Loch A’an – High Wind and Tent Failure


Loch A’an – High Wind and Tent Failure

http://mcalisterium.wordpress.com

Thanks to Fraser for the Wondeful Images and Story (Yappy)

TarpTent Contrail in happier times

Outdoor pursuits had not got off to the best of starts this week. I managed to fall off the bike midweek in Blairadam Forest, due to looking at where my front wheel was going rather than where I actually wanted it to go. This was closely followed by a chain snappage, on-trail repair and hasty retreat home for a beer. A window of opportunity presented itself for a weekend overnighter, since taking a new job in May, such events have been rare – so best seize it!

Lone pine in Glen Derry

My old favourite, the Cairngorms were the destination. I had a vague plan to camp at the end of Glen Derry somewhere. I love this part of the Scotland. The free-draining grit underfoot, the Scots pines, the wide open spaces and remoteness. The journey up past Glenshee to Braemar and Linn of Dee feels like a journey – a great road especially in great weather. Under blue skies, the Cairngorms can feel un-Scottish, almost North American maybe?

I cycled up to Derry Lodge and left the bike. There were plenty of folk around and a fair number of tents too. Onward up Glen Derry, I was thinking of pitching up above Loch Etchachan, near a spot I’d enjoyed a couple of years ago. Despite the sun, the wind was pretty strong even down in the glen, and when I bumped into an Aberdonian coming back from Derry Cairngorm, he confirmed it was even worse up high. Two pairs of mountain bikers descending back down the glen were at least now enjoying the tailwind, having fought their way into the wind on their outward route.

I reached the end of the glen and swung north-west, into the pass between Derry Cairngorm and Beinn Mheahoin, climbing up toward the Hutchison Memorial Hut. I passed a group of three overdressed walkers coming the other way. Further up, the penny dropped, they’d been repairing the path, hence the PU coated waterproofs rather than bling brand names. They’ve put in a fair amount of drainage channels, but the path has not yet had enough traffic to be fully compacted.


The Hutchison Memorial Hut and Creagan a’ Choire Etchachan

I stuck my head into the bothy, to be confronted by a combination of musty/fresh paint smell, a note from the MBA confirmed they’d spruced the place up just last week. It’s now slightly less hovel-like than last time I visited. I briefly considered sleeping here, given the wind. But I hadn’t walked all the way up the glen to sleep indoors. I had a bit to eat and pressed on, up to Loch Etchachan. The wind was still strong, so I decided to carry on, dropping down steeply to Loch A’an. I hadn’t been this far before, but was struck by the green tinge to the water and the sandy shores. Unfortunately I could see there were a few tents dotted around. I wanted the place to myself, but wasn’t prepared to spend the night anywhere else, it’s an awesome spot, with high crags all around and waterfalls crashing down off the mountain. I’d just have to share. It occurred to me that I’d be testing the limits of the Contrail in this wind.


Loch A’an – You don’t really get a sense of scale here. There are two tents and a person on the sand/beach by the inlet on the left

Losing altitude the wind dropped a bit. The path down is steep and loose. I could see figures leaping from boulder to boulder, over by the famous Shelter Stone. It was inhabited too. I picked a spot equidistant from the other tents. Imagine the horror of someone pitching up right next to you way out here.  I was in a spot below the shelter stone and was afforded some shelter of my own by a giant boulder. I tried to imagine the sort of force required to deposit such a sizeable chunk of geology in it’s current position, either through glaciation, or snapping off the crags above and thundering downhill into the basin. I imagined the splat such a thing landing on my Contrail in the night would make. Cheery thoughts.

I got fed and wandered about, taking photos and occasionally eyeing the Contrail to see if it was still standing. The wind had picked up again and was making any attempts at long exposures futile. The Contrail seemed to be doing okay, a wee bit flappy, but okay. I crawled into my sleeping bag, stuck the earplugs in and fell asleep.


The crags above the Shelter Stone with Garbh Uisge and Feith Buidhe burn cascading down the mountain beyond. A couple of patches of snow clung to the deepest recesses in the rock.

I must’ve had around an hour or two sleep before waking with the tent half collapsed on top of me. The wind had upped it’s game. It was getting nasty. I assumed a peg had come out and jumped out to sort it. The wind had been changing direction regularly. The Contrail should have been end to the wind, but was getting blasted broadside. By this point it was dark, I was pleased to have kept my socks and goretex oversocks on in the sleeping bag, meaning I could jump straight out onto the soggy ground.

