Benvenuti in queste pagine dedicate a scienza ed arte. Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Egyptian faience

"Egyptian faience is a non-clay based ceramic displaying surface vitrification which creates a bright lustre of various blue-green colours. Having not been made from clay it is often not classed as pottery. It is called "Egyptian faience" to distinguish it from faience, the tin glazed pottery associated with Faenza in northern Italy. Egyptian faience, both locally produced and exported from Egypt, occurs widely in the ancient world, and is well known from Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean and in northern Europe as far away as Scotland." Wiki

Faience bowl blue-glazed decorated with lotus flowers and the face of the goddess Hathor, symbol of rebirth are the decoration.
Faience. Provenance unknown. New Kingdom, dynasty XVIII-XX (1350-1070 B.C.)
Egyptian Museum, Turin.

Fishes and flowers

Ciotola decorata con pesci e fiori di loto
Faience azzurra con decorazioni nere, provenienza sconosciuta
Bowl decorated with fishes and flowers.
Blue faience,  unknown origin.
First period of XVIII Dinasty (XV century BC)
Berlino, Aegyptisches Museum und Papyrussammling

Three-fold rotational symmetry in the decoration of this bowl.
Note the eye of the fishes at the center of the bowl.
It seems a Escher's creation!

It is amazing that very old creations (pottery and seals) show symmetry in their decorations.
For a discussion on symmetry of the engraved images on seals, see:
Symmetries in Images on Ancient Seals, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna
Abstract: We discuss the presence of symmetries in images engraved on ancient seals, in particular on stamp seals. Used to stamp decorations, to secure the containers from
tampering and for owner's identification, we can find seals that can be dated from Neolithic times. Earliest seals were engraved with lines, dots and spirals. Nevertheless, these very  ancient stamp seals, in the small circular or ovoid space of their bases, possess bilateral and rotational symmetries.  The shape of the base seems to determine the symmetries of images engraved on it.  We will also discuss what could be the meaning of antisymmetry and broken symmetry for images on seals.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Michael Archangel and his balance

Chemistry and Materials Science Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry
Volume 62, Number 2, 579-580, DOI: 10.1023/A:1010151912165
Michael Archangel and Balance , by E. Robens

"Michael escorts the deceased to God's throne and acts as a weigher of the soul at the Last Judgement."

Weighing of the Heart

"In Egyptian religion, the heart was the key to the afterlife. It was conceived as surviving death in the nether world, where it gave evidence for, or against, its possessor. It was thought that the heart was examined by Anubis and the deities during the Weighing of the Heart ceremony. If the heart weighed more than the feather of Maat, it was immediately consumed by the monster Ammit."

Egyptian Museum Torino

Four sons of Horus

Statuette dei quattro figli di Horus: Duamutef, a testa di sciacallo, Hapi, a testa di babbuino, Qebehsebuf, a testa di falco, Amset, a testa umana erano i protettori delle viscere del defunto, XXV-XXXI dinastia. Statuettes of the four sons of Horus:  Duamutef, jackal headed, Hapi, baboon headed,  Qebehsebuf, falcon headed, and human headed Amset, protectors of the deceased's viscera,  Dinasty XXV-XXXI
(712-332 BC)

Alcohol haze at galactic heart

BBC NEWS, Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Alcohol haze at galactic heart
Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse
"The detection of yet more alcohol in a giant molecular cloud near the centre of our galaxy could give clues to the origin of complex organic molecules in space.Astronomers have long been seeking evidence of this particular alcohol to help explain how these life-promoting substances got started. ... Vinyl alcohol, actually a non-inebriating complex organic molecule, is an important part of many chemical reactions on Earth, and the last of the three stable members of the C2H4O group of molecules to be discovered in interstellar space. It was detected in a massive molecular cloud called Sagittarius B2, located 26,000 light-years from Earth, near the centre of our galaxy....The specific radio signature of vinyl alcohol was first detected using a 12-metre radio telescope during May and June of 2001. Results from the observations will soon be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. Of the approximately 125 molecules so far detected in interstellar space, scientists believe that most are formed by a simple process in which smaller molecules (and occasionally atoms) stick together after they collide. Since the 1970s, scientists have speculated that molecules could form on the microscopic dust grains that drift in interstellar clouds. These dust grains are thought to trap the fast-moving molecules. The surface of these grains could act as a catalyst enabling the chemical reactions that form vinyl alcohol and other complex molecules. "Scientists speculate that since the dust lies near an area where young stars are forming, the energy from these stars could evaporate the icy surface layers of the grains, liberating the molecules from their chilly nurseries, depositing them into interstellar space where they can be detected by sensitive radio antennae on Earth.

Dark matter and galactic haze

"Annihilating dark matter at the heart of the Milky Way could account for signals detected by two space telescopes, according to a pair of US physicists. If true, the theory provides a new indirect measurement of one of astronomy's most elusive entities. However, some physicists believe that we don't know enough about the galactic core – or dark matter – to come to this conclusion."
Does dark matter link gamma rays to galactic haze? - physicsworld.com

Transparent materials for solar energy

"Researchers in the US have developed a new kind of organic solar cell that converts a small but significant fraction of the sunlight that falls onto it into electricity, while still allowing most of the visible part of that light to pass through. Thanks to this transparency, the team says that the cell could be mounted onto windows in buildings or cars in order to tap a currently under-exploited source of energy."
Transparent material opens a new window on solar energy - physicsworld.com

Spherical symmetry

Everything is the same in all directions (as if on the surface of a sphere).

Da un libro sulle simmetrie

Noether's (first) theorem

"Noether's (first) theorem states that any differentiable symmetry of the action of a physical system has a corresponding conservation law. The theorem was proved by German mathematician Emmy Noether in 1915 and published in 1918.[1] The action of a physical system is the integral over time of a Lagrangian function (which may or may not be an integral over space of a Lagrangian density function), from which the system's behavior can be determined by the principle of least action.
Noether's theorem has become a fundamental tool of modern theoretical physics and the calculus of variations. A generalization of the seminal formulations on constants of motion in Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics (1788 and 1833, respectively), it does not apply to systems that cannot be modeled with a Lagrangian; for example,dissipative systems with continuous symmetries need not have a corresponding conservation law." Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera.

