Beyond Evergrande, China’s Property Market Faces a $5 Trillion Reckoning

As many economists say China enters what is now the final phase of one of the biggest real-estate booms in history, it is facing a staggering bill: According to economists at Nomura, $ 5 trillion plus loans that developers had taken at a good time. Holdings Inc.

The debt is almost double that at the end of 2016 and last year exceeded the overall economic output of Japan, the world’s third-largest economy.

With warning signs on the debt of nearly two-fifths of growth companies borrowed from international bond investors, global markets are poised for a potential wave of defaults.

Chinese leaders are getting serious about addressing debt by taking a series of steps to curb excessive borrowing. But doing so without hurting the property market, crippling more developers and derailing the country’s economy is turning into one of the biggest economic challenges for Chinese leaders, and one that resonates globally when mismanaged. could.

Luxury Developer Fantasia Holdings Group Co. It failed to pay $206 million in dollar bonds that matured on October 4. In late September, Evergrande, which has more than $300 billion in liabilities, missed two interest-paying deadlines for the bond.

A wave of sell-offs hit Asian junk-bond markets last week. On Friday, bonds of 24 of 59 Chinese growth companies on the ICE BofA Index of Asian Corporate Dollar Bonds were trading at over 20% yields, indicating a high risk of default.

Some potential home buyers are leaning, forcing companies to cut prices to raise cash, and could potentially accelerate their slide if the trend continues.

According to data from CRIC, a research arm of property services firm e-House (China) Enterprise Holdings, overall sales among China’s 100 largest developers were down 36 per cent in September from a year earlier. Ltd.

It revealed that the 10 largest developers, including China Evergrande, Country Garden Holdings Co. and china wenke Co., saw a decline of 44% in sales compared to a year ago.

Economists say most Chinese developers remain relatively healthy. Beijing has the firepower and tighter control of the financial system needed to prevent the so-called Lehman moment, in which a corporate financial crisis snowballs, he says.

In late September, Businesshala reported that China had asked local governments to be prepared for potentially intensifying problems in Evergrande.

But many economists, investors and analysts agree that even for healthy enterprises, the underlying business model—in which developers use credit to fund steady churn of new construction despite the demographic less favorable for new housing—is likely to change. Chances are. Some developers can’t survive the transition, he says.

Of particular concern is some developers’ practice of relying heavily on “presales”, in which buyers pay upfront for still-unfinished apartments.

The practice, more common in China than in the US, means developers are borrowing interest-free from millions of homes, making it easier to continue expanding but potentially leaving buyers without ready-made apartments for developers to fail. needed.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, pre-sales and similar deals were the region’s biggest funding sources since August this year.

“There is no return to the previous growth model for China’s real-estate market,” said Hous Song, a research fellow at the Paulson Institute, a Chicago think tank focused on US-China relations. China is likely to put a set of limits on corporate lending, known as the “three red lines” imposed last year, which helped trigger the recent crisis on some developers, he added. That China can ease some other restrictions.

While Beijing has avoided explicit public statements on its plans to deal with the most indebted developers, many economists believe leaders have no choice but to keep the pressure on them.

Policymakers are determined to reform a model fueled by debt and speculation as part of President Xi Jinping’s broader efforts to mitigate the hidden risks that could destabilize society, especially at key Communist Party meetings next year. before. Mr. Xi is widely expected to break the precedent and extend his rule to a third term.

Economists say Beijing is concerned that after years of rapid home price gains, some may be unable to climb the housing ladder, potentially fueling social discontent, as economists say. The cost of young couples is starting to drop in large cities, making it difficult for them to start a family. According to JPMorgan Asset Management, the median apartment in Beijing or Shenzhen now accounts for more than 40 times the average family’s annual disposable income.

Officials have said they are concerned about the risk posed by the asset market to the financial system. Reinforcing developers’ business models and limiting debt, however, is almost certain to slow investment and cause at least some slowdown in the property market, one of the biggest drivers of China’s growth.

The real estate and construction industries account for a large portion of China’s economy. Researchers Kenneth S. A 2020 paper by Rogoff and Yuanchen Yang estimated that industries, roughly, account for 29% of China’s economic activity, far more than in many other countries. Slow housing growth could spread to other parts of the economy, affecting consumer spending and employment.

Government figures show that about 1.6 million acres of residential floor space were under construction at the end of last year. This was roughly equivalent to 21,000 towers with the floor area of ​​the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world.

Housing construction fell by 13.6% in August below its pre-pandemic level, as restrictions on borrowing were imposed last year, calculations by Oxford Economics show.

Local governments’ income from selling land to developers declined by 17.5% in August from a year earlier. Local governments, which are heavily indebted, rely on the sale of land for most of their revenue.

Another slowdown will also risk exposing banks to more bad loans. According to Moody’s Analytics, outstanding property loans—mainly mortgages, but also loans to developers—accounted for 27% of China’s total of $28.8 trillion in bank loans at the end of June.

As pressure on housing mounts, many research houses and banks have cut China’s growth outlook. Oxford Economics on Wednesday lowered its forecast for China’s third-quarter year-on-year GDP growth from 5% to 3.6%. It lowered its 2022 growth forecast for China from 5.8% to 5.4%.

As recently as the 1990s, most city residents in China lived in monotonous residences provided by state-owned employers. When market reforms began to transform the country and more people moved to cities, China needed a massive supply of high-quality apartments. Private developers stepped in.

Over the years, he added millions of new units to modern, streamlined high-rise buildings. In 2019, new homes made up more than three-quarters of home sales in China, less than 12% in the US, according to data cited by Chinese property broker Kei Holdings Inc. in a listing prospectus last year.

In the process, developers grew to be much bigger than anything seen in the US, the largest US home builder by revenue, DR Horton. Inc.,

Reported assets of $21.8 billion at the end of June. Evergrande had about $369 billion. Its assets included vast land reserves and 345,000 unsold parking spaces.

For most of the boom, developers were filling a need. In recent years, policymakers and economists began to worry that much of the market was driven by speculation.

Chinese households are prohibited from investing abroad, and domestic bank deposits provide low returns. Many people are wary of the country’s booming stock markets. So some have poured money into housing, in some cases buying three or four units without the intention of buying or renting them out.

