The scientific tourist #324 — Quirigua’s Stela C

Courtesy of the “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” traveling exhibit, it’s Stela C from the Maya site of Quiriguá in Guatemala:

Stela C, Quirigua

Well, OK — it’s actually a museum quality replica of Stela C.  Quiriguá was a medium-sized site (located in what is now southeastern Guatemala) during the Maya Classic period, attaining its greatest power and status just before the end of the Classic in the 9th century AD.

From the placard:

Quirigua’s most important king graces the front of this stela.  A semi-divine being, he bears the name K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yo’at, which means “Fire-burning Celestial Lightning God.”  By holding up the jaguar-headed throne made at the dawn of the universe, he aligns himself with the creative powers of the Maize God.

Quiriguá reached its zenith under the reign of K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yo’at.  Once a vassal state of Copán, Quiriguá gained a measure of indepence via the capture / beheading of Copán’s king in 738 AD, likely backed by an alliance with the Classic era great power of Calakmul.  But this state of affairs would not last long, the site being essentially abandoned barely 100 years later.

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Carnivalia — 7/10 – 7/16

The past week’s science-related blog carnivals, for your reading enjoyment:

The Carnival of Space #362

Friday Ark #480

Morsels for the Mind — 11/07/2014

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The scientific tourist #322 — Natural Bridge Caverns

Should you ever find yourself driving in Texas’ hill country, you’d be well advised to spend a few hours visiting the Natural Bridge Caverns, just north of San Antonio.  It’s got a beautiful selection of cavern geology (stalactites and stalagmites and such), it’s a pretty easy walk, and photography is allowed / encouraged.

Natural Bridge entrance

Oh, yes — and there’s a limestone natural bridge, seen here at the cavern entrance, over the shoulder of our guide.

Continue reading

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The scientific tourist #321 — SPAD XIII

Brought to you by the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona — it’s a SPAD XIII fighter:


From the placard:

The fast and rugged SPAD XIII, with its wooden airframe and fabric-covered wings and body, was among the most successful fighters of World War I. It was flown by some of the most famous flying aces — in particular, by Arizona native Frank Luke, Jr., the first aviator awarded the United States Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award.

The SPAD XIII made its first flight on April 4, 1917, and by the end of the following month, the aircraft was arriving at the front. It was noted for its sturdy construction, good handling qualities and, especially, its ability to dive at high speeds. These features made it one of the best dog-fighting airplanes of the war.

The United States entered the war in 1917 without a combat-ready fighter. But over the course of the war the U.S. Army Air Service obtained 893 SPAD XIIIs from its French allies. By 1918, almost every French and American fighter squadron was equipped with SPADs, and 8,472 SPADs of varying models had been produced and deployed. Surprisingly, only four or five survive today.

This SPAD XIII was pieced together from three aircraft and is 80% original. In honor of Frank Luke, Jr., the SPAD XIII has been painted with his squadron’s colors and markings.

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The scientific tourist #320 — Yak’ant’akw

On display at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology, it’s a Yak’ant’akw (Speaking-through post):

Yak'ant'akw (Speaking-through post)

From the placard:

A carved figure such as this one, with its prominent, open mouth, was used during winter ceremonies inside the Bighouse.

A person who held the privilege of speaking on behalf of the hosts would conceal himself behind the figure, projecting his voice forward.  It was as though the ancestor himself was calling to the assembled guests.

This Yak’ant’akw was originally found in Blunden Harbour, British Columbia, and was made of red cedar somewhere around 1860.

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The scientific tourist #319 — Huehueteotl

Found in the ruins of Teotihuacan, and now on display in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, it’s Huehueteotl:


Huehueteotl is a central Mexican / Aztec deity associated with fire.  He is one of a very few mesoamerican gods depicted as a very old man (as one of the world’s founding deities), usually hunched over with wrinkled face and no teeth.  He is also depicted with a bowl on his head — this is a brazier which may have once held incense.

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The scientific tourist #318 — Babirusa

Native to indonesia, and now on display at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, it’s babirusa:


Also known as pig-deer, babirousa are a genus in the pig family, and found on the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi, Togian, Sula, and Buru.  What appear to be tusks or horns are actually the male babirousa’s canine teeth — its upper canines protrude through the animal’s facial skin, while its lower canines stay a bit more out of the way.  In females, the canines are dramatically smaller, even absent — while on males they differ from island to island (this appears to be a North Sulawesi babirusa).

All existing species of babirusa are listed as endangered or vulnerable, due to poaching and habitat loss from logging.

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The scientific tourist #317 — Daspletosaurus

On display at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, it’s Daspletosaurus:


If you first thought this was a photograph of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, you were close — Daspletosaurus was an earlier, smaller relative of the T-rex (there is still some controversy over their exact relationship).  Adults could grow to lengths of 8-9 meters (26-30 feet) from nose to tail, and weigh up to 3.8 metric tons — so, about 1/3 the size of a full grown T-rex.

So far, all the Daspletosaurus fossils that have been found date to the Late Cretaceous between 77 and 74 million years ago, and were located on what was once the western shoreline of North America’s Western Interior Seaway (now Montana and Alberta).  This particular Daspletosaurus was found in southern Alberta (in the Dinosaur Park Formation) in 1914.

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The scientific tourist #316 — stela for Teti-nofer

A memorial stela dating from Egypt’s Late New Kingdom, now on permanent display at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History:

Stela for Teti-nofer

In ancient Egypt, a stela could be put in place for any of a number of reasons — as a historical record, to offer prayers to divinities, as a boundary marker, or to offer praise to the king.  But this one is a memorial to a departed loved one.  Along with memorializing the dead, it also provided a place to leave an offering for them.

This stela shows the deceased Teti-nofer being offered a drink by the goddess Hathor, and includes a prayer for Teti-nofer’s well-being:

“The soul-priest and scribe, Teti-nofer, deceased,

Isis mother of God,

Osiris who presides over the West,

Horus protector of his father:

An offering which the King gives to Osiris, presiding

over the West, that he may give everything good and

pure to the soul-priest Teti-nofer.”

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The scientific tourist #315 — Republic F-105B “Thunderchief”

Built for one role, but known historically for being used in an entirely different way, it’s a Republic F-105BThunderchief,” on display at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum:

Republic F-105B "Thunderchief"

The F-105 was designed as a follow-on to the issue-plagued F-84F Thunderstreak, and proved to be the last aircraft produced by the Republic Aviation Corporation before its merger with Fairchild.  In fact, design work on the F-105 was well under way before the F-84 was even in service with the USAF.

The F-105’s original role was to deliver a single tactical (i.e., battlefield) nuclear weapon, then escape the scene quickly.  As a result, it was a large aircraft with an internal bomb bay and speed (top speed in excess of Mach 2 at altitude) as its calling cards.  But the Korean War wrapped up before it was ready for use in 1958, so multiple variants of the aircraft were built to support reconnaissance, anti-aircraft-suppression, and ground attack roles.

The F-105’s impressive bomb-carrying capability made it the primary aircraft used to deliver bomb loads during the Vietnam War, playing a particularly outsized role in the war’s early years.  Ironically, the ground attack version of the F-105 was so heavily laden with externally mounted bombs that the otherwise-speedy aircraft experienced relatively large loss rates in combat until it was retired.

This model is an F-105B, one of the earlier variants of the aircraft, of which 71 copies were built.  In all, 833 F-105s were built — nearly half of which were lost in Vietnam.

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