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The num­ber of buy­ers at cordy­ceps auc­tions has dou­bled from a decade ago. Rangers pa­trol the moun­tains to de­ter il­le­gal har­vest­ing

To reach cordy­ceps grounds, a Layap must hike slip­pery paths, cross rivers and wend through for­est, eat­ing and sleep­ing un­der tarp be­tween a rock and a tree branch amid tor­rid weather. But with all that moun­tain­ous yakrear­ing, per­haps no peo­ple are bet­ter equipped to gather this fun­gus, whose sales have since made them the rich­est com­mu­nity in the coun­try. Chi­nese, Amer­i­can and Ja­panese buy­ers clam­our for the “Hi­malayan Vi­a­gra” to make ton­ics, while it is to lo­cals a medicine and house­hold rem­edy.

But not all Layap have been swept up in the cordy­ceps craze. Some, like Wangmo, still herd: Each yak in her flock of 49 has a name, and her son sells their but­ter and cheese at Pu­nakha, the clos­est big city.

“I’m ab­so­lutely un­in­ter­ested in that ex­pen­sive cater­pil­lar,” says the middle-aged Layap, who is wear­ing a flow­ery blouse and black skirt made from yak wool. “I like con­stantly mov­ing from one pas­ture to an­other. I can’t imag­ine life with­out my yaks.”

Per­haps Wangmo is onto some­thing. Ex­perts – and the Bhutan gov­ern­ment – have ob­served that the quan­tity and qual­ity of cordy­ceps in the Hi­malayas has been de­creas­ing with each pass­ing year. Global warm­ing threat­ens the longevity of this fun­gus, throw­ing into ques­tion how long the Layap’s new tra­di­tion can stick around for. ag

16th cen­tury BCE

ȑȑ­cock­fight­ing is wildly pop­u­lar across the In­dus Val­ley and South­east Asia

POP­U­LA­TION LAN­GUAGE pre­ced­ing the world’s ear­li­est code of laws by Sume­rian king Ur-nammu: “I did not de­liver the or­phan to the rich. I did not de­liver the wi­dow to the mighty. I did not de­liver the man with but one shekel to the man with one mina. I did not de­liver the man with but one sheep to the man with one ox.”

When dis­putes did arise, par­ties of­ten pleaded their case be­fore the king him­self or his ap­pointed judges, and rul­ings cre­ated a body of prece­dents from which the gen­eral sever­ity of pun­ish­ments could be in­ferred. Le­gal agree­ments were rat­i­fied through the swearing of oaths be­fore pa­gan gods, and con­tracts, carved into clay tablets, were placed in tem­ple archives for safe­keep­ing. In or­der to en­sure all cit­i­zens knew the law, it was of­ten in­scribed on stone and dis­played in pub­lic.

Lex tal­io­nis was born of one of these stone doc­u­ments: the fa­mous Code of Ham­murabi, which dates back to around 1780 BCE. In­scribed in Akka­dian on a black stone pil­lar over two me­tres high, the text com­prised 282 de­crees by King Ham­murabi, the first king of Baby­lon. These an­cient statutes out­lined pun­ish­ments for dif­fer­ent crimes, and con­tain the fa­mous adage un­der rule 196: “If a man puts out the eye of an­other man, his eye shall be put out.” This code is topped with a carv­ing of the king re­ceiv­ing the laws from the Baby­lo­nian sun god, Shamash. ag

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