November 12, 2015
Maryland Site, Pig Point, May Be
Center Of Huge Native Colony
By E.B. FURGURSON III
The Capital of Annapolis
Annapolis, MD (AP) Is this a case of prehistoric sprawl?
County archaeologists over the past several years have uncovered centuries of Native American history at Pig Point along the Patuxent River, now they think a vast settlement surrounded the ceremonial gathering spot.
``We thought of Pig Point as a central, ceremonial place,’’ C. Jane Cox, county chief of cultural resources, said Wednesday. ``There have been hints of other settlements, people have found artifacts in the area, but it looks now like there might have been thousands of people here for a long, long time.’’
She was standing near the shore near the southernmost end of the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian where two primary areas are being studied, one along the shoreline and the other upland near Two Run Branch that flows into the river. Crews have been digging all summer unearthing evidence of Pig Point’s ``suburbs.’’
An arrowhead possibly 3,000 years old
The biggest surprise has been the wide distribution of artifacts. ``It’s everywhere,’’ Cox said.
The archaeology team’s approach begins with the digging of shovel-test-pits a couple of feet deep that are set up in a grid across the potential study area. A promising site will have clusters of shovel pits with some artifacts or other evidence in spots scattered across the grid.
Not this site.
``We dug 450 test pits over a quarter-mile area,’’ Cox said. ``Nearly every one of them had artifacts.’’
Pig Point itself has become vital in the understanding of pre-Columbian settlement and ceremony. The initial discoveries were of projectile points and pottery up to 8,000 years old, and evidence of wigwams built centuries apart.
But then a large burial ground was discovered across the road from the original digs, which started in 2009. Evidence uncovered there in 2012, smashed human bones of over 1,000 individuals and other artifacts, points to some form of ritual mortuary practice, perhaps spanning thousands of years.
Layers and layers of history were uncovered, all in roughly the same location.
Jug Bay wetlands (Photos Joshua McKerrow)
``Finding deep sites, with multiple periods of occupation through time, are really, really rare,’’ said Matt McKnight, research archaeologist with the Maryland Historic Trust, which oversees two primary grants funding the fieldwork at Pig Point. ``That is the importance of the find. We should be able to learn about cultural change over time.’’
But after two field seasons studying test sites up and down the river, evidence points to a much wider pattern of settlement than previously thought.
``There could have been villages stretching 3.5 miles along the river,’’ Cox said.
Along Jug Bay, evidence is multilayered, overlapping, and old. Projectile points dating back 6,500 years have been found at Pig Point and this season’s site. One projectile point was carbon dated back 10,000 years.
And there are, at this point, 14 sites within a mile of Pig Point central.
``It’s a `going to take a lifetime’ sort of thing,’’ Cox said.
Because of tidal action, storms, flooding and potential sea level rise, the area along the river is of special concern. One of the grants paying for the current field work is federal funding related to Hurricane Sandy, underwriting studies of cultural resources potentially threatened by storms or sea level rise.
The square uncovered Wednesday was about 10-inches deep and 5-feet square. ``This is a 700-year-old living surface,’’ said Stephanie Sperling, project director for the grant study.
Indian pottery from the site
``It was full of material, oyster and mussel shell, deer, fish, and turtle bones. We also found deer bone tools.’’
But the pit had an inch of water in it, no further digging would happen that day.
The water table, so close to the water, is tidal. An hour or so later the pit was almost dry.
Earlier this summer, the pit and the several other preliminary test squares dug were dry.
``But after a storm or heavy rains like we have had, the tide rises,’’ Cox said. ``By mid-century they are talking about 2 feet of sea level rise.’’
``That is why we are here,’’ said Al Luckenbach, who retired as the county’s archaeologist a year ago but is still keeping a hand in things at Pig Point and related efforts.
``This bone, these tools will not last underwater,’’ he said. ``There is plenty of prehistoric stuff already underwater. All this, everything, is threatened at this site.’’