Emmy Noether

Professor Einstein Writes in Appreciation of a Fellow-Mathematician.

To the Editor of The New York Times:
The efforts of most human-beings are consumed in the struggle for their daily bread, but most of those who are, either through fortune or some special gift, relieved of this struggle are largely absorbed in further improving their worldly lot. Beneath the effort directed toward the accumulation of worldly goods lies all too frequently the illusion that this is the most substantial and desirable end to be achieved; but there is, fortunately, a minority composed of those who recognize early in their lives that the most beautiful and satisfying experiences open to humankind are not derived from the outside, but are bound up with the development of the individual's own feeling, thinking and acting. The genuine artists, investigators and thinkers have always been persons of this kind. However inconspicuously the life of these individuals runs its course, none the less the fruits of their endeavors are the most valuable contributions which one generation can make to its successors.
Within the past few days a distinguished mathematician, Professor Emmy Noether, formerly connected with the University of Göttingen and for the past two years at Bryn Mawr College, died in her fifty-third year. In the judgment of the most competent living mathematicians, Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began. In the realm of algebra, in which the most gifted mathematicians have been busy for centuries, she discovered methods which have proved of enormous importance in the development of the present-day younger generation of mathematicians. Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. One seeks the most general ideas of operation which will bring together in simple, logical and unified form the largest possible circle of formal relationships. In this effort toward logical beauty spiritual formulas are discovered necessary for the deeper penetration into the laws of nature.
Born in a Jewish family distinguished for the love of learning, Emmy Noether, who, in spite of the efforts of the great Göttingen mathematician, Hilbert, never reached the academic standing due her in her own country, none the less surrounded herself with a group of students and investigators at Göttingen, who have already become distinguished as teachers and investigators. Her unselfish, significant work over a period of many years was rewarded by the new rulers of Germany with a dismissal, which cost her the means of maintaining her simple life and the opportunity to carry on her mathematical studies. Farsighted friends of science in this country were fortunately able to make such arrangements at Bryn Mawr College and at Princeton that she found in America up to the day of her death not only colleagues who esteemed her friendship but grateful pupils whose enthusiasm made her last years the happiest and perhaps the most fruitful of her entire career.

Albert  Einstein.
Princeton University, May 1, 1935.
[The New York Times May 5, 1935]

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hokusai manga - fox

Hokusai manga
Museo Arte Orientale, Torino

Four actors

A group of four actors
Tang Dinasty, first half of the 8th century AD
Museo Arte Orientale, Torino


Gandhara, II-III secolo d.C.

Il Bodhisattva Padmapani siede su un alto trono con il piede sinistro posato a terra e la gamba destra piegata a appoggiata sul ginocchio opposto. L’alto seggio su cui Padmapani è seduto ha una spessa base su cui si appoggiano i sandali (infradito!). Il Bodhisattva indossa paridhana e uttariya. Porta un turbante a fascia, grandi orecchini a testa di leone, collane e un cordone con piccoli involucri porta-preghiere, portato di traverso dalla spalla sinistra al fianco destro. Padmapani tiene nella mano sinistra un grosso bocciolo di fiore di loto, mentre l’altra, mancante, era rivolta verso la testa.

Museo Arte Orientale, Torino

Il funzionario

Funzionario militare
Dinastia Tang, VIII secolo D.C.
Terracotta rossa, ingobbio bianco, pigmenti e oro
Military official
Tang Dinasty 8th centry A.D.
Red earthenware with white engobe, pigments and gold

Museo Arte Orientale, Torino

Thermal barrier coating could boost efficiency of gas turbines

"A spin-out company from Imperial College London has developed a thermal barrier coating for gas turbine parts that can optically feed back its temperature and ageing status even while the engine is running at full speed.
The main application for the technology is in power-generating gas turbines, where the coating could help to achieve significant efficiency savings.
Ceramic thermal barrier coatings, including yttria-stabilised zirconia, are used for the so-called ‘hot section components’ of gas turbines, such as the blades." Thermal barrier coating could boost efficiency of gas turbines | News | The Engineer

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Stampe xilografiche, Giappone, Periodo Edo
Museo Arte Orientale, Torino

Crabs use stats

News in Science
Crabs use stats to dodge predators
Monday, 18 April 2011 Anna Salleh

Fiddler crabs can't see very well so they have to use statistical calculations to distinguish between swooping predators and harmless passing insects, say researchers.

I granchi e la statistica

"I granchi della famiglia Ocypodidae, per via della loro scarsa capacità visiva, sono in grado di calcolare la probabilità che l'oggetto che stanno osservando possa essere un predatore... Gli occhi di questi granchi sono dotati di una bassissima risoluzione, pari a circa un totale di 8.000 pixel per ogni occhio.... A questa risoluzione, un predatore come un uccello è visibile sotto forma di un semplice e insignificante puntino scuro, e non è possibile distinguere se si tratta di un animale innocuo o potenzialmente pericoloso.  Per ovviare alla loro ridotta capacità visiva, i granchi hanno quindi elaborato una strategia che consente loro di calcolare la probabilità che uno di questi puntini scuri possa essere un predatore." by Dita di Fulmine

Raised fields in Bolivia

The image shows the "raised fields" near the Titicaca Lake, in Bolivia.
Note the "snake": eye, tongue and teeth. 

This image, obtained after processing a Google Maps image, shows the network of waru-warus, that is, of the "raised fields" - earthworks separated by canals - near Tiwanaku. This is an ancient agricultural technique used by Andean people starting from the first millennium BC. Each raised field is approximately 10 meters large and more than one hundred long. 

More on waru-waru

 arXiv:1009.4602 [pdfGeoglyphs of Titicaca as an ancient example of graphic design, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

 arXiv:1009.2231 [pdfSymbolic landforms created by ancient earthworks near Lake Titicaca, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

Just lines?

Near the shore of the Titicaca Lake, the raised fields are well preserved.
They are arranged to form symbols, not just parallel lines!

A bird and a lamb? Or other animals?