As developers bought more places to build, land sales boosted the national growth figures. Dozens of entrepreneurs who founded growth companies are featured on the list of Chinese billionaires. Ten of the 16 soccer clubs of the Chinese Super League are wholly or partially owned by the developers.

Real-estate giants borrow not only from banks but also from shadow-banking organizations known as trust companies and individuals who invest their savings in investments called wealth-management products. Overseas, they became a mainstay of international junk-bond markets, offering juicy produce to snag deals.

A builder, Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd. , defaulted on its debt in 2015, was still able to borrow and later expand. Two years later it spent the equivalent of $2.1 billion to buy 25 land parcels, and $7.3 billion for land in 2020. This summer, Cassa sold $200 million of short-term bonds with a yield of 8.65%.

By: Quentin Webb & Stella Yifan Xie 

Source: Beyond Evergrande, China’s Property Market Faces a $5 Trillion Reckoning – WSJ

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New SEC Boss Wants More Crypto Oversight to Protect Investors

It’s become a parlor game in Washington, on Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley to figure out where U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler stands on cryptocurrencies. Industry lobbyists tune in when he testifies before Congress. Lawyers parse his speeches. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. wealth advisers recently boasted in a research report about looking for clues in 29 hours of the Blockchain and Money course he developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

That’s an arduous but perhaps not novel undertaking, since videos of the classes have garnered millions of views online, something that amazes even Gensler. In his first extensive interview about the digital money craze, Gensler signaled that his deep interest in the subject doesn’t mean he’s simpatico with the hands-off oversight approach that many enthusiasts would like to see.

Policymakers have struggled with how to respond to the mostly unregulated $1.6 trillion market, which has seen explosive growth and wild price swings. Gensler is contemplating a robust oversight regime, centered on establishing safeguards for the millions of investors who’ve been stocking their portfolios with tokens. “While I’m neutral on the technology, even intrigued—I spent three years teaching it, leaning into it—I’m not neutral about investor protection,” says Gensler, who on Tuesday will give a speech about crypto at the Aspen Security Forum.

“If somebody wants to speculate, that’s their choice, but we have a role as a nation to protect those investors against fraud.” Gensler has asked Congress to pass a law that could give the agency the legal authority to monitor crypto exchanges, but he says the SEC’s powers are already broad. There’s been much discussion over the years about which kinds of digital assets fall under the SEC’s purview.

Some such as Bitcoin that act like currencies are considered commodities, not securities. But there are thousands of other coins, and Gensler believes most are unregistered securities that must comply with SEC rules. Broadly he noted that technology has sparked economic progress throughout human history, and he sees a similar boost from digital assets. That may only come, however, with strong and thoughtful regulation.

As an analogy, he says the automobile industry didn’t fully take off until governments laid out driving rules. Speed limits and traffic lights provided public safety but also helped cars become mainstream. “It’s only with bringing things inside—and sort of clearly within our public policy goals—that a technology has a chance of broader adoption,” he says.

Hester Peirce, a Republican commissioner on the SEC known for her advocacy of light-touch regulation of digital assets, says she’s eager to work with Gensler. “A lot people just want more clarity,” she says. “I come from a perspective that people should have the maximum freedom to engage in transactions they want to engage in voluntarily. Society needs to have that discussion about what is the right regulatory framework.”

Gensler didn’t give a timeline for any SEC action. He has a to-do list that includes 49 non-crypto policy reviews that could slow progress on cryptocurrencies. Many are high-profile and time-consuming efforts, like responding to the GameStop Corp. trading frenzy and the blow-up of the Archegos family office. The SEC is also working to impose new rules that would require companies to disclose carbon emissions and other environmental risks, a Biden administration priority.

Nor would Gensler comment on the potential for approving a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, a decision that many in the crypto world are eagerly awaiting, because it would provide an easy on-ramp for investors. A Bitcoin ETF would invest in the cryptocurrency and then trade its shares on the stock market. So far the SEC has balked at permitting such funds, citing concerns about the risk of fraud and manipulation in the Bitcoin market.

Gensler has spoken positively about the ETFs during his days at MIT, giving advocates hope that he’s a supporter. Peirce says it’s “high time” the SEC approved a crypto ETF. Behind the scenes, Gensler has pushed the agency’s staff members to take a look at an array of potential policy changes. He says there are at least seven SEC initiatives looking at different crypto issues: initial coin offerings, trading venues, lending platforms, decentralized finance, stable value coins, custody, and ETFs and other coin funds. “I’ve asked the staff to use all of our authorities anywhere we can,” he says.

Gensler says he thinks regulating crypto exchanges is perhaps the easiest way for the government to get a quick handle on digital token trading. But he’s also concerned about new ways people are getting into crypto, such as peer-to-peer lending on so-called decentralized finance, or DeFi, platforms. If firms are advertising a specific interest-rate return on a crypto asset, Gensler says, that could bring the loans under SEC oversight. Platforms that pool digital assets could be seen as akin to mutual funds, potentially allowing the SEC to regulate them.

Gensler was chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) during the Obama administration, where he was responsible for bringing federal oversight to the huge market for derivatives known as swaps after the financial crisis. Patrick McCarty, who teaches a class on cryptocurrencies at Georgetown University’s law school, says Gensler’s understanding of digital assets means he will give the industry a “fair hearing,” though he will likely disappoint many proponents.

“When the crypto people say they want legal certainty, they don’t mean that—they want to be unregulated,” McCarty says. “That’s never been Gary’s point of view.” Christine Trent Parker, who focuses on crypto assets as a law partner at Reed Smith in New York, says that although new SEC rules would bring more certainty to the industry, they also could divide the policing of the market more starkly—with the CFTC focused on markets linked to virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and the SEC handling much of the rest.

“Right now the lines are fuzzy because we have speeches and enforcement and court orders,” instead of bright-line regulation, she says. “If the SEC has sort of a broad framework that pulls in all of the other digital assets, then you have this bifurcated marketplace.” Others have argued that new token developers need some regulatory flexibility to encourage innovation.