The Y-pegs were fine, they held tight, even in the soft ground. The adjustable peg point had come loose, I re-tensioned it and the others and was about to go back inside, when I noticed my walking pole sticking through the fabric at the door. It had jumped out of the metal grommet during the flapping and had gone straight through the silnylon. Bollocks. I reseated it and went back inside. If it rained, there would be some dampness in the porch, not a big deal.

Half an hour or so later, I was struggling to get back to sleep, when the pegging point gave again. I reluctantly decide to strike, pack up and make a night hike back to the Hutchison Hut. It probably says a lot about me that I didn’t really consider crashing the Shelter Stone. I’d rather just hike back over the bealach to the [hopefully deserted] bothy.

I’d only brought my Black Diamond Ion headtorch, which is fine for around camp, but has limited range. I immediately realised that I didn’t have an accurate mental picture of how to get back out. The number of criss-crossing paths on the lower slopes confused matters further. I’d have to pick my way out, up through steep/loose terrain, 2 metres at a time, as dictated by the reach of my headtorch. It was burning on the low output, wary of running down the battery before I’d safely made it to the bothy. It’s safe to say I was a bit anxious at this point, especially with the wind ripping at my pack and twisting me off balance. It was a battle to stay on course, and I was glad of the poles to help me balance and brace against the stronger gusts. Slowly I noted one familiar feature on the ground after another, I just had to keep finding them all the way back to the bothy.

There was a bit of relief as the gradient eased and I made the top of the bealach, although I was well aware that I still had to pick my way through the stream/bog/path past Loch Etchachan, the trails petered out a few times. To make matters worse, the cloud had come down, making the output from the headtorch into a ghostly fog, obscuring features from the terrain ahead. I shut it off once or twice to get my bearings and pick out my position relative to the loch. Those gritty Cairngorm trails glow nicely under torchlight, offering a bit of reassurance underfoot. If the trails had been muddier, routefinding would have been more problematic. I may have had to shelter by a rock until dawn allowed my to see where I was going. I was also lucky in that the rain stayed off, there was some drizzle, but nothing significant. I made the outflow on Loch Etchachan and rock hopped precariously to the other side. Another obstacle cleared. The worst was over. Now back down on the new path to the relative comfort of the Hutchison hut. I remember giving thanks to whoever had the foresight to wrap the bothy porch with reflective tape. Inside, I checked the time, 0300, it would be getting light in a couple of hours. I’d made it back without needing to take a bearing or check the map. Time for some shut-eye.


Stacan Dubha at dusk

I woke in the morning to the wind ripping at the bothy roof. No let up then. Outside the window I could see clear skies. I decided I didn’t fancy following my proposed route up Derry Cairngorm and back to Derry Lodge. Anyone who’s been on the bouldery summit of Derry Cairngorm knows there’s plenty of potential for a leg break up there. One big gust at the wrong moment…

No doubt the views from the summit would have been outstanding, but the conditions put me off, I’d pushed my luck enough for one weekend. I retraced my steps back down Glen Derry, the wind dropped as I reached the shelter of the trees near Derry Lodge and it was warm in the sun. I enjoyed the walk by the river, through the pines and stopped for lunch at the footbridge over Derry Burn. A short blast on the bike to the car at Linn of Dee left me with a feeling the trip was over too soon, despite my uncomfortable night hike. The wind had become a light breeze by Braemar and the prospect of a late afternoon spent in the garden with a beer wasn’t so bad.


In the bothy

Post Mortem

This is the first time I’ve ever found myself in a ‘situation’ in the hills. One entirely of my own creation, stemming from the decision to leave my Akto at home and take the Contrail instead, despite having seen the forecast beforehand. This sort of gung-ho attitude is not something I’d ever entertain in winter. In summer, you’ll get wet and cold maybe. But in winter you’d get dead.

Loch A’an is about as remote as you can get in the Cairngorms, so you’re a good distance from help, should you need it. But in summer at least, there are a reasonable amount of people around too. If I’d been really desperate, I’d have gatecrashed the Shelter Stone. I think I also spotted a smaller, less enclosed shelter nearby that someone has constructed under a large boulder, presumably when there was no room at the Shelter Stone.

I’m reasonably pleased with my response to the situation, I extracted myself without much fuss. Lessons to be learned: MWIS should be obeyed. And if you’re going to push your luck, do it somewhere you’re more familiar with. I knew the trails as far as Loch Etchachan, but the last section over to Loch A’an was new to me, meaning I didn’t have absolute confidence in finding the right trail back to the bothy in the dark.

Update: To put all this into perspective, there’s an interesting article describing the Cairngorm Disaster of 1971 written by RAF Sqn Ldr Bill Campbell here which happened around the same area.

