History of 19th July includes the destruction of the Circus Maximus in 64 AD, the start of the Dionysian Pascal Cycle in 532 AD, Mansa Musa’s arrival in Cairo in 1324, the beginning of the Peasants’ War in Germany’s Black Forest in 1524, and Johannes Kepler’s development of his theory of the universe’s geometrical basis in 1595. It also focuses on the discovery of Sahelanthropus tchadensis in Chad’s Sahel region in 2001, exploring the debates surrounding its status as an early hominid or an ancient ape.
Do you remember the movie Ben-Hur? Those were times when chariot race was a very popular sport and it used to be played in a stadium. As I read the pages from the history of 19th July, I see that one such stadium named Circus Maximus was destroyed when it caught fire in the year 64.
Reading further into the history of 19th July I see that it was this day when Dionysian Pascal Cycle was started in the year 532. The Dionysian period, alternatively known as the Great Paschal period or Victorian period, refers to a span of 532 years in the Julian calendar. This timeframe encompasses a full cycle of New Moons, occurring every 19 years on the same date, as well as the repetition of dominical letters. Dominical letters denote the correspondence between days of the week and days of the month, and they recur in the same order every 28 years.
As I delve further into the history of 19th July I see that it was this day in the year 1324 when Mansa Musa, ruler of the Mali Empire, arrives in Cairo on his way to Mecca, with a procession of 600,000 men, 12,000 slaves and 80 camels carrying 136 kg (300 pounds) of gold each, This event is significant as his lavish gift-giving is said to have noticeably affected the value of gold in Egypt and garnered the attention of the wider Muslim world.
More history of 19th July is it was this day when the Peasants’ War begins in Germany’s Black Forest in the year 1524. Albert Frederick becomes Duke of Prussia in 1569. Astronomer Johannes Kepler has an epiphany and develops his theory of the geometrical basis of the universe while teaching in Graz in the year 1595.
Continuing our history of 19th July I come to the feature story of this day.
Sahelanthropus tchadensis: 22 year later
While reading the history of 19th July I found that twenty-two years ago, in the year 2001, an international group of anthropologists discovered what they claimed to be the earliest hominid in Chad’s Sahel region, naming it Sahelanthropus tchadensis.
Reading further on this topic I found a very interesting article by Erin Wayman a science and human evolution blogger who said that some experts agree that Sahelanthropus is a seven-million-year-old early hominid, others argue it might have been an ancient ape.
The team, led by Michel Brunet from Collège de France, found six hominid specimens in the Djurab Desert in 2001. The most significant discovery was a partially complete, distorted skull called Toumaï, showing primitive hominid-like features. For instance, it had a flat face and a canine tooth tip like humans, indicating a lack of honing complex found in chimps. Additionally, its foramen magnum suggested an erect posture and bipedal walking.
In 2005, the team provided further evidence supporting the initial findings, including a virtual reconstruction of the skull. Based on fossils of other animals found near Sahelanthropus, the researchers speculated that it lived in a wooded environment near a lake, around six to seven million years ago. This challenged previous genetic studies suggesting a more recent hominid-chimpanzee split.
However, not all experts accept Sahelanthropus’ hominid status. Some researchers, including Milford Wolpoff and John Hawks, argued that the skull’s structure would have prevented upright head posture, suggesting it was not a bipedal walker but rather some form of ape. They also proposed that some shared dental traits might be due to parallel evolution.
Since then, the study of Sahelanthropus has not progressed significantly, with no additional publicly announced fossils. There were mentions of a possible femur, but no formal analysis has been published. Further research could help confirm its upright walking capabilities and its inclusion in the hominid family, but sometimes such analyses take a considerable amount of time. It took around 15 years for full studies on Ardi and other Ardipithecus fossils to be published, so there might be more to come in the future from Brunet and his team.
Featured image is an artistic recreation of Sahelanthropus tchadensis by artist John Gurche, Trumansburg, NY
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A devoted foodie with keen interest in wild life, music, cinema and travel Somashis has evolved over time . Being an enthusiastic reader he has recently started making occasional contribution to write-ups.