Saturday, January 03, 2004
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
"If the length of the snake is confirmed, then it would be 50 per cent larger than any other snake known to science,” Richard Gibson, curator of herpetology at London Zoo, said.
The snake, which is said to weigh 447kg (985lb), was purchased from a man who caught it in a forest in Sumatra last year. It was brought to the zoo in the village of Curug Sewu.
“The largest snake that I have ever handled was around four metres,” Mr Gibson said. “Anything over three metres is getting too much for one person to handle. It would take eight or ten men to subdue a snake this size.”
It is a rule of thumb among snake-catchers that reticulated pythons more than 25ft can open their jaws wider than the width of human shoulders — the necessary width to eat a man whole. "
"At the centre of the scandal is Shinichi Fujimura, a flamboyant archaeologist who started out as an amateur in 1972 when he was 22 and working for a manufacturing company. At the time, most Japanese archaeologists were in two minds as to whether the Paleolithic period in their country reached further back than 30,000 years. They longed for proof that it did, so that they could claim a more distinguished place in the evolutionary scheme of things.
In 1981 Fujimura answered their prayers by unearthing a cache of stone cutting and scraping implements from a layer of volcanic ash. As the ash was 40,000 years old, his findings put that starting point back by a gratifying 10,000 years.
With his new career thus launched, Fujimura proceeded to make a whole series of findings, each progressively older than the last. By the end of 2000 he was bringing up treasures no less than 700,000 years old. No wonder the public hailed him as a national hero, while the archaeological community nicknamed him “God’s hands” — their prayers were being answered.
On October 27, 2000, he put on what would be his last command performance, revealing to the media his latest evidence — of primitive dwellings 600,000 years old at the Kamitakamori site. On November 5, the leading Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun ran a series of incriminating video stills on the front page, showing the distinguished professor at dusk, surreptitiously digging a hole and placing an implement into it before replacing the topsoil and pressing it firmly with his boot. The footage, the newspaper said, was covert and had been taken on October 22. It later transpired that one of Fujimura’s rivals had tipped them off.
The Japanese archaeological community agonised at length over whether to enlist Fujimura to help them to sort out the mess. He was, after all, the only person who knew the whole truth — but could they trust him? For some time, Fujimura insisted that the objects he had inserted were genuinely Paleolithic, and that he had tampered with only two sites. Despite everything, a number of his former colleagues were tempted to accept his word.
In the event, the decision was taken out of their hands when Fujimura checked into a psychiatric hospital. According to his former boss, he was suffering from manic depression. But from his hospital bed he still occasionally gave utterances, admitting on one occasion that every single one of his finds was fake and that he had tampered with a further 18 sites. Then, as before, his confession started expanding in scope. Eventually he had owned up to faking all the implements he had discovered over the previous 20 years and contaminating 42 sites. After their investigations, however, the JAA says this figure should be 159. It seems clear that Fujimura’s motive was glory, both for himself and for his country. In the end, he achieved the exact opposite. "