Crocs Uncover

Bizarre Species

jueves, 31 de julio de 2008

You Know Gas Prices

HOUSTON -- In the garage where chiropractor Rick Peters once parked his Dodge pickup, two tiny electric cars now sit back-to-back next to his wife's small SUV. For trips to work, to run errands or visit friends, Dr. Peters, 43 years old, and his wife, Kris, hop into the munchkin-size cars while their old gas guzzlers gather dust. Admittedly, it's cramped inside the miniautos, which move along city streets at just 25 miles per hour. But the Peterses are converts to their low-speed vehicles. "It makes so much sense for getting around. We go everywhere in it," says Mrs. Peters, 41. It's a sure sign electric cars have a future when they're catching on in Texas. Others here, too, are abandoning the family car and driving to the office in what appear to be fancy little golf carts. Small battery-powered vehicles have been on the market for years but have mainly been used by workers driving around factories and university campuses. The small cars are powered by batteries charged by plugging them into regular 110-volt house current. Though they do look like golf carts, they have heftier frames and more powerful engines. Now, with high gasoline prices driving booming sales, many are going to ordinary folks like the Peterses, who have fallen in love with gasoline-free transportation. Orders at ZAP, a Santa Rosa, Calif., maker of small electric cars, have exploded to about 50 a day from just five six months ago. Shipments at Chrysler LLC's Global Electric Motorcars, or GEM, which made the Peterses' cars, have jumped 30% from last year's second quarter, with some of its 150 dealerships around the country tripling their sales. Switching to tiny electric cars requires some big adjustments. With three children, the Peterses must use both their little cars when they take family outings. Every trip is an adventure into the land of the giants where they're dwarfed in traffic by SUVs and trucks. They've had to learn how far -- about 30 miles -- they can go on a single charge. The night they got their first car, they rousted a friend dressed in his pajamas for a test drive and he wound up having to help them push the car home. The cars aren't for long-distance travel. On average, Andrew Kunev, also of Houston, can go about 25 miles on one charge in his Tic Tac-shaped three-wheeled electric car, which is technically a motorcycle and goes up to 40 mph. He sometimes plugs in his car at friends' homes for a refresher charge while he visits. To fit his 6-foot-2 frame into the tiny driver's compartment so that he can see properly out the windshield, Mr. Kunev has to recline in his seat. Local Sensation Owners now for two years, Elaine Triplett and her husband are pioneers in their small East Texas hometown of Palestine, where their tiny electric pickup is a local sensation and has inspired two other people they know to buy electric cars. At the request of her supermarket, she drove the gasoline-free vehicle into the store and parked it next to the produce section for Earth Day. The Tripletts decided it made financial sense to buy the electric truck even when gasoline was costing them less than $2 a gallon. Their 9-foot-long truck is big enough for all their needs, including hauling lumber for a renovation project, and bringing home a 9-foot Christmas tree. The Peterses have experienced their own neighborhood celebrity in the two months they've owned their GEM electric cars. On a recent trip to the doughnut shop, they met up with people snapping pictures with cellphones. "Everybody looks at you and waves," marveled 8-year-old Alex Peters. The family has been followed home by curious strangers. Other drivers have jumped out of their big cars at stoplights to run over and ask them about their vehicles. Laws governing the roadworthiness of the little autos vary by state. In Texas, they're legal to drive only on streets with speed limits no higher than 35. But some owners modify engines so the cars can travel much faster, and a few audacious drivers take them out on the highway. The Texas Department of Transportation recently got a call from a flabbergasted policeman who had stopped a "golf cart" on the freeway, says Kim Sue Lia Perkes, a spokeswoman for the agency. Starting Sept. 1, the department will no longer issue license plates for the tiny vehicles to dissuade drivers from using them like regular cars. The Peterses' cars get about 30 miles from a full charge, which at about 15 cents per kilowatt hour, amounts to a 60-cent fill-up, or two cents a mile. Compare that with 20 cents a mile for a car that goes 20 miles on one $4 gallon of gasoline. Dr. Peters's chiropractic practice is just a few miles from his home, so he has no problem taking neighborhood streets to get there. Enjoying the Breeze Electric cars like the Peterses' can cost from about $7,000 to more than $18,000, depending on the model and accessories, though they paid about $10,000 altogether for the two cars, which they bought used off the Internet. Although the cars share many features with their bigger, gasoline-powered brethren, including blinkers and windshield wipers, they are decidedly more basic. The Peterses' cars don't have air conditioning or even doors -- something that at first made Mrs. Peters particularly nervous when transporting the children. With the kids safely belted in, now she sees the extra breeze as an advantage in the Houston summer heat. The cars make for a bouncy ride along rough streets, and emit a whirring noise that seems to attract barking dogs. Sharing the road with bigger cars requires extra caution and alertness, say owners. And drivers of normal-size cars sometimes get impatient with the slower, tinier vehicles. Dr. Peters recalls one driver who screamed an expletive-laced version of "get that thing off the road." Generally, though, faster drivers just pass him by. Then, Dr. Peters says, he usually catches up to them at the next light.

miércoles, 30 de julio de 2008

History of UFO

An unidentified flying object, or UFO, is any real or apparent flying object which cannot be identified by the observer and which remains unidentified after investigation. The shape of a UFO can vary between a defined shape (sphere, equilateral triangle, or diamond shaped) and an undefined shape (black mass, moving lights). Through the study of UFO's (called Ufology), various methods have been created to categorize the sightings.

Dr. J. Allen Hynek developed a commonly used system of description. He divided sightings into six distinct categories which separates the sightings based on proximity up to 500 feet. The sightings are then divided into subcategories based on viewing conditions. The three distinct sighting categories are Nocturnal Lights, Daylight Discs, and objects seen simultaneously by eye and radar.

Jacques Vallee devised a different UFO classification system which is preferred by many UFO investigators over Hynek's system as it is considerably more descriptive. The Valle method divides the sightings into six categories with varying subcategories for each. The five main categories are based on the shape of the UFO as well as its position, or movement through the sky (whether stationary or moving).

Where were the first UFO's seen?

Throughout history there have been numerous sightings of UFO's. In fact the ancient Hindu Ramayana described the use of complicated flying machines. In Sumerian culture the word annunaki means "those who came from heaven to earth." Annunaki is found in the ancients Sumerian myths, and some believe that the annunaki were visitors from the stars. Zecharia Sitchin claims that the anunnaki were extra-terrestrials who came to earth in its infancy, and tampered with the genetic makeup of primitive mankind. The evidence of this according to Sitchin is the fact that there are 223 non-human genes found within the human genome. Scientists believe these genes were horizontally inserted into the human genome by bacteria. However, Sitchin believes that "...these 223 genes were horizontally inserted into the human genome by alien visitors, not bacteria."

The Mayans thought that their gods came from the star system "Pleiades." Inca ruins have been found at 13,000 feet, with one stone weighing 20,000 tons. There is an ancient Mayan legend which says that spaceships descended from the stars. There are some who believe that the stone could only have been put there with the help of extra-terrestrials.

In Egypt during the reign of Pharoah Thutmose III around 1450 B.C. there is a description of many "circles of fire" brighter than the sun and around 5 meters in size. The Egyptians wrote that these UFO's appeared over multiple days and finally disappeared after ascending higher into the sky.

A sighting was recorded by Julias Obsequens, a Roman writer in 99 BCE, "in Tarquinia towards sunset, a round object, like a globe, a round or circular shield, took its path in the sky from west to east." On September 24th, 1235 General Yoritsune and his army observed globes of light flying in odd patterns in the night sky near Kyoto, Japan. Fearing for his army, Yoritsune asked his advisors what was happening. His advisors explained to him that there was nothing to worry about - it was just wind causing the stars to sway.

The next recorded sighting was on April 14th, 1561 in the skies over Nuremberg, Germany. There was a report that the skies were filled with a multitude of objects engaged in an aerial battle. Small spheres were described as having emerged from large cylinders. Another historical sighting of a UFO happened in the July of 1868. The investigators of this UFO define the first modern documented sighting as having happened in Copiapo City, Chile.

Theories of Extraterrestrial Life

There are multiple theories about the existence of extra-terrestrials. The two main theories are called the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis and the Interdimensional Hypothesis of unidentified flying objects. The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis, or ETH, states that UFO's are best explained as being creatures visiting earth from other planets using spacecraft. In 1969 physicist Edward Condon defined ETH as the "idea that some UFOs may be spacecraft sent to Earth from another civilization, or on a planet associated with a more distant star." The Interdimensional Hypothesis of unidentified flying objects, also known as IH, holds that these phenomena are visitations from other universes or dimensions that coexist separately alongside our own. It further proposes that they are a modern manifestation of entities or phenomena which have appeared throughout and possibly before recorded history, and which were previously explained as mythological or supernatural creatures. IH was advanced by the astrophysicist Jacques Vallee, the same man who thought up of the Vallee method of categorization.

In ufology, the psychosocial or psychocultural hypothesis (PSH or PCH) argues that at least some UFO reports are best explained by psychological or social means. Carl Jung, the famous psychologist, also theorized that UFOs might have a primarily spiritual and psychological basis. In his 1959 book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky, he pointed out that the round shape of most saucers corresponds to a mandala, a type of archetypal shape seen in religious images. Thus the saucers might reflect a projection of the internal desires of viewers to see them. However, he did not out rightly label them a delusion or hallucination.

What happen in Roswell

June 14, 1947, 70 miles from Roswell, farmer William "Mac" Brazel noticed some strange debris on the Foster ranch. It was about three weeks later, on July 4, that he returned with his wife and daughter to collect some of the wreckage. A couple days later, after hearing rumors of "flying discs," Brazel told Sheriff George Wilcox about the debris he had found, after which Wilcox then contacted the Roswell Army.

A press release from the Roswell Army Air Field on July 8, 1947 that stated that the military had salvaged a crashed "flying disc." It was later that same day the Commanding General of the 8th Air Force reported that the object they had picked up was really a weather balloon. The images that accompany the second press release confirmed the government's account and the case remained dormant for the next thirty years.

In 1978, ufologist Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel, who had been involved in the 1947 Roswell recovery. The major may have been the person responsible for the first press release at that time, and believed that the military was covering up the retrieval of an alien spacecraft, not a weather balloon of a military project.

The National Enquirer interviewed Maj. Marcel in February 1980. The interview resulted in further details in the following years, such as claims that there was a military force dedicated to the recovery of aliens and their spacecrafts. This was followed by a personal report by former mortician Glenn Davis who spoke of alien autopsies performed in Roswell. Books were written about the event, starting with The Roswell Incident where the authors claimed to have interview over ninety witnesses as well changes in the timeline of when Brazel found the debris and suggesting a cover-up on the remains of crash by the military. Other books were written in the early 90s, adding new witness accounts, but changing the timeline slightly.

The General Accounting Office launched an inquiry after such reports and books, directing the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force to conduct the investigation. They responded with two reports: one in 1995 that stated that the recovered debris in 1947 were from a secret government program Project Mogul, and one in 1997 that asserted that the recovered "alien bodies" were really memories of military accidents coupled with the retrieval of anthromorphic dummies from another military program in the 1950s. Some ufologists supported the reports while others still believe in the myth.

In 2002 a dig at the Brazel site was sponsored to find any debris of 1947 that may have been missed by the military. The dig turned up nothing, but the archeological team from the University of New Mexico did find soil disruptions that witnesses have stated seeing. In early 2005 ABC supported the Air Force's explanation of the Roswell incident while later that year, former President Bill Clinton stated that the incident has been looked at, but he doubted that a flying disc crashed to earth. Recently an anonymous informant claiming to be from the Defense Intelligence Agency began releasing information about a Project Serpo. It allegedly reports that there were two UFO that had crashed at the Roswell site, and that there was one surviving alien that died five years later.

The Roswell UFO Incident has become quite popular in today's society. On American television, science-fiction shows such as The X-Files and Roswell alludes to the myth, as well as the movies like Independence Day and Signs. Videos games, such as Area 51 and Deus Ex, also make reference to Roswell, this time in combat situations.

viernes, 25 de julio de 2008

Aurora "Power Surges" Triggered by Magnetic Explosions

Brian Handwerk
for NG News

For decades, sudden brightenings of auroras—also called the northern and southern lights—have puzzled scientists.

Such events have been linked to so-called geomagnetic substorms, disturbances in the outer atmosphere that create "power surges" in the polar lights. But what triggers these substorms has remained a mystery.
Volcanic Moon Creates Glowing Aurora Spots on Jupiter (March 20, 2008)
"Living With a Stormy Star" in National Geographic Magazine (July 2004)
Northern Lights Controlled by Magnetic "Ropes" (December 11, 2007)
The research not only could help scientists predict dramatic sky shows, but also should prove a boon for the many technologies—from spacecraft to power grids—that are disrupted by substorms.

Now new data show that powerful explosions in the "tail" of magnetic field lines streaming away from Earth release energy that dramatically brightens auroras.

"What we've just learned is what makes the substorms go off, what triggers the energy release [in Earth's magnetosphere]," said lead study author Vassilis Angelopoulos of the University of California, Los Angeles.

"That's what people have been looking for for the last 50 years."

What Turns on the Lights?

Earth's magnetic field surrounds the planet with a bubble-like envelope called the magnetosphere, which is defined by magnetic field lines that loop between the Poles.

Streams of charged particles from the sun, known as solar winds, rush toward Earth at about a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) an hour. The particles push against Earth's magnetic field lines and cause some of the loops on the side of the planet opposite the sun to stretch outward like a tail.

jueves, 24 de julio de 2008

the flying car is real.On sale in 2011

Moller International's Rotapower Engine Achieves Performance Breakthrough Using Ethanol-Water Mix

Moller International (personal aircraft) has successfully tested its Rotapower® rotary engine using a fuel composed of 70% ethanol and 30% water, giving a number of advantages including reduced fire hazard, reduced emissions, improved fuel economy and engine power.

DAVIS, CA, USA -- Moller International (OTCBB:MLER) has successfully tested its Rotapower® rotary engine using a fuel composed of 70% ethanol and 30% water.

The Rotapower engine is a key component in the future deployment of the Company’s volantor aircraft including the M200E and M200G models (see, anticipated to enter the market in 2008.

This fuel mixture had a number of remarkable advantages when used as a volantor fuel including:

Reduced fire hazard since it is nearly incombustible outside the engine.
Reduced emissions to well below the Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) standard set by the California Air Resources Board.
Improved fuel consumption through the use of a higher compression ratio possible with the fuel’s high octane rating.
Significantly increased engine power through the fuel’s cooling effect on the incoming fuel/air charge.
The Rotapower engine in the volantor and other applications is able to achieve nearly emissions-free performance while producing nearly two horsepower for every pound of engine weight. Only a turbine engine can match this power to weight ratio, but at a cost that is over twenty times higher ($25 per horsepower versus $500+ per horsepower for this engine power range).Once private air travel was the exclusive preserve of the rich and famous. Sadly, it still is, unless you happen to have the lion's share of half a million lying dormant in your bank account. The Skycar, though, has whipped the Firebox team into a collective frenzy with its vertical take off capability and vaguely enticing 380Mph top speed.

Unlike previous prototype Skycars, the M400 can comfortably seat four people, making a day trip to the south of France with your mates the equivalent of a two-hour blast down the motorway.
The cost begins in 650,000.US

miércoles, 23 de julio de 2008

Neanderthal, Human Ancestor Could Chat

Chatty Ancestor?

July 9, 2008 -- Language and associated activities, such as singing, likely emerged well before the first modern humans set foot on Earth, concludes a new study that found a Neanderthal relative possessed hearing consistent with individuals that communicate by speaking.
If they had the equipment, then they must have put it to use, suggests the research team, which was led by geologist Ignacio Martinez Mendizabal of Spain's Alcala University.
"We do believe that language must have appeared at least in the last common ancestor of both the Neanderthals and the Homo sapiens lineages," Mendizabal told Discovery News.
The ancestor was Homo antecessor, who lived around 800,000 to 1,000,000 years ago.
For their study, Mendizabal and his colleagues focused on a more recent member of the family of man, Homo heidelbergensis, which dates to at least 530,000 years ago and predates both Neanderthals and people. This strapping hominid was tall, measuring six feet on average, and had a big head, along with a more muscular physique than modern humans.
The researchers analyzed bones from five such individuals that lived at Sima de los Huesos, a cave in Atapuerca, Spain. Using skull bones, they created very detailed three-dimensional computerized tomography (CT) reconstructions of the cave dwellers' outer and middle ear. CT involves multiple X-ray-like images that serve as thin slices, which gradually build whole body parts or other structures.
The comprehensive model revealed that the Atapuerca human-ish residents had a heightened sensitivity to sounds falling between one and five kilohertz, a range linked to listening to speech that other primates seem to lack

martes, 22 de julio de 2008

Thanks to Olympics, Beijing gets its Eiffel Tower, of sorts

By Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers
BEIJING — London has Big Ben, Paris has the Eiffel Tower , San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge and now Beijing has an iconic structure that's likely to identify the city forever.

t's an audacious monolith that looks like two drunken high-rise towers leaning over and holding each other up at the shoulders.
The eye-catching building, which is nearly finished, will be the headquarters of China Central Television, the staid propaganda arm of China's ruling Communist Party , and it's perhaps the boldest and most daring of several new buildings that have given Beijing a stunning new appearance for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games.
In keeping with the playful nature of the new buildings, all have weird popular names. There's "the egg" and the "bird's nest." The "water cube" isn't far away, and lastly there's "short pants," also known as the "twisted doughnut."
The last of them is the new television building, the CCTV headquarters, and it can nearly make one dizzy standing on the ground and looking up at its odd, teetering 49-story towers connected by a multistory, cantilevered, jagged cross section over open space at a vertiginous 36 stories up in the air.
Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, the building has been called an "angular marvel" and a "dazzling reinvention of the skyscraper."
Its engineering is so complex that the designers say such a building couldn't have been built a few years ago. That's because it took immense computing power to ensure that the design could withstand huge pressures in the earthquake-prone capital. Some 10,000 tons of steel were used in its construction.
As much as it's a challenge to gravity, the building is a challenge to the mind, critics say, defying conventions of skyscrapers as vertical shafts thrusting straight up.
"It captures the spirit of the country at this point in time, a really daring spirit to look into the future and try the impossible," said Rocco Yim , a Hong Kong architect who sat on the jury in 2002 that selected the winning design for the tower.
Yim dismissed the criticism that's poured in from ordinary Chinese, some of whom say the building lacks Chinese features. Others say it's too costly, at $800 million , or that its 44-acre footprint is too big for such a central city location.
" The Eiffel Tower was detested by half the population of Paris when it was built," Yim said.
Deng Xuexian, a professor of architecture at Tsinghua University , said new designs often generated opposition before they became recognized as global landmarks.
" The Sydney Opera House was criticized by many people, even members of Parliament. However, it has become a landmark construction of Australia ," Deng said.
Even admirers sometimes voice ambivalent feelings.
"It is a little bit weird. I don't know how it keeps steady," said Hua Jia, a university design student. "But I think it is great, very modern."
With the Olympic Games as a showcase, Beijing officials early this decade commissioned cutting-edge buildings, drawing the hottest designers from the global architectural world and giving a platform to what some wags dubbed "star-chitecture."
Among the new buildings:
— The 91,000-seat Olympic Stadium is a tangle of seemingly random steel "twigs" curved into a graceful bowl and designed to look like a bird's nest. Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, which also designed the Tate Modern museum in London , created the stadium.
— A stone's throw from the "bird's nest" is the "water cube," an Olympic aquatic center covered with translucent blue panels that give it the appearance of being covered in bubble wrap. At night, it offers an otherworldly blue glow.
— In the heart of Beijing , slightly to the west of Mao Zedong's portrait looking across Tiananmen Square , a shimmering, egg-shaped titanium dome rises from behind reflecting pools. Designed by French architect Paul Andreu , it's the new National Theater . Most people just call it "the egg."
— The dazzling new $3.8 billion terminal at Beijing Capital International Airport , designed by Briton Norman Foster and built by 50,000 workers in just four years, is purported to be the largest structure and the most advanced airport terminal in the world.
It might seem incongruous that a nation such as China , allergic to political reform and still insistent on calling itself communist, would willingly engage daring architects, spending vast sums on prestige projects.
Indeed, some foreign architects wriggle a bit when they're asked whether they're supporting China's one-party state with their designs, retorting that the new buildings themselves coax China to engage more with the world, not only in appearance but in function.
CCTV, the sole Chinese broadcaster, with some 15 channels, wants one day to rival CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp. Its new headquarters includes broadcasting studios, program production facilities, digital cinemas and enough space to make it the second largest office building in the world, after the Pentagon outside Washington .
The architects have built huge glass panels in the floor of the cantilevered cross section of the building, so that visitors can get the woozy sensation of walking above nothing but air.
In a statement, Koolhaas' partner, Ole Scheeren , said a new young generation was rising to power at CCTV and "the many publicly accessible functions of the new building point towards a democratization of the institution."
Since the building is like a large loop, usual hierarchies are diminished. The top floors will include public spaces for employees, rather than offices for top honchos, and communal corridors are designed to let employees and visitors peer into studios and see the inner workings of one of the world's biggest media companies.
Outside the building are a public entertainment area and outdoor filming areas.
Just how open the complex will be to the public is yet to be seen, however. Security concerns may limit entry, isolating the building.
Yim, the Hong Kong architect, said that the headquarters must generate vibrant activities and pull in people from the surrounding city in order to propel itself into the ranks of world-class buildings.
"That will be the test of whether it is a great piece of architecture rather than just an eye-catching structure," Yim said.
( McClatchy special correspondent Hua Li contributed to this article).

OMA architects' Web page on the CCTV tower project:

lunes, 21 de julio de 2008

Rare Mummy Found With Strange Artifacts, Tattoo

The mummy was found in the in Peru's ancient city of Rontoy, which sits where the Huaura River valley begins to fan out towards the ocean.

When occupied by the Chancay, Rontoy was the hub of a thriving agricultural community. Cotton fields likely surrounded the town, Nelson said.

The size of Rontoy during its heyday, however, is unknown, as the researchers are uncertain how many structures have since been destroyed by today's fast-expanding sugarcane industry.

When the researchers exposed the mummy's right arm and hand—note the fingernails—they found he clutched an empty woolen bag, which is partially visible here. The mummy also held two loops of yarn.

The dirty-looking flecks around the mummy are offerings of corn kernels. Corn, Cock noted, was a key food and ingredient in alcohol. "Chicha was really the only alcoholic beverage that they had—[corn] is a very valuable resource," he said.

The mummy, nicknamed "Kiko Rontoy," was buried with metal plates over his eyes and one in his mouth, shown here. The plates are hand-pounded pieces of copper and silver.

His face was covered in red paint made of mercury sulfide that is commonly associated with the burials of high-ranking individuals.

Peruvian archaeologist Guillermo Cock said the paint and metal are indications of the mummy's status. "That individual is somebody from the upper class," he said

The mummy was wrapped in layers of finely-woven textiles and a gauzy material. Offerings were embedded throughout the layers.

In this layer close to the body, for example, lone balls of cotton were on either side—one white, the other brown. Nelson called them "strange things we never expected."

Other offerings such as abundant corn, a necklace of silver metal beads, and a wooden figurine are thought to be more signs of the individual's high rank.

A long, thin black tattoo follows the angle of the mummy's knee joint. Tattoos are generally found on elite people, according to Kit Nelson, an anthropologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, who discovered and unbundled the mummy.

X-rays of the mummy reveal no broken bones, and a visual inspection found no lethal lacerations. He may have died from an infection, though official confirmation is pending.

Seen with metal plates on his eyes—signs of status—this male mummy found in the ancient Peruvian town of Rontoy was unwrapped in June 2008. He had been disemboweled and placed in layers of cotton and woven textiles to aid his preservation. (Read full story.)

The metal and red paint on the thirtysomething's face indicate elite status, and the presence of elites in Rontoy suggests the mysterious Chancay held a tighter grip over the Huaura River valley region than previously believed, experts said.

The Chancay rose to power around A.D. 1000 and were conquered by the Inca in 1476, though the Chancay elites likely continued to rule as Inca deputies.

viernes, 18 de julio de 2008

The Mongolian Death Worm

Could it be a kind of land electric eel?

Electric Eels are long worm like creatures and it is known to science that electric eels can generate electric disharges powerful enough to disable or kill prey.
Electric eels are not true eels, they are only eel-like in shape. Despite its name it is not an eel at all but rather a knifefish.

They tend to live on muddy bottoms in calm water and are obligate air-breathers; rising to the surface every 10 minutes or so, the animal will gulp air before returning to the bottom. Nearly 80% of the oxygen used by the fish is taken in this way. This indicates that it is a more likely candidate for having a variation that lives on land. However an environment like the Gobi Desert would seem particularily harsh for such a creature. However remember the local belief that "the worm likes to get out on the ground generally after the rain, when the ground is still wet".

Electrophorus electricus is famous for its ability to produce strong electrical currents, reaching 500-650 volts. This strong discharge is used to stun or kill prey. This electrical discharge is also used to ward off potential predators.

Up to 6,000 electroplates are arranged like a dry cell in the eel's body. Its internal organs are all in a small area behind the head, with 7/8 of the eel being tail. The electrical shocks come from muscles mainly in the tail portion of the electric eel's body. The body of an electric eel is similar to a battery. The tail end of the eel has a positive charge and the head region is negatively charged. When the eel touches its tail and head to other animals it sends electric shocks through their bodies. When the eel is at rest, there is no generation of electrical impulses.

Although all living creatures generate bio-electricity all known creatures that produce electricity useful for navigation, communication and for attack/defence are water dwelling creatures.

No known electric eels can emit poison.

Could it be a Spitting Snake?
Maybe the creature is a kind of spitting cobra.
Spitting cobras are extremely accurate at distances over 10 feet. When the cobra wants to "Spit" or "Spray" its venom at a threat, it "Hoods Up", aims its open mouth as specialized muscles contract the Venom Gland, forcing the Cobra's Venom out through it's fangs. The Cobra is well equipped to spray its painful venom directly into the eyes of potential trampling animals from a safe distance.

Snakes are wormlike shaped just like the reported "Mongolian Death Worm". Some spitting cobras are reddish in color-similar to reports about the Mongolian Death Worm

The Mongolian Death Worm, known to Mongolia’s nomadic tribesmen as the allghoi khorkhoi (sometimes given as allerghoi horhai or olgoj chorchoj) or ‘intestine worm’ for its resemblance to a sort of living cow’s intestine. It is said to be red in colour, and is sometimes described as having darker spots or blotches, and sometimes said to bear spiked projections at both ends. They are said to be thick bodied and between 2 and 5 feet long.
The Mongolian Death Worm is said to inhabit the Southern Gobi Desert in Mongolia. The first reference in English to this remarkable beast appears in Professor Roy Chapman Andrews’ 1926 book On the Trail of Ancient Man, although the American palæontologist (apparently the inspiration for the Indiana Jones character) was not entirely convinced by the tales of the monster he heard at a gathering of Mongolian officials: “None of those present ever had seen the creature, but they all firmly believed in its existence and described it minutely.”

Czech Explorer Ivan Mackerle:
"Sausage-like worm over half a metre (20 inches) long, and thick as a man’s arm, resembling the intestine of cattle. Its tail is short, as [if] it were cut off, but not tapered. It is difficult to tell its head from its tail because it has no visible eyes, nostrils or mouth. Its colour is dark red, like blood or salami… It moves in odd ways – either it rolls around or squirms sideways, sweeping its way about. It lives in desolate sand dunes and in the hot valleys of the Gobi desert with saxaul plants underground. It is possible to see it only during the hottest months of the year, June and July; later it burrows into the sand and sleeps. It gets out on the ground mainly after the rain, when the ground is wet. It is dangerous, because it can kill people and animals instantly at a range of several metres."

The creature is reported to be able to spray an acid like substance that causes death instantly. It is also claimed that this creature has the ability to kill from a distance with some sort of super charged electrical charge. Numerous Mongolians have reported seeing this creature including a Mongolian Premier. The creature is reported to hibernate during most of the year except for June and July when it becomes active.

It is believed that touching any part of the worm will bring instant death, and its venom supposedly corrodes metal. Local folklore also tells of a predilection for the color yellow and local parasitic plants such as the Goyo. It is also believed that the worm likes to get out on the ground generally after the rain, when the ground is still wet.

A Guardian ThoughtForm?

Could the Mongolian Death Worm be the result of a powerful thoughtform magickally created to protect secrets of a lost ancient civilization which once existed in the Gobi Desert? There could be as yet undiscovered, burial grounds, caves tunnels, magikal items, lost treasure, ancient scrolls and advanced technology which is being protected under the inhospitable sand and rocks of the Gobi Desert.

The Gobi Desert

Phonetically, the word Gobi means "very large and dry" in theMongolian language. It occupies an arc of land 1,300,000 square km in area, making it one of the largest deserts in the world. Contrary to images often associated with a desert, much of the Gobi is not sandy but is covered with bare rock.
Theosophy Dictionary on Gobi Desert, Shamo Desert:
"Gobi or Shamo Desert A wild, arid region of mountains and sandy plains which was once fertile land and in part the site of a former inland sea or lake on which was the "Sacred Island" where the "Sons of Will and Yoga," the elect of the third root-race, took refuge when the daityas prevailed over the devas and humanity became black with sin. It has been called by the Chinese the Sea of Knowledge, and tradition says that the descendants of the holy refugees still inhabit an oasis "in the dreadful wildernesses of the great Desert of Gobi , now the fabled Sambhala" (SD 2:220). This region was transformed into a sea for the last time ten or twelve thousand years ago; a local cataclysm drained off the waters southward and westward, leaving the present conditions. It is also said that the events connected with the drying up of the Gobi region are associated with allegories of wars between the good and evil forces and the "systematic persecution of the Prophets of the Right Path by those of the Left" which led the world into materialistic forms of thought."

jueves, 17 de julio de 2008

Cathedral Dig Reveals 18th Century New Orleans

AP-July 16, 2008 -- The first archaeological dig at one of the nation's oldest cathedrals has turned up a mix of new finds in the heart of the New Orleans French Quarter.

Discoveries behind St. Louis Cathedral include a small silver crucifix from the 1770s or 1780s and traces of previously unknown buildings dating back to around the city's founding in 1718.

The crucifix might have belonged to Pere Antoine, a Capuchin monk who was rector of the cathedral which dominates Jackson Square, lead archaeologist Shannon Lee Dawdy said on Tuesday.

Pere Antoine came to New Orleans under the Spanish Inquisition as the Rev. Antonio de Sedella and lived in a hut behind the cathedral, where he was rector from the late 1700s until his death in 1829.

The crucifix "was found in a corner of the garden, near where Pere Antoine's hut was said to have been and dates to the period near the beginning of his time in New Orleans (1770s-1780s)," Dawdy wrote in an e-mail. The artifact will be sent to experts for evaluation.

Dawdy, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, and eight students spent a month excavating St. Anthony's Garden, a fenced area behind the cathedral. They concluded their work earlier this week.

The cathedral was completed in 1851 to replace one that burned down, along with most of the city, in 1788.

Until now there has never been an archaeological excavation anywhere on its property, said cathedral spokeswoman Nancy Averett. After Hurricane Katrina toppled the garden's live oaks and sycamores in August 2005, the cathedral secured a Getty Foundation grant to restore the garden and dig into its history.

Finds have included clay pipes, children's marbles, remains of china dolls and bits of what may be some of the first Native American trade goods in Louisiana.

The crucifix is about 1 3/4 inches high; the face of Christ might fit on half of a grain of rice. The right arm of the cross and the right side and chest of the figure of Christ are badly corroded. The figure's right arm and much of the minuscule face are gone.Dawdy said the most significant find is probably the foundation of a hut where archaeologists uncovered a mixture of French artifacts from the early 1700s and fragments of Native American pottery, some painted red and others tempered with crushed shells.

A thin L of dark soil in a layer several feet below the surface showed where wood walls had rotted -- probably from a temporary hut where settlers may have lived while clearing trees for the first settlement, Dawdy said. In the corner of the L was a square post-hole -- a sign of French axes.

The walls don't line up with the street grid set in 1724, so the hut probably was built before that and may be from the settlement's very start, Dawdy said in an interview.

In another pit, Dawdy and her crew found sloping bricks from a colonial sidewalk and -- below that -- cypress timbers from another building not on any city map.

Unlike the hut, those timbers align with the 1724 street grid, Dawdy said Tuesday. She said the building probably dates from the 1720s or '30s.

"There are at least six timbers in place -- three upright and three running lengthwise," she said. "We just caught a piece of it."

She hopes to return for further excavation.

"This site is by far the richest and most interesting one I have worked on yet in New Orleans and the excellent preservation of the frontier phase of the city's founding makes it the 'Jamestown' of the Lower Mississippi Valley," she wrote in her e-mail.

miércoles, 16 de julio de 2008


Alexandria was a Greco-Roman city at the western end of the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, founded by Alexander the Great. In ancient times, the city was known for the Lighthouse of Alexandria (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and the Library of Alexandria (the largest library in the ancient world). Ongoing maritime archaeology in the harbour of Alexandria (which began in 1994) is revealing details of Alexandria both before the arrival of Alexander, when a city named Rhakotis existed there, and during the Ptolemaic dynasty.

A thriving and cosmopolitan city during the Ptolemiac and Roman periods, by 320 BC Alexandria had replaced Memphis as the capital of Egypt. With its gridded street plan, it was essentially a Greek rather than Egyptian city, with a substantial population of Greeks and Jews. The major monuments of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods were the Sarapeum, a temple dedicated to the god Serapis, which may have housed part of the library collection, the Caesarium (founded by Cleopatra in honour of Mark Anthony), and Kom es-Shawqafa, a labyrinth of rock cut tombs dating to the first two centuries AD.

The Pharos of Alexandria

Fort Qait Bey was built on the site of the Pharos in the 15th Century by the Sultan of Egypt, Qait Bey. Some of the fallen stone from the ruin of the Pharos is said to be incorporated into the walls of the fort.

The famous lighthouse (Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was constructed early in the Ptolemaic period on the islet of Pharos, approximately 1.5km from the coast. The building was designed by Sostratus of Cnidus in the 3rd century BC, after having been initiated by Satrap Ptolemy I of Egypt, Egypt's first Hellenistic ruler. The building was completed during the reign of his son, Ptolemy II Philadelphos.

Unfortunately virtually nothing of this ancient lighthouse has survived. With a height variously estimated at between 115 and 135 metres it was among the tallest man-made structures on Earth for many centuries, and was identified as one of the Seven Wonders of the World by Antipater of Sidon.

Initially built as a navigational landmark, the Pharos was constructed from large blocks of light-coloured stone, and made up of three stages: a lower square section with a central core, a middle octagonal section, and, at the top, a circular section. In the Roman period, around the first century AD, a mirror was positioned at the apex, which would reflect sunlight during the day and a fire was lit there at night. Extant Roman coins struck by the Alexandrian mint show that a statue of a triton was positioned on each of the building's 4 corners. A statue of Poseidon stood atop the tower during the Roman period.

It ceased operating and was largely destroyed as a result of two earthquakes in the 14th century AD. There is the possibility that the fortress of Qait Bey, on the Pharos penisula, may incorporate a few stray blocks from the lighthouse - some remains were found on the floor of Alexandria's Eastern Harbour by divers in 1994. More of the remains have subsequently been revealed by satellite imaging and recent discoveries around the Fort Qait Bey site have unearthed many objects, including what experts believe may be some remains of the Pharos lighthouse.

The Roman Cemetery Of Kom el-Shouqafa

Kom el-Shouqafa is the Arab translation of the ancient Greek name, Lofus Kiramaikos, meaning "mound of shards" or "potsherds." Its actual ancient Egyptian name was Ra-Qedillies, and it lies on the site where the village and fishing port of Rhakotis, the oldest part of Alexandria that predates Alexander the Great, was located.

The underground tunnels of the catacombs lie in the densely populated district of Karmouz to the east of Alexandria. The cemetery dates back to the 1st century AD and was used until the 4th century AD. According to popular belief, on the 28th September 1900, by pure chance, a donkey cart fell into a pit, which led to the discovery of the catacombs. In reality, a local Alexandrian man, Saïd Ali Jibarah was quarrying for stone when he broke open the vault of a subterranean tomb.

The catacombs were most probably used as a private tomb, for a single wealthy family, and later converted to a public cemetery. They are composed of a ground level construction that probably served as a funerary chapel, a deep spiral stairway and three underground levels for the funerary ritual and entombment. The first level consists of a vestibule with a double exedra, a rotunda and a triclinium. The second level, in its original state, was the main tomb, with various surrounding corridors. It was reached by a monumental staircase from the rotunda. The third level is submerged in ground water, which has also caused it to be saturated with sand. The catacombs also contain a large number of grooves cut in the rock known as "loculi". In its final stage, the complex contained over one hundred loculi and numerous rock-cut sarcophagus tombs.

The catacombs are unique both for their plan and for their decoration, which represents an integration of the cultures and traditions of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It was a place where people seemed to have a talent for combining rather than destroying cultures. Though the funerary motifs are pure ancient Egyptian, the architects and artists were clearly trained in the Greco-Roman style. Here then, we find decorations related to ancient Egyptian themes, but with an amazing twist that makes them quite unlike anything else in the world.

Pompey's pillar Inside the catacombs of Kom El-Shouqafa

The archaeological exploration of the city has been compounded by the fact that many of the antiquities in Alexandria were gathered together from all over Egypt to adorn new temples, or in preparation for transportation to other parts of the Roman empire. For instance, Cleopatra's Needle, on the Embankment in London, and the Central Park obelisk in New York both once stood in the Caesarium in Alexandria, having originally been brought there from Thutmose III's temple to Ra-Atum in Heliopolis.

Little excavation has taken place in the ancient town, as it lies directly below the modern city centre. Parts of the road leading from the river port to the sea harbour were examined in 1874, and one of the most striking surviving monuments was Pompey's Pillar (see above), a granite column which was erected by the Roman emperor Diocletian in 297 AD, close to the site of the Serapeum, the largest and most magnificent of all temples in the Greek quarter of Alexandria. Besides the image of the god, the temple precinct housed an offshoot collection of the great Library of Alexandria. The Greek geographer Strabo tells that this stood in the west of the city. Nothing now remains above ground.

The Royal Library of Alexandria

The Royal Library of Alexandria was once the largest library in the world. It is generally thought to have been founded at the beginning of the 3rd century BC, during the reign of Ptolemy II after his father had built what would become the first part of the library complex: the temple of the Muses - the "Musaion".

The library's collection was already famous in the ancient world, and became even more so in later years. It is impossible, however, to determine how large the collection was in any era. The collection was made of papyrus scrolls, and later, parchment codices, which were predominant as a writing material after 300 AD, may have been substituted for papyrus. A single piece of writing might occupy several scrolls, and this division into self-contained "books" was a major aspect of editorial work. Mark Antony was supposed to have given Cleopatra over 200,000 scrolls for the Library.

No index of the library survives, and it is not possible to know with certainty how large and how diverse the collection was. It is likely, for example, that even if the library had hundreds of thousands of scrolls (and thus, perhaps, tens of thousands of individual works), that many of these were duplicate copies or alternate versions of the same texts. The library, or at least parts of the collection, were destroyed by fire on a number of occasions, however the details of the destruction (or destructions) remain a lively source of controversy. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina was inaugurated in 2003 near the site of the old library.

Underwater Discoveries
Colossal head from grey granite, identified as Caesarion, son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Sphinx found on Antirhodos Island. Marble head resembling Antonia Minor (36BC-37AC), daughter of Marc Anthony and Octavia.

Very little of the ancient city has survived into the present day. Much of the royal and civic quarters sank beneath the harbour due to earthquake subsidence, and much of the rest has been rebuilt upon in modern times. The underwater section contains much of the most interesting sections of the Hellenistic city, including the palace quarter. Despite archaeological interest above ground, the potential for an ancient underwater site was largely ignored. It wasn't until 1961 that the first underwater "excavation" took place - Kamal Abu el-Saadat persuaded the Egyptian Navy to haul out a colossal statue of Isis from the murky depths of the harbour. The French archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur and a team of thirty divers from the National Centre of Scientific Research began a comprehensive and detailed exploration of the underwater site. An additional project led by another Frenchman Franck Goddio, of the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology soon followed suit.

The legendary sunken parts of the ancient city of Alexandria, lost for over 1600 years, were discovered through the archaeological work of underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team in 1992. After extensive research, detailed topographical surveys with the use of sophisticated electronic equipment, and careful excavations in Alexandria’s Eastern Harbour, Franck Goddio presented the unique discoveries for the first time to the public in 1996.

Jean-Yves Empereur

Empereur's survey of the Qait Bey site has revealed more than 300 enormous blocks, which he believes (others are more sceptical) could represent the remains of the legendary Pharos lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The survey also revealed architectural elements such as columns and obelisks and statuary, along with the remains of forty well preserved Greek and Roman shipwrecks.

Franck Goddio

Goddio's work has focused on the remains of a submerged palace with marble floors, situated within the eastern harbour of Alexandria. In 3500 dives, his team has mapped a wide range of piers and fallen columns and fabulous statues - one of Isis, and a sphinx. The placement of the columns and piers echoed the descriptions of Strabo, the Greek geographer who visited the Library in 25 BC.

Underwater images courtesy of Frank Goddio Society

martes, 15 de julio de 2008

Yellow Submarine Probes Undersea World

Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press e-mail share bookmark print

Full Speed Ahead July 14, 2008 -- Far out in the Atlantic, a little yellow submarine is trying to slip from current to current, gliding across the ocean beneath the waves.

The unmanned sub is nearing the halfway mark in its effort to travel from New Jersey to Spain, collecting scientific data along the way.

It isn't a first trip for the device, but it will be the longest, a proving effort to show that an undersea glider can take its place in a global ocean observing system.

"The big advantage is, it's totally unmanned," explained Conrad Lautenbacher, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a sponsor of the sub developed and operated by Rutgers University. "It's very efficient and can be used to obtain the same kind of data we gather from ships."

"It can be done totally remotely," added Lautenbacher. "It can be controlled from a rec room in Ohio if necessary."

Like a glider airplane, the sub doesn't have a motor to drive it. Dubbed "Scarlet Knight" after the school mascot -- never mind its color -- the sub uses wings to fly through the water as it dives and rises, seeking currents that will carry it where the researchers want it to go, explained Scott Glenn, a marine sciences professor at Rutgers.

Instead of looking for thermals of rising air, however, the undersea glider sucks water in to dive and then pushes it out again to rise, spending most of its time between 15 feet and 300 feet deep. It's crammed with batteries, and one thing Glenn hopes to learn is just how long they will last.

At the surface, it sends data to a satellite and can be controlled remotely, operating a rudder or shifting the position of its batteries from side to side.

On this trip, the glider is focusing on the temperature and salinity of the ocean, Glenn said in a telephone interview, but all sorts of sensors can be attached to make various scientific measurements.

The actual operation and monitoring is being done by Rutgers students in the COOL room, formally known as the Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory.

The little yellow sub has been following the giant ocean current known as the Gulf Stream, but as it moves on, picking the best new current will become more of an art.

Each time it dives, the students estimate by dead reckoning where it will reappear, Glenn explained. Then when it checks in again they compare that expectation with its new Global Positioning System location to see how their steering efforts are working.

Glenn has called the process sort of like "building a road while you're driving on it."

Making it to Spain as planned means covering more than 3,800 miles, for a glider that is less than 8 feet long and weighs about 130 pounds. Its longest previous trip was 1,616 miles to Halifax, Canada, last year.

Scientific information from the glider is shared with the Navy and other agencies and is expected to help answer some major questions in the next few years, Glenn said.

The oceans are still largely unknown, he explained, and gliders can carry new instruments to gather information and help increase understanding both of aquatic life forms and of the dynamics of the changing seas.

Such information can help improve management of coastal areas -- regions with the largest fish stocks -- which also feel the impact of runoff and other pollution from rapidly rising human populations along the coasts, Glenn said.

In addition, be added, the North Atlantic plays a very important role in the dynamics of climate change.

The circulation of the global oceans starts in the North Atlantic, where cold winter water sinks down deep to begin its trip around the world. "This is the start of the conveyor belt," he said. "The concept of rapid climate change depends on what melt water from the Arctic is doing....Rapid climate change makes the North Atlantic a very important thing to study."

That doesn't mean the ocean and its inhabitants will be all that cooperative, though.

The glider began behaving oddly at one point, Glenn said, sinking faster than expected and then rising slowly. Curiously, the problem would go away in the daytime.

It appeared that it was being caused by suckerfish that attach themselves to sharks and turtles.

The suckerfish apparently swim free in the daytime looking for food, Glenn explained, then at night attach themselves to the glider for a free ride.

Once the glider left a particular eddy the problems went away, he said.

lunes, 14 de julio de 2008

Coils of Ancient Egyptian Rope Found in Cave

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

The ancient Egyptian's secret to making the strongest of all rigging ropes lies in a tangle of cord coils in a cave at the Red Sea coast, according to preliminary study results presented at the recent congress of Egyptologists in Rhodes.

Discovered three years ago by archaeologists Rodolfo Fattovich of the Oriental Studies University of Naples and Kathryn Bard of Boston University, the ropes offer an unprecedented look at seafaring activities in ancient Egypt.

"No ropes on this scale and this old have been so well preserved in their original context -- in Egypt or elsewhere," Bard told Discovery News.

Carefully wrapped in coils by ancient Egyptian sailors almost 4,000 years ago, the ropes were found in a hand-hewn cave at the ancient Red Sea port of Marsa Gawasis, 23 kilometers (14 miles) south of Safaga.

"The cave is really spectacular. Over 30 coils of ropes lie on the ground as if they had just been left there. Amazingly, these ropes were stored in the same way as nowadays sailors store their shipping cords -- just coiling and tighting them in the middle," archaeologist and rope analyst Andre Veldmeijer told Discovery News.

Most of the coils were recovered from the back of the cave. There are at least two layers of ropes. In their report, Veldmeijer and colleague Chiara Zazzaro of the University of Naples, estimated that more than 60 complete coils of cords are stored in the long, deep cave.

"Each cord is about 30 meters (98 feet) long and is very thick. No doubt these ropes were made for strong, heavy duties, Veldmeijer said. "Basically, they were hauling truss components. They ran above the deck, secured at the bow and at the stern, to produce structural cohesion for the ship,"

The theory is supported by the fact that the estimated length of the Egyptian ships is about 10 meters (33 feet) shorter than the ropes' lengths. This shows that sailors had five meters (16 feet) at both ends to tie the ropes.

The researchers are still puzzling over the material the ancient Egyptians used to make such a strong cordage.

"It's really intriguing. We know that the ropes are made of vegetable fibers only," Veldmeijer said. "Moreover, they are of one type of vegetable fiber -- Egyptians never used different materials together to make ropes. We can exclude the usual, known materials, such as halfa grasses, papyrus and palm. It's possibly reed... We hope to solve the puzzle by the end of the year."

Meanwhile, excavation work at Marsa Gawasis continues. The site abounds with man-made caves cut into the rock. They all seem to be filled with seafaring remains.

"We found remains of ship timbers, anchors, expedition equipment, cargo boxes and pottery. Analysis has shown that these caves contain the world's oldest maritime artifacts," Fattovich said.

As for the ropes, the researchers believe they are the well-preserved riggings from an Egyptian seafaring expedition to the fabled Land of Punt (around present-day Somalia), in the 12th Dynasty, almost 4,000 years ago.

"We found hieroglyphic texts about these expeditions, and even some materials brought back from Punt, such as ebony, obsidian and pottery from eastern Sudan, Eritrea and Yemen," Bard said.

The most famous expedition to the mysterious and exotic Land of Punt was conducted during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut and is described in bas-relief inscriptions in her funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri.

"We are now excavating the harbor area. Other ship remains are coming to light. This is such an important site. There is much more to discover," Fattovich said.

viernes, 11 de julio de 2008


The term, Aztec, is a startlingly imprecise term to describe the culture that dominated the Valley of Mexico in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Properly speaking, all the Nahua-speaking peoples in the Valley of Mexico were Aztecs, while the culture that dominated the area was a tribe of the Mexica (pronounced "me-shee-ka") called the Tenochca ("te-noch-ka"). At the time of the European conquest, they called themselves either "Tenochca" or "Toltec," which was the name assumed by the bearers of the Classic Mesoamerican culture. The earliest we know about the Mexica is that they migrated from the north into the Valley of Mexico as early as the twelfth century AD, well after the close of the Classic Period in Mesoamerica. They were a subject and abject people, forced to live on the worst lands in the valley. They adopted the cultural patterns (called Mixteca-Pueblo) that originated in the culture of Teotihuacán, so the urban culture they built in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is essentially a continuation of Teotihuacán culture.

As stated in the section on the Toltecs, the peoples of Mesoamerica distinguished between two types of people: the Toltec (which means "craftsman"), who continued Classic urban culture, and the Chichimec, or wild people, who settled Mesoamerica from the north. The Mexica were, then, originally Chichimec when they migrated into Mexico, but eventually became Toltecs proper.

The history of the Tenochca is among the best preserved of the Mesoamericans. They date the beginning of their history to 1168 and their origins to an island in the middle of a lake north of the Valley of Mexico. Their god, Huitzilopochtli, commanded them on a journey to the south and they arrived in the Valley of Mexico in 1248. According to their history, the Tenochca were originally peaceful, but their Chichimec ways, especially their practice of human sacrifice, revolted other peoples who banded together and crushed their tribe. In 1300, the Tenochcas became vassals of the town of Culhuacan; some escaped to settle on an island in the middle of the lake. The town they founded was Tenochtitlan, or "place of the Tenochcas."

Relations between the Tenochcas and Culhuacan became bitter after the Tenochcas sacrificed a daughter of the king of Culhuacan; so enraged were the Culhuacans that they drove all the Tenochcas from the mainland to the island. There, the Tenochcas who had lived in Culhuacan taught urban culture and architecture to the peoples on the island and the Tenochcas began to build a city. The city of Tenochtitlan is founded, then, sometime between 1300 and 1375.

The Tenochcas slowly became more powerful and militarily more skilled, so much so that they became allies of choice in the constant conflicts between the various peoples of the area. The Tenochcas finally won their freedom under Itzacoatl (1428-1440), and they began to build their city, Tenochtitlan, with great fervor. Under Itzacoatl, they built temples, roads, a causeway linking the city to the mainland, and they established their government and religious hierarchy. Itzacoatl and the chief who followed him Mocteuzma I (1440-1469) undertook wars of conquest throughout the Valley of Mexico and the southern regions of Vera Cruz, Guerrero, and Puebla. As a result, Tenochtitlan grew dramatically: not only did the city increase in size, precipitating the need for an aqueduct system to bring water from the mainland, it grew culturally as well as the Tenochcas assimilated the gods of the region into their religion.

A succession of kings followed Mocteuzma I until the accession of Mocteuzma II in 1502; despite a half century of successful growth and conquest, Tenochca culture and society began to suffer disasters under Mocteuzma II. First, tribute peoples began to revolt all over the conquered territories and it is highly likely that Tenochca influence would eventually have declined by the middle of the sixteenth century. Most importantly, the reign of Mocteuzma II was interrupted by the invasion of the Spaniards under Cortez in 1519-1522. The Spaniards kidnapped Mocteuzma and eventually killed him in 1524. When the city of Tenochtitlan fell, the remainder of Mexico fell very rapidly. The Spaniards managed this conquest for several reasons. First, Aztec conquest was not concerned with political or territorial influence; the conqests only had to do with the payment of tribute. There was, then, a large group of subject peoples with no loyalty to Tenochtitlan and alot of hostility. Cortez conquered Tenochtitlan largely by using these enmities. Second, the Aztecs had nothing like formal military strategy; wars were largely fought as large-scale individual combats. Finally, Cortez and his men were desperate; they had entered Mexico against orders and knew that, unless they conquered Mexico, that they would be severely punished when they returned.

Economy and Society The economy of Tenochtitlan was built off of one overwhelming fact: the urban population on the island required high levels of economic support from surrounding areas. In its earliest history, Tenochtitlan was self-supporting; the village was small and agriculture was managed through the chinampa method of architecture, practiced widely throughout Mesoamerica. In the chinampa , flat reeds were placed in the shallow areas of the lake, covered with soil, and then cultivated. In this way, the Aztecs reclaimed much of the lake for agriculture. A large part of the city's population were farmers; at its height (100,000-300,000), at least half the population would leave the city in the morning to go farm and return in the evening.

The city itself consisted of a large number of priests and craftspeople; the bulk of the economy rested on extensive trade of both necessary and luxury items. Tenochtitlan was a true urban center. It had a permanent population, it had a large and bustling market (the Spanish estimated that at least 60,000 people crowded the market), and it had the beginnings of economic class. For the kinship groups of the city were divided up into calpulli , many of which practiced a specific craft or trade, such as rope-making or pot-making. While there is a great deal of controversy over the precise nature of the capulli , it seems to be a transition point between kinship organization (the calpulli were kinship groups) and economic class (the calpulli specialized in particular crafts). In addition, the calpulli seemed to be arranged in ranks: there was the highest calpulli , another five calpulli that had schools for nobility, and then all the rest.

The Aztecs did have two clearly differentiated social classes. At the bottom were the macehualles, or "commoners," and at the top the pilli, or nobility. These were not clearly differentiated by birth, for one could rise into the pilli by virtue of great skill and bravery in war.

All male children went to school. At the age of 15, each male child went to telpuchcalli ("house of youth"), where he learned the history and religion of the Aztecs, the art of war and fighting, the trade or craft specific to his calpulli , and the religious and civic duties of everyday citizenship. The children of nobility also attended another school, a school of nobility or calmecac , if he was a member of one of the top six calpulli . There the child learned the religious duties of priests and its secret knowledge; for the distinction between government and religious duties was practically non-existent. This public education was only limited to boys.

In Aztec society, women were regarded as the subordinate of men. Above everything else, they were required to behave with chastity and high moral standards. For the most part, all government and religious functions were closed off to women. In fact, one of the most important religious offices, the Snake Woman, was always filled by men. There were some temples and gods that had priestesses, who had their own schools, but their exact position in the hierarchy is unknown.

Aztec laws were simple and harsh. Almost every crime, from adultery to stealing, was punished by death and other offenses usually involved severe corporal punishment or mutilation (the penalty for slander, for instance, was the loss of one's lips). This was not a totalitarian state, however; there was a strong sense of community among the Aztecs and these laws, harsh as they seem, were supported by the community rather than an autocratic judiciary.

Slavery was common among the Aztecs; it was not, however, racial or permanent. One became a slave by being captured in war, by committing certain crimes, such as theft, by voluntarily entering into slavery, or by being sold by one's parents. If one was captured in war, slavery was a pleasant option, for the purpose of Aztec warfare was primarily the capture of live human sacrifices. If, however, one had a useful trade, the Tenochca would forego the sacrifice and employ the captive in that trade.

There was little distinction between the religious and the secular hierarchy, although historians and anthropologists argue that the Aztecs developed farther than any other Mesoamerican group a secular aspect of society. At the very top of the hierarchy was the tlacatecuhtli , or "chief of men." He dominated all the religious ceremonies and served as a military leader. Below the tlacatecuhtli were a series of religious offices and some secular functions, such as military generals.


The religion of the Aztecs was incredibly complicated, partly due to the fact that they inherited much of it from conquered peoples. Their religion was dominated by three gods: Huitzilopochtli ("hummingbird wizard," the native and chief god of the Tenochca, Huitzilopochtli was the war and sun god), Tezcatlipoca ("Smoking Mirror," chief god of the Aztecs in general), and Quetzalcoatl ("Sovereign Plumed Serpent," widely worshipped throughout Mesoamerica and the god of civilization, the priesthood, and learning). Below these three gods were four creating gods who were remote and aloof from the human world. Below these were an infinity of other gods, of which the most important were Tlaloc, the Rain God, Chalchihuitlicue, the god of growth, and Xipe, the "Flayed One," a god associated with spring.

The Wall of Skulls, Tenochtitlan

The overwhelming aspect of Aztec religious life in the imaginations of non-Aztecs was the predominance of human sacrifice. This had been practiced all throughout the Mesoamerican world, but the Tenochca practiced it at a scale never seen before or since. We don't know a great deal about the details, but we have a fairly good idea of its general character and justification. Throughout Mesoamerica, the theology involved the concept that the gods gave things to human beings only if they were nourished by human beings. Among the Maya, for instance, the priests would nourish the gods by drawing their own blood by piercing their tongues, ears, extremities, or genitals. Other sacrifices involved prayer, offerings of food, sports, and even dramas. The Aztecs practiced all of these sacrifices, including blood-letting. But the Aztec theologians also developed the notion that the gods are best nourished by the living hearts of sacrificed captives; the braver the captive, the more nourishing the sacrifice. This theology led to widespread wars of conquest in search of sacrificial victims both captured in war and paid as tribute by a conquered people.

We can successfully reconstruct Aztec human sacrifice with a high level of accuracy. Some sacrifices were very minimal, involving the sacrifice of a slave to a minor god, and some were very spectacular, involving hundreds or thousands of captives. Aztec history claims that Ahuitzotl (1468-1502), who preceded Mocteuzma II as king, sacrificed 20,000 people after a campaign in Oaxaca ("O-a-sha-ka"). No matter what the size of the sacrifice, it was always performed the same way. The victim was held down by four priests on an altar at the top of a pyramid or raised temple while the officiant made an incision below the rib cage and pulled out the living heart. The heart was then burned and the corpse was pushed down the steep steps; a very brave or noble victim was carried down the steps. The most brutal of human sacrifices were those dedicated to the god Huehueteotl. Sacrificial victims were drugged and then thrown into a fire at the top of the ceremonial platform. Before they were killed by the fire, they were dragged out with hooks and their living hearts were pulled out and thrown back into the fire.

While human sacrifice was the most dramatic element of Aztec sacrifice, the most common form of sacrifice was voluntary blood-letting which occurred at every religious function. Such blood-letting was tied to rank: the higher one was in social or priestly rank, the more blood one had to sacrifice.

There was an urgency to all this sacrifice. The Aztec believed that the world was controlled by divine forces that were in constant conflict and opposition to one another. The universe was poised between conflicting forces of creation and destruction; human beings could, in part, influence this balance through the practice of sacrifice.

In addition to sacrifice, the Aztec religion, like the Mayan religion, was dominated by calculations of time. The Aztecs had several calendars; each day was controlled by two gods, each of which had a benificient and a malevolent aspect. In a complex series of astronomical calculations, one could precisely determine how to behave and what to do in order to achieve the best results.

It is not unfair to say that Aztec culture was overwhelmingly eschatological in a way that can only be rivalled by early Christianity. The Aztecs, like the Mayans, believed that the universe had been created five times and destroyed four times; each of these five eras was called a Sun. The first age was called Four Ocelot (for it began on the date called Four Ocelot). Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror) dominated the universe and eventually became the sun disk. The world was destroyed by jaguars. The second age was Four Wind, dominated by Quetzalcoatl (Sovereign Plumed Serpent); men were turned to monkeys and the world was destroyed by hurricanes and tempests. The third age was Four Rain, dominated by Tlaloc (the rain god); the world was destroyed by a rain of fire. The fourth era was Four Water and was dominated by Chalchihuitlicue (Woman with the Turquoise Skirt); the world was destroyed by a flood. The fifth era, the one we live in now, is Four Earthquake, and is dominated by Tonatiuh, the Sun-God. This age will end in earthquakes.

The Aztecs had two calendars: the ritual year and the solar year. The ritual year lasted for 260 days and the solar year lasted for 365 days. Every fifty-two years these two calendars would resynchronize; the Aztecs, then, lived in 52-year cycles. In Aztec religion, the destruction of every era always occurred on the last day of each 52 year cycle (although each era lasted for several of these cycles). Every 52 years, then, the Aztecs believed that the world was about to end and the close of the 52 year cycle was the most important religious event in Aztec life for this period was the most dangerous period in human life. This was the time when the gods could decide to destroy humanity. Every cycle ended with the New Fire Ceremony. For five days before the end of the cycle, all religious altar fires were extinguished and people all over the Aztec world destroyed furniture and possessions and went into mourning for the world. On the last day, the priests went to the Hill of the Star, a crater in the Valley of Mexico, and waited for the constellation of the Pleiades to appear. If it appeared, that meant that the world would continue for fifty-two more years. The priests would light a fire in an animal carcass, and all the fires of the Valley of Mexico would be lit from this single fire. The day after saw sacrifices, blood-letting, feasting, and renovation of possessions and houses.


We can barely read Mayan writing, but we do know how to read Aztec writing. Like the Mayans, the Aztecs developed a true system of writing. Aztec writing isn't phonetic but rather a loose system of rebus writing. Still, if the testimony of the Spanish is reliable, this writing system was seen as an aid to oral traditions rather than as a replacement. Aztec writing was used for many purposes: calculation, calendrical counts, chronicles, diaries, and even history. This is why we know far more about Aztec history before 1500—and in far greater chronological detail—than any other American peoples. Many theories have been presented for the development of a widespread literate tradition among the Aztecs, while the same didn't occur for the Mayas. Perhaps the most convincing is the fact that Aztec society was far more complex than any other preceding culture. The persistent need for accurate record-keeping which is introduced with social complexity led to the development of the most literate society on the American continents.