Work is under way to rebuild a so-called temple of the sun in Germany that was erected by Europe's first known civilization 6,800 years ago, long before the great cultures of Mesopotamia or the pyramids of Egypt.
Known as the Goseck Circle, it is one of 150 monumental sites arrayed through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovenia.
Each comprising four concentric rings of earth and wood, their gates are thought to point to sunrise and sunset at the winter solstice.
The realization that a very early European farming people designed and built such vast sites has arrived in little more than a decade. Textbooks that assume late Stone Age Europe was far more primitive than the Middle East must be rewritten.
But despite the growing interest, archaeologists know nothing of the appearance or language of the people and can only surmise about their religious beliefs. The culture is known only as that of stroke- ornamented ceramic ware, from fragments of pottery it left.
The jars and bowls had their decoration jabbed into the soft clay with a kind of fork to form zig-zag lines.
The discovery of the 75m-wide circular enclosure at Goseck, 40km southwest of the German city of Leipzig, was announced in 1993, a couple of years after archaeologists in aircraft first noticed the pattern in wheat growing on the flood-plain site.
After excavations, work began this month to rebuild the site for growing numbers of tourists.
In a make-work project, 10 local unemployed people are cutting 3,000 oak posts in a nearby forest to make new palisades.
"The bark has to be stripped off by hand, the same as 7,000 years ago," said Ruediger Erben, the chief executive of Weissenfels County.
"It mustn't look as if it was done by machine or came from a shop."
The walls and ditches are intended to be completed by Dec. 21 for a winter solstice festival: the sun is to rise that day over the southeast and set over the southwest gate, as seen from the "sacred place" at the center.
In a dry run, hundreds of people showed up last December to eat sausages, drink and cheer the sunset there.
Erben said reconstruction would cost just 100,000 euros (US$120,000), while a parking area, plus an information center set to open next year in a castle a kilometer away, will cost 787,000 euros.
Bus tours of Stone Age and Bronze Age sites are already coming through Goseck, which is only 25km from Nebra, where a bronze-and-gold map of the heavens dating from 3,600 years ago was discovered in 1999.
The Nebra celestial disc was in use for hundreds of years, and its latter-day Bronze Age owners were closer to us in time than they were to the people who built the quadruple enclosures. But both discoveries are leading to a reassessment of Central Europe's past.
Long before the first towns developed in the 4th millenium BC in Mesopotamia or the first pyramid was built after 2700 BC, some kind of political leadership had formed, had a vision of monuments and could count on collective labor to build them.
Scientists remain puzzled at the short life of the enclosures, which only remain as discolored earth from where the postholes and ditches were. Analysis shows they collapsed and were replaced by farmsteads within about 200 years and monuments stopped being built.
The whole period of stroke-ornamented pottery is limited to 4900 BC to 4650 BC.
While Goseck has been dubbed a "temple of the sun" in the media, there is no proof of sun worship. Archaeology professor Francois Bertemes of Halle University who led the excavation of Goseck is convinced, though, that it is the world's oldest solar observatory.
Even that remains controversial.
Christoph Heiermann, spokesman for the Saxony state archaeological service, said the purpose of the quadruple enclosures, which inspired his agency's new four-ring publicity logo, is still unknown.
"We prefer to just speak of central places where people gathered. We don't know what they did there. Maybe they were temples. Or markets," he said. The scientific community had not yet accepted that Goseck was an observatory.
Another such enclosure, 126m across, has been excavated under time pressure in Nickern, a suburb of Dresden. It will be lost when a new autobahn leading to Prague is built.
"It was a civilization, and highly organized," said Heiermann. "They cultivated crops and had village communities. They skilfully used stone tools. You can't assume any more that the further back you go, the more savage the people.
"These people were just like us. Where they came from and where they went is a mystery."
With around 10,000 descendants packing the ancestral shrine every Tomb Sweeping Day, the Yeh family’s grand affair made a bid for the Guiness Book of World Records in 2016. They won’t be coming even close on Saturday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, less than 30 people will be attending and conducting the rituals. “We hope that our ancestors don’t take offense,” branch association head Yeh Lun-tsai (葉倫在) tells the Liberty Times (sister paper of the Taipei Times). Tomb Sweeping Day activities can potentially aggravate the spread of the virus as large groups congregate in cemeteries and columbariums at the same
In terms of life expectancy for its citizens, in recent decades Taiwan has caught up with and overtaken a number of Western countries. According to the most recent edition of the CIA’s World Factbook, Taiwanese now live longer than Americans, Czechs and Poles. Of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may shake up the rankings. Taiwan’s single-payer healthcare system, set up in 1995, is one reason why people here can stay healthy for a long time. Before the postwar Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime introduced the piecemeal health-insurance schemes (covering government employees, farmers, and others) that preceded the universal system, sick people
Nowhere are the effects of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) postwar Sinification campaign more visible than in the toponymic revisions that the regime undertook after assuming power. Taipei’s streets were renamed after Chinese cities or quintessentially Chinese values, and with the kind of self-aggrandizing flourish to which the party was partial, the process even referenced itself, Guangfu (光復) — which translates as “retrocession” — becoming a mainstay of urban nomenclature. Above all, the KMT’s top brass was memorialized: the given names of Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) and Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正) — Zhongshan (中山) and Zhongzheng (中正) — were conferred on locations
April 6 to April 12 Han Chinese settlers from Zhangzhou and Quanzhou were such fierce rivals that simple activities such as buying supplies for festivals would often result in armed violence. It’s said that this was especially severe just before Tomb Sweeping Festival, and to prevent bloodshed Qing Dynasty officials ordered them to conduct their rituals on different days. This is not unlike the government urging people to visit their ancestors’ graves on days other than yesterday’s official Tomb Sweeping Day, also known as the Qingming Festival, to curb the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Chinese Nationalist Party