This image, obtained after processing a Google Maps image, shows some waru-warus, that is,  the "raised fields" - earthworks separated by canals. This is an ancient agricultural technique used by Andean people starting from the first millennium BC. Each raised field is approximately 10 meters large and more than one hundred long. 

More on waru-waru

arXiv:1009.4602 [pdf] Geoglyphs of Titicaca as an ancient example of graphic design, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

arXiv:1009.2231 [pdf] Symbolic landforms created by ancient earthworks near Lake Titicaca, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna


Andenes are an ancient method to cultivate the Andean highlands.
Here an image from Google Maps.

Ringed Hills

A beautiful collection of images from Google Maps.
Very interesting the top of the hill with concentric rings!
"Many of the hilltops on the Bolivian altiplano have at some time been surrounded by concentric ringed walls and/or irrigation channels and many of these hilltops in turn seem to have suffered from earthquake damage. Closer study suggests that many hilltops originally had concentric ringed irrigation canals, but in many zones these appear to have been destroyed by earthquakes and later generations have reoccupied the land and built walls alongside the former irrigation ditches."
I have searched the "ringed feature south of volcan Quemado". Here it is after processing.

Another ringed structure

Images obtained by Google Maps


In the "The Continuum encyclopedia of animal symbolism in art", by Hope B. Werness, we can find a very interesting discussion on Alpaca.

Waru-warus near the lake

This image, obtained after processing a Google Maps image, shows the network of waru-warus, that is, of the "raised fields" - earthworks separated by canals - near the Titicaca Lake (Huata, Puno, Peru). This is an ancient agricultural technique used by Andean people starting from the first millennium BC. Note that the structure of the network is created after a careful planning. 
Each raised field is approximately 10 meters large and more than one hundred long. 

More on waru-warus
arXiv:1009.4602 [pdf] Geoglyphs of Titicaca as an ancient example of graphic design, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna
arXiv:1009.2231 [pdf] Symbolic landforms created by ancient earthworks near Lake Titicaca, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

Radial structures at Rodadero

As discussed in some previous posts on "qochas", these structures had and have an agricultural function. Some qochas had a ceremonial use too. At Rodadero (Cusco) we find the huge Qocha Chincanas.
Near the parking of this archaeological site, where it is placed the statue of the White Christ, the satellite imagery (Google Maps) shows two radial/circular structures as those used for agricultural purposed near Titicaca lake.

Near Qenko and Rodadero

One of the beautiful examples of the Incaic culture in the Cusco region are the ruins of Qenko, located  approximately 6 kilometers  from the capital of the area, Cusco. Qenko is near the Rodadero, a giant rock hill with numerous stairwells and benches carved into the stone. The hills near  Qenko and Rodadero are used as cropfields. During this weekend I was studying qochas (lakes, ponds) and searching for ceremonial qochas in Peru, when I saw by means of Google Maps this hill. After image processing to enhance details, it seems that this hill possesses many concentric structures, as a qocha. May be it is another ceremonial qochas near Cusco.

Geoglyphs of Titicaca

28 p. Book Geoglyphs Titicaca Sparavigna

Images of geoglyphs near Titicaca Lake. The ancient artificial landscape
 with geoglyphs is an important example of an engineering graphic design
 for an age and place where no written documents existed. Geoglyphs 
are created by a network of earthworks, which constitute the remains
of an extensive ancient agricultural system. It can be seen by means 
of the Google satellite imagery on the Peruvian region near the Titicaca Lake.
Public Category: Research Reads: 2657 Published: 10 / 09 / 2010 Share Add to Collections

Landforms of Titicaca: Near Sillustani

18 p. Landforms of Titicaca: Near Sillustani, Book by A.C. Sparavigna

Terraced hills, a network of earthworks, sometimes creating geoglyphs,
 and ancient ruins are the structures we can observe with the satellites 
imagery of Google Maps. After the previous publications on the
 earthworks and geoglyphs , let us survey specific area with more
 details. Here we show satellite imagery, enhanced with freely 
available image processing software, of the area near Sillustani,
 the peninsula of the Laguna Umayo, in Puno region of Peru. 
Besides Sillustani, interesting places are the 
Mesa Isla and Atuncalla.
Public Category: Research Reads: 286 Published: 10 / 27 / 2010

Landforms of Titicaca: Amazing land

18 p. Landforms Titicaca Amazing Land by AC Sparavigna

The areas of Huata, Coata and Paucarcolla, near the Titicaca Lake,
 are covered by amazing drawings. For these regions, Google Maps
 has enough high resolution to have a detailed survey.
In the book, the reader can see a show of images obtained
by enhancing the satellite imagery.
 Each image has coordinates and scale.

Public Category: Research Reads: 207 Published: 10 / 28 / 2010
  Share Add to Collections


Monday, April 25, 2011

Gutenberg printing goes nanoscale

"Gutenberg printing goes nanoscale
Researchers in Australia and the US have developed a new way to print nanoparticle arrays. The technique, which is inspired by Gutenberg book printing, could be used to mass-produce nanotechnology components for solar cells, biosensors and other electronics devices."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Llama near Titicaca

Near the shore of Titicaca Lake, we find a large area covered by the "raised fields", which are earthworks of an ancent agricultural system, created in the Pukara period, quite before the Inca domination. The raised fields are  arranged in a complex hydraulic system. We can observed it with the satellite (Google Maps).
 With an image processing of the maps, the ancient agricultural system appears with all its beautiful structure and complexitiy.
Sometimes the raised fields assume symbolic forms.
For instance, the muzzle of a llama

It is seems a mouth touching the river (the white bend, white because the water is reflecting the light of sun), the nose, eye and ears. For comparison, a llama picture.

More on waru-waru
arXiv:1009.4602 [pdf] Geoglyphs of Titicaca as an ancient example of graphic design, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna
arXiv:1009.2231 [pdf] Symbolic landforms created by ancient earthworks near Lake Titicaca, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna


Image from Google Maps after processing to enhance details.
Near the Titicaca Lake, Peru.

This image shows a small area covered by a network of waru-warus, that is, of the "raised fields" - earthworks separated by canals - near the Titicaca Lake. This is an ancient agricultural technique used by Andean people starting from the first millennium BC. Note that the structure of the network is created after a careful planning. Each raised field is approximately 10 meters large and more than one hundred long.