Thoughts on Kit
I pushed the Contrail beyond it’s design parameters, I can’t blame Henry Shires for that. It’s still usable, despite the hole. But only for low level pitches in good conditions. Time for a TrailStar? There is a large amount of material in the Contrail, if anyone can think of a MYOG project that could use the fabric, you’re welcome to it, leave a comment. Lots of silnylon stuff bags maybe?

My Fizan poles were great [apart from puncturing my shelter]. The security and stability offered when climbing the loose, steep ground up to the bealach in high wind was most welcome.

My BD Ion was the star of the show. The £15 headtorch was just powerful enough to get me back to the bothy. Either of my Petzls would have been preferable, the XP2 would have illuminated much further ahead, which would have inspired confidence in my route finding skills. But without the Ion, I’d have be sat shivering under a rock until dawn. Given my reliance on it this trip, at 28g, maybe it’s time to start carrying it as a backup throughout winter.

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Which of these fake monsters could fool you?


By Annalee Newitz

Which of these fake monsters could fool you?

 

Which of these fake monsters could fool you?

All summer, io9 is offering a bounty to anyone who can find a genuine cryptid, or mystery animal. But to keep you amused in the meantime, we’re doing a contest for who can create the best fake cryptid.

We’ve gotten some pretty funny entries so far, some of which might even be convincing. Would any of these make you cry cryptid?

Here’s a batch of submissions that amused us — and in one case, kind of creeped us out.

Gator Boy (pictured above)
Creator William says:

The Gator-Boy was made predominantly with latex and cotton…

Points for: Sheer goofiness and fun. Plus, we always love practical effects.

Sharkaphant

Which of these fake monsters could fool you?
Creator Collin writes:

The Sharkaphant was made using a mixture of googled images, Photoshop CS3, and time my employer wasn’t quite aware of.

Points for: Old-timey look. Plus, sharks are always mating with elephants – everybody knows that.

The Slender Man

Which of these fake monsters could fool you?
Creator Dan says this image was made with Photoshop CS5.
Points for: Loving old memes and recreating the fuzzy look in so many famous cryptid photos. Plus, there is something genuinely creepy about this image.

Dragonlizard

Which of these fake monsters could fool you?
Creator Dennis says:

Made by some tinkering with the grand old Photoshop. Combining a picture of a lizard and a dragonfly, then adding the red.

Points for: Making it look pretty, and playing on people’s natural tendency to think all insects are cryptids.

Sasquatch

Which of these fake monsters could fool you?
Creator Lew says:

Re-proportioned a photo of a gorilla in photoshop and put it in a new background.

Points for: Sticking to the classics.

Got a great fake cryptid picture lying around? You have a few more days to enter our contest and win enduring internet fame!

HOW TO ENTER:
Send an email to cryptidsummer@io9.com, with the subject line FAKE CRYPTID. If you don’t have that in the subject line, we will ignore your submission!

Attach your photo(s) or video to the email, and include the following information:

1. Your full name
2. What the picture is of
3. How you made it
4. A good way to contact you online so we can let you know if you’ve won

Again, without this information, we will ignore your submission. So please include it!

Deadline is July 31, at midnight Pacific Time.

And don’t forget our real cryptid bounty . . .

Which of these fake monsters could fool you?

io9 Offers $2000 Bounty For Authentic Photos Of Cryptids

This summer, io9 is going cryptozoological. We’re offering a $2000 bounty to the person who sends us the best authentic photo or video of a “cryptid,” or mystery animal. And that’s just the beginning of Cryptid Summer. More »

How Astronomers May Hunt for Life on Alien Planets


How Astronomers May Hunt for Life on Alien Planets

Charles Q. Choi, Astrobiology Magazine Contributor
Date: 28 July 2011 Time: 07:00 AM ET
Measuring Exoplanets' Chemical Signatures
This chart explains how astronomers measure the signatures of chemicals in the atmospheres of exoplanets.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Any sulfurous molecules that astronomers spot on alien worlds might be a way to reveal whether or not those distant planets host life, researchers suggest.

On Earth, microbes can live off the energy available in sulfurous molecules that volcanoes release, essentially “breathing” these compounds the way humans breathe oxygen. If a similar kind of metabolism evolved on an extrasolar planet, the sulfurous molecules detected in the atmosphere of that world might help reveal the presence of alien life, said researcher Renyu Hu, a doctoral student in planetary science at MIT.

Volcanoes on Earth can release huge amounts of hydrogen sulfide and other gases into the atmosphere.
CREDIT: USGS

To see what telltale signs any sulfur-dependent life might generate, Hu and his colleagues modeled Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars — that is, areas where worlds could  have liquid water on their surfaces. These simulated planets possessed nitrogen-based atmospheres like Earth but 1,000 times more sulfur.

