Remnants of Lost City located in Peru?

"Finding the Lost City"

“Finding the Lost City” (1898)
Attribution: Illustration by L.J. Bridgman
Source: The Lost City by Joseph E. Badger, Jr. (Digitized by Google Books)

Peru, like much of Central and South America, is a veritable treasure trove of lost history. This latest discovery is a lost temple located within the ruins at El Paraiso. However, it’s estimated to be 5,000 years old, making it 1,000 years older than the rest of the ruins. So, it appears to be from a lost city. Here’s more from BBC News:

Archaeologists in Peru say they have discovered a temple at the ancient site of El Paraiso, near the capital, Lima. Entry to the rectangular structure, estimated to be up to 5,000 years old, was via a narrow passageway, they say. At its centre, the archaeologists from Peru’s Ministry of Culture found a hearth which they believe was used to burn ceremonial offerings.

With 10 ruins, El Paraiso is one of the biggest archaeological sites in central Peru. The archaeologists found the structure, measuring 6.82m by 8.04m (22ft by 26ft), in the right wing of the main pyramid…

(See the rest at BBC News)

Protolanguages: Decoding Words from the Past?

Protolanguage Tree for the Hypothetical Proto-Mayan Language

Protolanguage Tree for the Hypothetical Proto-Mayan Language
Attribution: Régis Lachaume
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Protolanguages are hypothetical ancestors of modern languages. For example, modern Maya, as well as other ancient Mesoamerican scripts (Olmec, Zapotec, Classic Maya to name a few) are believed to have descended from an original language called Proto-Mayan (see chart). Needless to say, decoding protolanguages is a massive undertaking. Here’s more on a new computer system which appears to do the job quickly and with decent accuracy from the University of British Columbia:

University of British Columbia and Berkeley researchers have used a sophisticated new computer system to quickly reconstruct protolanguages – the rudimentary ancient tongues from which modern languages evolved.

The results, which are 85 per cent accurate when compared to the painstaking manual reconstructions performed by linguists, will be published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We’re hopeful our tool will revolutionize historical linguistics much the same way that statistical analysis and computer power revolutionized the study of evolutionary biology,” says UBC Assistant Prof. of Statistics Alexandre Bouchard-Côté, lead author of the study…

(See the rest at University of British Columbia)

When did People Arrive in Ancient America?

When did People first come to Ancient America?

When did People first come to Ancient America?
Description: Mastodon
Attribution: Charles R. Knight (1897)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Did people come to Ancient America thousands of years earlier than previously thought? The evidence is intriguing. It’s still too skimpy to convince the mainstream but at least it’s starting to get a fair hearing. Here’s more on the origin of Ancient America from Guy Gugliotta at Smithsonian Magazine:

For years adventurous divers had hunted fossils and artifacts in the sinkholes of the Aucilla about an hour east of Tallahassee. They found stone arrowheads and the bones of extinct mammals such as mammoth, mastodon and the American ice age horse.

Then, in the 1980s, archaeologists from the Florida Museum of Natural History opened a formal excavation in one particular sink. Below a layer of undisturbed sediment they found nine stone flakes that a person must have chipped from a larger stone, most likely to make tools and projectile points. They also found a mastodon tusk, scarred by circular cut marks from a knife. The tusk was 14,500 years old.

The age was surprising, even shocking, for it suddenly made the Aucilla sinkhole one of the earliest places in the Americas to betray the presence of human beings. Curiously, though, scholars largely ignored the discoveries of the Aucilla River Prehistory Project, instead clinging to the conviction that America’s earliest settlers arrived more recently, some 13,500 years ago. But now the sinkhole is getting a fresh look, along with several other provocative archaeological sites that show evidence of an earlier human presence in the Americas, perhaps much earlier…

(See the rest at Smithsonian Magazine)

 

Mound Builders: Fastest Builders in the Americas?

Monks Mound at Cahokia (1887) - One of the many mounds left behind by the Mound Builders

Monks Mound, Cahokia: One of the many mounds left behind by the Mound Builders
Attribution: Records of Ancient Races in the Mississippi Valley by William McAdams (1887)
Source: Wikipedia

New research suggests the Mississippian culture, aka the Mound Builders, built at least one of their giant earthen mounds in just 90 days and maybe even as quickly as 30 days. An astonishing feat from a collective point of view. But can you imagine being one of the poor workers who had to carry the dirt? Like many other civilizations, the Mound Builders probably collapsed due to excessive centralization. Here’s more from Phys.org:

Nominated early this year for recognition on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which includes such famous cultural sites as the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu and Stonehenge, the earthen works at Poverty Point, La., have been described as one of the world’s greatest feats of construction by an archaic civilization of hunters and gatherers.

