Lost Ancient Mayan Cities Discovered in Mexican Jungle

Archaeologists have found two ancient cities of the Mayan civilisation, dating back to 600AD.

Archaeologists have found two ancient cities of the Mayan civilisation, and have dated them back to 600AD.

Lead researcher Ivan Sprajc, associate professor at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts says there could be many more in the area. “There are dozens of sites that I already have seen on the aerial photographs.”

The discovery was made by examining aerial photographs of the Mexican Jungle on the Yucatan peninsula, revealing the two cities of Lagunita and Tamchen.

An area of over 1,800 square miles around Chactun was explored. This site was first located and visited in the 1970s by Eric Von Euw, an American archaeologist. He documented details of the facade and other stone monuments with drawings.

However, the exact location of one of the cities, Lagunita as referred to by Von Euw was never found.

At each archaeological site, palace-like buildings, pyramids and plazas were found. One of the pyramids is almost 20m (65ft) high.

One of the most exciting discoveries is an entrance representing the open jaws of an earth monster.

A sculpted stone shaft called stelae with mysterious markings.
A sculpted stone shaft called stelae with mysterious markings.(Reuters)

“The monster-mouth facade represents a Maya earth deity related with fertility. These doorways symbolize the entrance to a cave and, in general, to the watery underworld, place of mythological origin of maize and abode of ancestors,” Sprajc told Reuters.

Other discoveries include a number of huge palaces-like structures, a ball court and a temple pyramid with a height of 65 ft along with 10 stelae (tall sculpted stone shafts) and three altars were found. They featured well-preserved hieroglyphic inscriptions.

Sprajc said his team mapped 10-12 hectares (25-30 acres) at each site, but the cities were probably larger.

“We elaborated a map but only of the religious and administrative centres of the two sites,” he said, “that’s only like downtown.”

His team have not yet excavated the sites, as further funding is need for this to take place.

Some speculate the Mayan civilization’s mysterious decline in 900 A.D. was caused by overpopulation, endemic warfare, overuse of the land and environmental factors like severe drought, but the true cause remains unknown.

10 beautiful Australian libraries

The Mortlock Chamber, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia.
Mortlock Chamber, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia. Photograph: State Library of South Australia
State Library of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland.
State Library of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland. Photograph: Jon Linkins/State Library of Queensland
State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria
State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria. Photograph: State Library of Victoria
Surry Hills Library, Sydney, New South Wales.
Surry Hills library and community centre, Sydney, New South Wales. Photograph: City of Sydney
State Library of NSW, Sydney, New South Wales.
State Library of NSW, Sydney, New South Wales. Photograph: State Library of NSW
Murray Bridge Library, Murray Bridge, South Australia.
Murray Bridge library, Murray Bridge, South Australia. Photograph: Sam Noonan/Hassell
Library at The Dock, Melbourne, Victoria
Library at the Dock, Melbourne, Victoria. Photograph: City of Melbourne
Barr Smith library at the University of Adelaide
Barr Smith library at the University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia. Photograph: University of Adelaide
Library at Edith Cowan University in Joondalup, Western Australia
Library at Edith Cowan University in Joondalup, Western Australia. Photograph: Edith Cowan University

Craigieburn library in Hume, Victoria has been named public library of the year following a cross-continent competition by the Danish Agency for Culture. Judges called it a “democratic meeting place, open to diversity and interaction”. From opulent state buildings to state-of-the-art university architecture, here are nine more amazing libraries across Australia – which would you add to the list?

Extreme violence lies in Isis DNA

It is just over 10 years since Nicholas Berg, an American businessman working in Iraq, was brutally decapitated on video by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the thuggish leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

With the murder of the American journalist, James Foley, on Tuesday, the US and its Western allies were vividly reminded of the worst excesses of the Iraqi insurgency in the wake of the 2003 invasion.

But it is not just in the manner of its bloodlust that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and AQI share a gruesome symmetry.

The two organisations also share a lineage. The threadbare remnants of AQI – all but crushed by the US troop surge in Iraq of 2007 and the “sons of Iraq” movement to turn Sunni tribes against the jihadis – morphed into the earliest version of Isis.

But more importantly, Isis is also the operational, strategic and ideological twin of its predecessor.

“There is almost no difference in the organisations,” says Afzal Ashraf, a former RAF captain in Iraq and now consultant at the Royal United Services Institute.

Mr Ashraf points in particular to the shared heritage of Isis and AQI in drawing on former members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime. Both are “parasitic insurgencies” that co-opt disenfranchised factions to their cause, he says.

It is perhaps for this reason that both AQI and Isis have historically shared a primary concern with the “near enemy” – other Arabs – rather than the far enemy – Western infidels – as their main targets. Isis, like AQI, is primarily a sectarian organisation, dedicated to eradicating the Shia governments in Baghdad and the Alawite regime in Damascus.

Military analysts also point to the similarity in battleground tactics used by Isis with those used by AQI, in particular the way both deploy force in circles of pressure, particularly around cities, using waves of car and truck bombs.

