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Robot Finds Mysterious Spheres in Ancient Temple (discovery.com)
62 points by joshuahedlund 1630 days ago | hide | past | web | 42 comments | favorite

That's not just any temple. When the Aztecs discovered that city, they gave it a name in their Nahuatl language: Teotihuacan means "place of the gods" because they had no idea who built that city, and to this day no one has figured out the origin. 2 millennia ago, it was the largest city in the Americas, covering 30 sq km. The mystery can take your imagination on a wild ride, and I half-expected to see the Predator dropping down out of the sky as he made his rounds on the world's pyramids. ;) I recommend you visit, because it's quite accessible via a half-hour bus ride from the north station in Mexico City.

Well the spheres do sound like "Alien" eggs.

You have a remote controlled robot, but not a single photo of this cool, unknown object?

Please tell me I missed something on that site.

On another note, this is pretty cool:


especially the bit about frustrated magnets. I wonder if the creators of these had any concept of this phenomenon.

I don't really get why they call them "spheres". Maybe there's some analysis they did to figure out that they used to actually be spherical, but why doesn't the article mention that?

"spheres" makes a few strewn rocks sound more supernatural or alien. The article talks of high powered people and rituals, but in all likelihood it was just something utterly mundane, like trying to make cheese.

They don't look like spheres to me either.

But I guess "robot finds rocks on the ground" doesn't have the same ring to it.

One expects spheres to be roughly spherical. These are not.

They're clay covered in pyrite, which oxidized into the uninteresting yellow coating. Calling them "rocks" is a bit inaccurate when they're man-made objects.

Of course i missed the giant red "view related gallery" button.

Some days I think I shouldn't be a web developer.

So did the robot stick those little numbers on them too?

Why do designers think a bar over the content at the top of a webpage is a good thing? There are a lot you types around here, maybe this question can be answered.

I use (used to use, anyway. Before everyone decided to mount a bar at the top) space or page-down to read stuff online. When there's a bar riding above the content I can't use space anymore. I have to use space and then my arrow keys because the visible portion doesn't match what the browser thinks of the page, so it ends up doing a full-size page down, which means the bar covers text I haven't read yet. :(

Chrome and Firefox both correct for fixed-position headers to make pageup/pagedn/space work correctly in pages like this one. Some details:



Chrome does not compensate properly on the linked page. Firefox does. I've written a short article about the issues with this implementation of fixed headers here: http://gist.io/4950242

"Tell us what you think of this site" lightbox + close button too small to press accurately on a touch device = walk away

It's broken even for Chrome on my laptop. Nasty little bit of Flash that renders this page barely viewable

To everyone who has asked: this is why we use NoScript :)

Broken on a full machine too, won't close when I clearly click the close button. Dreadful.

That was so annoying

What are the chances that we're on the cusp of a golden age of archaeological discovery as robots/drones/etc advance in capabilities and allow us to deeply explore ruins, underground lairs, underwater wrecks, and other remains of past, buried civilizations that previously required human-sized openings / human-supportable environments? Or is it more likely to be continued marginal advancements over time as we keep discovering the next-hardest stuff to discover? (It's been decades since Alvin explored the Titanic, but the technology is getting much better and much more affordable.) Either way, it's an exciting time to be alive.

It's the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, and they don't get the significant of round objects buried in the ground? Seems to me that it's possible that they would represent eggs, though I'm no expert on Meso-American culture/religion.

Maybe they've discovered an ancient bowling alley.

Related in some way to the Costa Rica Spheres?


This is much closer to what I was imagining...

Except in my head they were also levitating in the midst of a vast antechamber paved with demihuman skulls, while bathed in a murky, sourceless flame whose flicker caused the wall reliefs to seem to dance, and stab at the probe with wicked implements of shadow.

So I suppose disappointment was inevitable :\

Almost certainly not; there's nothing in common beyond being spheres, and they're not particularly close to each other.

Since this page appears to be uselessly bloated for many users, here is the text: (I cannot find a link to another news article)

Hundreds of mysterious spheres lie beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, an ancient six-level step pyramid just 30 miles from Mexico City.

The enigmatic spheres were found during an archaeological dig using a camera-equipped robot at one of the most important buildings in the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan.

"They look like yellow spheres, but we do not know their meaning. It's an unprecedented discovery," said Jorge Zavala, an archaeologist at Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute.

The Mesoamerican ruins of Teotihuacan, a World Heritage Site, represent one of the largest urban centers of the ancient world. Thought to have been established around 100 B.C., the pyramid-filled city had more than 100,000 inhabitants at its peak, but was abandoned for mysterious reasons around 700 A.D. -- long before the Aztecs arrived in the 1300s.