Now, new research in the current issue of the journal Geoarchaeology, offers compelling evidence that one of the massive earthen mounds at Poverty Point was constructed in less than 90 days, and perhaps as quickly as 30 days—an incredible accomplishment for what was thought to be a loosely organized society consisting of small, widely scattered bands of foragers.

“What’s extraordinary about these findings is that it provides some of the first evidence that early American hunter-gatherers were not as simplistic as we’ve tended to imagine,” says study co-author T.R. Kidder, PhD, professor and chair of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.  “Our findings go against what has long been considered the academic consensus on hunter-gather societies—that they lack the political organization necessary to bring together so many people to complete a labor-intensive project in such a short period.”

(See the rest at Phys.org)

The Lost Treasure of Machu Picchu?

A secret treasure trove of gold, silver, and ancient knowledge buried beneath the ancient city of Machu Picchu? Yes, please. Here’s more from Heritage Daily:

Is there a Secret Treasure Trove buried beneath Machu Picchu? Description: Hiram Bingham III standing on ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru Attribution: Harry Ward Foote (1911-1923) Source: Wikimedia Commons

Is there a Secret Treasure Trove buried beneath Machu Picchu?
Description: Hiram Bingham III standing on ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru
Attribution: Harry Ward Foote (1911-1923)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Thierry Jamin and his team think they have realized an extraordinary archaeological discovery in the Inca city discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. This discovery was made possible thanks to the testimony of a French engineer who lives in Barcelona-Spain, David Crespy. In 2010, while he was visiting the lost city, David Crespy noticed the presence of a strange “shelter” located in the heart of the city, at the bottom of one of the main buildings…

In order to confirm the existence of cavities in the basement of the building, in December 2011 Thierry and his team submit an official request to the Ministry of Culture in Lima, to perform a geophysical survey with the help of electromagnetic (EM) conductivity instruments. This license was granted a few months later.

Realized between April 9th and April 12th 2012, the electromagnetic survey not only confirmed the presence of an underground room but several! Just Behind the famous entrance, a staircase was also discovered. The two main paths seem to lead to specific chambers, including to the main squared one. The different techniques used by the French researcher(s), (Molecular Frequencies Discriminator) allowed them to highlight the presence of important archaeological material, including deposits of metal and a large quantity of gold and silver!

Thierry Jamin is now preparing the next step: the opening of the entrance sealed by the Incas more than five centuries ago. On May 22nd 2012, he officially submitted a request for authorization to the Peruvian authorities which would allow his team to proceed with the opening of the burial chambers.

The Pleistocene Rewilding?

Some 13,000 years ago, gigantic animals roamed what is now the United States. Is it not enough to mourn the loss of these animals? Should we attempt to “resurrect” them via programs like the Pleistocene Rewilding?

What is the Pleistocene Rewilding?

What is the Pleistocene Rewilding?
Description: Mastodon
Attribution: Charles R. Knight (1897)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

What is the Pleistocene Rewilding?

The Pleistocene Rewilding concept was the brainchild of a geoscientist named Paul S. Martin. Martin is perhaps most famous for his “Overkill” theory. He believed that the first settlers in North America overhunted the existing megafauna, such as mammoths and mastodons, to extinction.

Martin went on to propose the idea of “rewilding” North America with Pleistocene proxy animals. For example, the American mastodon is obviously extinct. However, the Sumatran elephant, which is an extant relative of the mastodon, still lives in Indonesia. Thus, breeding populations of Sumatran elephants on American soil would supposedly help fill an ecological niche.

“…the future of North America’s reserved lands needs to become a broad and magnificent debate that attempts to deal with the heart of the problem: ever since the extinction of the megafauna 13,000 years ago, the continent has had a seriously unbalanced fauna.” ~ Tim Flannery, The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples

Pretty cool huh? I mean, who wouldn’t want to be driving around the U.S. and stumble upon a family of elephants? Or Grant’s Zebra, playing the role of the Hagerman horse? Or even the Siberian tiger, in place of the American lion?

Rewilding: Pro-Animal…or Anti-Human?

Well, as you might expect, there’s a catch. In the August 18, 2005 edition of Nature, Josh Donlan and eleven other authors proposed the creation of “ecological history parks” which would “cover vast areas of economically depressed parts of the Great Plains.

And there’s the rub. If you’re going to import new megafauna to the U.S. as part of a crazy scheme to restore an ancient ecosystem, you need lots of land to do it. Also, all manmade structures should ideally be removed in order to support free migration. And barriers should be built to keep people out of the rewilding zone. Indeed, many of the scientists who support rewilding wish to implement it with as little human interaction as possible.