Aside from surveying and unearthing artifacts, the current study is also trying to figure out how the land has changed.
``How did this landform develop? Did it wash down from the uplands or from up river?’’ Sperling said.
Part of the work is developing a cross-site profile of the land and the elevations where artifacts are discovered.
``Once that is all processed, we hope to be able to determine the soil layers and when they were formed,’’ she said.
This winter, once field work is done for the season, researchers will concentrate on tying all the gathered evidence together.
``We have never had the opportunity that we have now to put all the pieces together,’’ Cox said.
They will start field work again in the spring.
Telescope Heads To Chile In Search Of Cosmic Microwaves
By SCOTT DANCE
The Baltimore Sun
Baltimore, MD (AP) A journey to the beginning of the universe lurched forward Monday with a trek over just a few hundred feet.
A crew of experienced movers met with team of scientists at the Johns Hopkins University to ferry a 4.5-ton telescope structure from a lab on the Homewood campus to a shipping container that will carry it to its permanent home, perched 17,000 feet in the Chilean desert.
They lowered the 16-foot white tower onto its side with a crane, pushed it down a hallway on wheels and lowered it from a loading dock with a tank-like forklift.
It will take another month and a half before it reaches its destination, traveling by sea through the Panama Canal and by land up winding dirt roads. Weeks after that, it will start probing the sky for signs of energy that came out of the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago.
While it still faces a long journey, Monday’s short move was nonetheless a big step for Hopkins’ Cosmology Large Angular Scale Surveyor mission, a $14 million National Science Foundation-backed project that will use four telescopes for five years on a mountaintop in Chile to scan for electromagnetic energy from the early universe.
``This is a really momentous transition,’’ said Tobias Marriage, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy who is leading the project along with professor Charles L. Bennett. ``It’s a big dance, orchestration of a five-year survey.’’
The telescope will explore what is known as the cosmic microwave background, the oldest light in the universe that glows faintly in between stars and galaxies. Understanding that radiation is key in explaining how the universe formed, as it shows what it was like just a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang.
A CLASS telescope, under construction
But it’s hard to find a place on Earth where you can observe the phenomenon. The CLASS telescopes, as they are known to the Hopkins scientists, will watch the heavens from the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. It’s one of the driest places on the planet and far from any big cities, which combine to mean fewer clouds and radio interference to block its view. And its elevation puts it that much closer to space.
Getting there from Baltimore isn’t easy, even without a massive telescope. As the telescope began its journey Monday, Marriage was nervous.
``There it goes,’’ he said, as cables groaned, slowly lowering the white steel tube onto its side. ``If they drop this, it would kill us. It would put us back months.’’
But it came down safely. The movers lowered one end onto wheels and hoisted the other with a forklift. It glided down a hallway to the ledge of a loading dock, where a 16-ton forklift waited to lower it to the pavement and carry it across its massive arms to the shipping container.
``The key to most of these jobs is planning,’’ said Richard Kilduff Jr., president of Ark Machinery Movers Inc.
Ark has experience moving massive and fragile structures and pieces of equipment for the likes of the National Aquarium, B&O Railroad Museum and the Smithsonian.
The Edgewood company typically forms a backup plan or two but didn’t end up needing it for this move. It already had handled the main structure that will hold up the telescope, which the scientists had built in Italy and shipped to Baltimore.
``In this case, Plan A worked pretty well,’’ Kilduff said.
Some elements of the telescope—including the instruments that are its brains—are already en route to Chile. Others were to be packed up along with the massive stand, including a set of aluminum mirrors that make up the telescope’s optical systems.
By the time the last shipment makes it to Chile in December, Marriage and other researchers will be there waiting for it. After setting it up and testing it out, they expect to start observing early next year.
The telescope won’t capture celestial images, like other ground- and space-based observatories do, but is instead looking for what is known as the polarization of the cosmic microwave background, a pattern of oscillation that scientists think will be imprinted in the waves, a product of the exponential expansion of space in the early universe.