It seems a snake, the pond as its eye and a bifid tongue.
To see the forked tongue it is necessary a zoom on the head and a filtering with wavelets to enhance the details.

More on waru-waru
arXiv:1009.4602 [pdf] Geoglyphs of Titicaca as an ancient example of graphic design, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna
arXiv:1009.2231 [pdf] Symbolic landforms created by ancient earthworks near Lake Titicaca, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Around the World" in ancient agriculture

There is a beautiful book by Éric Mollard, Annie Walter, Éditeurs scientifiques. The title is "Agricultures singulières", IRD Éditions, Institut de recherche pour le développement, Paris, 2008.
It is an "around the world" in ancient agricultural techniques.
Let me report a small part of this book.

Les qochas de l’Altiplano
En langue quechua, le terme qocha désigne les lacs, les cuvettes, les étangs et, de façongénérale, tout bassin inondé artificiel ou naturel, toute dépression à la surface du sol. C’est également le nom donné à un type d’assiette cérémonielle en céramique. Les qochas (ou cochas suivant les graphies) sont des cuvettes naturelles ou creusées par les hommes, reliées entre elles pour former un véritable système hydraulique. Le terme
désigne à la fois un unique bassin et le système dans son ensemble. Les terrains qui les séparent ne sont pas cultivés mais dédiés à l’élevage. Les qochas sont l’un des nombreux systèmes de gestion des eaux et du sol qui ont permis aux anciennes populations andines de cultiver la terre et de survivre. On trouve les qochas dans de rares régions des Altiplanos péruvien et bolivien, à une altitude moyenne de 4 000 mètres. Ils sont très nombreux et denses dans le département de Puno (Pérou) où ils ont été découverts et bien documentés...

Les  qochas sont des dépressions, aménagées par les hommes selon trois formes de base. Les plus fréquentes sont rondes et mesurent de 30 mètres à 200 mètres de diamètre pour une superficie moyenne de 6 000 m2. ...La qocha sert alternativement de champ de culture, de pâturage et de réservoir d’eau. ... On y cultive avant tout la pomme de terre ainsi que la cañihua (Chenopodium pallidicaule) et la quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), l’avoine, l’orge et le bléparfois en rotation. La qocha supporte des cultures de pomme de terre la première année, de quinoa la deuxième année, d’avoine et d’orge la troisième année puis suit une jachère pâturée de durée variable. La taille d’une qocha est généralement exprimée en masa, c’est-à-dire en surface labourée en un jour par une équipe constituée de deux hommes et d’une femme. Le rendement est d’environ une tonne par masa. Le système permet une régulation souple de l’eau de pluie dans une région qui doit faire face à une succession de fortes sécheresses suivies d’inondations....
Le système des qochas est sans doute l’agriculture de l’Altiplano, autour du lac Titicaca, la moins étudiée si bien qu’il existe peu de références à son sujet. Cela s’explique en partie par le fait qu’au XVI e siècle, elles étaient situées en dehors des voies de passage principales. Plus tard, les lignes de chemin de fer ont traversé ces larges dépressions peu profondes, sans que les voyageurs puissent les remarquer, au premier coup d’œil. Ce n’est qu’en 1962 qu’elles ont été mentionnées pour la première fois, par des étudiants en archéologie qui travaillaient dans le Puno, alors même que beaucoup d’entre elles étaient encore en activité. Elles sont d’origine préincaïque comme en témoignent les tessons découverts à proximité. Bien que le système soit vraisemblablement antérieur, il est associé au site Pukara.
Pukara a été un centre de peuplement important durant des centaines d’années depuis 1 300 avant  J.-C. puis il est devenu, entre 250 avant J.-C. et 380 après J.-C., un important site religieux, densément peuplé. Une société fortement hiérarchisée y tenait de grandes cérémonies et a été capable d’assurer une gestion centralisée de l’eau. Mais certains auteurs suggèrent que l’aménagement et la maintenance des structures agricoles, dont les qochas, ont été tout aussi bien mis en œuvre par des groupements communautaires locaux. Même en supposant que les paysans aient utilisé des
dépressions existantes dans lesquelles l’eau de pluie s’accumulait, il est certain qu’une grande maind’œuvre et une longue période de temps ont été nécessaires pour aménager ce système complexe sur une grande étendue. Outre les qochas, cette civilisation a aussi construit d’importants ensembles de champs surélevés (ERICKSON, 1994). Puis, le site a été progressivement abandonné avec la montée en puissance de Tihuanacu avec laquelle Pukara a entretenu des liens commerciaux et sociaux. Cette civilisation andine qui a étendu son influence jusqu’au nord du Chili, a pratiqué une agriculture fondée sur la construction des terrasses (andenes), des champs surélevés (camellones) et aussi quelques  qochas. Mais elles sont peu développées dans la vallée de Tihuanacu, sans doute parce que leur capacité de production est insuffisante pour une nombreuse population. Après la chute de Tihuanacu, en l’an 1000, le site de Pukara a été de nouveau occupé et les qochas utilisées. La région a traversé à
cette époque une longue période de sécheresse qui a pu rendre l’utilisation des qochas indispensable pour la survie des populations locales. Plus tard, les Huari puis les Incas ont développé des systèmes renommés de terrasses mais les qochas ont continué à être cultivées, en complément de  l’agriculture de pente. La conquête espagnole a par la suite entraîné une grave dépopulation locale qui a conduit à l’abandon partiel de toutes les structures agricoles mais les  qochas, toujours utilisées par quelques groupes, ont réussi à traverser les siècles, les guerres et la colonisation. Elles apparaissent donc comme des structures complémentaires à celles qui soutiennent l’agriculture principale et se développent quand les conditions environnementales (naturelles ou sociales) fragilisent l’agriculture et les communautés locales.
Aujourd’hui, des secteurs entiers de  qochas ont été abandonnés ou détériorés soit pour des raisons de salinité des sols, soit à cause d’une mécanisation imprudente dans les secteurs d’haciendas. Mais elles occupent encore plus de 250 km2, avec une densité d’environ 100 qochas au kilomètre carré. Au total, plus de 20 000 cuvettes sont actuellement utilisées de façon intensive par les populations andines
contemporaines. Elles ne sont pas les seules structures agricoles de la région et les communautés locales cultivent aussi les pentes, aménagées en terrasses (andenes) et construisent des  camellones (ici appelés waru-waru).


