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Archaeologists use drones to study Peru’s ruins

Archaeologists use drones to study Peru’s ruins

By Megan Gannon

Published August 26, 2013

LiveScience
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    Luis Jaime Castillo, a Peruvian archaeologist with Lima’s Catholic University and an incoming deputy culture minister, flies a drone over the archaeological site of Cerro Chepen in Trujillo August 3, 2013. (REUTERS)

To get a bird’s-eye view of ancient sites, archaeologists often turn to planes, helicopters and even hot air balloons. But today researchers have access to more agile and less expensive technology to map, explore and protect archaeological treasures: tiny airborne drones.

In Peru — the home of Machu Picchu and other amazing ruins — the government is planning to purchase several drones to quickly and cheaply conduct archaeological surveys in areas targeted for building or development, according to Reuters.

Archaeologists working in the country have already been using small flying robots to study ancient sites, including the colonial Andean town Machu Llacta, and the San José de Moro burial grounds, which contain the tombs of Moche priestesses. Some researchers have even built their own drones for less than $2,000, Reuters reported.

“It’s like having a scalpel instead of a club,” Jeffrey Quilter, an archaeologist at Harvard University, told the news agency. “You can control it to a very fine degree. You can go up 3 meters and photograph a room, 300 meters and photograph a site, or you can go up 3,000 meters and photograph the entire valley.”

Cheap and effective drones could be a boon for Peru’s culture ministry, which has a modest budget and is tasked with protecting more than 13,000 archaeological sites that are threatened by looters, squatters and illegal mining, according to Reuters.

Elsewhere robots have enabled archaeological discovery. A remote-controlled robot the size of a lawn mower recently found burial chambers inside the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, an ancient pyramid in Mexico. And in Russia, researchers used a miniature airborne drone to capture images that could be used to create a 3-D model of an ancient burial mound.

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Ancient temple discovered in Peru

Ancient temple discovered in Peru

Published February 15, 2013

LiveScience

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    Excavators stand near a newly discovered temple at the archeological site El Paraíso in Peru. (Peru Ministry of Culture)

Archaeologists in Peru have uncovered what they believe is a temple, estimated to be up to 5,000 years old, at the site of El Paraíso, north of Lima.

Inside the ruins of the ancient room, which measures about 23 feet by 26 feet, there’s evidence of a ceremonial hearth, where offerings may have been burned, archaeologists say. The temple also had a narrow entrance and stone walls covered with yellow clay, on which traces of red paint were found, according to a statement from Peru’s Ministry of Culture.

El Paraíso, located on the central coast of Peru, just north of Lima, is a site made up of 10 buildings stretching over 123 acres. It’s one of the earliest known examples of monumental stone architecture in the Americas, dating back to the Late Preceramic period (3500-1800 B.C.). The newly found building is thought to date back to 3000 B.C., which should be confirmed with a radiocarbon analysis.

Rafael Varón, Peru’s deputy minister for culture, said in a statement that the discovery of the temple “has particular importance because it is the first structure of this type found on the central coast.” It suggests that the Lima region had more religious, economic and political importance during this early period than previously thought, Varón added.

Previously, man-made mounds shaped like orcas, condors and even a duck were discovered in Peru’s coastal valleys, including at El Paraíso, by anthropologist Robert Benfer, professor emeritus of the University of Missouri, who spotted the mounds in satellite photos. One curious mound found in El Paraíso in the Chillón Valley was of a condor head whose burned-charcoal eye was likely the place where offerings were once burned. The condor was also positioned to line up with the most extreme orientation of the Milky Way as seen from the Chillón Valley. [See Photos of the Animal Mounds]

A second mound, right next to the condor, looked like a combination of a puma and alligatorlike cayman, Benfer said. That one was oriented toward the spot where the sun rises on the day of the June solstice, the start of summer.

Dating to more than 4,000 years ago, the structures may be the oldest evidence of animal mounds outside of North America, Benfer said last year. The previous oldest animal structures date to about 2,000 years ago, part of the Nazca Lines. These lines are simple stone outlines of animals decorating the Nazca Desert in Peru.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/02/15/ancient-temple-discovered-in-peru/?intcmp=features#ixzz2L7a2CVrS

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