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Archive for May, 2007

Easter Island: Saving the Rapanui

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he Rapanui of Easter Island are facing extinction. They claim their colonial masters in Chile aren’t doing enough to ensure their survival. Easter Island, also Rapa Nui (Spanish Isla de Pascua), triangular-shaped island belonging to Chile, located in the South Pacific Ocean, 3,700 km (2,300 mi) west of the Chilean coast. The island is formed by three extinct volcanoes. Swept by strong trade winds, the area is warm throughout the year. Indigenous vegetation consists mainly of grasses. Potatoes, sugarcane, taro roots, tobacco, and tropical fruits are grown in the fertile soil. The prime source of fresh water is the rain that gathers in the crater lakes. In 1722 several thousand Polynesians inhabited the island, but disease and raids by slave traders reduced the number to fewer than 200 by the late 19th century. Some Polynesians and Chileans have intermarried.

he island was named by a Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen, who became the first European to discover the island on Easter Day in 1722. The Chilean government annexed the island in 1888. An area on the western coast is reserved by the government for the indigenous population; the remainder is used as grazing land for sheep and cattle. Easter Island is of considerable archaeological importance. It is the richest site of the megaliths (see Megalithic Monuments) of the Pacific island groups and the only source of evidence of a form of writing in Polynesia.

ery little is known about the people who made the megaliths. The original inhabitants of Easter Island were Polynesians who migrated to the island beginning around ad 400. Descendants of these Polynesian settlers erected the statues between 800 and 1600. The largest of the existing stone monuments are the great burial platforms, called ahus, which were used to support rows of statues. The ahus were situated on bluffs and in other positions commanding a view of the sea. Each ahu was constructed of neatly fitted stone blocks set without mortar. The burial platform usually supported 4 to 6 statues, although one ahu, known as Tongariki, carried 15 statues. Within many of the ahus, vaults house individual or group burials.

ore than 880 statues remain on the island; they vary in height from 3 to 12 m (10 to 40 ft). Carved from tuff, a soft volcanic rock, they consist of huge heads with elongated ears and noses. Material for the statues was quarried from the crater called Rano Raraku, where modern explorers found an immense unfinished statue 21 m (68 ft) long. Many of the statues on the burial platforms bore cylindrical, brimmed crowns of red tuff; the largest crown weighs 27 metric tons. Excavations have also disclosed hidden caves containing decayed remains of tablets and wooden images, and numerous small wooden sculptures. The tablets are covered with finely carved and stylized figures, which seem to be a form of picture writing. Area of the island, 117 sq km (45 sq mi); population, 2,095 (1989 estimate).

The Secret of El Dorado

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New evidence that advanced societies flourished in the Amazon Basin before the arrival of Europeans.It was the most notorious wild-goose chase in history: the Conquistadors’ search for El Dorado, a fabulous kingdom of gold that Indians said lay hidden in the jungles of the Amazon Basin. But now, at last, archaeologists have uncovered the truth behind that myth. They have found evidence of a huge society, as advanced as the Egyptians or the Incas, right in the heart of the rainforest. And this is more than the story of a lost world rediscovered. For it seems that the people of the real El Dorado possessed a secret with the power to transform our world and their secret in the soil could be the solution to solving famine in the thrid world and other nations once and for all…

The Amazon Basin culture area is defined by the Amazon River Basin, which contains the world’s largest tropical rain forest. Covering an estimated 7 million sq km (2.7 million sq mi), this area accounts for slightly more than 40 percent of the South American continent’s landmass. With temperatures that rarely go below 27°C (80°F) and heavy rains throughout the year, the Amazon Basin is a hothouse of animal and plant species. For example, there are 3,000 fish species, more than 100 species of New World monkeys, and 5,000 species of trees. The Amazon River, measuring 6,400 km (4,000 mi) long, is the second longest river in the world, and together with its principal tributaries—the Xing, Tapajs, Negro, Madeira, Napo, and Ucayali rivers it accounts for one-fifth of all the fresh water that flows into the oceans.

Watermanagement in Kiribati and Tonga

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The remote island countries of Kiribati and Tonga in the Pacific rely mainly on fragile groundwater aquifers for fresh water. But groundwater sources just below the surface are highly vulnerable to pollution and salt water intrusion, as populations grow and concentrate in urban areas. Community organizers are working to change peoples’ behavior to safeguard water supplies and the environment.