Gensler also sits on the Treasury-led Financial Stability Oversight Council and the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which recently held a meeting on the impact of stablecoins. These are crypto tokens that are supposed to be backed by traditional currencies such as the U.S. dollar, and they’ve become a huge part of the crypto trading system. Regulators worry about what could happen if some stablecoin didn’t turn out to be worth what it was supposed to be—prompting an exodus akin to a run on a bank or a money-market fund.

Gensler’s views on the panels carry weight, people who follow the issue note, because unlike, say, the Treasury secretary or Federal Reserve chairman, he has real crypto cred. His understanding of blockchain and digital assets comes largely from the several years he spent at MIT. Along with creating the cryptocurrency course, he’s been a frequent guest at industry conferences—sometimes speaking 30 to 50 times a year—mixing with deep thinkers and entrepreneurs.

He quotes writings of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, from memory and knew some of the core developers of the digital currency. The 63-year-old former Goldman Sachs partner traveled an unlikely path to becoming one of the government’s foremost cryptocurrency experts. It started in 2017, when as chief financial officer of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign he had the lonely job of closing up shop, paying off the final bills, and deciding what to do with the abandoned computers and office supplies.

Like many of his shell-shocked former colleagues, Gensler was looking for something to do—and somewhere to sit out Donald Trump’s presidency. The answer came from economist Simon Johnson, an MIT professor who encouraged Gensler to come to Cambridge, Mass., and teach. Looking to nurture a long-held interest in the intersection of technology and finance, Gensler jumped at the opportunity.

Although he didn’t know much about digital tokens, he connected with people who were part of the university’s burgeoning Digital Currency Initiative and even audited a course in crypto programming. When he suggested MIT teach more about finance and digital money, he was given the job. Little did he know that in a few years he’d have a chance to put his academic studies to real-world use. “Life sometimes is a bit of serendipity,’’ he says.

By: Robert Schmidt

Source: Will Government Regulate Crypto? SEC Chair Gary Gensler on Bitcoin and Oversight – Bloomberg

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25 of The Best Educational Podcasts

Listen, and you might learn a things or two.

Most folks love learning, regardless of whether or not school is “their thing.” Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right teacher for your learning style—or maybe even the right medium. For auditory learners, podcasts can be excellent vehicles for processing knowledge that’d be less digestible in more visual mediums like video or even the written word.

The American education systems tends to fail students in myriad ways, requiring continual education after the fact to learn the truth behind what we were taught in history, art, science, language, literature, and math. Privileged gatekeepers deciding who and what gets taught can result in the denial of diverse voices and perspectives.

Podcasts radically shift the dynamics around who gets to teach, and who gets to learn. A lot of the most beloved and popular shows, like Radiolab and Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, basically boil down to what you wish your science or history class had been like in the first place. Many others, like 1619 and You’re Wrong About, aim to correct the misinformation in many accepted cultural narratives from both our near and distant pasts.

Now, obviously, podcasts can’t replace a world-class, bonafide, IRL, teacher-to-student relationship. But they can teach us more than a few vital lessons. Here are a few of our most educational favorites.

1. Unexplainable

While Vox is known for explaining complicated ideas in easily understandable ways, it’s new podcast Unexplainable flips that premise on its head. Instead of demystifying the daily information onslaught, Unexplainable sits with the most mystifying unknowns of all time. From questioning whether everything we thought we knew about psychology is wrong to the quest to understand what the hell dark matter is, Unexplainable teaches us to get comfortable with the idea that human knowledge has many limits. And that’s kinda awesome.

2. You’re Wrong About

You’re Wrong About is doing God’s work by correcting the record on everything we misremember or misunderstand in our collective cultural memory.Each week, journalists Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes debunk popular myths, misconceptions, and mischaracterizations of figures like Tonya Harding and Marie Antoinette, or topics like sex trafficking and events like the O.J. Simpson trial.” [From our Best Feminist Podcasts roundup.]

3. 1619

“As all-encompassing as it is powerfully specific and personal, 1619 is the story of modern America — and the people who built it through blood, sweat, tears, and hope. It’s a version of the story a great many of us never hear, purposefully kept hidden in the margins of U.S. history books. But 1619 isn’t just a podcast about the history of slavery as the genesis of almost every aspect of American society and culture today.

This isn’t just a sobering lesson, or hard pill to swallow. By weaving the historical with the personal and the poetic, Nikole Hannah-Jones (alongside other guest hosts) paints a viscerally captivating portrait of Black Americans’ lived experience, and all the simultaneous struggle, strength, oppression, ambition, pain, and humor needed to survive. 1619 is a story about race and the inequalities embedded into a system predicated on its conceit. But above all it’s a story about us, the people we were then and still are now.” [From our Best Limited-Series Podcasts to Binge roundup.]

4. Encyclopedia Womannica

“History class often paints a portrait of the world that excludes about half of its population. That’s what Wonder Media Network’s Encyclopedia Womannica sets out to fix, by releasing 5- to 10-minute episodes on women who made history in a certain field. Each month focuses on a different area of expertise, which most recently included activism and music.” [From our Best Feminist Podcasts roundup.]

5. You Are Not That Smart

There’s a kind of fallacy that comes with being knowledgable or well-educated: You can start to think you know everything. In reality, human knowledge is always flawed, a work in progress rather than an end goal in itself. That’s the backbone of this psychology podcast, which dives into the ways we think and why they’re often faulty or misunderstood.

6. 99% Invisible

Invisible forces increasingly rule our world, and this legacy podcast is determined to reveal exactly how and why. Host Roman Mars uncovers a different facet of the hidden world of design in every episode, whether it’s the user experience of an app on your phone or your entire home’s architecture.

7. Radiolab

“NPR’s Peabody-winning, textbook example of rich, expertly-produced documentary podcast-making was started by Jad Abumrad way back in 2002. Hosted by Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, Radiolab tasks itself broadly with ‘investigating a strange world.’ It’s constantly referred to in the same breath as their friends at This American Life, but tends toward the more science-related topics.” [From our Best Science Podcasts roundup.]

