Ivan Kupala is an ancient pagan ritual, which used to be known as just Kupala – meaning to bathe. Ivan – meaning John, as in John the Baptist – was added after Christianity came to the region and assimilated the festivities.
The ritual was originally held on the summer solstice between June 20 and 22, but was moved to the birthday of St John the Baptist, which was on June 23 by the old Julian calendar.
The new Gregorian calendar moved the date to July 6, so the link with the solstice was lost.
Despite its associations with Christianity, the festival still draws heavily on mysticism and folk-law.
It is believed that witches also take a holiday on this day and come to do harm to people, and that werewolves and mermaids also emerge to roam around and attack the souls of the wicked.
The day-long ritual is therefore designed around purity, supposedly cleansing the body and soul and providing protection, fertility and luck to those who take part.
The main focus is fire-jumping, with the flames supposedly cleansing the souls of those who pass over it.
Couples who can complete the jump holding hands will have a strong relationship, while friends may also jump together to prove their loyalty to one-another.
Unmarried women also wear garlands of flowers and herbs in their hair during the day, and at night float the wreaths out on to a lake with a candle. The woman whose flowers float the longest will be lucky in love, while the longest burning candle denotes long life.
It is also said that, on this one night, ferns are able to produce flowers, with whoever sights one of the blooms able to make a wish come true.
Villagers often take off into the woods in search of the blossoms, with unmarried women allowed to go first with single men following, in the hope that relationships might also blossom in the hunt.
Greek historian Herodotus visited Egypt in 450BC and wrote of unusual river boats on the Nile in his narrative history, titled Historia.
For centuries, scholars had searched for archaeological evidence to support his description of such ships mentioned in twenty-three lines.
A wreck has now been found to prove that Herodotus’ account was true. Dr Damian Robinson, director of Oxford University’s centre for maritime archeology said that a “fabulously preserved” wreck has been found around the sunken port city of Thonis-Heracleion.
“It wasn’t until we discovered this wreck that we realised Herodotus was right,” said Dr Robinson said. “What Herodotus described was what we were looking at.
”In his account, Herodotus had witnessed the construction of a baris where builders “cut planks two cubits long [around a metre] and arrange them like bricks”.Herodotus wrote: “On the strong and long tenons [pieces of wood] they insert two-cubit planks. When they have built their ship in this way, they stretch beams over them… They obturate the seams from within with papyrus. There is one rudder, passing through a hole in the keel. The mast is of acacia and the sails of papyrus…”
Simbakubwa’s skull is believed to have been as large as a rhinoceros skull.(Artwork Supplied: Mauricio Anton)
Of all the places you could imagine discovering a giant meat-eating mammal, a drawer is probably not one.Key points: Simbakubwa fossils were discovered years before by palaeoanthropologists searching for apes
When it was alive, around 20 million years ago, the animal weighed around 1,500 kilograms with a head the size of a rhinoceros’s.
Researchers say there are millions of unidentified species in museums around the world.
But a pair of researchers from Ohio University have done just that.
Matthew Borths was studying fossils at the Nairobi National Museum in Kenya when he decided to have a poke around.”On a lunch break I decided to pull open some different drawers just to kind of see what else was there,” Dr Borths said.”And one of the drawers I pulled out had this gigantic fossil in it.
“Luckily for Dr Borths — and the world of palaeontology — his area of expertise just so happened to be an order of extinct meat-eating mammals called the hyaenodonta.
While he immediately recognised the lower jaw bone as a hyaenodont, he knew it was from a species that had not been described before.”I was like, ‘how did I not know this was here?’ I felt really responsible,” he said.”
I’m one of the few people on the planet that really cares about this group of animals.”
Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur that belonged to the same family as Tyrannosaurus rex.
The remains of the long-snouted tyrannosaur, formally named Qianzhousaurus sinensis and nicknamed Pinocchio rex, were found near the city of Ganzhou in southern China. Researchers believe the animal was a fearsome carnivore that lived more than 66 million years ago during the late Cretaceous period.
The bones were discovered on a construction site by workmen who took them to a local museum.
Experts from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences and the University of Edinburgh then became involved in examining the remains.
With an elongated skull and long, narrow teeth, the predator would have looked very different from a T rex, which had thick teeth and more powerful jaws.
Palaeontologists had been uncertain about the existence of long-snouted tyrannosaurs.
Previously, just two fossilised tyrannosaurs with elongated heads had been found, and since they were juveniles it was unclear whether they were from a new class of dinosaur or simply at an early growth stage.
It is thought that Qianzhousaurus sinensis lived alongside other tyrannosaurs but would not have been in direct competition with them, since they probably hunted different prey.
Experts at the University of Edinburgh said the new specimen was of an animal nearing adulthood. It was found largely intact and “remarkably well preserved”.
Grouped together in Peru’s lush Cuzco region, the ringed Incan ruins known as Moray have long been a mystery, but it is looking more and more likely that the nested stone rings may have been part of a large-scale agricultural experiment.
Unlike a number of the elaborate metropolises and statuary left behind by the Incan people, the rings at Moray are relatively simple but may have actually been an ingenious series of test beds.
Descending in grass-covered, terraced rings, these rings of rings vary in size, with the largest ending in a depth of 30 meters (98 feet) deep and 220 meters (722 feet) wide.
Studies have shown that many of the terraces contain soil that must have been imported from other parts of the region.
The temperature at the top of the pits varies from that at the bottom by as much as 15ºC, creating a series of micro-climates that — not coincidentally — match many of the varied conditions across the Incan empire, leading to the conclusion that the rings were used as a test bed to see what crops could grow where.