L'Associazione  Liberi Viandanti propone un'interessante sintesi dell'arte spirituale andina, a cura di Gianmichele Ferrero et al. alla pagina
"Il nostro corpo energetico possiede una serie di centri di percezione. Nella Tradizione andina sono chiamati Ñawis, che letteralmente significa “occhio”. Le potenzialità latenti relative agli Ñawis vengono attivate con precisi riti.
Ogni centro si connette con una qualità particolare di energia del cosmo.
Il Pujyu non è  considerato un occhio vero e proprio, ma piuttosto una fonte. Si trova nel luogo dov’è la fontanella dei neonati e riceve il Kausay sotto forma di luce bianca
Il Siki ñawi, è situato sull’osso sacro, alla base della colonna vertebrale, ed è collegato con Unu, l’energia dell’acqua di colore verde.
Il Qosqo ñawi, nella regione ombelicale, è collegato a Allpa, l’energia della terra, che ha un colore rosso.
Il Sonqo ñawi, si trova sul petto all’altezza del cuore, ed è collegato ad Inti, il sole con una luce dorata.
Il Kunka ñawi, è nella zona della gola ed è collegato all’energia argentata di Wayra, il vento.
I due occhi fisici, anch’essi considerati centri, sono collegati il destro al potere della visione mistica e il sinistro al potere della visione magica.
Leggermente in alto fra le sopracciglia, è il Qanchis ñawi, che riceve normalmente un’energia viola proveniente dall’Hanaq Pacha, che da accesso al mondo della visione superiore ."

Kausay Puriy

L'Associazione  Liberi Viandanti propone un'interessante sintesi dell'arte spirituale andina, a cura di Gianmichele Ferrero et al. alla pagina
"La Tradizione andina prende il nome di Kausay Puriy che significa “imparare a camminare insieme all’energia vivente”. che significa “imparare a camminare insieme all’energia vivente”. L’energia vivente è sovrabbondante, tutti i fattori della realtà la emanano secondo la loro propria fisionomia. Semplicemente aprendoci a percepirla, il nostro essere può arrivare a nutrirsi a sufficienza per poter sviluppare le sue potenzialità più elevate.... La Tradizione andina supera il malinteso della dualità positivo-negativo interpretando l’energia scomoda di un’altra persona o la propria in termini di differenza di spessore e di gravità, usando il nome di samiy per l’aspetto leggero e sottile dell’energia e di per l’aspetto leggero e sottile dell’energia e di jucha per quello pesante. Tutti gli esseri viventi e gli elementi della natura producono samiy. Noi umani siamo gli unici a generare jucha quando ostacoliamo il flusso dell’energia vivente."
Molto interessante.

Hands on earthworks

Earthworks near Titicaca Lake
These earthworks are known as "raised fields" and "waru-warus".

The image, obtained from Google Maps, shows the network of earthworks separated by canals - near the Titicaca Lake (Huata, Puno, Peru). This is an ancient agricultural technique used by Andean people starting from the first millennium BC. Note that the structure of the network is created after a careful planning. Each raised field is approximately 10 meters large and more than one hundred long.

Let us rotate a part of the image and enhance it.

A "hand"?

More on waru-waru
 arXiv:1009.4602 [pdfGeoglyphs of Titicaca as an ancient example of graphic design, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna
 arXiv:1009.2231 [pdfSymbolic landforms created by ancient earthworks near Lake Titicaca, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

Solar power without solar cells - physicsworld.com

"Physicists in the US believe that it is possible to generate solar power without solar cells. Their "optical battery" idea, which would involve performing the energy conversion inside insulators rather than semiconductors, could make for a far cheaper alternative energy source than existing solar-cell technologies."
Solar power without solar cells - physicsworld.com

The Titicaca basin: a paradigmatic region for multidisciplinary studies

The Titicaca basin: a paradigmatic region for multidisciplinary studies 
Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, ARXIV:1011.0391

Sitting 3,811 m above sea level, Lake Titicaca is in a basin high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia. The western part of the lake lies within the Puno Region of Peru, and the eastern side is located in the Bolivian La Paz Department. Both regions have terraced hills and plains covered with raised fields, representing the remains of a huge agricultural system. Near the lake, in Bolivia, we find the well-known ruins of Tiwanaku. Actually, the Titicaca basin can be a paradigmatic region for the growth of several multidisciplinary studies. There are many interesting researches in archaeology and anthropology, geophysical analysis and remote sensing investigations: all these studies need to be compared to answer questions that are still open on the history of this area. The ancient agricultural system of the raised fields that can be easily and freely observed with Google Maps.

From the point of view of archaeological/anthropological studies, besides of course the researches  on the Tiwanaku area with its monumental remains, the “raised fields” are quite important. This  system of fields is an old technique of soil and water management, consisting of a series of  earthworks on which crops can grow, surrounded by water canals. A known benefit of this system is  the frost mitigation during the night, avoiding the damage of crops.  An interesting anthropological paper was recently published, approaching the "raised fields" of Titicaca lake in the framework of the organization of ancient intensive farming, comparing the “topdown” and “bottom-up” perspectives [1]. The "top-down" approach is that considering the development of intensive farming and its social organization as attributed to the rule action of a centralized government. The "bottom-up" instead is viewing an intensive farming as the incremental work of local communities or kin-based groups. The authors analysed in particular the Katari Valley [1], near the lake in Bolivia, on a long-term perspective covering 2500 years. They determined that the rural organization changed greatly over time in relation to changing socio-political conditions: that is the local communities played dynamic roles in the development and organization of raised field farming, but growth and ultimate recession were locked to the consolidation and decline of the Tiwanaku state. In fact, the authors are proposing the interesting conclusion that the top-down/bottomup dichotomy is overdrawn.

In [1], we read that the top-down interpretation has roots in a Western social thought, commonly  attributing the development of large-scale farming and irrigation systems to centralized governments and nascent states. And in fact, from this point of view, it is paradigmatic the Roman Empire, with its road and hydraulic engineers, where the central government organized the construction and maintenance of roads, aqueducts and also entertainment monumental places. Recent alternative perspectives emphasize that cultural creativity and political power was also the product of local groups, not only the product of central governments: that is, a large-scale economicproduction can be yielded by local kin-based groups, where elites or leaders coordinated such activities [1-3].

On raised fields, “top-down” versus “bottom-up” interpretations have been  proposed [4-6]. Proponents of both interpretations argue that intensive production was highly effective in the Titicaca region: in the top-down interpretations, intensive production was driven by the impetus of a centralized state government, whereas in bottom-up interpretations, it was locally developed and organized. As reported in Ref.1, “determining who developed and managed intensive production in any specific case and with what technologies and resources requires rigorous interdisciplinary collaboration and empirical research“. It is clear that only multidisciplinary researches will be able to solve the open questions about Titicaca, that, as reported in [1], are the following: When were raised fields built and by whom? When and why were they abandoned? Did raised fields require state management, or were they the exclusive domain of local communities?

In [1], the researchers focussed on an area in Bolivia on a long-term (ca. 2500 years) characterization of rural society and production dating from the emergence of complex societies until European colonization. The intensive raised field system adapted its predominant production to economic demands and socio-political conditions [1]. Based on research in the northwest Titicaca basin, near Huatta, Peru, Erickson [1,5] proposed that the raised field agriculture developed out of the knowledge and skills of communities and kin-based social groups, or “ayllus“, who survived the subjugation by Andean states. Erickson ([1,7], p. 315) points out that, raised field agriculture “differs... in that there is no necessarily inherent need for large-scale cooperation, in the  construction, use, nor maintenance of the system” and concluded that “to suppose that raised field farming could only be planned, executed and maintained by the highly centralized state is to disregard the rich agricultural knowledge and organizational potential of the Andean farmer.” ([1,5], p. 413) Of course, other researchers disagree with this conclusion.

Among the open questions, it remains that on when the raised field system was  firstly developed. The debate then centers on the relationship between settlements and raised fields and on the chronology of raised field construction and use. Erickson ([1,7], pp. 377–380) proposes two phases of raised-field construction in the north-western basin of Titicaca: First Phase, dating to the Early and Middle Formative periods (1500–200 BC); and Second Phase, dating to the post-Tiwanaku period [1,7]. In this chronological scheme, raised fields fell into disuse during the  intervening Tiwanaku culture. It seems then that the period of growth of the raised fields in Peru is different from that of the opposite region near Tiwanaku, as in a counter-phase phenomenon.
From the analysis of the Google Maps, I have clearly observed that the system of raised fields, canals and artificial ponds in the Peruvian region of Titicaca contains peculiar area where the earthworks form geoglyphs [8-13]. The geoglyphs seems to represent animals (may be, totemic animals), whose eyes are sometimes crated by artificial ponds. In a case, we see that the geoglyphs on the plain land are strongly connected with the terraced hills: in fact, proposing the geoglyphs  of Titicaca as an ancient graphic system based on artificial landforms [9]. Who is writing, A.C. Sparavigna, considers that the geoglyphs (signs on the land) were created to mark the land of specific communities and that there was a strong connection between the agricultural system and the worship and burial places of Titicaca. These are personal conclusions coming from inspecting the satellite imagery of Google Maps [8]. It would be fundamental to have high resolution satellite images of all the basin, including the lagoons, to understand the extension of the agricultural system.

About the agricultural and meteorological studies, a quite interesting paper on the  management of this system and on the physical process-based models is Ref.[14]: this paper proposed a model to explain the role played by the canals in the nocturnal heat dynamics and the cold mitigation process. This model consists of a two-layer transfer scheme with a vegetation layer and a substrate layer representing the canals. The calculations of Ref.14 show that the presence of a heat flux emanating from the canals and a corresponding water condensation on the crop, are both contributing to mitigate the environmental conditions, avoiding the crops to be frozen.

Another study [15] is about the prehistoric diets, including analysis of stable isotope data from  cooking pots, plants, animals and human teeth that have been collected by the Taraco Archaeological Project working in the Titicaca Basin of Bolivia. It is peculiar the analysis of the archaeological fish samples to understand their role in the diet of the Formative Period inhabitants of the southern Lake Titicaca Basin. According to the researchers, to understand the role of ichthyic resources in the human history, it is necessary to analyse the ecology of the fish from their muscle, bone and scales, since muscle is rarely preserved in archaeological contexts, whereas bone and scales are. For this reason, the researchers investigated the modern fish specimens from Lake Titicaca to compare with archaeological fish remains. The physical modelling of this ancient agricultural system and the relevance of fishes in local diets, have to be considered in the framework of the paleoclimatic researches. This is important because the knowledge of the past climate (dry or wet) could help in evaluating the extension of the agricultural system and the amount of ichthyic resources of the lake.
In general, the study of lacustrine records is considered useful for understanding the mechanisms  and effects of climate change. This is why Lake Titicaca is an important site for paleoclimatic research in the South American tropics because of the evidence for major lake level changes in the late Quaternary ([16], and references therein). The lake has an outlet, the Rio Desaguadero, but today, the most of the water is lost by the lake due to evaporation. This means that the lake is a nearly closed basin and this fact is increasing the sensitivity of the hydrologic mass balance of the lake to climate change. In [16], the research was performed by means of seismic stratigraphy: this analysis indicates that late-Quaternary lake levels have varied significantly, most likely because of climatic change. The seismic data used in conjunction with sediment core data indicate that there is  a basin wide stratigraphic marker, most likely due to volcanic ashes.

According to Ref.17, South America has a scarcity of sites with century-scale paleoclimate data  sets, but these data are extremely important because of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation events (ENSO), the migrations of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and the presence of the vast Amazon basin. According to [17], it is the Lake Titicaca drainage basin and its associated altiplano endorheic system, in particular the nearby alpine glaciers, that are containing important paleoclimate records. In [17], the researchers are describing a finely resolved record of lake-level change driven by climatic variability over the past 3500 years. The paper reports evidence that suggests a rapid  lake-level rise of 15 to 20 m about 3500 years before present, and several century-scale low stands at 2900–2800, 2400–2200, 2000–1700, and 900–500 cal yr before present. These findings improve the knowledge of the timing, duration, and magnitude of variations in the precipitation–evaporation balance of the South American altiplano during the late Holocene. The study is based on radiocarbon chronologies necessary to resolve century-scale dynamics of precipitation–evaporation variations on the altiplano. In Ref.18, researchers found two major dust events reaching maximum intensity at A.D. 600 and 920. They note that the dust could have been produced by the combination of extensive use of  agricultural raised fields and the exposure of large areas of lake sediment during the periods of lowlake stands. According to [17], the peaks in dust content correspond with periods of major raisedfield activity by the Tiwanaku civilization [19].

As reported in Ref.17, during an on-site travel in the years 1995 and 1996, researchers observed a several-meter decline in lake level that exposed very large areas of totora beds and lake sediment, that were quickly used for agricultural purposes. Time series of the yearly rise for the years 1915 to 1981 have been investigated: the relative spectral density clearly shows peaks with periods of 10.6 and 2.4 years [20]. Let us consider that the level of the lake is also oscillating during the year. In Ref.21, it is claimed that the study of the past climatology of Peruvian altiplano demonstrated that  the emergence of agriculture (ca. 1500 B.C.) and the collapse of the Tiwanaku civilization (ca. A.D. 1100) coincided with periods of abrupt and profound climate change. Archaeological evidence establishes spatial and temporal patterns of local agriculture. Prior to 1500 B.C., aridity in the altiplano precluded intensive agriculture. According to Ref.21, during a wet period from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1100, the Tiwanaku civilization and its immediate predecessors created agricultural  methods that stimulated the population growth, with corresponding large human settlements. A prolonged drier period (ca. A.D. 1100–1400) caused the decline of food production, the fields were abandoned and the cultural system collapsed. An analogue detailed study of the Peruvian part of the Lake could be very important to understand the role of climate on the raise of Colla-Sillustani civilization and its connection with Inca civilization, and, of course of previous human settlements. Let us remember that human gatherers are found both North and South of Lima, Peru, as early as 8000 BC. Mountain civilizations were  Kotosh (2000 BC), Tiwanaku-Huari 700AD, Collas-Sillustani (Titicaca Lake, 1100AD) and finally the Inca culture 1532 (AD): all these cultures had influences in the Inca culture, including the apparently autochthonous Titicaca Lake (Aymara-speaking) cultures [22]. The Aymara language is considered more ancient than the Inca language and has not only been found in the Titicaca Lake area but also in mountains close to Lima. Aymara-speaking people widespread throughout the Peruvian area: the Quechua language was imposed later by the Inca conquest and also by the Spanish conquerors. Aymara-speaking people were long ago established around Titicaca Lake area in the so called “Collao” area (see [22], and reference therein). According to [22], a tribe coming from this lake area set out for Cuzco, where they established, they spoke Quechua and were called “Inga” or “Inca” people. 

Figure 1: Level of the Titicaca Lake as a function of time. Image adapted from Ref.23.

In Fig.1, the behaviour of the level of the lake is shown as a function of time [23], we can see clearly the oscillation between dry and wet periods. Other studies on late Pleistocene/Holocene paleoclimates of the Bolivian Altipiano using the analysis of ostracod content, palynology, sedimentology and radiocarbon dating have been proposed [24]. 

Let us conclude with a discussion on satellite imagery again, connected with the dry and wet  periodic behaviour of the local climate. As told in Ref.17, as the lake level declines, the soil is quickly used for agricultural purposes. In observing the Google Maps of the Umayo and Machacmarca Lagoons,  we can see that the surface, that is actually subsided under the water, was once covered by raised fields. The lagoons too were subjected to the dry-wet oscillation. As previously told, an analysis as in Ref.17 of the two lagoons could give information on prehistoric human settlements. Let us consider that Sillustani, the burial place of Collas, is a peninsula of the Umayo Lagoon [13] . Near the shore of the Titicaca Lake we see (Figure 4) an area densely covered by the earthworks of the raised fields. 

Earthworks as geoglyphs near the Lake Titicaca

In Figure, we see details of these earthworks are shown. These images are coming from an area near the shore,  the level of the lake is actually subsiding. Other satellite inspections, such as with radar or infrared detectors, could be of great help in detecting all the archaeological sites of this Peruvian region. A complete inspection with Google Maps is in any case necessary to have a total description of the raised fields and the related structure of canals and ponds. Besides the common destiny of any landform composed of fine-grained materials to become wide and flat relieves as a consequence of natural degradation processes, the earthworks of Titicaca are also subjected to the human action  that can quickly destroy them. 