8. Every Little Thing

Like the teacher who encouraged you to ask all the questions, Gimlet’s Every Little Thing seeks to answer listeners’ questions about, well, everything. Whether it’s trying to determine if a listener’s very specific early childhood memory is real, or investigating why we cry, there’s no quest for understanding too small or too big for this podcast.

9. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

Dan Carlin is the history teacher we all wish we’d had in grade school, able to turn the most fascinating and dramatic episodes of our past into multi-part epic sagas. Tuning into Hardcore History‘s three hour-long behemoth episodes transports your imagination. As informative as they are enthralling, each deep dive can transform what you thought you knew about both ancient and modern history.

10. Lolita Podcast

“The influence of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita can’t be overstated. From fashion to music to film to sexual expression itself, the novel’s impact on society far exceeds literary circles, affecting the mainstream in ways you may not even be aware of. You don’t need to have read Lolita — a cautionary tale about a predator grooming, kidnapping, and repeatedly raping a child — to be riveted by the podcast, which is more focused on tracing its ripple effects on the zeitgeist.

Comedian, podcaster, and writer Jamie Loftus wrestles with this tangled nexus of significance in a society that perpetually sexualizes young girls. Weaving in her own personal experiences and analysis with expert interviews and source materials, Loftus leaves no stone unturned — no matter how uncomfortable. Diving headfirst into a minefield of impossible yet crucial questions, Lolita Podcast delivers nuanced perspectives that only unfurl more layers of complexity rather than offering easy answers.” [From our Best Podcasts of 2020 roundup.]

11. Grammar Girl

Delving into the ins and outs of grammar can be pretty boring sometimes. (Apologies to our editors.) But this beloved show from host Mignon Fogarty brings a much-needed lack of judgment, accessibility, and fun to learning about the nitty-gritty of the English language. It’s an essential resource for writers of all sorts, diving into not only the rules but the historical and cultural contexts behind them.

12. Ologies

“If you want to dig into the niches of study that professionals choose to dedicate their lives to, check out Ologies with science correspondent and humorist Alie Ward. Each episode, Ward takes on a different ‘ology,’ from conventional ones like palaeontology and molecular neurobiology, to more niche ones like philematology (the study of kissing).” [From our Best Science Podcasts roundup.]

13. Planet Money

Planet Money’s success lies in how it tackles complex subjects with great storytelling. A financial instrument like a Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) may sound impossibly boring, but Planet Money routinely makes these types of things the heart of a thrilling narrative. The team continues to explore the financial collapse, but they’ve expanded their scope to include all aspects of the global economy.” [From our Best Back to School Podcasts roundup.]

Alternatively, try NPR’s Indicator: “Its more compact, daily sister podcast is a knockout. But for those a little less interested in talk of money stuff, NPR’s The Indicator is a great gateway drug. Tackling smaller yet still robust and integral stories related to work, business, and the economy, you’ll be surprised by how much crucial information you can gain in just 10 minutes.” [From our Best Daily Podcasts roundup.]

14. Hidden Brain

“NPR’s popular podcast hosted by social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam delves into the recesses of the human mind, and questions why the hell we do and think the things we do. Vedantam conducts excellent, well-researched interviews with experts on complex topics that are made simple to understand, and will have you really getting in your own head.” [From our Best Science Podcasts roundup.]

15. Floodlines

“No matter how much you think you know about Hurricane Katrina, Floodlines reveals how America has only reached the surface of reckoning with this deep national wound. Through interviews with survivors and reporting that addresses the media misinformation and government incompetence around the catastrophe, host Vann R. Newkirk II shows how the real storm that devastated New Orleans was the same one that’s been brewing in America for centuries.” [From our Best New Podcasts of 2020 roundup.]

16. The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos

“Happiness is a tricky goal, especially when we think about it in terms of things that will finally make us happier. But no ‘thing’ can make you happy except yourself, and achieving that state of mind takes daily work. That’s what Dr. Laurie Santos, who studied the science of happiness at Yale and has a doctorate in psychology, makes clear in her podcast tackling the wide range of questions about how to live a life with more joy in spite of, well, all of it. While many other podcasts tackle similar topics, Dr. Santos sets this one apart by taking them to panels of experts and researchers in psychology, behavioral science, and more.” [From our Best Self-Improvement Podcasts roundup.]

17. Nice White Parents

Nice White Parents, released on July 30, is a five-part limited series from [Serial,] the team that redefined podcasting back in 2014. Instead of complex true-crime cases, however, Nice White Parents puts a different criminal on trial: the white liberalism that has helped perpetuate the segregation of public schools in America for decades under the guise of progressive ideals. This American Life producer Chana Joffe-Walt tells the story through an on-the-ground investigation into the School for International Studies (SIS), a New York City public school that was predominantly serving students of color.

That is, until a flood of white parents who couldn’t get their kids into preferred white schools instead decided to enroll them there, causing it to become a battleground of racial tensions and inequalities. It’s a story that comes from a personal place for Joffe-Walt. She began reporting on it after shopping around for schools as a new parent herself, only to discover she was part of a larger history of white parents who have shaped our public school education system into what it is today — which is to say, a system that overwhelming and repeatedly fails students of color.” [From our full review.]

18. Philosophize This!

Philosophy, aka that insufferable elective you skipped each week in college, can get a bad rap for being elitist and impenetrable. But Stephen West makes Philosophize This! precisely for those who want to delve into the nuanced ideas of our great thinkers, only without all the BS. Meant to be consumed somewhat in chronological order, you’ll gain a working, buildable knowledge of everything from media theory studies to multiple theories of justice.

19. Making Gay History

“History isn’t often told through a gay lens and Making Gay History looks to change that, telling the stories of the people who fought for decades for LGBTQ civil rights. Many of them have largely gone uncelebrated — until now.” [From our Best History Podcast roundup.]

20. The Experiment

The American experiment, often repackaged as the American dream, is one of the biggest sources of miseducation in our country. In this WNYC Studios and Atlantic collaboration, host Julia Longoria applies the ideals of America’s past that were held to be self-evident, then measures them up against our current reality. Bringing the high ideals of this country’s founding to everyday experiences, The Experiment can even find lessons in trash reality TV shows like 90 Day Fiance.

