Category Archives: SOUTH AMERICA

Amazing Heart-Shaped Amethyst Geode Discovered by Miners in Uruguay

Amazing Heart-Shaped Amethyst Geode Discovered by Miners in Uruguay

Beautiful gemstones that have been transformed to take on different shapes adorn several items of jewelry. However, the natural amethyst geode discovered by these miners did not need any processing. That’s because it already seems to be fine!

In its latest Santa Rosa mine near the Uruguay-Brazil border, Uruguay Minerals recently discovered a rare heart-shaped natural amethyst geode. Workers were able to separate a hard-to-break rock, and that’s when they found a pair of purple and white hearts embedded on either side of it.

“It was a normal day at our mine located in the Catalan area in Artigas. The workers were just now allowed in the area to find more geodes in the new mine,” Marcos Lorenzelli of Uruguay Minerals recalled of that fateful day.

“We were opening the mine to work normally but the land was difficult to work and our employees said, ‘We have to find something really nice due to the hard work we are doing.’” he told Modern Met.

The workers had no idea how true that statement would be, considering that they were struggling to get the excavation going because of the harder-than-usual basalt in the area.

Amazing Heart-Shaped Amethyst Geode Discovered by Miners in Uruguay

But after two to three hours of non-stop toiling, the miners cracked open a rock using their excavator machine, and it revealed the most precious treasure inside.

Surely, this geode took many, many years to form, and it’s amazing to think how Mother Nature has managed to create such beauty. And these miners were the lucky ones to unearth it!

Geodes come in all shapes, colours, and sizes, but Uruguay Minerals has never found something quite like this before.

“This is very unique and it’s the first time we found something like this,” Lorenzelli said.

Extremely proud of its recent discovery, the company quickly shared photos of the heart-shaped geode on its website and social media pages.

The rare geode caught the internet by storm as photos of it went viral. On Reddit, a picture of two miners holding rocks bearing the heart geodes have earned 116K upvotes on the platform. Over 1.2K have engaged in the comments.

Here are some of the people’s reactions to this extraordinary natural amethyst geode.

“I wouldn’t mind betting that this started because someone carved a heart into a rock many decades ago.”

“Wow! That’s amazing!!! I love this! A few of my favourite things…. rocks, purple, hearts.”

“No way that’s amazing. I love Amethyst and that piece is definitely a gift from Mother Earth. Others took the discovery as a reminder to take care of our natural resources.

“Make a choice to love the earth back!”

Uruguay Minerals transforms its geodes into different shapes, including hearts, angels, wings, and Christmas trees. The brand sells its creations through its website, including this heart-shaped one, which they’ve named “The New Treasure.”

Unlike its other products, the brand left “The New Treasure” untouched because of how naturally beautiful it looks.

3,200-Year-Old Spider Mural Identified in Peru

3,200-Year-Old Spider Mural Identified in Peru

The Guardian reports that a 3,200-year-old mural on a mudbrick structure situated near a river in northwestern Peru depicts a knife-wielding spider god associated with rain and fertility.

3,200-Year-Old Spider Mural Identified in Peru
Experts believe the shrine was built by the pre-Columbian Cupisnique culture, which developed along Peru’s northern coast more than 3,000 years ago.

The image was painted with yellow, grey, and white paint in addition to ochre. 

The wall of the 15m x 5m mud-brick structure in the Virú province of Peru’s La Libertad region – was discovered last year after much of the site was destroyed by local farmers trying to extend their avocado and sugarcane plantations.

Experts believe the shrine was built by the pre-Columbian Cupisnique culture, which developed along Peru’s northern coast more than 3,000 years ago.

The archaeologist Régulo Franco Jordán said the shrine’s strategic location near the river had led researchers to believe it had been a temple dedicated to water deities.

The mural – applied in ochre, yellow, grey and white paint to the wall of the 15m by 5m mud-brick structure in the Virú province of Peru’s La Libertad region – was discovered last year.

“What we have here is a shrine that would have been a ceremonial centre thousands of years ago,” he told Peru’s La República newspaper.

