Till Taal do us part: Filipino couple weds under volcanic cloud

People attend a wedding ceremony as Taal Volcano sends out a column of ash on January 12, 2020 in this image obtained from social media. (Courtesy of Randolf Evan Photography via Reuters)
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Updated 14 January 2020

Till Taal do us part: Filipino couple weds under volcanic cloud

  • Chino and Kat Palomar exchanged vows under a gigantic cloud of smoke and ash from Taal
  • Despite the alarming backdrop, bridal couple little affected

A couple getting married in the Philippines over the weekend witnessed a surprise guest at their wedding.

In what has made for dramatic shots that have since gone viral on social media, Chino and Kat Palomar exchanged vows in Cavite province on Sunday under a gigantic cloud of smoke and ash from Taal, one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes.

“The mood was surprisingly calm despite the large billows of smoke that were already prominently visible in the ceremony area,” said Randolf Evan, the wedding photographer.

Evan related how the volcano began spewing smoke an hour or two before the wedding started, and said ash began to fall on the party toward the end of the ceremony.

More than 24,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes from the volcanic island on which Taal is located south of central Manila, and in the area immediately around it — normally a popular tourist spot.

Social media users responded with amazement to the shots of the bride and groom and their party in a white canvas tent lit with fairy lights under billowing clouds streaked by lightning.

“Kudos to the wedding planner,” read one jokey comment. “This is going to be tough to top.”

Despite the alarming backdrop, Evan said the bridal couple were little affected.

“They were actually relaxed and collected throughout the whole wedding,” Evan said.

“We later found out their wedding was 8 years and 2 kids in the making, so this day they planned for was going to be special no matter what, with or without the Taal volcano’s intervention!”


Did Neanderthals bury their dead with flowers? Iraq cave yields new clues

The bones of a Neanderthal's left hand emerging from the sediment in Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq, is seen in an undated photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 February 2020

Did Neanderthals bury their dead with flowers? Iraq cave yields new clues

  • Remains of 10 Neanderthals - seven adults and three infants - were dug up there six decades ago, offering insight into the physical characteristics, behavior and diet of this species

WASHINGTON: A Neanderthal skeleton unearthed in an Iraqi cave already famous for fossils of these extinct cousins of our species is providing fresh evidence that they buried their dead — and intriguing clues that flowers may have been used in such rituals.
Scientists said on Tuesday they had discovered in Shanidar Cave in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq the well-preserved upper body skeleton of an adult Neanderthal who lived about 70,000 years ago. The individual — dubbed Shanidar Z — was perhaps in his or her 40s or 50s. The sex was undetermined.
The cave was a pivotal site for mid-20th century archaeology. Remains of 10 Neanderthals — seven adults and three infants — were dug up there six decades ago, offering insight into the physical characteristics, behavior and diet of this species.
Clusters of flower pollen were found at that time in soil samples associated with one of the skeletons, a discovery that prompted scientists involved in that research to propose that Neanderthals buried their dead and conducted funerary rites with flowers.
That hypothesis helped change the prevailing popular view at the time of Neanderthals as dimwitted and brutish, a notion increasingly discredited by new discoveries. Critics cast doubt, however, on the “flower burial,” arguing the pollen could have been modern contamination from people working and living in the cave or from burrowing rodents or insects.
But Shanidar Z’s bones, which appear to be the top half of a partial skeleton unearthed in 1960, were found in sediment containing ancient pollen and other mineralized plant remains, reviving the possibility of flower burials. The material is being examined to determine its age and the plants represented.
“So from initially being a skeptic based on many of the other published critiques of the flower-burial evidence, I am coming round to think this scenario is much more plausible and I am excited to see the full results of our new analyzes,” said University of Cambridge osteologist and paleoanthropologist Emma Pomeroy, lead author of the research published in the journal Antiquity.

COGNITIVE SOPHISTICATION
Scholars have argued for years about whether Neanderthals buried their dead with mortuary rituals much as our species does, part of the larger debate over their levels of cognitive sophistication.
“What is key here is the intentionality behind the burial. You might bury a body for purely practical reasons, in order to avoid attracting dangerous scavengers and/or to reduce the smell. But when this goes beyond practical elements it is important because that indicates more complex, symbolic and abstract thinking, compassion and care for the dead, and perhaps feelings of mourning and loss,” Pomeroy said.
Shanidar Z appears to have been deliberately placed in an intentionally dug depression cut into the subsoil and part of a cluster of four individuals.
“Whether the Neanderthal group of dead placed around 70,000 years ago in the cave were a few years, a few decades or centuries — or even millennia — apart, it seems clear that Shanidar was a special place, with bodies being placed just in one part of a large cave,” said University of Cambridge archaeologist and study co-author Graeme Barker.
Neanderthals — more robustly built than Homo sapiens and with larger brows — inhabited Eurasia from the Atlantic coast to the Ural Mountains from about 400,000 years ago until a bit after 40,000 years ago, disappearing after our species established itself in the region.
The two species interbred, with modern non-African human populations bearing residual Neanderthal DNA.
Shanidar Z was found to be reclining on his or her back, with the left arm tucked under the head and the right arm bent and sticking out to the side.