21. Artcurious

Art history isn’t for everyone, but curator and art history student Jennifer Dasal is definitely the one who could spark your interest. With a distinct theme for every season, she brings what might otherwise be dry material to life by telling the strangest and most enthralling stories behind the art. Season 9, which is all about cursed art, feels especially right for the general vibe of the past several years.

22. Blowback

“OK, first a disclaimer: Blowback is an unapologetically left-wing podcast. Like very left-wing. If that’s not cool with you, then it’s not the podcast for you. It tells the story of the Iraq War from that leftist point of view, and it’s both fascinating and necessary. Much of the Iraq War, as the American public knew it, was laundered through a right-wing government, and it was some time before anyone was open to admitting the disastrous war was just that. Blowback details how horrific and wrongheaded the Iraq War was, how its tentacles still shape America today, and how few consequences befell the people who sold it to the public.” [From our Best History Podcast roundup.]

23. Coffee Break Spanish (or other languages)

Not everyone vibes with language learning apps like Duolingo. Alternatively, what’s great about podcasts like Coffee Break from Radio Lingua Network is just how casual it feels — digestible enough to compliment your coffee break (as the name suggests). The lesson plans in each successive season increase in difficulty, with Season 1 being for true beginners. But the podcast really sings in its travel log episodes, applying those lessons to a conversational grasp of the language. There’s also versions in French, Italian, German, Chinese, and Swedish available too.

24. Curiosity Daily

Curiosity Daily is kind of like the r/TodayILearned subreddit but in podcast form. Every weekday, you can learn something new from hosts Cody Gough, Ashley Hamer, and Natalia Reagan. They offer 10- to 15-minute summaries of interesting, research-backed news and facts relevant to our everyday lives from the science, psychology, and technology fields.” [From our Best Daily Podcasts roundup.]

25. Spotify Original Audiobooks: Hear the Classics

Let’s be real: many of us skipped the reading when we were in school, only to regret it later on. That’s why Spotify’s list of original audiobooks, some even voiced by A-list actors like Hilary Swank, is a great treasure trove of educational audio. Currently, it offers many of the classics for free, like Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and the memoir Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. They even have a separate podcast for unpacking the literature called Sitting with the Classics. You can check out the full collection here.

Source: 25 of the best educational podcasts

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References

Roman Medicine: 6 Ways People Stayed Healthy In Ancient Rome

“Baths, wine and sex corrupt our bodies, but baths, wine and sex make life worth living”. This inscription – from the tomb of a Roman merchant of Ephesus, Tiberius Claudius Secundus – indicates that, like us, the Romans sought a sensible balance between an enjoyable existence and a healthy one. Dr Nick Summerton shares six tips from ancient Rome for living a healthy life…

They’re known for their roads, military strategy and inventing the book – but what advice might our Roman forebears issue on the subject of staying healthy? Dr Nick Summerton shares six Roman medicine practices…

Take responsibility

The Romans attached great importance to preserving health

The second-century physician Galen emphasised that it was a person’s responsibility to take care of their bodies, writing that people must “take it upon [them]selves to preserve health” by following a particular lifestyle (or `hygiene`). He highlighted the importance of taking fresh air and getting enough sleep, in addition to carefully considering diet, exercise and hydration. Galen certainly led by example, writing: “After I reached the age of twenty-eight, having persuaded myself that there is an art of hygiene, I followed its precepts for the rest of my life and was never sick with any disease apart from the occasional fever.”

It was seen as extremely important to tailor the ‘hygienic approach’ to individuals, ensuring that a person was not under-or over-emphasising any specific element as part of their health plan. As Galen explained: “For just as it is impossible for cobblers to use one last for all people, so too it is impossible for doctors to use one plan of life that is beneficial to all. Because of this, then, they say it is most healthy for some to exercise sufficiently every day, whereas for others, there is nothing to prevent them passing their lives wholly in idleness. Also, for some it seems to be most healthy to bathe, whereas for others it does not.”

What were the four humours?

The Romans believed that all matter within the universe – including human bodies – was made from four elemental substances (fire, air, water and earth) and four elemental qualities associated with them (hot, cold, wet and dry). It was thought that the human body contained four corresponding humours – blood (hot and wet); yellow bile (hot and dry); black bile (cold and dry); and phlegm (cold and wet).

These four humours needed to be in the correct amounts and strengths for a body to be healthy. The proper blending and balance of the four humours was known as ‘eukrasia’ – whereas imbalance of humours – or `dyskrasia` – led to disease. Illness occurred when there was an imbalance of the four humours in the body. ‘Hygiene’ (which was used in a slightly different sense to its definition today) was about restoring the normal equilibrium of humours and qualities – thereby preventing disease and preserving health.

Eat a healthy diet

Food and fresh air were key to good health

Much like today, a healthy diet was considered part of a balanced health plan. Recent evidence based on an examination of material from several Roman sewers has shed some light on the foodstuffs being consumed by the average Roman. By modern standards, the diet of the population in Herculaneum at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius was extremely healthy and mineral rich, containing high levels of seafood and vegetable protein. (In fact, the residents of Herculaneum probably ate considerably more fish than are consumed by the area’s population today!)

Gardens were also popular with the Romans and, aside from cultivating plants and vegetables, had a much broader role in enhancing well being. In one of his letters, Pliny the Younger described walks along tree-lined pathways and avenues edged by box hedges at his villa in Tuscany. He also commented on the wholesome air with splendid views, cool breezes and sweet aromas.

Choose your doctor carefully

The Romans were wary of placing too much trust in physicians

The Roman historian Pliny the Elder cautioned his fellow citizens about trusting the medical profession – especially the Greeks: “Physicians acquire their knowledge from our dangers, making experiments at the cost of our lives. Only a physician can commit homicide with complete impunity.”

Despite numerous references to ‘physicians’ across the Roman empire, it is often unclear what led to an individual acquiring the title ‘doctor’. There were no examinations, no diplomas, no degrees and no professional licensing procedures in the Roman world; a doctor was simply an individual who claimed the title and carried out treatment for some type of remuneration.