Sulfur-dependent life on Earth releases hydrogen sulfide as waste. The researchers found these microbes could increase hydrogen sulfide levels by nearly 10 times what they would be on a planet without such life. [Graphic: Sky Full of Alien Planets]

From interstellar distances, it would be hard to distinguish hydrogen sulfide (H2S) from water (H2O) on the surfaces of exoplanets. However, the researchers calculate that extra atmospheric hydrogen sulfide would in turn cause more pure sulfur aerosols to form in the air, which astronomers could detect based on their distinctive spectra or fingerprint in the visible and infrared wavelengths.

“Hydrogen sulfide emissions from the surface would have a large impact on the atmospheric composition of a planet,” Hu said.

Habitable zones for different star types. Our solar system is used for comparison.
CREDIT: Astrobiology Magazine

Still, no Earth-sized planets have been discovered yet in the habitable zones of sun-like stars. “Characterization of the atmospheres of exoplanets has been confined to close-in planets so far,” Hu said.

Also, Hu cautioned that hydrogen sulfide is not a conclusive signature of life. “We need to test our assumptions thoroughly,” he said. “It may be, for instance, that volcanism could produce tremendous amounts of that gas.”

Hydrogen sulfide is not the only biosignature gas the researchers are investigating.

“We want to study as many as possible — look at many, many gases in Earth’s atmosphere and see if they can be biosignatures as well,” Hu said.

Hu, with his colleagues Sara Seager and William Baines, detailed their findings May 26 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston.

This story was provided by Astrobiology Magazine, a web-based publication sponsored by the NASAastrobiology program.

Minoan civilization


Minoan civilization

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and others

Map of Minoan Crete

History of Greece
William Faden. Composite Mediterranean. 1785.I.jpg
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The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC.It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur EvansWill Durant referred to it as “the first link in the European chain. The early inhabitants of Crete settled as early as 128,000 BC, during the Middle Paleolithic age.However it was not until 5000 BC that the first signs of advanced agriculture appeared, marking the beginning of the civilization.

West courtyard magazines from the Palace of Knossos

Magazines at the West courtyard at the Palace of Knossos http://www.dilos.com/

Overview

What the Minoans called themselves is unknown. The term “Minoan” was coined by Arthur Evans after the mythic “king” Minos. Minos was associated in Greek myth with the labyrinth, which Evans identified with the site at Knossos. It has sometimes been argued that theEgyptian place name “Keftiu” (*Káftiu kftiw) and the Semitic “Kaftor” or “Caphtor” and “Kaptara” in the Mari archives refer to the island of Crete; “On the other hand some acknowledged facts about Caphtor/Keftiu can only with difficulty be reconciled with Crete,” observes John Strange. In the Odyssey, composed centuries after the destruction of the Minoan civilization, Homer calls the natives of Crete Eteocretans (“true Cretans”); these may have been descendants of the Minoans.

Artist's impression of the Palace of Knossos

Artist’s impression of the Palace of Knossoshttp://www.dilos.com/

Minoan palaces (anaktora) are the best known building types to have been excavated on the island. They are monumental buildings serving administrative purposes as evidenced by the large archives unearthed by archaeologists. Each of the palaces excavated to date has its own unique features, but they also share features which set them apart from other structures. The palaces were often multi-storied, with interior and exterior staircases, light wells, massivecolumns, storage magazines and courtyards.

Central court at the Palace of Knossos

A partial view of the central court at the Palace of Knossos as it stands today http://www.dilos.com/

It seems that the Minoan people were not Indo-European, and that they were even related to the pre-Greek dwellers of the Greek mainland and Western Anatolia, the so-called Pelasgians.However the Minoan civilization was much more advanced and sophisticated than the contemporary Helladic civilization during the bronze-age.The Minoan script (Linear A) has not yet been deciphered, but it seems that it represented an Aegean language, unrelated to any Indo-European language. From the neolithic ages Crete stood in the middle of two cultural-streams leading to the west:The forward-Asiatic and the north-African cultural streams.It seems that for many centuries Minoan Crete remained free from any invaders and managed to develop a distinct self-based civilization which was probably the most advanced in the Mediteranneanarea during the bronze-age.