1. Top-down or bottom-up: rural settlement and raised field agriculture in the Lake Titicaca Basin, Bolivia, John Wayne Januseka, Alan L. Kolatab, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 2004, 23, 404–430.
2. The Incas and Their Ancestors. Moseley, M.E., 1992, Thames and Hudson, New York.
3. The tragedy of the commoners. Pauketat, T.R., 2000, In: Dobres, M.-A., Robb, J. (Eds.), Agency  in Archaeology. Routledge, London, pp. 123–139.
4. Basic concepts in the organization of irrigation. Chambers, R., 1980. In: Coward, J.W.E. (Ed.),  Irrigation and Agricultural Development in Asia; Perspectives from the Social Sciences. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, pp. 28–50.
5. The social organization of prehispanic raised field agriculture in the lake Titicaca basin. Erickson, C.L., 1993. In: Scarborough, V.L., Isaac, B.L. Editors, Economic Aspects of Water Management in the Prehispanic New World. JAI Press, Greenwich, pp. 369–426.
6. Intensive agriculture and socio-political development in the Lake Patzcuaro, Fischer, C.T., Pollard, H.P., Frederick, C., Mexico Antiquity, 1999, 73, 642–649.
7. An archaeological investigation of raised field agriculture in the Lake Titicaca Basin of Peru,  Erickson, C.L., 1988, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
8. Andean terraced hills (a use of satellite imagery), Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, 25 Oct 2010, Geophysics (physics.geo-ph), arXiv:1010.5142v1 [physics.geo-ph]
9. Geoglyphs of Titicaca as an ancient example of graphic design, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, 23 Sep 2010, Graphics (cs.GR), arXiv:1009.4602v1 [cs.GR]
10. Symbolic landforms created by ancient earthworks near Lake Titicaca, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, 12-16 Sep 2010, Geophysics (physics.geo-ph); Graphics (cs.GR), arXiv:1009.2231v2 [physics.geo-ph]
11. Geoglyphs of Titicaca, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, Lulu Enterprises, 2010, downloadable at   http://www.scribd.com/doc/39011733/Book-Geoglyphs-Titicaca-Sparavigna
12. Landforms of Titicaca, Amazing land, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, Lulu Enterprises, 2010, downloadable at http://www.scribd.com/doc/39011733/Book-Geoglyphs-Titicaca-Sparavigna
13. Landforms of Titicaca, Near Sillustani, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, Lulu Enterprises, 2010, at http://www.scribd.com/doc/40227342/Landforms-of-Titicaca-Near-Sillustani-Book-by-A-CSparavigna
14. Modelling nocturnal heat dynamics and frost mitigation in Andean raised field systems, J.-P. Lhomme, J.-J. Vacher, Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 2002, 112, 179–193.
15. The fish of Lake Titicaca: implications for archaeology and changing ecology through stable isotope analysis, Melanie J. Miller, José M. Capriles, Christine A. Hastorf, Journal of Archaeological Science, 2010, 37, 317–327.
16. Late-Quaternary lowstands of Lake Titicaca: evidence from high-resolution seismic data, Karin D’Agostino, Geoffrey Seltzer, Paul Baker, Sherilyn Fritz, Robert Dunbar Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology , 2002, 179, 97-111.
17. A 3500 14-C yr High-Resolution Record of Water-Level Changes in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia/Peru, Mark B. Abbott, Michael W. Binford, Mark Brenner, Kerry R. Kelts, Quaternary Research, 1997, 47, 169–180, article no. QR971881.
18. Pre-Incan agriculture activity recorded in dust layers in two tropical ice cores. Thompson, L. G., Davis, M. E., Mosley-Thompson, E., and Liu, K. Nature, 1988, 336, 763–765.
19. The Tiwanaku: Portrait of an Andean Civilization. Kolata, A. L.,1993. Blackwell, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
20. Investigation of level changes of lake Titicaca by maximum entropy spectral analysis. F. Künzel and A. Kessler, Earth and Environmental Science Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics, 1986,  36(3-4), 219-227, DOI: 10.1007/BF02263130.
21. Climate Variation and the Rise and Fall of an Andean Civilization, Michael W. Binford, Alan L. Kolata, Mark Brenner, John W. Janusek, Matthew T. Seddon, Mark Abbott, Jason H. Curtis, Quaternary Research, 1997, 47, 235–248, article no. QR971882.
22. Origin of Bolivian Quechua-Amerindians: their relationship with other American Indians and Asians according to HLA genes, Jorge Martinez-Laso, Nancy Siles, Juan Moscoso, Jorge Zamora, Juan I. Serrano-Vela, Juan I. R-A-Cachafeiro, Maria J. Castro, Manuel Serrano-Rios, Antonio Arnaiz-Villena, European Journal of Medical Genetics, 2006, 49, 169–185.
23. Lake-level fluctuations, M.B. Abbott, L. Anderson, in Encyclopaedia of paleoclimatology and ancient environments edited By Vivien Gornitz, Springer.
24. Late Quaternary climate history of the Bolivian Altiplano, Jaime Argollo, Philippe Mourguiar, Quaternary International, 2000, 72, 37-51.

The Rodadero

Rodadero and Qocha  Chincanas at Cusco

"To the north of Chuquipampa we find Suchuna. It is a geologic formation similar to a hill with some waviness forming ruts parallel to the rocks. Nowadays, children use it as it was a slide. Inca Garcilazo says that he also played here when he was a child.  At the top there is the famous "Inca Throne" or k'usillup hink'inan (jump of the monkey). ... In Rodadero we also find terraces, tunnels, tombs and stairs carved in stone. Recent works have revealed a spring that provided water to a round puddle from where a complex net of canals started.There is no doubt that Suchuna was a very important religious place as Guamancancha, temple of the fourth ceque of the Chinchaysuyo, was located there.It should have been two small rooms from where they observe the remains to the east side of the slide."
From http://www.incatrailbookings.com/Suchuna-or-Rodadero.html
And also

Let us use Google Maps: in the following image we can see the pond.

After a processing see more clearly the circular pond, Qocha.

Let us note thta "qocha" means lake or lagoon. Therefore there are many places with Qocha in their names:  Chakilqocha = Dry Lake, Q'omer-qocha = Green Lake, Qocha Perdida = Lost Lagoon, Qewña-Qocha  = Polylepis tree Lagoon, and also Cochabamba = Qocha Pampa = plains with water.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bofedales - wetlands

Wiki  is reporting that "Bofedal es un humedal de altura y se considera una pradera nativa poco extensa con permanente humedad. Los vegetales o plantas que habitan el bofedal reciben el nombre de vegetales hidrofíticos. Los bofedales se forman en zonas como las de los macizos andinos ubicadas sobre los 3.800 metros de altura, en donde las planicies almacenan aguas provenientes de precipitaciones pluviales, deshielo de glaciares y principalmente afloramientos superficiales de aguas subterráneas." 
From the article, Los camellones alrededor del lago Titicaca, by Pierre Morlon, 2006, a bofedal is an artificial wet area used for cultivation, such as the qochas.
The site Atlantisbolivia.org is reporting an interesting image from Google Maps of  bofedales near Lake Poopo, Bolivia. The site is telling "...it may not be realised on the ground, but these satellite images show that these ponds were at one time artificially constructed in rows, with interlinking small channels in the Pampa Aullagas region of the Altiplano. On the Altiplano there are many such examples of this type of landscape, some natural, some artificial as above, which are known asbofedales (wetlands)."
I have searched the place and processed the images.

Bolivia, Bofedales near Lake Poopo