Archaeologists working on a conservation project at the Colosseum in Rome have discovered ancient frescoes of gladiators and erotic scenes, Agence France Press reports.
The brightly colored fragments were found on the walls of a corridor currently closed to the public for restoration. The scenes show gladiators being honored with laurels. There are also erotic scenes, although the researchers didn’t go into detail about what they showed.
The popularity of erotic art in the Roman Empire has led to the perception that it was a permissive society. Actually that was only half true. Many Romans were straight-laced and sexually conservative. A good parallel is the modern United States, where a large number of people frown on public displays of nudity or sexuality, while on the other hand Americans produce and consume vast amounts of pornography. Often these are the same Americans. A 2009 study found Utah has the highest per capita consumption of online porn.
Archaeologists are still working on uncovering the delicate pictures and hope to have them preserved and on view to the public by 2014.
Ancient, Renaissance, and early modern graffiti was also found, raising the question of how old graffiti has to be before it stops being vandalism and starts being of historic interest.
Revelers at an Apocalypse party at the ancient Mayan site of Tikal in Guatemala have damaged one of the pyramids, AFP reports.
Temple II, built at Tikal’s height around 700 A.D., was damaged when a crowd of partygoers ignored signs saying it was off-limits and climbed up it anyway. An official at the site didn’t reveal how extensive the damage was but did say it was permanent.
About 7,000 tourists visited Tikal on Friday to mark the end of a cycle in the Mayan calendar, which many wide-eyed dupes believed would bring the end of the world, or at least some New-Agey world transformation that would imbue their crystals with deep spiritual significance.
If they had asked the Maya themselves they would have learned that the world wasn’t actually ending, but why do that? Traditional cultures and UNESCO World Heritage Sites are only there as props for jaded First Worlders shopping for a cheap semblance of spirituality the same way they’ll buy Save The Whale T-shirts made in Filipino sweat shops.
They’ll also blithely ignore the real historical and cultural significance of such sites in preference for silly theories about secret civilizations, aliens or Atlantis. This sort of New Age archaeology is rooted in racism. As some locals complained, the party wasn’t really about the Maya at all.
Dave, an old friend of mine, calls the New Age movement “Newage,” because it rhymes with “sewage.” I propose a worldwide movement to adopt Dave’s term for these callow crystal-clutching consumers. Protect ancient Mayan sites by flushing the Newage movement!
Two recent poaching incidents reveal the dangers faced by India’s rare animals, even when they are supposedly under protection.
The BBC reports that a one-horned rhino was shot in Assam when it wandered out of Kaziranga National Park. Poachers took its horn but the animal did not die. Park staff are now trying to save it. The park is home to about two-thirds of the world’s population of one-horned rhinos, which number in total fewer than 3,000 individuals. Thirteen of the animals have been poached in the park in the past nine months.
On the same day, the BBC reported the poaching of a tiger in a zoo. Poachers entered the Itanagar zoo in Arunachal Pradesh and hacked a female tiger into half a dozen pieces before being scared off by the security guards, who had been away eating dinner.
The Times of India reports that several employees have been fired over the zoo incident. No arrests have been made in either crime.
Poaching is a major problem in many countries because of the high demand for animal parts as trophies and for use in traditional medicine.
Snowkiting is becoming big in Norway. At first glance it looks like some extreme fun in harmony with nature. After all, you’re just zipping across the snow while being dragged by a kite. It looks environmentally friendly.
Not true, says a new scientific study. The BBC reports that Norwegian scientists have discovered the kites spook reindeer and may have a negative impact on their population.
The scientists studied the response of reindeer to skiers and snowkiters and found that the reindeer showed a much greater fright response to snowkiting. They theorize that it’s the swooping kite that scares the animals. Because the kite is visible from farther away than someone on skis, reindeer are running far away. This may limit their feeding and breeding grounds.
The study concludes that controls need to be put in place to ensure reindeer aren’t harmed by this new craze.
Cougars have been declining in number for a century now, as victims of hunting and loss of habitat. Now the BBC reports they’re making a comeback. The population is increasing and they are spreading out of their usual western habitats back into eastern and northern areas where they haven’t been seen for many years.
They’ve been spotted from Texas to Canada, and one even made it to Connecticut last year, only to get killed by a car.
Naturalists say that restrictions on hunting and the return of some of their prey, like elk and mule deer, have increased their numbers and forced these solitary animals to search further afield in search of a hunting range.
Some have raised concerns about cougar attacks. Although experts say that cougars generally avoid humans, cougars must be treated with caution like any wild animal. From 2001 through 2010, there have been 36 injuries and four deaths caused by cougars in the U.S. and Canada.
By way of comparison, lightning killed 26 people in the U.S. in 2011 alone. Environment Canada reports, “each year lightning kills approximately 10 Canadians and injures approximately 100 to 150 others.” So it appears that, much like the common fear of wolves and sharks, fear of cougars is based less on their real threat than it is on urban ignorance of nature.