Also, for the Romans, the concept of having a personal professional physician was an anathema. It was at odds with the Roman values of self-sufficiency and looking after your own. On Roman farms the head of the household (pater familias) assumed the role of chief healer with responsibility for the health of his family and any estate workers. As the scholar and agriculturalist Varro explained: “There are two divisions […] in the treatment of human beings: in the one case the physician should be called in, while in the other even an attentive herdsman is competent to give the treatment.”

An array of ancient Roman surgical instruments at the British Museum, c1910. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The exact circumstances when the advice of a physician might be sought are somewhat vague. However one of the writing tablets discovered at Vindolanda, a Roman auxiliary fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall, suggests that the women of military families were expected to deal with the day-to-day health problems that arose in their households. They kept a selection of medicines on hand for this purpose. Paterna, the wife of the garrison prefect at Vindolanda, supplied medicine to her sister, Lepidina: “I shall supply you with two remedies”, she wrote in a letter to her – one of which was for fever.

Unfortunately, for the Roman patient, there were no lists of approved practitioners that could be checked for those wishing to enlist the help of a physician. To get an insight into a doctor’s abilities (and perhaps for entertainment, too), it was not unusual to attend public displays of anatomical skills or to watch medical competitions. In addition, Roman medicine was often practised in public with many folk clustering around the bed of a sick individual, critically scrutinising the care being proffered. Galen outlined how strangers even joined in on house visits: “Boethus seized me and took me along home to see the boy. People who met us in the street, of whom you were one, also came.”

Look after your eyes

Eye problems were a particular concern for Romans

To the Romans the eyes were a privileged body part, and the transition point between the soul and the outside world. Several representations of eyes – in gold, bronze and plaster – have been found at Wroxeter in Shropshire. Such religious votive objects were left in anticipation of a cure or as an offering of gratitude.

Inadequate hygiene and dusty roads would have contributed to the large numbers of individuals with eye problems. A military strength report of the First Cohort of Tungrians from Vindolanda specifically categorises the 31 soldiers signed off as unfit into three distinct groups: aegri (sick  – 15); volnerati (wounded – 6); and lippientes (eye troubles – 10).

Two dozen oculist (or collyrium) stamps have been discovered in Britain – including two at Wroxeter. These small green stones were used for impressing the name of the maker as well as the nature and purpose of an eye treatment onto a hardened block of medication (collyrium). The stamps usually consist of small thin square blocks, generally with an inscription on each of the four edges. In a few instances the stone is oblong with two inscribed sides and in one from Wroxeter, it is circular. The letters are cut in intaglio form and written from right to left so that when stamped on the collyrium they make an impression that reads from left to right.

“Eye problems were a particular concern for Romans,” writes Nick Summerton. This relief shows a Roman physician inspecting the eye of a woman. (Photo by CM Dixon/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

In his De Medicina, the first-century writer Celsus devoted a whole chapter to eye care and provided a very clear description of cataract surgery:

“He is to be seated opposite the surgeon in a light room, facing the light, while the surgeon sits on a slightly higher seat; the assistant from behind holds the head so that the patient does not move: for vision can be destroyed permanently by a slight movement…

“Thereupon a needle is to be taken pointed enough to penetrate, yet not too fine, and this is to be inserted straight through the two outer tunics at a spot intermediate between the pupil of the eye and the angle adjacent to the temple, away from the middle of the cataract, in such a way that no vein is wounded.

“The needle should not be, however, entered timidly… When the [correct] spot is reached, the needle is to be sloped…..and should gently rotate there and little by little guide it [ie, the lens with the cataract] below the region of the pupil.”

Eye couching needles to undertake the procedure have been found at Carlisle and Piddington Roman Villa, Northamptonshire.

Secure expert wound care

The survival rate of Roman soldiers after battle was better than that of their opponents

Slashing and cutting wounds from long swords would have been particularly common injuries for Roman soldiers battling across Britain. Other weapons used by the local tribes included spears, knives, axes, stone sling shot and, less commonly, arrows. The consequences for some unfortunate Roman soldiers were fractures, head and eye injuries – in addition to penetrating abdominal or chest wounds.

All cuts and abrasions needed cleaning and dressing: some others required stitching too. Occasionally, more complicated surgery was necessary to remove bone fragments, stop bleeding or to extract spear points.

Traumatic wounds were at particular risk of getting infected and honey dressings were frequently used by the Romans. The military physician Dioscorides wrote that “honey is cleansing, opens pores, and draws out fluids. Boiled and applied it heals flesh that stands separated”.

First aid is given to a Roman soldier in this frieze. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

A lot of basic wound care would have been provided by fellow soldiers, some of whom – the capsarii – were trained first aiders. The capsarii were under the control of a doctor with the rank of a centurion, such as Anicius Ingenuus, medicus ordinarius of the first cohort of Tungrians from Housesteads, on Hadrian’s Wall.

The repair of a simple flesh wound was the most performed surgical procedure undertaken by individuals such as Anicius Ingenuus. Basic surgical kits consisting of probes, hooks, forceps, needles, cautery tools and scalpels were readily available, and many items have been discovered in excavations at Roman sites across Britain.

Stitching cuts with a needle and thread was not dissimilar to the approach used today, but if there were any concerns about infection or inflammation the fibulae technique was often preferred. This entailed passing copper-alloy skewers through the wound and then looping threads around them in a figure-of-eight fashion. The Roman medical writer and thinker Celsus wrote that “fibulae leave the wound wider open […] in order that there may be an outlet for any humour collecting within”.

Focus on overall wellbeing

To the Romans, physical and mental health were closely linked

Looking after the psyche – or the soul – was viewed as integral to the care of the body and it was a key element of keeping in shape alongside exercise, fresh air, sleep and diet.

Many Romans citizens sought a philosophy of life and one approach popularised by the likes of the emperor Marcus Aurelius was Stoicism. The overriding aim was to replace negative emotions such as grief, anger and anxiety with positive emotions such as joy.

Other individuals, such as the emperor Caracalla, frequented healing sanctuaries. These focused on providing holistic care (including psychological wellbeing) by offering a broad range of treatments, as well as enlisting the assistance of healing deities including Aesculapius.