KiribatiKiribati is an independent republic within the Commonwealth of Nations, located in the central Pacific Ocean, about 4,000 km (about 2,500 mi) southwest of Hawaii. It is part of the division of the Pacific islands that is known as Micronesia. Kiribati consists of 33 coral islands divided among three island groups: the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix Islands, and the Line Islands. All of the islands are atolls (ring-shaped islands with central lagoons) except for the island of Banaba in the Gilbert Islands. Of the 33 islands of Kiribati, 21 are inhabited. Most of the population is concentrated in the Gilbert Islands. Only one of the Phoenix Islands and three of the Line Islands are permanently inhabited. The capital of Kiribati is Tarawa, an atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Bairiki, an islet of Tarawa, serves as an administrative center. Between 1892 and 1900 the British government made the Gilbert Islands a British protectorate. In 1916 the islands gave up their nominal sovereignty and became part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony. The Phoenix and Line islands eventually joined the colony, and the Ellice Islands (now Tuvalu) seceded. In 1979 the colony became the independent republic of Kiribati.

TongaTonga is an independent island nation in the southern Pacific Ocean, located approximately 650 km (approximately 400 mi) southeast of Fiji and approximately 1,850 km (approximately 1,150 mi) northeast of New Zealand. Tonga is the only remaining Polynesian monarchy. Nukualofa is the country’s capital, chief port, and largest town. Tonga consists of more than 150 islands spread over approximately 360,000 sq km (approximately 140,000 sq mi) of the Pacific Ocean. They are divided into three main groups—Tongatapu, Ha’apai, and Vava’u. About 40 of the islands are inhabited. With inland waters and several outlying islands, the country has a total land area of 750 sq km (290 sq mi). Tongatapu, with a total area of about 260 sq km (100 sq mi), is the largest island. The eastern islands, including Tongatapu, are coral formations, while islands of volcanic origin lie in the west. The highest point in Tonga is Mount Kao (1,030 m/3,379 ft), a volcano forming Kao Island in the Ha’apai group. Several islands have active volcanoes. Volcanic ash creates fertile soil, and the islands are well-vegetated. However, deforestation, caused by land being cleared for agriculture and settlement, is an increasing problem.

Ark of Covenant – Digging for truth

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Indiana Jones, watch out! Host, explorer and survival expert Josh Bernstein takes a fresh look at the world’s greatest ancient mysteries and puts adventure back into history as he travels to some of the most intriguing, remote and physically challenging locations in the world. The Ark of the Covenant (×?רון הברית in Hebrew: aron habrit) is described in the Hebrew Bible as a sacred container, wherein rested the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments as well as other sacred Israelite objects. The Ark was built at the command of God, in accord with Moses’ prophetic vision on Mount Sinai (Exodus 25:9-10). Its primary function was for God to communicate with Moses, also to give detailed instructions about what was good and what was forbidden, “from between the two cherubim” on the Ark’s cover (Exodus 25:22). The Ark and its sanctuary were “the beauty of Israel” (Lamentations 2:1). Rashi and some Midrashim suggest that there were two arks – a temporary one made by Moses, and a later one made by Bezalel (Hertz 1936).

Machu Picchu – Digging for truth

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Digging for the Truth is a History Channel documentary television series. The show focuses on host Josh Bernstein, who journeys on various explorations of historical icons and ancient mysteries. Bernstein is the president and CEO of BOSS (Boulder Outdoor Survival School) and has a degree in anthropology and psychology from Cornell University. The show airs every Monday night at 9:00 EST on the History Channel. The series premiered in January, 2005 and has since become the highest-rated series in the history of The History Channel. The third season premiered on January 22, 2007, with a 2-hour special event on the quest for Atlantis.

In this episode digging for the truth about the Machu Picchu (Quechua: Machu Piqchu Old Peak; sometimes called the “Lost City of the Incas”) is a pre-Columbian city created by the Inca. It is located at 2,430 m (7,970 ft) on a mountain ridge. Machu Picchu is located above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, about 70 km (44 mi) northwest of Cusco. Forgotten for centuries by the outside world, although not by locals, it was brought back to international attention by archaeologist Hiram Bingham who rediscovered it in 1911, and wrote a best-selling work about it. Peru is pursuing legal efforts to retrieve thousands of artifacts that Bingham removed from the site.

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