“The spider on the shrine is associated with water and was an incredibly important animal in pre-Hispanic cultures, which lived according to a ceremonial calendar. It’s likely that there was a special, sacred water ceremony held between January and March when the rains came down from the higher areas.”

According to the archaeologists, about 60% of the complex, which lies 500km north of Lima, was destroyed in November last year when farmers in the region used heavy machinery to try to extend their crop fields.

Jordán has named the temple Tomabalito after the nearby archaeological site known as El Castillo de Tomabal.

“The site has been registered and the discovery will be covered up until the [Covid] pandemic is over and it can be properly investigated,” he told La República.

The spider god is not the only ancient animal artwork to have appeared in Peru over recent months.

In October last year, the form of an enormous cat, dated to between 200 BC and 100 BC, emerged during work to improve access to one of the hills that overlook the country’s famous Nazca line geoglyphs.

Chinese Skeletons Found in Ancient Peruvian Pyramid

Chinese Skeletons Found in Ancient Peruvian Pyramid

Archaeologists exploring Peru’s pre-Colombian past recently unearthed a glimpse of a less prominent chapter in the Andean country’s history – the remains of 16 Chinese labourers from around the turn of the last century.

The bodies, thought to be those of indentured workers brought to Peru to replace slave labour, were found buried at the top of an adobe pyramid first used by the ancient Ichma people, Roxana Gomez, the lead archaeologist of the site, said in a statement.

Peru was one of the biggest destinations for Chinese labour in Latin America in the 20th century, a market that thrived after slavery was abolished in the country in 1854.

Chinese laborers in Peru circa 1900

The Chinese found at the Bellavista pyramid in Lima were buried in the late 1800s and early 1900s and had likely picked cotton at a nearby plantation in “very difficult” conditions, said Gomez.

In a possible sign of how the Chinese gradually emerged from dire poverty in Peru, the first 11 bodies were shrouded in cloth and placed in the ground, while the last five wore blue-green jackets and were buried in wooden coffins, Gomez said.

“In one Chinese coffin, an opium pipe and a small ceramic vessel were included in the funerary ensemble,” said Gomez.

Chinese labourers in the 20th century were generally not allowed to be buried at Lima’s Catholic cemeteries, forcing them to improvise burial sites, according to Peru’s Culture Ministry.

The remains of Chinese labourers were previously found in Lima at other adobe pyramids known as “huacas.” Built by the indigenous societies that once ruled much of Peru’s Pacific coast, huacas were used as administrative and religious centres where members of the elite were often buried with gold objects, ceramics or human sacrifices.

Gomez said the huacas had a sacred association that might have made them attractive places for burial by Chinese labourers.

The Bellavista Huaca was occupied by Ichma starting in about 1000 A.D. and was later annexed by the Incan empire until the arrival of Spanish conquerors who deemed huacas blasphemous.

Italian immigrants later kept vineyards at the base of the site, Gomez added.

“The best way to understand our history is as a continuum of different cultures,” said Gomez.

The Oldest Mummies in The World Are Turning Into Black Slime

The Oldest Mummies in The World Are Turning Into Black Slime

Climate change is converting the world’s oldest mummies into black slime, which were buried more than 7,000 years ago in the arid desert of northern Chile. Increasing humidity has been observed to cause an outbreak of bacteria living on the preserved skin of Chinchorro mummies, according to scientists.

The Oldest Mummies in The World Are Turning Into Black Slime
The preserved skin on the outside of Chinchorro mummies in Arica, northern Chile, have begun to rapidly degrade as bacteria and humid air is turning it into black slime, as can be seen in the photograph above

The bacteria then feeds on the ancient skin, causing it to break down into black slime. Researchers say that rising humidity levels in Arica, Chile, is putting the 120 Chinchorro mummies at the University of Tarapacá’s archaeological museum at risk.

However, they warn that hundreds of other mummies buried just beneath the sandy surface in the valleys throughout the region are also under threat. Professor Marcela Sepulveda, an archaeologist at the University of Tarapacá, said: ‘In the last 10 years, the process has accelerated.

‘It is very important to get more information about what’s causing this and to get the university and national government to do what’s necessary to preserve the Chinchorro mummies for the future.’