“It could be argued that taxa have an inherent moral right to continue evolving free of human intervention, or even that Earth as a whole has a right to demonstrate its fullest possible evolutionary potential. It could be argued that, as the species responsible for the extinction of so many taxa, humans have a corresponding responsibility to attempt their restoration when feasible.” ~ Paul S. Martin, Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America

But why stop at the Pleistocene epoch? Why not go further back in time? Well, at its core, rewilding is a strange, almost anti-human concept. It seeks to restore ecosystems to a pre-human or at least a pre-European state. In other words, the arrival of humans upset the pristine (and mythical) balance of nature and now we must seek to fix it.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Lost in the mix is a very important question. What’s so great about ancient ecosystems anyway? In truth, there is very little, if any, scientific evidence that pre-human ecosystems were superior to the ones that we enjoy today. Many ecosystems do just fine with both native and non-native plants and animals. They’re just as productive and they contain just as many species.

And yet, conservationists continue to seek the preservation or in the case of rewilding, the resurrection, of historical ecosystems. Part of this is practical. Ecosystem management requires some kind of baseline, something to shoot for. Otherwise, why manage it in the first place? The other part of it is blind faith. Many conservationists just know that historical ecosystems are desirable without a shred of proof to that effect.

All in all, the North American Pleistocene rewilding project is a fascinating idea. If private land owners want to lend their property to Pleistocene Parks, more power to them. However, they should know that such parks will be impossible to maintain (and here’s the ultimate irony) without human interference. Nature doesn’t exist in a steady state. It’s always changing, always evolving. The only way to keep it from doing so is with lots of human interference. And if that’s the case, then what’s the point of returning to a pre-human ecosystem? Why not just let nature evolve on its own?

“Nature is never in balance. In fact, it’s the complete opposite of balance. When an ecological system experiences a disturbance, whether it’s a forest fire or an ice storm or something else, it never comes back in its original form. Instead, the system evolves in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.” ~ David Meyer, The Mythical Balance of Nature

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Man vs. Nature Coverage

The Mysterious Origin of Maya Blue?

Around 800 AD, the ancient Mayas started to use a strange blue pigment in their artwork. What was Maya Blue?

A Maya Warrior (with Maya Blue in the background)

A Maya Warrior (with Maya Blue in the background)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Mysterious Origin of Maya Blue?

Maya Blue was a unique, weather resistant, blue pigment used by ancient pre-Columbian cultures such as the Maya. For many years, we’ve known Maya Blue consisted of indigo and a magnesium aluminum phyllosilicate known as palygorskite. But like Phoenicia’s famous Tyrian Purple, the sources of those materials have long remained a mystery…until now.

Recent research has identified at least two sources of the palygorskite. They originated from mines located in the northern half of the Yucatán Peninsula. Here’s more on the origin of Maya Blue from Archaeology News Network:

For some time, scientists have known that Maya Blue is formed through the chemical combination of indigo and the clay mineral palygorskite. Only now, however, have researchers established a link between contemporary indigenous knowledge and ancient sources of the mineral.

In a paper published online in the Journal of Archaeological Science on March 16, 2012, researchers from Wheaton College, The Field Museum of Natural History, the United States Geological Survey, California State University of Long Beach, and the Smithsonian Institution, demonstrated that the palygorskite component in some of the Maya Blue samples came from mines in two locations in Mexico’s northern Yucatan Peninsula…

(See Archaeology News Network for more on Maya Blue)

The Mysterious Missing Maya?

Another week, another theory on what the mysterious Classic Maya collapse. As a reminder, the Classic Maya period took place in the southern Maya lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula, starting around 200 AD. By 900 AD, this highly-advanced civilization had abandoned its great cities and seemingly vanished from the face of the Earth. So, what caused the mysterious Maya collapse?

What caused the Mysterious Maya Collapse?

What Caused the Mysterious Maya Collapse?
Description: David Meyer (the Guerrilla Explorer) at the Maya Ruins at Tikal

The Mysterious Maya Collapse?

Over the years, a number of theories have been put forth to explain this “collapse,” ranging from invasion to epidemics to most recently, climate change. Last week, another theory emerged to grab the headlines. Like many others, it blames the collapse on climate change…as well as religion. Here’s a quick taste on this latest Maya collapse theory from Fox News:

Reoccupying elevated interior areas with large numbers of people would require intense labor to re-establish water management systems, helping to explain why they were left abandoned, the researchers noted. In contrast, dwelling in the neighboring, low-lying areas was less challenging, and evidence suggests that sites there were typically occupied continuously even when the major political and economic networks they were linked with collapsed.