An image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Baghdadi, who on June 29 proclaimed a "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq, purportedly ordered all Muslims to obey him in the video released on social media

For Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and an expert in al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism, the defining characteristic of the Isis/AQI approach, however is the their particular “use of violence”.

“Groups like al-Qaeda used violence in a tactical way, in a way proportional to their aims,” he says. “For Isis and AQI the savagery is the point. The action is what matters, not the ideas. To Zarqawi and Baghdadi [the Isis leader], the spectacle and the limitless force – beheadings, crucifications, people being buried alive – is what matters.”

Which 4K TVs are worth buying?

Both Netflix and Amazon stream in 4K. Cameras like the Sony a7S and the Panasonic Lumix GH4 can shoot in 4K. Even smartphones have been getting in on the act, with handsets like the LG G Pro 2 and Sony Xperia Z2 capable of recording 4K video.

So with the amount of 4K content available increasing every day, you may have been thinking about buying a 4K set so you too can bask in the glow of 3,840 x 2,160 resolution.

But 4K sets don’t come cheap, and you’re going to want to do a bit of research before dropping that much cash. While we don’t really review televisions here at Engadget, we’ve done the next best thing, compiling the opinions of trusted critics from across the web.

Which set offers you the most bang for your buck? Do bells and whistles like a curved screen make a difference? Check out a few members of the 4K Class of 2014 below.

PANASONIC LIFE+SCREEN AX800At first blush, the Panasonic AX800 series has a lot going for it. It’s a nice-looking set thatPC Mag says is “minimalist and unique,” suited for both TV stands and entertainment centers. Turn it on, and the picture is equally impressive, delivering what AVForums calls “rich textures and nuanced lighting,” while Reviewed.com thinks this LCD could stand toe to toe with a good plasma set, due to its “good black levels, accurate colors and reliable screen uniformity.”

But if you’re looking to sit down and enjoy some House of Cards in beautiful 4K, you’ll be disappointed — Netflix on the AX800 is limited to 1080p (and lower). Given the relative scarcity of commercial 4K content, the inability to watch a major provider like Netflix is a big ding on an otherwise stellar UHD set. Price: $2,300 and up

SAMSUNG U9000Walk into a room and the first thing you’ll notice about the Samsung U9000 is its curved screen, which CNET says adds a “unique, futuristic look” to a set that is overall “drop-dead gorgeous.” It says the picture is equally stunning, offering “deep black levels, accurate color and great bright-room viewing qualities.”

But what about that curve? Though it’s meant to create a feeling of depth and immersion, CNET found it “didn’t have any major effect on the picture aside from reducing reflections somewhat,” and Reviewed.com found it actually made some reflections worse, such that “lamps and lights are occasionally stretched across the entire arc of the screen.” It’s worth noting that the U9000 also includes an improved Smart Hub experience, but you can also find other Samsung sets that are a lot cheaper (and less curvy). Price: $3,297 and up

SAMSUNG U8550The Samsung U8550 is a set that eschews the curved screen of its high-end sibling U9000 in favor of “trim bezels and a very narrow panel” that Reviewed.com says “lend this television a modern air.”

The picture also does it credit, with LCD TV Buying Guidecomplimenting its “brilliant images in 4K,” while Sound+Vision was impressed with the “crisp detail and the clean, smooth clarity” of its upconversions.As on the U9000, the Smart Hub has been upgraded with “subtle improvements” that “hit the mark” according to LCD TV Buying Guide, and Reviewed.com says it provides “all of the streaming content and web-browsing functions you’d expect for the price.”

And that’s a price that undercuts the competition by $1,000, leaving you some extra cash for an awesome sound or gaming system on the side. Price: $1,597 and up

SONY X900BAt first glance, it’s clear that the Sony X900B is very different from other UHD sets, and even many regular ol’ HDTVs, due to its huge set of front-facing speakers.

The sacrifice of a slim bezel is well worth it, though, as What Hi-Fi compliments its “rich, open and detailed sound quality,” while CNET calls it the “best sound of any TV we’ve heard, bar none.” The picture is also up to the challenge, offering quality that HDTVTest calls “spectacular” andCNET says is the “best picture quality of any 4K TV we’ve tested so far.”

Sure, the X900B isn’t as cheap as some other sets, but unlike the AX800, it supports Netflix and, with those massive speakers flanking the screen, you won’t need to fork out the extra dough for a quality sound system. Price: $2,998 and up

Journeys Through Mysterious Landscapes by Felicia Simion

20-year-old photographer Felicia Simion, who recently reached out to us to share some of her latest images, has only become more masterful at her craft since we last posted her work three years ago.

Rather than confine herself to one genre of photography, the Romania-based creative dabbles in them all, mixing portraiture, landscapes, street scenes, and conceptual photography for a stunning portfolio of diverse images.

Several of her newest photos, which she labels as “dreamscapes,” follow silhouetted figures in their journeys across vast, mysterious landscapes.

