Kingdom’s Haj arrangements impress Taiwan delegation

Updated 06 November 2012

Kingdom’s Haj arrangements impress Taiwan delegation

JEDDAH: Ibrahim Chao, a Taiwanese adviser to the Chinese Muslim Association, called upon foreign Haj missions to educate their pilgrims about Haj matters before their arrival in the Kingdom.
“About one third of Hajis are not accustomed to modern facilities such as the train system and elevators. We should educate them properly about such facilities so that they can use them without any difficulty,” said Chao.
The adviser came to perform Haj this year, heading a 33-member delegation from Taiwan. He praised Saudi authorities for making excellent arrangements for the nearly four million pilgrims.
Chao noted Muslims’ readiness to pay for the Haj pilgrimage despite global depression. “Many people thought the number of pilgrims would decline this year due to global economic crisis. By the grace of God, a record four million performed Haj this year. This reflects the growing economic strength of the Muslim world,” he added.
Chao urged Muslims all over the world to get united, inspired by King Abdullah’s call. In his keynote address to foreign Haj missions at Mina, the Saudi king urged Muslims to get rid of their differences and work for unity.
According to Chao, about 120,000 Muslims live in Taiwan. He disclosed plans to establish more Islamic centers and mosques in Taiwan to meet the needs of Muslims in different parts of the island state.
Jacques Wu, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Jeddah, said, “Muslims are like one family, despite their racial, language and color differences. They come from different parts of the world to perform Haj, a symbol of Muslim unity.”
He highlighted the growing Saudi-Taiwan business relations. More than 20,000 Saudi tourists visit the country every year. Taiwan intends to launch a marketing campaign to attract more Saudi tourists.


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.