The excavation at the temple focused on a 330-foot-long tunnel which runs under the structure. The conduit was discovered in 2003 when heavy rain uncovered a hole a few feet from the pyramid.

Exploring the tunnel, which was deliberately filled with debris and ruins by the Teotihuacan people, required several years of preliminary work and planning.

"Finally, a few months ago we found two side chambers at 72 and 74 meters (236 and 242 feet) from the entrance. We called them North Chamber and South Chamber,” archaeologist Sergio Gómez Chávez, director of the Tlalocan Project, told Discovery News.

The archaeologists explored the tunnel with a remote-controlled robot called Tlaloc II-TC, which has an infrared camera and a laser scanner that generates 3D visualization of the spaces beneath the temple.

"The robot was able to enter in the part of the tunnel which has not yet been excavated yet and found three chambers between 100 and 110 meters (328 and 360 feet) from the entrance," Gómez Chávez said.

The mysterious spheres lay in both the north and south chambers. Ranging from 1.5 to 5 inches, the objects have a core of clay and are covered with a yellow material called jarosite.

"This material is formed by the oxidation of pyrite, which is a metallic ore," Gómez Chávez said. "It means that in pre-hispanic times they appeared as if they were metallic spheres. There are hundreds of these in the south chamber."

According to George Cowgill, professor emeritus at Arizona State University and the author of several publications on Teotihuacan, the spheres are a fascinating find.

"Pyrite was certainly used by the Teotihuacanos and other ancient Mesoamerican societies," Cowgill told Discovery News. "Originally the spheres would have shown brilliantly. They are indeed unique, but I have no idea what they mean."

Even the walls and ceiling of both chambers were covered with a mineral powder composed of magnetite, pyrite and hematite which provided a special brightness to the place.

"We believe that high-ranking people, priests or even rulers, went down to the tunnel to perform rituals," Gómez Chávez said.

Indeed the archaeologists found many offerings, including pottery and wooden masks covered with inlaid rock crystal, jade and quartz -- all dating from around 100 A.D.

Gómez Chávez and his team now look forward to the next phase of the project -- exploring the last part of the tunnel and three chambers which archaeologists have seen through the robot cameras.

"The tunnel is in pristine condition, untouched for almost two millennia," said Ng “TC” Tze Chuen, an independent researcher who worked on the design of the Tláloc II-TC robot. "Can you can imagine what can be found inside?"

Ng, who helped create the Djedi robot that explored Egypt's Great Pyramid in 2010, believes the Mexican tunnel might lead to one of the most significant archaeological finds in Teotihuacan.

"The results are very encouraging indeed," he said.

According to Gómez Chávez, the tunnel was sealed twice by the Teotihuacan people. Thick walls, erected to block access, were demolished about 1,800 years ago in order to deposit something very important in the central chamber at the end of the tunnel.

"Maybe in this place," Gómez Chávez said, "we will find the remains of those who ruled Teotihuacan.”

No way! The page works fine.

Copying and pasting whole articles into comments? Maybe when the internet actually breaks, do that. But when a couple of people have a whinge about a lightbox, or someone else complains about Flash which doesn't seem to be there...

What if they edit their article? Will you update your post with those corrections?

The page is actively hostile towards readers. On my mobile device, a large 'survey' box covers the text, which cannot be closed. The discovery.com website is broken.

I opened the page, closed it in anger and then noticed the text pasted here, which I read. It's worked out very well for me.

I couldn't read it on my iPhone. That stupid popup appeared and when I tried to click on the cross it sent me to some stupid survey...

I have literally never heard of someone complaining that a person posted the text of an article to the comments due to a broken site.

Congratulations exodust, you're one of a kind.

Best headline I've seen on HN in years.

You can see some better pictures of them here, along with the archaeologist:


"Mysterious Spheres"? They look like ordinary rocks to me.

Call Ripley to open the easter eggs.

That was my first thought too! It's totally a (bad?) sci-fi movie plot:

1) Ancient pyramid? Check

2) Hidden tunnel under pyramid to special room? Check

3) Weird items of unknown purpose hidden in room? Check

4) Tunnel filled in and hidden from view by ancient people? Check

5) Tunnel uncovered in modern times by accident? Check

6) Modern Archaeologists disturb ancient alien eggs causing decimation of the human race? Che...

facemasks... uhhh, facemasks? Who was supposed to bring the facemasks?!?!

Damn. Still no ancient aliens.

Cast Analyze so you don't waste MP on spells that don't work.

Use bayesian logic first! They're yellow therefore they are likely electric type. Cast a rockslide spell first and see if you get type damage.

Why is this posted to Hacker News? It didn't seem at all related to programming or starting a business


On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.

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