Archive for October 6th, 2008

Ancient Peru Pyramid Spotted by Satellite

Science, Sophistication of Ancestors | Posted by Chris Parker
Oct 06 2008

By Rossella Lorenzi
Discovery News
Sun., Oct. 5, 2008

Photo:Pyramid delineated by white arrows. A new remote sensing technology has peeled away layers of mud and rock near Peru’s Cahuachi desert to reveal an ancient adobe pyramid, Italian researchers announced on Friday at a satellite imagery conference in Rome.

Nicola Masini and Rosa Lasaponara of Italy’s National Research Council (CNR) discovered the pyramid by analyzing images from the satellite Quickbird, which they used to penetrate the Peruvian soil.

The researchers investigated a test area along the river Nazca. Covered by plants and grass, it was about a mile away from Cahuachi’s archaeological site, which contains the remains of what is believed to be the world’s biggest mud city.

Via Quickbird, Masini and colleagues collected hi-resolution infrared and multispectral images. After the researchers optimized the images with special algorithms, the result was a detailed visualization of a pyramid extending over a 9,000-square-mile area.

The discovery doesn’t come as a surprise to archaeologists, since some 40 mounds at Cahuachi are believed to contain the remains of important structures.

“We know that many buildings are still buried under Cahuachi’s sands, but until now, it was almost impossible to exactly locate them and detect their shape from an aerial view,” Masini told Discovery News. “The biggest problem was the very low contrast between adobe, which is sun-dried earth, and the background subsoil.”

Cahuachi is the best-known site of the Nazca civilization, which flourished in Peru between the first century B.C. and the fifth century A.D. and slid into oblivion by the time the Inca Empire rose to dominate the Andes.

Famous for carving in the Peruvian desert hundreds of geometric lines and images of animals and birds that are best viewed from the air, the Nazca people built Cahuachi as a ceremonial center, molding pyramids, temples and plazas from the desert itself.

There, priests led ceremonies including human sacrifices, drawing people from across the region.

Between 300 and 350 A.D., two natural disasters — a powerful flood and a devastating earthquake — hit Cahuachi. The site lost its sacred power to the Nazca, who then abandoned the area.

But before leaving, they sealed all monuments and buried them under the desert sand.

“Up to now, we have completely unearthed and restored a huge asymmetrical pyramid, known as the Grand Pyramid. A terraced temple and a smaller pyramid are in an advanced state of excavation,” Giuseppe Orefici, an archaeologist who has spent decades excavating Cahuachi and has also worked with the CNR researchers, wrote in the conference paper.

Featuring a 300-by-328-foot base, the newly discovered pyramid consists of at least “four degrading terraces which suggest a truncated pyramid similar to the Grand Pyramid.” With seven levels, this imposing monument was sculpted from the landscape and enhanced by large adobe walls.

“This is an interesting finding. As with the Grand Pyramid, it is likely that also this pyramid contains the remains of human sacrifices,” Andrea Drusini, an anthropologist at Padova University, told Discovery News.

In previous excavations at Cahuachi, Drusini found some 20 severed “offering heads” at various locations inside the Grand Pyramid.

They have circular holes cut into the forehead and were perfectly prepared from an anatomical point of view,” Drusini said.

The researchers are now investigating other buried structures next to the newly discovered pyramid.

“This innovative technology opens up new perspectives for the detection of buried adobe monuments in Cahuachi and elsewhere,” said Masini. “Once we have more information about the size and shape of the structures, we might turn to virtual archaeology to bring the pyramid and its nearby structures back to life.”

© 2008 Discovery Channel

Thanks to Waltman77

Expert: Pterosaurs (here depicted on ancient African mask) Couldn’t Fly

Crypto, Dinosaurs in Literature,, Science, Unexplained Artifact | Posted by Chris Parker
Oct 06 2008

Photo 1 Ancient African Mask from the book: African Art in American Collections, by Robbins & Nooter

Photo 2 Mask “pterosaur” compared with modern drawings of pterodactylus kochi. Many times pterodactylus is described or drawn without the crest but a 1998 fossil find had the soft tissue preserved which showed a striated soft-tissue crest on the skull.

Pterosaurs were supposed to have gone extinct 65 million years ago or so. Why is a pterodactylus kochi depicted on an African mask less than 1,000 years old? That’s a question for those who believe they were extinct before man came along. We believe that they were contemporaneous with the artist.

This expert (in our main article, below) has concluded that many of these creatures were too large to fly which begs the question; how did gangly wings which did not aid in flight make pterosaurs better able to survive? In other words, what would be the evolutionary advantage to pterosaur wings? Style?…

Pterosaurs Could Not Fly

Paris – A Japanese researcher has put paleo-biologists in a flap by suggesting pterosaurs – the winged lizards beloved of toymakers and dino movies – were unable to fly, New Scientist says.

Katsufumi Sato of the University of Tokyo carried out an unusual study on the Crozet Islands, in the southern Indian Ocean, to test flying ability among large sea birds.

He attached accelerometers the size of AA batteries to the wings of 28 birds from five large species, including the wandering albatross, the world’s biggest flying bird.

Albatrosses fly by riding shifting winds, thanks to wings spanning 3.5 metres whose shape can be varied to exploit each draft.

When there is no wind, or if the wind blows at a constant speed, the bird can only stay aloft by flapping its wings, otherwise it is forced down by gravity and air resistance.

In a months-long experiment, Sato’s instruments showed that the seabirds had two flapping speeds – fast for taking off, and slow, for keeping aloft when the wind dies, New Scientist says.

The bird’s flapping speed is limited by its muscle strength, and the speed decreases for heavier birds that have longer wings, Sato found.

Flying in zero winds

According to Sato’s calculations, animals heavier than 40kg would be unable to flap fast enough to fly in zero winds.

A wandering albatross is fine, as it weighs 22kg – but the news is terrible for pterosaurs. Large ones would be unable to stay aloft, by this benchmark.

The largest pterosaur specimen found, Quetzalcoatlus northropi, had a wingspan of 11-12 metres and its weight is estimated to be in the order of 100kg.

Sato presented his results at a Biologging Science Symposium in Stanford University, California last month.

He has run into flak from pterosaur fans who are convinced that their creatures were “dynamic soarers” like the albatross and could sustain active flight and not just glide.

Differences in anatomy, physiology and environment must be taken into account when comparing the two sets of flyers, they say, according to the New Scientist report. …News


The animal now known as Pterodactylus was the first pterosaur ever to be identified. The first Pterodactylus specimen was described by the Italian scientist Cosimo Collini in 1784, based on a fossil skeleton unearthed from the Solnhofen limestone of Bavaria. Collini was the curator of the “Naturalienkabinett”, or nature cabinet (a precursor to the modern concept of the natural history museum), in the palace of Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria. Collini, however, did not recognize the specimen as a flying animal. In fact, Collini could not fathom what kind of animal it might have been. He speculated that it may have been a sea creature, not for any anatomical reason, but because he thought the ocean depths were more likely to have housed unknown types of animals.The idea that pterosaurs were aquatic animals persisted among a minority of scientists as late as 1830, when the German zoologist Johann Georg Wagler published a text on “amphibians” which included an illustration of Pterodactylus using its wings as flippers. Wagler went so far as to classify Pterodactylus, along with other aquatic vertebrates (namely plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and monotremes), in the class Gryphi.


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