The Chinchorro mummies are in some cases nearly 4,000 years older than those found preserved from ancient Egypt. The oldest mummy discovered in the Atacama desert dates to 7020BC while the oldest in Egypt dates to 3,000BC.

However, the practice of preserving the dead with mummification became popular among the Chinchoro around 5,000 BC, with children and babies often being the most elaborately preserved. The Chinchorro were prehistoric people who lived in scattered communities and used fishing to help them survive on the desert coast of Chile and Peru.

It is thought they began preserving their dead though mummification as part of a religious act designed to bridge the world between the living and the dead.

An estimated 282 mummies have now been recovered from the dry, sandy soil in the region, but scientists say there could be hundreds more buried there.

Preserved corpses are often found as the shifting sand exposes their bodies. Arica and the surrounding Atacama Desert is one of the driest places in the world and the town receives less than 0.02 inches of rain a year.

The skin on the head of this Chinchorro mummy at the San Miguel de Azapa Museum in Arica, Chile has begun to break down due to the damage being caused by bacteria growing as humidity in the area increases.

It is this dry climate that has helped preserve the mummies for more than 7,000 years. However, the region has been growing slowly damper in recent years.

Scientists at the University of Tarapacá museum first noticed black slimy patches appearing on the preserved skin of the Chinchorro mummies around ten years ago.

As time has gone on they have degraded at ‘an alarming rate’ as the preserved skin has broken down into black slime.

Researchers at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have now conducted a series of tests to find out what was causing the degradation. They found that bacteria normally found growing on the human skin appeared to become ‘supercharged’ when placed on mummy skin in high humidity.

They found that mummies need to be kept at between 40 per cent and 60 per cent humidity to prevent degradation from occurring. If the humidity falls below this level, acidification could also damage the mummies.

Some of the Chinchorro mummies, like the one above buried in a coffin made from reeds, show highly sophisticated preservation thousands of years before mummification began to be used in ancient Egypt

Museum staff are now fine-tuning the temperature and humidity to help preserve the mummies in their extensive collection. Professor Ralph Mitchell, a biologist at Harvard who led the work, said: ‘We knew the mummies were degrading but nobody understood why.

‘This kind of degradation has never been studied before.

‘With many diseases we encounter, the microbe is in our body, to begin with, but when the environment changes it becomes an opportunist.’

Professor Mitchell and his colleagues are now keen to find ways to help protect the mummies still preserved out in the desert.

Six thousand-year-old tombs found in northwest Argentina

Six thousand-year-old tombs found in northwest Argentina

Radio Cadena Agramonte reports that 12 graves dated between 6,000 and 1,300 years ago were unearthed in northwestern Argentina by a team of researchers from the University of Buenos Aires–National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), during investigations over the past 15 years.

Six thousand-year-old tombs found in northwest Argentina
A group of Argentine researchers found in the province of Catamarca 12 graves with more than six thousand years old, reported the scientific outreach agency CTyS, of the University of La Matanza.

According to the source, most were found fortuitously by residents of the area who, upon finding the remains, alerted the archaeological team that has been studying pre-Hispanic burial practices in northwestern Argentina for years.

The doctor in Archeology, Leticia Cortés, a specialist in burial methodologies in pre-Hispanic populations that inhabited the Valle del Cajón area, explained that when these practices are compared with current ones, they may seem strange.

“Knowing these customs, we can reconstruct the cultural practices of the past and put into perspective our own traditions, which are part of a cultural construction,” said Cortés, a researcher at the Institute of Cultures.

The search of this type began more than 15 years ago, with a research team dependent on the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research, led by María Cristina Scattolin and dedicated to excavation and analysis tasks in the town of Valle del Cajón.

This practice of burials before the arrival of the Spanish was far from what is customary today on the basis of the Judeo-Christian model.

Cortés pointed out that this type of find usually occurs after the rainy season, in summer, which is uncovered and the bones are exposed.

“There was a great variability of burial methods, in individual or collective graves, and also in the posture of the bodies. 

Some are hyperflexed, like squatting, with the shoulders touching the knees, others extended and disjointed and mixed, ”explained the specialist.

