The Lost Secrets of Ancient America, Volume Two
Josh Reeves: Live in Houston – The Rockwall and Beyond
Peru’s Ministry of Culture looks like a cross between a Soviet-era high-rise and an Incan fortress. And, in a tiny office on an upper floor, historian Blanca Alva is rushing through a pile of work.
Alva is in her 50s, and typically wears colorful knit cardigans. She has been deaf since childhood, and communicates by speaking and reading lips. Alva is the key person in charge of defending Peru’s “cultural patrimony,” and it’s a pretty crazy job.
Peru’s economy is exploding, and so is the real estate market here. In the capital, Lima, housing has gotten so tight that it’s spilled over into some of the country’s archaeological sites. Those sites are supposed to be protected, but land traffickers have been selling fake titles, leading people to build homes and even entire neighborhoods on top of important ruins.
Blanca Alva tells a story of how, a few years ago, she had to spend the holidays keeping thousands of people from moving into an archaeological site.
National Geographic may be facing an unexpected challenge to its reputation as one of the world’s most respected educational and scientific institutions amid reports that it is under investigation in the United States over its ties to a former Egyptian official who for years held the keys to his country’s many popular antiquities.
At issue is whether the Washington-based organisation, which in recent years has rapidly extended its public reach beyond its well-known glossy magazine to a cable television channel and other enterprises, violated strict US laws on payments to officials of foreign governments in contracts starting in 2001 with Dr Zahi Hawass, who, until the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, was the government’s sole gatekeeper to all things ancient Egypt.
For a decade, Dr Hawass seemingly played a critical role in giving National Geographic constant access to the antiquities, including the pyramids and Tutankhamun treasures which because of their popularity with the public became a lynchpin of its expansion. Fees for those services, which according to the Vocativ news web site ranged from $80,000 (£50,000) to $200,000 a year, could be interpreted under US law as illegal bribes.
The Justice Department declined to confirm the investigation. “As a matter of long-standing policy, we generally do not confirm nor deny whether a matter is under investigation,” Peter Carr, a spokesman with the Justice Department Criminal Division, told The Independent.
The Pyramids of Zuleta are one of the hidden treasures of the Andes. Built around 1,000 years ago, by the native Caranqui people, these earthen mounds and platform pyramids dominate the landscape near Hacienda Zuleta in the mountains of northern Ecuador and 110 kilometres north of Quito.
Unlike much of our planet, high resolution aerial imagery and digital elevation models are unavailable for this part of the world. This is due to the fog that often blankets the area and the agrarian nature of the region. As a part of a team of archaeologists who visited the site in August 2013, we aimed to change that.
A challenging task
Using a small, hand-launched, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV aka drone) equipped with a downward facing camera and a sophisticated autopilot system, we documented the site as it has never been seen—from extremely low altitude and at high resolution. This was a challenging task as most of the pyramids are located in the bottom of a steep constricted canyon inhabited by Andean Condors. To make things more challenging there were high winds, clouds, and quirks of the micro-climates within the canyon to contend with. In spite of that, we were able to fly nine missions and collect hundreds of photographs in just a couple of days.
The UAV flies in a defined pattern and collects photographs. The onboard autopilot insures that each image has 60% or more overlap with adjacent images. These overlapping images allow for the data to be processed into 3D and digital terrain models (DTMs) using photogrammetric and cutting edge Structure from Motion technologies. All of the data are GIS ready. While basic processing allowed us to see the mapped data in the field, it was necessary to further develop it using a high-end processing farm in Maryland, once we were back in the United States.
Researchers studying clay balls from Mesopotamia have discovered clues to a lost code that was used for record-keeping about 200 years before writing was invented.
The clay balls may represent the world’s “very first data storage system,” at least the first that scientists know of, said Christopher Woods, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, in a lecture at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, where he presented initial findings.
The balls, often called “envelopes” by researchers, were sealed and contain tokens in a variety of geometric shapes — the balls varying from golf ball-size to baseball-size. Only about 150 intact examples survive worldwide today.
