National Geographic : 1990 May
AT A G APH AGAZ G P IA An Explosive Finding About Early Ceramics Since the 1920s, when the earliest known examples of fired ceramics began to turn up in the Pavlov Hills of Moravia in Czechoslovakia, scientists have been frustrated by the fact that so few ceramic figurines were intact. Now a research team, sup ported in part by the National Geographic Society, has an explanation: The figurines were intendedto explode as they were being fired in kilns or hearths for some reason important to their creators. The research team examined some of the thousands of figurine fragments, including the 25,000-year-old Dolni Vestonice Venus (GEO GRAPHIC, October 1988), as well as fired ceramic pellets found at the site. They estab lished that the ceramics were made of local soil, determined IRABLOCKits chemical makeup, then made their own samples. The pellets survived the firing process intact, even at high temperatures. But the figu rines, which contained water, explod ed with a pop when heated-"a new form of pop art," says Olga Soffer, a team member. The explosions didn't just happen, the team concluded; they were the re sult of intentional effort and practice. A New Director for Karisoke Centre D iane Doran, a former Peace Corps volunteer who has studied chim panzees in Zaire and C6te d'Ivoire (formerly called the Ivory Coast), has become director of the Karisoke Research Centre in Rwanda. The center was founded and headed by Dian Fossey until her murder in December 1985. Doran, who recently received her doctorate from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is extending her earlier study of chimpanzee pos ture and locomotion to include the other great apes while administering the Karisoke center. "I look forward to continuing the work here," she says, "but I wouldn't describe myself as Dian Fossey's suc cessor. After all, Dian dedicated 20 years of her life to understanding mountain gorilla behavior and to insur ing that the population would continue to flourish. Through her efforts, Kari soke became a research center, and I can begin my work with her knowledge and experience before me." The appointment was made by the Digit Fund, a Colorado-based conser vation group named for one of Miss Fossey's favorite mountain gorillas, who was killed by poachers in Rwan da's Parc des Volcans (GEOGRAPHIC, April 1981). For Matthew Henson, a Home-State Honor new state park in Maryland has been named for Matthew A. L Henson (above right), a Mary land native who accompanied Robert E. Peary on his Arctic expeditions (GEOGRAPHIC, September 1988). Resi dents of the area near the park sug gested the name because a nearby Montgomery County high school was named for Peary. The park is located along Turkey Branch, a feeder stream for Rock Creek, which courses through Wash ington, D. C. The wooded site, much of it floodplain, was purchased by the state between 1959 and 1969 as part of the right-of-way for a highway that was never built. Over the years, as housing developments grew up nearby, it became a favorite haunt of its new AMY K. DEPUTY ROBERTE. PEARYCOLLECTION neighbors, who helped clean it up and fought road-building plans. Last year the community persuaded the Mary land legislature to create a park on the site and to keep the 105 acres in its natu ral state. "The land was saved," Elliot Chabot, a community leader who fought for the park, says proudly. "No trees were cut, the creek was never piped, no asphalt was laid." Ancient Animal Fossils at the Side of the Road t was just exposed rock at the side of a road 15 miles southwest of Rich mond, Virginia, in an area that was to become an office park. But when Hans-Dieter Sues (below, foreground) and Paul Olsen began exploring it as part of their study of a geologic forma tion called the Newark supergroup, they found a gold mine. Or rather a fossil mine-225 million years old. The discoveries by Sues, of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and Olsen, of Colum bia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, include well preserved remains of more than 20 kinds of creatures. Most common are jaws, teeth, skulls, and skeletons of tiny mammal-like reptiles, close rela tives of the ancestors of the earliest mammals. The work was funded by the National Geographic Society. "This is the only place in North America where mammal-like reptiles of this age are abundant," says Olsen. Sues says that the collection resembles fossil assemblages from South Amer ica and Africa. When the fossils were laid down, the earth had only one supercontinent. Scientists wondered if the dearth of mammal-like reptiles in North America was caused by its sepa ration from other parts of the world or if they simply hadn't found rocks of the right age. "Now we know," says Olsen, "it was the latter."