Cortés pointed out that many times people lived with their dead on a daily basis, buried them in the same patio where they cooked, made pots or carved stones. It is an interesting thing to see the different conceptions that were had about life and death, he said.

According to archaeology, they continue working and have found necklaces and pendants that would be associated with the deceased, as non-transferable objects that are buried next to the body and remain there.

The Oldest City in The Americas Is an Archeological Wonder, And It’s Under Invasion

The Oldest City in The Americas Is an Archeological Wonder, And It’s Under Invasion

The oldest archaeological site in the Americas, having survived for 5,000 years, is under threat from squatters that claim that the coronavirus pandemic has left them with no other option but to occupy the sacred city.

The government wants to take all of the items found from archaeological sites for national security. Because of this, Ruth Shady, who archives the items before, and after she is done, she has been threatened with death.

Archaeologists told an AFP team visiting Caral that squatter invasions and destruction began in March when the pandemic forced a nationwide lockdown.

An agricultural area that has invaded the protected site.

“There are people who come and invade this site, which is state property, and they use it to plant,” archaeologist Daniel Mayta told AFP.

“It’s hugely harmful because they’re destroying 5,000-year-old cultural evidence.”

Caral is situated in the valley of the Supe river some 182 kilometres (110 miles) north of the capital Lima and 20km from the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Developed between 3,000 and 1,800 BCE in an arid desert, Caral is the cradle of civilization in the Americas. Its people were contemporaries of Pharaonic Egypt and the great Mesopotamian civilizations. It pre-dates the far better known Inca empire by 45 centuries.

None of that mattered to the squatters, though, who took advantage of the minimal police surveillance during 107 days of lockdown to take over 10 hectares of the Chupacigarro archaeological site and plant avocados, fruit trees, and lima beans.

“The families don’t want to leave,” said Mayta, 36.

“We explained to them that this site is a (UNESCO) World Heritage site and what they’re doing is serious and could see them go to jail.”

Death threats

Shady is the director of the Caral archaeological zone and has been managing the investigations since 1996 when excavations began. She says that land traffickers – who occupy state or protected land illegally to sell it for private gain – are behind the invasions.

“We’re receiving threats from people who are taking advantage of the pandemic conditions to occupy archaeological sites and invade them to establish huts and till the land with machinery … they destroy everything they come across,” said Shady.

“One day they called the lawyer who works with us and told him they were going to kill him with me and bury us five meters underground” if the archaeological work continued at the site.

Shady, 74, has spent the last quarter of a century in Caral trying to bring back to life the social history and legacy of the civilization, such as how the construction techniques they used resisted earthquakes.

“These structures up to five thousand years old have remained stable up to the present and structural engineers from Peru and Japan will apply that technology,” said Shady.

The Caral inhabitants understood that they lived in the seismic territory. Their structures had baskets filled with stones at the base that cushioned the movement of the ground and prevented the construction from collapsing. The threats have forced Shady to live in Lima under protection. She was given the Order of Merit by the government last week for services to the nation.

“We’re doing what we can to ensure that neither your health nor your life is at risk due to the effects of the threats you’re receiving,” Peru’s President Francisco Sagasti told her at the ceremony.

Police arrests

Caral was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009. It spans 66 hectares and is dominated by seven stone pyramids that appear to light up when the sun’s rays fall on them. The civilization is believed to have been peaceful and used neither weapons nor ramparts.

Closed due to the pandemic, Caral reopened to tourists in October and costs just US$3 to visit. During the lockdown, several archaeological pieces were looted in the area and in July police arrested two people for partially destroying a site containing mummies and ceramics.

An unusual pre-Hispanic chimú burial was discovered in Peru

An unusual pre-Hispanic chimú burial was discovered in Peru

In an archaeological discovery in Peru, a pre-Hispanic burial belonging to the Chimu Culture was discovered on Wednesday by government workers who carried out domestic gas connection works very close to an urban area in the city of Chimbote, in the Ancash district.

Juan Lopez Marchena, head of the Decentralized Culture Directorate (DDC) of Chimbote, clarified that the skeletal remains belonged to an individual who was found in a flexed ventral ulna position along with three vessels.

“Following the studies and analyses, we will be able to know part of the pre-Hispanic history of the people at that time, the gender of the individual, the diet, the occupation, as well as information about the vessels associated with the find,” he told Andina news agency.

According to Lopez, the vessels were apparently destined for domestic use, and —on the inside— there was evidence of the presence of piruros, which the Chimu women used to spin wool.

“The vessels feature characteristic circles of the Chimu Culture, which settled mainly in Casma,” he mentioned.

Rich and millenary peoples

The discovery occurred in the shantytown of Bolivar. Before that —also while gas installation works were being carried out— a burial of the Moche Culture was found in the shantytown of San Pedro. 

These discoveries are important for this reason, he said, because “we are building a cultural sequence.”

“Two finds have been reported, and they are very important because they indicate how rich and millenary different peoples in Chimbote can be,” he stressed.

The remains will be taken to the Max Uhle Museum, located in the city of Casma. They will be analyzed, and the results will be significant for the investigation of pre-Hispanic Peru.

Mass-Murder Under The Silvery Light Of The Moon

One aspect of the Chimú culture, which the Spanish conquistadors couldn’t forgive, was the mass-sacrifice of captive adult warriors at the Temple of the Moon, just a few miles from Chan Chan. However, this was way less horrific than the Chimú elite’s institutionalized killing of babies and children.

In a 2019 National Geographic article Dr. Gabriel Prieto, a professor of archaeology from the National University of Trujillo, discussed a shocking discovery in Huanchaquito, a hamlet on the north coast of Peru.

In 2011 he discovered the broken bodies of “269 children between the ages of five and 14.” More than 500 years ago these children were systematically murdered in “carefully orchestrated acts of a ritual sacrifice that may be unprecedented in world history,” said Dr. Preito.

A shocking number of children’s bodies have been found at Huanchaquito

Chan Chan’s sustained success depended on carefully managed irrigation systems and coastal fisheries. This means a severe El Niño weather event might have shaken the political and economic stability of the Chimú kingdom.

It is thought that the priests and leaders may have ordered the mass sacrifice of these children in a desperate attempt to persuade the gods to stop the rains and flooding caused by an El Niño.

Jane Eva Baxter, an anthropology professor at DePaul University, said the Chimú people probably considered their children as the most valuable offerings they could present to the gods and Dr. Prieto said this number of children (269) would have been “a massive investment on behalf of the state”.

Villa Epecuen: The Town That Was Submerged For 25 Years

Villa Epecuen: The Town That Was Submerged For 25 Years

The landscape has the permanent look of winter. Leafless trees jag skywards while shimmering white dust covers the ground. The streets are deserted; the only sound is the breeze. Welcome to Epecuen, Argentina’s ghost town, with a population of just one.

Located 340 miles south-west of Buenos Aires, Epecuen was once a booming tourist destination on the shores of a salt lake famed for its healing properties. Then one-day disaster struck. On 10 November 1985, after a period of heavy rain, the banks of the lake burst. The town, stretching back for more than 100 blocks, was submerged in water 10 meters deep.

Over the past few years, the waters have receded and the town has re-emerged. Left behind is a crystalline residue that from a distance looks like snow, as well as hundreds of dead trees and a derelict resort.

Lone inhabitant of Villa Epecuen, 81-year-old Pablo Novak tends his wood stove at his on May 3, 2011.

When the flood hit, residents were forced to pack their bags and leave. No one dared to return, except for 83-year-old Pablo Novak, who now has the dubious title of being contemporary Epecuen’s only resident. Today he’s out for a jaunt on his rusting bicycle with his two dogs in tow.

“I got used to life on my own,” he says. “I decided to stay because I spent my youth here, I went to school here and also started a family here. So it seemed quite normal.”

The former slaughterhouse of Villa Epecuen, Argentina, among a stand of long-dead trees, photographed on May 4, 2011.
Norma Berg gestures next to the ruins of her family house in Villa Epecuen, Argentina, on May 3, 2011.
A thin layer of salt, cracked, revealing the original paint of the wall of a collapsed building in Villa Epecuen, Argentina, on May 3, 2011.

