Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 72: Nov-Dec 1990

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Birds Of Burden

Prehistory sketch showing an ostrich carrying a human rider? Anthropologists long ago decided that the ostrich was domesticated only in historical times. They pooh-poohed a prehistory sketch showing an ostrich carrying a human rider and pictographs of ostriches apparently fitted with pack saddles. The latest discovery may change their minds. It is a Neolithic figure (5000-7000 years old), deeply engraved on rocks along the River Blaka, in Niger, Africa. Here, the ostrich definitely appears to be loaded with cargo that is strapped on. The bird's legs are folded in a resting position.

The Egyptians occasionally captured young ostriches and broke them to harness, but this engraving seems to prove that this practice had been going on long before. (Bahn, Paul; "A Head in the Sands of Time," Nature, 346:794, 1990.)

Comment. One wonders what Neolithic goods the ostrich caravans carried and where they were bound.

From Science Frontiers #72, NOV-DEC 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987