Saturday, June 23, 2007

If you build it, they will come (another way)

National Geographic reports that the new barrier recently built on the U.S. border between Arizona and Mexico has been effective in eliminating illegal crossings by vehicle through Organ Pipe National Monument, but an unintended consequence in a sharp increase in foot traffic through the adjacent Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.

Prior to the barrier's construction, large numbers of vehicles crossed over from Mexico at all hours, carrying illegal drugs and immigrants. hundreds of miles of dirt roads were cut into the desert by these unwanted vehicles, and rangers say it will take hundreds of years for them to grow over again without human intervention.

Now that vehicles cannot cross, smugglers as moving into the U.S. on foot, many of them through the wildlife refuge. Not only are they eroding the natural terrain, they are also polluting it with large amounts of trash and human feces.

The smugglers are not the only ones damaging the landscape-- law enforcement officials from the border patrol and the park and wildlife services must move through the area to deal with the interlopers, and they also erode the natural desert.

There is some good news: In 2008, Cabeza Prieta is slated to have its own barrier at the border completed. Still, good news for the wildlife refuge is bad news for some other border area, since illegal crossers will just go somewhere else.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Archaeologists find Inca who was earliest gunshot victim in N. America

Peruvian archaeologist Guillermo Cock, a research associate at UCLA's Fowler Museum and a researcher for National Geographic, excavated hundreds of shallow burials in Puruchuco that showed extensive evidence of violent deaths: Many were hacked to death, some were stabbed, and one was shot.

The skull of one individual showed the entrance and exit holes of what Cock believes to be a musket ball, fired from a Spanish weapon. Physical anthropologists confirmed Cock's initial conclusion that a round projectile caused the injury, and experts at the University of Connecticut used a powerful microscope to detect trace amounts of iron around the holes in the skull, confirming the hypothesis.

Cock believes these victims were slaughtered by the Spanish during an Inca uprising in 1536.

See the rest of the story at National Geographic.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Peking Man OR Piltdown Man?

Just found this on Boing Boing... the skull of Pac-Man. Is it authentic, or an elaborate hoax?

Neither! Just some very interesting art.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

More evidence of a violent Peruvian culture

National Geographic reports on a new article announcing the discovery of a headless burial in the Nasca region of Peru.

Christina Conlee from Texas State University found a tomb containing a skeleton seated cross-legged, but missing its head. Sitting just to the skeleton's left was a ceramic jar decorated with an image of a human head, which may have functioned as a substitute for the body's missing head.

While this is only the third such burial found involving a decapitated skeleton and a head jar, researchers have long documented the large number of human sacrifices performed by the Nasca, their use of "Trophy Heads" (mummified human heads which have been modified and decorated), and numerous depictions of such severed heads in their artwork.

In spite of the significant number of large caches of mummified heads and a matching abundance of severed head iconography, few of the corresponding headless bodies have been found.