The flood reduced Epecuen to rubble. No house was left untouched. Façades have disintegrated; walls have crumbled; pavements have sunk. Wooden staircases are exposed – in one spot are the rusting remains of a 1930s Chevrolet that an owner failed to salvage.

The salt has preserved tiny details, freezing the resort in time and allowing a voyeuristic glimpse into the past. Near the main street are the remains of a pizzeria. The sculptures that the owner bought to decorate his business are still intact, including a stone crescent moon sitting outside as though it were still 1985. In the rubble, a wood-fired pizza oven is clearly visible.

Walking among the crystalline ruins, the tracks left by a tractor that tried to salvage valuables from the long-gone Santa Teresista Church are still there. Dotted around the site, too, are green wine bottles half-buried in the sand. Further away from the main drag is what used to function as the municipal camping area. The eerie site has an abandoned playground: the frame of a set of swings still stands, as does a rusting seesaw, every inch reminiscent of Chernobyl.

Javier Andres, head of tourism for the normally sleepy agricultural region of Adolfo Alsina, has been swamped with interest in the last few weeks due to a concerted effort to promote the ruins. Epecuen has been compared to Pompeii, he says, but there is one major difference.

“We don’t think there’s anywhere in the world quite like it,” he explains. “Although it’s been called the Argentinian Pompeii, there you’re not able to walk around with a former resident explaining everything to you. Here you can do that.”

The waters began their retreat in 2009 but the tourist board delayed launching a campaign until now, respectful of the reactions the floods continue to provoke among the hundreds who lost their livelihoods.

“When you visit Epecuen, the sensation is hard to explain,” Mr. Andres says. “There’s a sense of wonder at this place that is completely in ruins, an apocalyptic vision. But then you can’t help thinking about the people that lost everything here, years of effort and hard work that disappeared overnight. So there’s a lot of sadness at the same time.”

The devastated landscape has attracted the attention of several movie crews and Roland Joffé’s Spanish Civil War drama, There Be Dragons, was partly filmed here. Yet the demise of Epecuen remains painful for former residents. The health resort was one of the most frequented in Argentina, growing in popularity from the 1920s and attracting European as well as local tourists at a time before the wide availability of alternative treatments.

The water – 10 times saltier than the sea – drew many of Buenos Aires’s Jewish community, nostalgic for the Dead Sea. The town’s population of just over 1,000 would swell fivefold during the high season.

“There are some things you can repair, such as the economic damage,” says Carlos Ruben Besagonill, 49, who used to run a hotel in Epecuen. “But you can’t replace the experiences, the affection, the moments you passed there.”

Mr. Besagonill says that it’s taken him more than 20 years to re-establish the business he had in Epecuen in nearby Carhue, now the region’s main tourist town. He was forced to leave behind everything in 1985, recently married and with a one-year-old daughter in his arms. “I used to dream every night that Epecuen reappeared,” he says. “I’d dream that I told my family: ‘Look we can go back and paint the hotel,’ because I really thought it was possible.”

Mr Besagonill is pleased that the ruins may soon be a major tourist attraction once more. For him, it should serve as a warning about “what not to do with nature”. He says that the province may be to blame for poor water management, but that the town should never have been built so close to the shores of a lake that was liable to overflow.

A man compares a photograph of Villa Epecuen taken in the 1970s with the current state of the place, after almost 25 years beneath the water of Lago Epecuen.

Back on the main street, the ghosts of Epecuen continue to swirl around the crumbling concrete as Mr. Novak recalls the ice-cream parlour he used to pass, the bar he’d visit for a beer, and the clubs where he’d dance until the early hours.

Mr. Novak says that his children don’t like coming back – unlike his 21 grandchildren who love hearing his yarns and devour his photos of the old days – and every year they try to convince him to move away. But while he remains independent, he argues, he’s going nowhere.

Although Mr. Andres rejects the idea that somebody may be prepared to stump up the “six-figure sum” needed to rebuild Epecuen, Mr. Novak remains dogged in his hope that the town will one day recapture its glorious past. “I always thought it would revive, that’s the thing I find most difficult,” he says wistfully. “I keep on hoping it will happen. But sadly no one seems to want to do anything.”