The Media Doesn’t Just Screw Up Biblical-Archaeology-Related News

It seems the media does not have any prejudice in how it reports the facts of an archaeological investigation.  Case in point, the “discovery” of a fictional city in Honduras:

Underneath the thick, virgin rainforest cover in the Mosquitia region of Honduras, archaeologists have discovered ruins they think may be the lost city of Ciudad Blanca. Legends say the “White City” is full of gold, which is why conquistador Hernando Cortes was among the first Ciudad Blanca seekers in the 1500s.

But the method the modern researchers used was a little different from previous explorers’ techniques. The modern-day researchers flew over the area in a small plane and shot billions of laser pulses at the ground, creating a 3-D digital map of the topology underneath the trees.

This is one of the first times this technique, called light detection and ranging (LiDAR), has been used to map ancient ruins. Beyond archaeology, LiDAR researchers at the National Science Foundation are looking to develop the technology for mapping disasters using drones, for military spying and for tracking erosion under rivers and shallow parts of the ocean.

via Laser mapping spots lost city in Honduras – Technology & science – Science –

Which archaeologists?  Sounds like the ‘Allness Trap’ in play here.  But wait, there is more.  Archaeologists who have worked in Honduras, like Rosemary Joyce, have this to say:

But all too often, this good science is then hyped as if it was totally unprecedented, surprising, supposedly shattering all our previous ideas. So good science becomes bad archaeology.

Unfortunately for me and my colleagues in Honduran archaeology, the latest such incident is in our bailiwick. In mid-May, Spanish-language news sources in Honduras reported an announcement by the president of the country that LiDAR images had possibly revealed a “lost city”, Ciudad Blanca. One government official went so far as to say it “might be the biggest archaeological discovery in the world of the twenty-first century”.

Hurray! except that isn’t good archaeology —  it’s hype.

And later:

The group promoting the story — led by a documentary filmmaker — issued a press release in English on May 15 that promotes the idea that what is visible in the LiDAR images is “the legendary lost city of Ciudad Blanca.” Although their press release mentions working with archaeologists, in fact, none have been part of the project — or they would possibly have saved them from promoting the story as the discovery of a fabled lost city.

As scholarly critiques soon noted, Ciudad Blanca is literally a legend —one whose modern circulation the primary archaeologist with experience in the region, Chris Begley, has already taken apart. Begley actually presents a discussion of the Ciudad Blanca folktale on his website, along with a summary of the actual archaeology of the region, which is not such an unknown as the press releases would have you believe.

So a filmmaker wants to make a documentary about ancient fiction, lo and behold, another media storm of misinformation ensues.  Sounds like another filmmaker I know.  And where are the investigative journalists?  Why aren’t journalists like Francie Diep over at MSNBC doing any research into this?  Stories like this should come with disclaimers like ‘Do not trust the information when it comes from a film maker rather than credible archaeologists.’

My suggestion to everyone: read the rest of Joyce’s post and do your own research before trusting anything from the media.  They suck at research.

‘Vampire’ Remains Found in Bulgaria

Reported today via MSNBC:

Bulgarian archaeologists are showing off two centuries-old skeletons that they say were pinned down through their chests with iron rods to keep them from turning into vampires — a trend that was all the rage in medieval Europe.

The “vampire” skeletons were excavated recently near the Black Sea town of Sozopol, according to reports from The Associated Press and AFP. Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of Bulgaria’s National History Museum, was quoted as saying that corpses were regularly treated this way in some parts of the country until the beginning of the 20th century.

via ‘Vampire’ bones dug up in Bulgaria – Cosmic Log.

Evolution of Birds is Due to Drastic Change in How Dinosaurs Developed

Continuing on with my Evolution-themed posts over the past week or so, here is an interesting study which seems to confirm what many of us have long suspected:

Researchers from Harvard University, The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have found evidence that the evolution of birds is the result of a drastic change in how dinosaurs developed. Scientists have long understood that modern birds descended from dinosaurs. Rather than take years to reach sexual maturity, as many dinosaurs did, birds sped up the clock — some species take as little as 12 weeks to mature — allowing them to retain the physical characteristics of baby dinosaurs.

The results of the study appeared May 27 in an online edition of the journal Nature. (Ed: read the paper here)

“What is interesting about this research is the way it illustrates evolution as a developmental phenomenon,” said Arkhat Abzhanov, associate professor at Harvard and study co-author. “By changing the developmental biology in early species, nature has produced the modern bird — an entirely new creature — and one that, with approximately 10,000 species, is today the most successful group of land vertebrates on the planet.”

via Evolution of birds is result of a drastic change in how dinosaurs developed.

This is nothing new.  Archeopteryx is quite solid enough to show this.  Also interesting is how Dino DNA is still within modern birds, how it can be tweaked, and how that can bring Dino’s ‘back to life’ (so to speak).  For example:

See also this article.

Jim West Asks ‘Who Will Win Euro 2012?’

Poor Jim.  Doesn’t he know?  It is between two teams in my opinion.  But unlike Jim who sticks to arbitrary choosing or the Ukrainians who are using animals, I have a sure-fire method of predicting to whom it will all boil down.

The two teams most likely to make it to the finals (and one of which will likely win) are Italy or Portugal.  Hands down, all other teams should just pack it up now.  You’re not going to make it.

Why?  First Portugal.  Many know I’ve lived in Portugal for short time.  But many might not know I was there for Euro 2004, when Portugal defied the odds and made it all the way into the Final against Greece.  Plus (and do I really need to say it?) they have one of the best soccer players in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo.   I know the strength of the teams convictions, they have a lot of heart, and I think that goes a long way.

Then there is Italy.  Okay, I have a bias here as an Italian.  And granted there was that whole new scandal that has reflected quite poorly upon the clubs.  But let’s face it, Italy is still a force with which to reckon.   And the players are amazing.  Most are taken from top Serie A clubs, like Juventus, AC Milan, AS Roma. and Palermo.   Many of these clubs have done well in the Champions League (if only AC Milan had beat Arsenal!) and I am confident they will do well in Euro 2012.


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