National Geographic : 2001 May
Forum - January 2001 The prospect of blasting off to Mars stirred the imaginationof readersof ., the Januaryissue, but they placed "" varying value on a manned mission to the unexplored planet.One de- - " scribed our articleas "glorifying man's egotisticaland expensive quest... when so much is still wrong in our own backyards." Another stated that "we can and must grasp the frontier.We must stop studying and startdoing." Ancient Ashkelon I was a student volunteer with the Leon Levy Expedition during the summer of 1986, the second year of the dig, in the area where the now famous dog cemetery was discovered. I was able to excavate 42 of the dog skele tons myself and became known to the Israeli workers as the "dog doctor." I have very much enjoyed following the story of my "patients." I also worked in grid 50, shown on page 79. Being the smallest of the party, I was sent down into the well, which was very cramped and dusty. I much preferred dog duty. JILL BRICKEY WILSON Chesterton, Indiana I'm compelled to point out a minor inaccuracy in your excel lent article on Ashkelon: "exca vations at Ashkelon and other Philistine sites have turned up evidence that they were ... dis tillers of fine wine." Certainly it is nitpicking to point out that wine is merely fermented grape juice. When wine is distilled, it yields brandy-a trade item the Philis tines might have appreciated. JIM WALTER Healdsburg, California Rick Gore states that Ashkelon is a forgotten name outside Israel. But the following passage is familiar to readers of the Old Testament: "How are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, pub lish it not in the streets of Aske lon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph" (II Samuel 1:19-20). This is part of David's lamen tation over the deaths of King Saul and his son Jonathan. Let me hasten to add that the above quote contained my entire knowledge of Ashkelon before reading Mr. Gore's fascinating article. WALTER DUNN TUCKER Richmond, Virginia Beyond Gravity I disagree with the author's opinion that it is an egocentric view to believe that "H. sapiens is the single intelligent life-form the cosmos has produced in billions of years on trillions of worlds." Our current knowledge indicates that it is highly unlikely that life, let alone intelligent life, exists on any other planet in the cosmos and that Earth is a remarkable exception. Future encounters with nonterrestrial life might show us other remark able exceptions in the universe. But in 2001, believing that humans are the only intelligent NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * MAY 2001 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY "For the increaseand diffusion of geographicknowledge." The National Geographic Society is chartered in Washington, D.C ., as a nonprofit scientific and educational organization. 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