Wandering through surreal vistas such as endless mountain ranges and paths obscured by fog, the subjects appear small and isolated compared to the sweeping, grandiose beauty surrounding them.

According to Simion, this series follows her continuous quest in pursuit of happiness. She told us, “The choices I had to make only to escape the dull, the known and the feared.

But through him (the silhouette-shaped little man), I discovered the latent feelings inside me, the passion that needed to erupt out of my chest and breathe by itself.

This project is an ongoing journey where being small actually counts as great, giving me power and freedom to learn while creating.”

We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Simion a few questions about her passion and growth as a photographer. Be sure to read that exclusive interview, below.

Man Accused of Vandalizing Banksy Images

DAMAGING THE WORK OF STREET ARTIST BANKSY YIELDS A CHARGE OF CRIMINAL MISCHIEF.

Vandalism, like beauty, is apparently in the eye of the beholder.

Prosecutors in Park City, Utah, are charging a man who they allege defaced two works of graffiti by Banksy, the elusive British street artist, with criminal mischief, a second-degree felony.

“It’s not every day I get to prosecute somebody for vandalizing graffiti,” Matthew Bates, lead prosecutor, told the Wall Street Journal.

Protective glass covering this Banksy painting in Park City, Utah, was smashed on New Year’s Eve. Jay Hamburger/Park Record

According to prosecutors, David William Noll shattered the glass protecting the Banksy murals in Park City on New Year’s Eve, and then further damaged one of the works, an image of a boy praying on his knees, with dark brown paint.

Noll faces a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison; according to Bates, a plea deal is being negotiated, with a hearing scheduled for September 15. Police say they have video of Noll at the scene of the alleged crime.

In a television interview with a local California station shortly after prosecutors charged him with the crime, Noll said he supports only “commissioned” graffiti.

Two Banksy pieces were vandalized in Park City, Utah, and a man is charged with a second-degree felony. Jay Hamburger/Park Record

The murals appeared on Park City’s main street in 2010, after Banksy attended the Sundance Festival on behalf of “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” the “mockumentary” he starred in and helped produce.

Both local property owners, recognizing the value of a Banksy work, paid to protect the murals with glass, as others have done in cities around the world–one Brooklyn property owner even installed a metal gate and hired guards.

Banksy’s solo works have sold at auction for as much as $1.3 million; a collaboration with artist Damien Hirst sold for $1.9 million.

CODE ORANGE: The Risk Of An ‘Explosive Subglacial Eruption’ In Iceland Just Went Up

There’s a chance a huge volcano in Iceland could blow.

Lorcan Roche Kelly at Agenda Research tipped us off to the news that the Icelandic government on Monday changed the status of Bardarbunga, a volcano in Iceland located under Europe’s largest glacier, to “orange,” meaning there is a heightened risk of eruption and ash cloud.

A report from Reuters on Monday noted that this is the second-highest risk level on the government’s five-level risk scale.

“Presently there are no signs of eruption, but it cannot be excluded that the current activity will result in an explosive subglacial eruption, leading to an outburst flood and ash emission,” said Iceland’s Met Office.

1024px Sylgjökull_Hamarskriki_1_Iceland.JPG

Bardarbunga, a volcano in Iceland located under Europe’s largest glacier.

Kelly noted, however, that Bardarbunga sits under 700m of ice, or nearly half a mile’s worth, and to break through this an eruption would have to be quite massive.

Reuters noted that the 2010 eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano affected more than 10 million air travelers in Europe and cost $1.7 billion.

Kelly runs through a few scenarios if Bardarbunga erupts. Though, of course, we are still very much in the “if” stage.

Here is Kelly’s basic outline:

  • First, to restate, there is a chance there will be no eruption.
  • It could be too small to matter. There was an eruption in the area in 1996 that did not break through the ice. While this eruption did lead to a destructive jökulhlaup a rapid flood of melted water from the glacier damage was restricted to areas the flood hit. There was no ash cloud.
  • It could break though the ice, cause a small ash cloud, but lead to minimal disruption to air traffic. The 2011 eruption of Grimsvotn, also under Vatnajokull, had these characteristics. That eruption only lead to the cancellation of 900 flights and some re-routing on north Atlantic routes.
  • It could be a repeat of Eyjafjallajokull. If the volcano erupts, breaks through the ice-cap and produces large volumes of ash, we will likely see major air travel disruption during what is still peak holiday season.
  • There is a very small chance that an eruption could be something very much larger, along the scale of the 1783 Laki eruption. In the case of an eruption this size, the major problem would not be flight disruption caused by ash, although that certainly would happen but rather the devastating impact on climate and farming across the northern hemisphere. To give an idea of the scale, some research points to the Laki eruption being a trigger for the French Revolution.

This graphic from the Icelandic Meteroloigcal Office shows the increased risk of a volcano eruption, denoted by the orange triangle over Bardarbunga.

iceland earthquake activity

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