Across Britain several inscriptions to Aesculapius have been discovered in addition to two healing sanctuaries at Lydney, in Gloucestershire, and Bath, dedicated to Nodens and Sulis Minerva respectively. The site at Lydney has been comprehensively excavated revealing a temple, a guest house, a well-equipped suite of baths and a long narrow building containing many cubicles (abaton).

The abaton was where visitors would have been taken to experience ritual temple sleep and dream healing – termed incubation. During this process priests circulated among the sleepers with serpents or dogs, the curative dreams being augmented by licks from the animals.

At Lydney numerous representations of sacred Irish wolfhounds have been found, in addition to a mosaic decorated with fish and sea monsters bearing the inscription: D M N T FLAVIUS SENILIS PR REL EX STIPIBUS POSSUIT O[PITU]LANTE VICTORINO INTERP[RE]TIANTE (translated as “for the god Mars Nodens, Titus Flavius Senilis, superintendent of the cult, from the offerings had this laid; Victorinus, the interpreter (of dreams), gave his assistance”).

Individuals visiting healing sites would have been subjected to a raft of psychological interventions designed to restore their tranquillity: group therapy, talking therapy, various arts therapies, dream healing; all combined with rest and relaxation. There was also an emphasis on locotherapy – the psychological benefits of locomotion as well as being in a specific place (location). There is evidence for eye care and surgery being undertaken at Lydney too.

Water was also an extremely important element of many sanctuaries and was drunk for its healing properties as well as being used for bathing, hydrotherapy and ritual cleansing. Some sites, such as Bath, were associated with hot springs or waters with specific mineral constituents. At Lydney the iron-rich nature of the waters might have encouraged individuals suffering from anaemia to visit, based on the finding of a votive hand exhibiting koilonychia (spoon-shaped nails), a sign of iron-deficiency.

Nick Summerton is a medical doctor with a longstanding interest in Roman Britain. His fifth book Greco-Roman Medicine and What It Can Teach Us Today will be published later this year by Pen and Sword Books. You can find him on Twitter @YorkshireGP

Source: Roman Medicine: 6 Ways People Stayed Healthy In Ancient Rome – HistoryExtra

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Your guide to the Roman empire

New Research Reveals Surprising Origins of Egypt’s Hyksos Dynasty

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Popular lore suggests the Hyksos, a mysterious group of foreign invaders, conquered the Nile Delta around 1638 B.C. and remained in power until 1530 B.C. But written records of the dynasty are scarce, and modern archaeologists have found few material signs of the ancient military campaign.

Now, new research lends weight to an alternative theory on the Hyksos’ origins. As Colin Barras reports for Science magazine, chemical analysis of skeletons found at the Hyksos capital of Avaris indicates that people from the Levant—an area encompassing the countries surrounding the eastern Mediterranean—immigrated to Egypt centuries before the takeover. The Hyksos dynasty, then, was likely the result of an immigrant uprising, not a hostile outside invasion.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, center on variations in strontium isotopes present in 75 skeletons’ tooth enamel. Strontium, a harmless metal found in water, soil and rocks, enters the body primarily through food. Comparing isotope ratios found in enamel, which forms between ages 3 and 8, with those present in a specific region, can help scientists determine whether an individual grew up there, as levels “vary from place to place,” writes Ariel David for Haaretz.

Around half of the skeletons were buried in the 350 years before the Hyksos’ takeover; the rest were interred during the dynasty’s reign. Per the paper, the researchers found that 24 of the pre-1638 skeletons were foreign-born, pointing toward significant immigration prior to the supposed invasion.

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“This was clearly an international city,” lead author Chris Stantis, an archaeologist at Bournemouth University in England, told Science News Bruce Bower last April, when she and co-author Holger Schutkowski presented the research at a conference.

A seal amulet bearing the name of the Hyksos pharaoh Apophis
A seal amulet bearing the name of the Hyksos pharaoh Apophis (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Archaeological finds further testify to the Hyksos culture’s diversity: Ancient artwork depicts members wearing colorful robes distinct from Egypt’s traditional white clothing, while records indicate that they had names similar to people from southwest Asia, according to Science.

Tombs unearthed at Avaris also offer evidence of “non-Egyptian burial customs,” explains Stantis to Live Science’s Laura Geggel. Males were buried “with bronze weaponry in constructed tombs without scarabs or other protective amulets,” and “[t]he most elite had equids of some sort (potentially donkeys) buried outside the tombs, often in pairs as though ready to pull a chariot.”

The archaeologist adds, “This is both a foreign characteristic of burial style, but also suggestive of someone [with] very high status.”

Chemical analysis revealed that many of the foreign-born people buried at Avaris were women. The researchers posit that local-born rulers married women from western Asia, possibly to cement alliances. Strontium levels found in the teeth of individuals raised outside of Egypt varied widely, suggesting people immigrated to the region from a range of places.

“It is fascinating to see corroborating evidence from a new direction which demonstrates that men from the Levant did not settle at Tell el-Dab’a in large numbers at the start of the Hyksos period—which is what one might expect to see in the wake of a huge military invasion,” Deborah Sweeney, an Egyptologist at Tel Aviv University who was not involved in the study, tells Haaretz.

The researchers theorize that members of Avaris’ immigrant community rose to power during the unrest of the Second Intermediary Period. After ruling northern Egypt for more than 100 years, they were deposed by the returning pharaohs. Per Science, historians have previously speculated that when the pharaohs reclaimed the territory, they exiled the Hyksos rulers to southwest Asia—a move that may have inspired the biblical story of Exodus.

Mentions of the Hyksos’ rule are scarce. One of the earliest sources describing the dynasty dates to the third century B.C., when a priest named Manetho penned a comprehensive history of history of Egypt. Manetho’s work was later transcribed in fragments by another historian, Josephus. Written long after the Hyksos’ actual reign, the tome claims that the invaders brought an army “sweeping in from the northeast and conquering the northeastern Nile Delta,” according to the paper.

Manetho’s history of the Hyksos may have acted as propaganda that supported Egypt’s plan to invade the Levant under the expansionist New Kingdom.