The Iron Man suit could become a reality: Scientists are working on bullet-proof ‘liquid’ armour that gives soldiers super-human strength
U.S. Scientists are working on next-generation combat wear for soldiers inspired by the nano suit worn in the Iron Man films and it could be used two or three years away.The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (Talos) would effectively give its wearer superpowers, such as the ability to see in the dark, super-human strength and a way of deflecting bullets, but its is a work in progress.
The U.S. Special Operations Command (Ussocom) has called on scientists to develop a suit reminiscent of the one seen in the films that uses nanotechnology.
Such a suit would probably build upon work done by an MIT professor who is developing ‘liquid armour’, which captured the imagination of U.S. armed forces scientists who are looking for a way of protecting their troops from intensive combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A carved stone found marking a Bronze Age grave in the Ukraine is the oldest sundial of its kind ever found, a new study reveals.
The sundial may have marked the final resting place of a young man sacrificed or otherwise marked as a messenger to the gods or ancestors, said study researcher Larisa Vodolazhskaya of the Archaeoastronomical Research Center at Southern Federal University in Russia. Vodolazhskaya analyzed the geometry of the tire-size stone and its carvings, confirming the stone would have marked the time using a system of parallel lines and an elliptical pattern of circular depressions.
The elliptical pattern makes the carving an analemmatic sundial. A traditional sundial marks the time using a gnomon, a fixed vertical that casts a shadow. An analemmatic sundial has a gnomon that must move every day of the year to adjust to the changing position of the sun in the sky.
A joint Peruvian-Polish team have examined a previously unexcavated building in the well-preserved Inca retreat of Machu Picchu and found that the structure is astronomically aligned according to Prof. Mariusz Ziółkowski, Head of Pre-Columbian Research Centre at the University of Warsaw.
The team used 3D laser scanners to fully model and survey the building, named “El Mirador” (the vantage point), so as to get precise locations and alignments.
“Despite the difficult terrain we managed to perform 3D laser scans, which we then used to prepare a precise model of this amazing complex.” said Prof. Ziółkowski. Results of preliminary analysis indicate that it is a device used probably by a small group of Inca priests astronomers for precise observations of the position of celestial bodies on the horizon, against the distinctive Yanantin mountain peaks.
The Inca were well-known as astronomers who took careful note of the movements of the heavens in order to plan their agricultural and religious calendars.
Humans love to hear about ancient history, but they aren’t always that great at preserving it. Here are some of the worst, most thoughtless, and just plain dumbest ways that humans have wrecked their own heritage.
The discoverer and destroyer of Troy, Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s
Schliemann found Troy in 1871, but there were nine cities stacked on top of each other, so the inventive archaeologist found a new way to dig to the legendary city: using dynamite, which was invented only four years earlier by Alfred Nobel.
30,000 year old Brazilian artifacts throw wrench in theory humans first arrived in Americas 12,000 years ago
It’s no secret humans have been having sex for millennia — but recently discovered cave art suggests they were doing it in the Americas much earlier than many archeologists believed.
A new exhibit in Brazil showcases artifacts dating as far back as 30,000 years ago — throwing a wrench in the commonly held theory humans first crossed to the Americas from Asia a mere 12,000 years ago.
The 100 items on display in Brasilia, including cave paintings and ceramic art, depict animals, ceremonies, hunting expeditions — and even scenes from the sex lives of this ancient group of early Americans.
The artifacts come from the Serra da Capivara national park in Brazil’s northeastern Piaui state, on the border of the Amazon and Atlantic Forests, which attracted the hunter-gatherer civilization that left behind this hoard of local art.
A mysterious black pebble found by an Egyptian geologist at the Libyan Desert Glass strewnfield provides the first ever evidence of a comet entering Earth’s atmosphere and exploding.
The comet entered the atmosphere above Egypt about 28.5 million years ago. It exploded, heating up the sand beneath it to a temperature of about 2,000 degrees Celsius, and resulting in the formation of a huge amount of yellow silica glass, called the Libyan Desert Glass.
A magnificent specimen of the Libyan Desert Glass, polished by ancient jewelers, is found in Tutankhamun’s brooch with its striking yellow-brown scarab.
Prof Jan Kramers from the University of Johannesburg, a lead author of the paper published online in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, and his co-authors analyzed the diamond-bearing pebble ‘Hypatia,’ named in honor of the first well known female mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria.