This Week in Science - April 22 - 28, 2013:

  • Bone marrow stem cells here.
  • Olympic torch spacewalk here.
  • Dutch reality show for Mars volunteers here.
  • Small fairyfly here.
  • Theory of gravity test here.
  • Maya civilization origins discovery here.
  • Earth’s center here.
  • Sea-surface temperatures here.
  • Synthetic skin here.
  • Iron clumps in bird ears here.
  • Students discovered comet here.
  • Illegal drug breathalyzer here.
The Maya Rise And Fall // Simon Norfolk

"Scholars have long puzzled over the Maya civilization’s rise to glory and fall to ruin. The latest thinking is that a man named Fire Is Born made the Maya great. But no one person or problem caused the collapse. Simply put, everything went wrong."
“The doomed splendor of the Maya unfolded against the backdrop of the rain forests of southern and Central America. Here, Classic Maya civilization reached improbable heights. To chart a culture whose Preclassic roots reach back 3,000 years, we begin with new evidence suggesting that the arrival of a warlord from central Mexico ushered in an age of magnificence and masterpieces such as the death mask of Palenque’s King Pakal. But empires rise only to fall. We conclude with the cascade of catastrophe, natural and man made, that precipitated the Classic Maya collapse, leaving nature to reclaim the grandeur.”

"The stranger arrived as the dry season began to harden the jungle paths, allowing armies to pass. Flanked by his warriors, he marched into the Maya city of Waka, past temples and markets and across broad plazas. Its citizens must have gaped, impressed not just by the show of force but also by the men’s extravagant feathered headdresses, javelins, and mirrored shields, at the regalia of a distant imperial city."

"Ancient inscriptions give the date as January 8, 378, and the stranger’s name as Fire Is Born. He arrived in Waka, in present-day Guatemala, as an envoy from a great power in the highlands of Mexico. In the coming decades, his name would appear on monuments all across the territory of the Maya, the jungle civilization of Mesoamerica. And in his wake, the Maya reached an apogee that lasted five centuries."


Mayan Ruins in Tikal National Park, Guatemala

Deep in the Guatemalan rain forest lie the remains of the ancient Maya city of Tikal, a sprawling metropolis of temples, palaces and pyramids.

Once a vibrant city-state of 100,000, Tikal now lies empty, partly buried beneath moss, ferns and vines. Once the cradle of Mayan civilization, the city has collapsed, but the Mayan race has never disappeared. The Great Plaza holds the Temple of the Giant Jaguar which rises 170 feet with a steep staircase ascending to a doorway crowned by a mammoth limestone block bearing the faint image of Ah Cacao surrounded by serpents. In 1962, archaeologists discovered the tomb of Ah Cacao under the temple along with 16 pounds of jade ornaments now in the park museum. Temple II, directly opposite, may conceal his wife’s grave.

As grand as it now, Tikal dazzled in its heyday. The city has been called the Manhattan of the Maya, and from 600 BC to AD 900, the city was a major force throughout Central America. Temple pyramids were painted blood red and bore massive faces of kings. Today’s overgrown plazas were covered in smooth white plaster. Raised causeways connected the city. There were ball courts and bustling markets. Ultimately, drought, famine and warfare may have caused Tikal’s collapse.

Tikal has 3,000 sites across a 220-square-mile park and far more lying beneath. The major attractions are within a 6.2-mile area and can be explored in a two-day visit. Since there are few signs its recommended that you hire a guide which can be obtained  for about $20 a day — otherwise, you’ll most likely get lost. Important sites are often given boring names such as Complex N, Complex P or Complex Q. A guide will be able to point out the names and meanings behind the particular sites.

souces 1, 2, 3


Jade use in the Americas: Maya

Areas: México, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize

  1. Nebaj, El Quiché, Guatemala
  2. Kinich Ahau Head: Belize
  3. Figure: Honduras
  4. Head Pendant: México/Guatemala
  5. Plaque: México
  6. Pectoral
  7. Earflare Frontals: Guatemala
  8. Mask of Pakal: México



Archaeologists Unearth New Information on Origins of Maya Civilization

The Maya civilization is well-known for its elaborate temples, sophisticated writing system, and mathematical and astronomical developments, yet the civilization’s origins remain something of a mystery.

A new University of Arizona study in the journal Science challenges the two prevailing theories on how the ancient civilization began, suggesting its origins are more complex than previously thought.

Anthropologists typically fall into one of two competing camps with regard to the origins of Maya civilization. The first camp believes that it developed almost entirely on its own in the jungles of what is now Guatemala and southern Mexico. The second believes that the Maya civilization developed as the result of direct influences from the older Olmec civilization and its center of La Venta.

It’s likely that neither of those theories tells the full story, according to findings by a team of archaeologists led by UA husband-and-wife anthropologists Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan.

"We really focused on the beginning of this civilization and how this remarkable civilization developed," said Inomata, UA professor of anthropology and the study’s lead author.

In their excavations at Ceibal, an ancient Maya site in Guatemala, researchers found that Ceibal actually predates the growth of La Venta as a major center by as much as 200 years, suggesting that La Venta could not have been the prevailing influence over early Mayan development.

That does not make the Maya civilization older than the Olmec civilization – since Olmec had another center prior to La Venta – nor does it prove that the Maya civilization developed entirely independently, researchers say.

What it does indicate, they say, is that both Ceibal and La Venta probably participated in a broader cultural shift taking place in the period between 1,150-800 B.C.

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"If you are not angry you are either a stone or too sick to be angry. You should be angry.

Now, mind you, there’s a difference. You must not be bitter; bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host and does not do anything to the object of its displeasure.

You said angry. Yes. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it”

- Maya Angelou in conversation with Dave Chappelle at 19:55

If you’re not angry [about the assassinations of black Civil Rights leaders] you’re either a stone or you’re too sick to be angry. You should be angry. Now mind you, there’s a difference, you must not be bitter. Let me show you why. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So you said angry, yes, you write it. You paint it. You dance. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it — never stop talking it.
—  Maya Angelou