Rare Animal-Shaped Mounds Discovered in Peru

Giant earthen mounds in the shape of an orca, a giant condor, a duck, and a caiman have been discovered on the plains of Peru. These huge structures, ranging in length from 5 to 400 meters, are found in North America, but are uncommon in South America. Dr. Robert Benfer of the University of Missouri believes they may date to 4000 years ago, which places their construction around the time of the pyramids of Egypt.

The best part for home archaeologists? You can view them on Google Earth. You must install Google Earth, then download the KML file from here. If you’ve installed Google Earth correctly, the KML file should open automatically and zoom right down to the caiman mound. Here’s what it looks like:

A story in Sci-News points out the significance of the find:

Dr. Benfer also noted the structures may have been built as terrestrial manifestations of constellations the ancient Peruvians saw in the stars above. The mounds not only represented the stars, they aligned with them. So far, the researcher has found astronomical orientations at every giant mound.

For example, at the Chillón Valley site, an earthen condor’s charcoal eye lined up with the Milky Way when viewed from a nearby temple. The monstrous caiman/puma mound aligned with the June summer solstice when viewed from the same temple.

According to Dr. Benfer, astronomer priests may have made directed construction of the mounds and then made observations of the sky and offerings to the Earth from atop the earthen creatures. For the ancients, having a celestial calendar allowed farmers and fisherman to prepare for the year ahead.

Vatican/Oxford Libraries Going Digital

Here’s the scoop:

The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford have announced a 4-year project to convert some of their important holdings into digital form for all to see – even if readers can’t understand the Medieval Latin, ancient Greek or Hebrew the documents are written in.

Among the items to be digitized will be ancient Greek manuscripts, 15th century printed books, Hebrew manuscripts and astronomical writings.

Owen M. Smith, associate professor of Philosophy and Classical Studies at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, says it would be “absolutely fantastic. Right now a professional scholar has to spend the time and money to visit dozens of different libraries and do meticulous copying of the passages involved and then (take the) comparisons back home and it can take years to put out a critical edition.

“Now that these things are online, they can be accessed from a desktop that would greatly increase the availability of these works and decrease the time and expense involved in having access to them.”

The $3.17 million project was made possible by the Polonsky Foundation, headquartered in London, whose aim is “to support international development in higher education” as well as the arts.

The libraries estimate that the new digitization project will result in roughly 1.5 million pages online.

Among the printed books to be scanned will be “De Europa” by 15th century Pope Pius II, and Johannes Gutenberg’s Latin, or 42-line, Bible printed between 1451 and 1455. Other items are New Testaments and texts from the Church Fathers, complete with Byzantine miniature paintings.

The Vatican will digitize the “Sifra,” the oldest Hebrew codex in their collection written between 800 and 950 A.D. and an Italian Bible written sometime around 1100 A.D.

The Bodleian collection of Greek manuscripts will include testimonies on works by Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Hippocrates and others. Smith defines “testimonies” as “when a later author alludes to, or summarizes, or comments on, the works of earlier philosophers.”

More here.

Blind Writer’s Manuscript Recovered by Forensic Department

Seven years ago, Trish Vickers lost her sight to diabetes, and turned to writing for solace. Using a system of rubber bands to keep her lines straight, she began writing a novel in longhand. Each week, her son, Simon, would visit and read back the manuscript pages, and then a volunteer would type them up.

When Simon made his weekly visit after a particularly fecund period of writing activity, his mother handed him 26 blank manuscript pages. Trish’s pen had run out of ink, and all that was left were the indentations on the page. Here’s what happened next:

The family considered various options before trying the police. Miss Vickers, who used to run a gift shop, said: “We rang them and asked to speak to their fingerprint section. They said if there was anything they could do they’d be happy to help. I was gobsmacked.”

The officer spent her spare time salvaging the work using lights tilted to read the impression made by her pen. When she had finished, she even told Miss Vickers she loved the story and could not wait to read the next part.

Miss Vickers intends to send the novel, called Grannifer’s Legacy, to a publisher. She said: “I have always been interested in writing, I have one of those strange imaginations that runs riot. The police were brilliant and I can’t thank them enough.”

A Dorset police spokesman said a member of staff had completed the work during her lunch hours.

From the Telegraph (UK).