Three more CLASS telescopes are slated to make the same odyssey, at a cost of $10,000 each trip, over the next two years. Each will look for the distant waves of energy at a different frequency.
A crew of researchers will monitor the telescopes’ observations from a facility 26 miles away, at a more hospitable 8,000 feet of elevation. The data will eventually be imprinted on magnetic tape to make the massive amounts of information more easily portable, explained Matthew Petroff, who worked on the project as a Hopkins undergraduate and will be among the research team in Chile.
``It’s kind of like a cassette; it just holds 21/2 terabytes’’ of data, he said.
Within that massive amount of information, the scientists hope to answer one big question, how it all began.
Thermal Scanning Reveals Anomalies In Khufu Pyramid
By MARAM MAZEN
Cairo (AP) Two weeks of new thermal scanning in Egypt’s Giza pyramids have identified anomalies in the 4,500 year-old burial structures, including a major one in the largest pyramid, the Antiquities Ministry announced Monday.
Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty and technical experts working on the project showed the higher temperature being detected in three specific adjacent stones at the bottom of the pyramid in a live thermal camera presentation to journalists.
The scanning showed ``a particularly impressive one (anomaly) located on the Eastern side of the Khufu pyramid at ground level,’’ the ministry said in a statement. The largest of the three Giza pyramids is known locally as Khufu and internationally as Cheops.
The thermal scanning was carried out at all times of the day, including during sunrise, as the sun heats the structures from the outside, and then during sunset as the pyramids are cooling down.
The speed of the heating and cooling phases is being used to uncover ``hypotheses’’ such as empty areas in the pyramids, internal air currents, or different building materials used.
``The first row of the pyramid’s stones are all uniform, then we come here and find that there’s a difference in the formation,’’ said el-Damaty, pointing at the three stones showing higher temperatures.
While inspecting the area, el-Damaty said they found ``that there is something like a small passage in the ground that you can see, leading up to the pyramids ground, reaching an area with a different temperature. What will be behind it?’’
Other heat anomalies were detected in the upper half of the pyramid that the experts said need to be investigated further.
El-Damaty invited all Egyptologists, especially those interested in ancient Egyptian architecture, to join in the research and help come up with ideas on what could be behind the anomalies.
The pyramids, located on the outskirts of Cairo, are one of the major tourist attractions in the country. The pyramids, which were used as sacred burial structures, were built in the fourth Pharaonic dynasty. The great pyramid is the oldest and only surviving monument of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Villain ‘Leatherhead,’ Actor Gunnar Hansen, Dies In Maine
By The Associated Press
Gunnar Hansen, who played the iconic villain Leatherface in the original ``Texas Chain Saw Massacre,’’ died Saturday of pancreatic cancer at his home in Maine, his agent said. He was 68.
Hansen starred in the 1974 film that has become a classic among horror-movie aficionados and spawned a series of sequels. In the movie, friends visiting their grandfather’s house are hunted by Leatherface, a chain-saw wielding maniac.
Hansen’s character in the movie ``is one of the most iconic evil figures in the history of cinema,’’ said his agent, Mike Eisenstadt, who confirmed the death.
In 2013, Hansen published his book ``Chain Saw Confidential,’’ which gave readers a behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made, Eisenstadt said.
Hansen lived in Maine for about 40 years, where he worked as an actor and writer, Eisenstadt said.
At the time of his death, Hansen was at work on a film called ``Death House,’’ his agent said. Hansen was a writer and producer of the film, which the Internet Movie Database says is about how a secret government facility becomes ground zero for the most horrific prison break in the history of mankind. The film is scheduled to come out next year, Eisenstadt said.
Hansen was born in Reykjavik, Iceland. He came to the U.S. and studied at the University of Texas, where he majored in English and Scandinavian Studies, Eisenstadt said.
Surviving Hansen is his partner of 13 years, Betty Tower.