“The Hyksos invasion was presented as a shame that had to be prevented from repeating itself by controlling these lands,” Daphna Ben-Tor, former curator of Egyptian archaeology at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, tells Haaretz. “The Hyksos were the devil incarnate, while the Egyptian king was the savior of the world.”

By Theresa Machemer

Source: https://www.smithsonianmag.com

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The Stunning Viking Runestones Of Scandinavia

The recent discovery of several Viking ship graves in Norway has lifted interest in Viking history to new heights. While there’s no doubting the fascinating discoveries being made, some truly remarkable Viking artifacts exist in plain sight throughout Scandinavia: runestones.

The region’s tradition of carving inscriptions into raised stones as a memorial began as early as the 4th century, but the vast majority of runestones still standing date from the 9th and 10th centuries, the latter years of the Viking Age. Scholars have attempted to translate many of the runic inscriptions, with varying degrees of success.

Rök, Sweden

The runestone of Rök, Sweden, is one of the most popular attractions on Scandinavia’s burgeoning Viking tourist trail. Yet its origin story continues to mystify.

First-time visitors to the runestone outside Rök in a rural part of East Middle Sweden are often left speechless. The imposing five-ton carved stone has an almost alien-like appearance and is unlike any other archaeological find in the world.

Believed to date back to the early 9th century, the stone was raised and carved by a Viking struggling to cope with the death of his son. He channelled his emotions into carving this sprawling text, which consists of more than 700 runes spread across the stone’s five sides.

While several translations have been made, experts struggle to interpret the results. One recent study even claims part of the inscription tells of the community’s fears about a period of extended cold.

A team led by Per Holmberg, a professor of Swedish language at the University of Gothenburg, said that a series of 6th century volcanic eruptions plunged Sweden into a prolonged cold snap, killing as much as half the population. The new study claims that the runestone’s author could have been spooked by a series of events that occurred between the years 775 and 810. During that time, a solar storm, a very cold summer, and a near-total solar eclipse all took place, any of which could have been mistaken as an indicator of another extreme cold spell on its way.

Jelling, Denmark

The Jelling area of Denmark is synonymous with Viking history. The town’s 11th century stone church was built on the site of Harald Bluetooth’s wooden church from the 900s.

Two giant burial mounds provide the backdrop for these runestones, considered to be some of the most famous historical artifacts in Denmark as they contain the oldest written references to the country’s name.

The Jelling stones make up part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such have become one of Denmark’s most popular sights. The bigger stone was raised by Harald Bluetooth to honour his parents and celebrate his conquest of Denmark. The smaller, older stone is aid to have been raised by King Gorm the Old in memory of his wife, Thyra.

Rakkestad, Norway

As with Viking burial ships, runestones are still being discovered to this day across Scandinavia. Very few have been found in Norway, yet in 2018 this remarkable find was made in Rakkestad, only a handful of miles away from the location of the Gjellestad ship.

However, unlike the burial ship and almost all the other runestones in Scandinavia, this one has been found to predate the Viking Age by as much as 400 years. So old is the Proto Norse language of the 35 runes that it took researchers at the University of Oslo to confirm that they were indeed original runes.

Södermanland, Sweden

While Denmark and Norway to have a handful of runestones, the vast majority are located in Sweden. To the west of Swedish capital Stockholm, the Södermanland region alone is home to 450 known runic inscriptions.

Perhaps the most famous is the Stenkvista runestone near Stenkvita church. It is one of several runestones that reference Thor, but this one has a depiction of Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir.

Another famous stone at Skåang is notable for two sets of inscriptions. The first is written with the oldest known runic alphabet and is believed to date to the 6th century. A second inscription was added during the Viking Age.

Elsewhere in the region, a runestone with tales of extensive warfare throughout western Europe stands more than three meters high in the large burial ground at Kungshållet in Kjula.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I was born in the U.K. but moved to Norway in 2011 and haven’t looked back. I run a website and podcast for fellow expats, authored the Moon Norway travel guidebook, help Norwegian companies with their English, and spend my free time touring the country to discover more about the people and places of this unique corner of the world. I write for Forbes with an outsider’s inside perspective on Norway & Scandinavia.

Source: The Stunning Viking Runestones Of Scandinavia

Runes. The Viking world was full of them. In an extract from The Dark Ages: An Age of Light, Waldemar Januszczak explains their importance in the much-misunderstood Viking culture. The complete series is now available on DVD from the ZCZ Films shop: http://www.zczfilms.com/shop/films/th…

 

Archeologist Spends Over 35 Years Building Enormous Scale Model of Ancient Rome – Jessica Stewart

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Tucked in the residential Roman neighborhood of EUR, a sprawling 1:250 scale model displays the glory of ancient Rome. Known as the Plastico di Roma Imperiale, the plaster model was commissioned by Mussolini in 1933 and depicts Rome in the 4th century AD at the time of Constantine I. It now sits in the Museum of Roman Civilization, a museum opened in the 1930s to demonstrate the history of ancient Rome.The plaster model is a masterpiece created by archaeologist Italo Gismondi, who worked on the piece throughout his life…….

 

Read more: https://mymodernmet.com/scale-model-ancient-rome/

Color and Texture in Porto’s Palácio da Bolsa — Discover

Walking the streets of Porto, Portugal, the blogger at Travel Gourmand shares the city’s flare for ornament, including the stunning, gilded Arab Room at Palácio da Bolsa, the city’s old stock exchange.

via Color and Texture in Porto’s Palácio da Bolsa — Discover

 

 

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Uxmal: A Window Into The Maya — GALLIVANCE

To the delight of modern tourists, Maya kings sought to outdo each other with more and more impressive temples, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mal) is an outstanding example.

via Uxmal: A Window Into The Maya — GALLIVANCE

 

Your kindly Donations would be so effective in order to fulfill our future research and endeavors – Thank you
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Uxmal: A Window Into The Maya — GALLIVANCE

To the delight of modern tourists, Maya kings sought to outdo each other with more and more impressive temples, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mal) is an outstanding example.

via Uxmal: A Window Into The Maya — GALLIVANCE

Your kindly Donations would be so effective in order to fulfill our future research and endeavors – Thank you
https://www.paypal.me/ahamidian