At the same time, the Classic Maya would have implicated gods and their “divine” rulers for the collapse. In that way, their abandoned territories became thought of as chaotic, haunted places, and reclaiming any lands from the forest was at best done with great care and ritual. Survivors in outlying sites may often not have bothered…

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Most of our regular readers know we don’t place a lot of credence in the various climate change theories, all of which are far more problematic than the media would have you believe. Now, its possible the Classic Maya stayed away from their former cities out of religious concerns. However, there is an equally plausible explanation. Perhaps they just found themselves living a far better life after the “collapse” and saw no reason to return to their former cities. Here’s more on the Maya collapse from us here at Guerrilla Explorer:

I want to suggest another theory to explain the Classic Maya collapse…namely, excessive centralization. This theory is best expressed by Joseph Tainter in The Collapse of Complex Societies.

As a society faces problems, it becomes more complex in order to solve them. A central government creates “solutions” which consume resources and cause yet more problems. The society becomes increasingly complex, leading to the necessity of even more complex solutions. Eventually, the costs of maintaining such a complex society outweighs the benefits at the individual level. When problems arise – things like drought or invasion – the collapse of the society is more desirable than the alternative. At that point, the civilization undergoes a process of simplification.

Historians tend to favor the collective over the individual. So, they often see the collapse of a complex society as a bad thing. And indeed, societal collapse is often bad for elites. However, it can be a blessing for the average individual, leaving that person far better off. Consider it from the point of the individual. For hundreds of years, Maya peasants were forced to support the construction of gigantic monuments and agricultural projects as well as fight in various wars. However, many of these things were of little benefit to the individual. In fact, the health and nutrition of peasants deteriorated throughout the Classic Maya period. For many of these people, the loss of complexity brought individual improvement.

The mystery of what triggers caused the collapse of the Classic Maya civilization remains a mystery. Perhaps it was drought. Maybe it was war or disease. And we still don’t know what happened to the people of that civilization. Many of them may have died from the immediate triggers. There is also evidence to suggest they merely moved north, precipitating the rise of Chichen Itza in the northern Yucatán. Regardless, it would appear that the seeds for destruction for the Classic Maya were sewn many years earlier, thanks to excessive centralization.

(See more on the Classic Maya collapse at Guerrilla Explorer)

Who Really Discovered America?

More than anyone else, Christopher Columbus is responsible for connecting the Old World to the New World. But he wasn’t the first person to reach America. So, who discovered America?

Who Discovered America?

Who Discovered America?
Christopher Columbus lands on the shores of the New World
Painted by Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla Tolín
Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Who Discovered America?

I’ve long favored the idea that pre-Columbian contact between the “Old World” and “New World” was far more extensive than the history books would have you believe. And given recent evidence, it appears those history books may need to be rewritten. Someday soon, we may actually be able to determine who discovered America. But for now, there’s growing evidence that ancient Europeans once traveled to America. Here’s more on who discovered America from The Telegraph:

In a discovery that could rewrite the history of the Americas, archaeologists have found a number of stone tools dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, and bearing remarkable similarities to those made in Europe.

…The tools could reassert the long dismissed and discredited claim that Europeans in the form of Christopher Columbus and his crew were the first to discover the New World…

(See The Telegraph for more on who discovered America)

The Lost City of Calakmul

Deep in the jungles of the Petén Basin lies Calakmul, one of the great lost cities of the Mayas.

A Pyramid in the Lost City of Calakmul

Becán, Campeche: A Pyramid in the Lost City of Calakmul
Attribution: Joaquín Martínez Rosado
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Lost City of Calakmul?

The lost city of Calakmul remained undiscovered by outsiders until 1931. Since that time, it’s become more accessible but just barely. It’s an archaeological paradise and contains the second-largest Maya structure known to exist…the 184-foot tall Structure II. Here’s more on the fabulous lost city of Calakmul from Air Tran Magazine:

Around here, the signs of ancient Maya civilization are everywhere, rising like ghosts from the ground. In the state of Campeche (which borders Cancun’s Quintana Roo on the west), Mexico’s archeological authority, INAH, has catalogued more than 1,500 Maya sites. These sprawling, longago cities and towns covered so much of the area that when the government sought to widen Highway 180, it had to choose which ruins were small enough to plow under and which were worthy of preservation.

Even amid such archeological bounty, though, an ancient city called Calakmul stands out…

(See Lost in the Jungle for more on the lost city of Calakmul)