pazryk people, and probably died at around age 25. 

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Sophie Gamand
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This Photographer Is Changing People's Perceptions of Pit Bulls, One Flower Crown at a Time
Sophie Gamand
Sophie Gamand

Like many people, Sophie Gamand wasn’t always the biggest fan of pit bulls. As a volunteer photographer for animal shelters, she used to tense up any time she saw one.

And then something changed. In 2014, the New York-based photographer decided to confront her fear and take on a project that would force her to interact with pit bulls, My Modern Met reports. Initially, she wanted to see for herself if pit bulls were really as dangerous as people claim they are, and what she learned surprised her.

She “discovered the sweet and gentle nature of pit bulls, and how obedient and eager to please they are,” Gamand tells Mental Floss. “They are goofy, loving, and very attached to people.”

Equipped with her new mindset, she decided to photograph the dogs individually with colorful flower crowns adorning their heads in hopes of challenging the public's perception of pit bulls. And it worked.

A pit bull with a flower crown
Sophie Gamand

Gamand says animal shelter staff often tell her that her photos, which she posts on social media with a brief description of each dog's personality, have saved countless dogs from being euthanized and have helped many others find forever homes. “They have helped dogs get adopted who had had zero interest for months or even years,” she says.

Over the last few years, she has photographed over 400 pit bulls, and her images will be published in a forthcoming coffee table book titled Pit Bull Flower Power: The Book. It will be released in October for Pit Bull Awareness Month.

She says the stereotype of pit bulls being overly aggressive is “completely unfounded,” adding that genetics have little to no influence on a dog’s personality. What makes the difference, though, is proper care and training, which is why she’s dedicating her life’s work to helping the dogs find loving homes.

Plus, the dogs love the photo shoots. "These are all shelter dogs who spend most of their time in a cage," Gamand says. "They are so happy for all the attention, treats, and love they get on the shoot. They love nothing more than to be good boys and girls—learning tricks, sitting to get a cookie. It’s their special moment. Each shoot is a team effort between the handler, the dog, and myself."

Her photos have spread far and wide via social media, and she now receives requests to visit animal shelters all over the world, from India to Kuwait to China. Prior to Pit Bull Flower Power, Gamand’s first book, Wet Dog—which features, you guessed it, adorable dripping dogs—was published in 2015.

Keep scrolling to see more of Gamand's Flower Power series, and check out this project and others on her Instagram page and website.

A pit bull with a flower crown
Sophie Gamand

A pit bull with a flower crown
Sophie Gamand

A pit bull with a flower crown
Sophie Gamand

A pit bull with a flower crown
Sophie Gamand

[h/t My Modern Met]

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Christie's
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A Rare Copy of Audubon's Birds of America Could Break Records at Auction
Christie's
Christie's

American artist and naturalist John James Audubon published The Birds of America in the first half of the 19th century, and his massive “double-elephant” folio of life-size bird illustrations remains one of the most ambitious nature books ever produced. On June 14, a rare edition of the four-book set is hitting the auction block, and it's expected to fetch up to $12 million—more than any Audubon book ever sold.

This edition of The Birds of America was owned by the dukes of Portland from around 1839 to 2012. Because it was stored on the shelves of the family's Nottinghamshire, England estate for nearly a century, the set's prints of watercolor drawings have remained remarkably well-preserved.

In 2012, the copy was auctioned off to philanthropist and businessman Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. for nearly $8 million. Knobloch donated the books to the Knobloch Family Foundation (KFF) before his death in 2016. Now, the KFF is sending the books to auction once again. This time, all proceeds of the sale will go to nature conservation.

Set of red leather-bound books.

New York City auction house Christie's describes the set in a listing as "among the finest copies in private hands of this icon of American art, and the finest color-plate book ever produced." Each of the 435 double-elephant folio pages measures 39.5 inches by 26.5 inches, the largest sheets Audubon could get his hands on at the time, and they feature 1037 birds from 500 species. The books are bound in red Moroccan leather with gold detailing on the borders and spines. The four-volume set also comes with the Ornithological Biography, a collection of five books describing the specimens in The Birds of America and their habits.

Christie's estimates the set will sell for $8 million to $12 million when the final bid is placed later this month. To date, the most expensive copy of The Birds of America was a first edition acquired from Sotheby's in London for $11.5 million. That sale also broke the record for the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction, a record held until 2013.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American bird.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American birds.

All images courtesy of Christie's

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