Interior of a room with frescoes at the Palace of Knossos

A hall with copies of frescoes, above the Throne room at the Palace of Knossos. http://www.dilos.com/

Chronology and history

Further information: Minoan chronology and Minoan pottery

Rather than associate absolute calendar dates for the Minoan period, archaeologists use two systems of relative chronology. The first, created by Evans and modified by later archaeologists, is based on pottery styles. It divides the Minoan period into three main eras—Early Minoan (EM), Middle Minoan (MM), and Late Minoan (LM). These eras are further subdivided, e.g. Early Minoan I, II, III (EMI, EMII, EMIII). Another dating system, proposed by the Greek archaeologistNicolas Platon, is based on the development of the architectural complexes known as “palaces” at KnossosPhaistosMalia, and Kato Zakros, and divides the Minoan period into Prepalatial, Protopalatial, Neopalatial, and Post-palatial periods. The relationship among these systems is given in the accompanying table, with approximate calendar dates drawn from Warren and Hankey (1989).

Interior detail of staicase at the Palace of Knossos

Interior detail from the Palace of Knossos http://www.dilos.com/

The Thera eruption occurred during a mature phase of the LM IA period. The calendar date of the volcanic eruption is extremely controversial. Radiocarbon dating has indicated a date in the late 17th century BC; those radiocarbon dates, however, conflict with the estimates of archaeologists who synchronize the eruption with the Conventional Egyptian chronology and obtain a date of around 1525-1500 BC. See the article on dating the Thera eruption for more discussion. The eruption often is identified as a natural event catastrophic for the culture, leading to its rapid collapse.

Giant clay jars at the Palace of Knossos

http://www.dilos.com/

History

  Minoan chronology
3650-3000 BC EMI Prepalatial
2900-2300 BC EMII
2300-2160 BC EMIII
2160-1900 BC MMIA
1900-1800 BC MMIB Protopalatial
(Old Palace Period)
1800-1700 BC MMII
1700-1640 BC MMIIIA Neopalatial
(New Palace Period)
1640-1600 BC MMIIIB
1600-1480 BC LMIA
1480-1425 BC LMIB
1425-1390 BC LMII Postpalatial
(At Knossos, Final Palace Period)
1390-1370 BC LMIIIA1
1370-1340 BC LMIIIA2
1340-1190 BC LMIIIB
1190-1170 BC LMIIIC
1100 BC Subminoan

The oldest evidence of inhabitants on Crete are preceramic Neolithicfarming community remains that date to approximately 7000 BC. A comparative study of DNA haplogroups of modern Cretan men showed that a male founder group from Anatolia or the Levant, is shared with the Greeks. The neolithic population dwelt in open villages. On the shores, there were fishermen’s huts, while the fertile Mesara Plainwas used for agriculture.

Exterior of the high priest house at the Palace of Knossos

From the Palace of Knossos, Southern house of the High Priest

http://www.dilos.com/

The Bronze Age began in Cretearound 2700 BC. In the late 3rd Millenium BC, several localities on the island developed into centers of commerce and handwork. This enabled the upper classes to continuously practice leadership activities and to expand their influence. It is likely that the original hierarchies of the local elites were replaced by monarchist power structures – a precondition for the creation of the great palaces. From the Early Bronze Age (3500 BC to 2600 BC), the Minoan civilization on Crete showed a promise of greatness.

A view of the upper hall of ceremonies at the Palace of Knossos

Upper hall of ceremonies of the western wing at the Palace of Knossos. 

At the end of the MMII period (1700 BC) there was a large disturbance in Crete, probably an earthquake, or possibly an invasion fromAnatolia. The palaces at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Kato Zakros were destroyed. But with the start of the Neopalatial period, population increased again, the palaces were rebuilt on a larger scale and new settlements were built all over the island. This period (the 17th and 16th centuries BC, MM III / Neopalatial) represents the apex of the Minoan civilization. There was another natural catastrophe around 1600 BC, possibly an eruption of the Thera volcano. Even this disaster didn’t discourage the Minoans: the palaces were again rebuilt and were made even greater than before.

Ante chamber throne room at the Palace of Knossos

The ante chamber of the Throne room with the lustral basin in the center, at the Palace of Knossos. 

The influence of the Minoan civilization outside Crete manifests itself in the presence of valuable Minoan handicraft items on theGreek mainland. It is likely that the ruling house of Mycenae was connected to the Minoan trade network. After around 1700 BC, the material culture on the Greek mainland achieved a new level due to Minoan influence. Connections between Egypt and Crete are prominent. Minoan ceramics are found in Egyptian cities and the Minoans imported several items from Egypt, especially papyrus, as well as architectural and artistic ideas. The Egyptian hieroglyphs served as a model for the Minoan pictographic writing, from which the famous Linear A and Linear B writing systems later developed.

New Palace period clay jars at the Palace of Knossos

The pithoi (great clay jars) we see here have relief and rope decorations, a characteristic of the beginning of the New Palace period (1700 – 1450 B.C.), at the Palace of Knossos, Crete.

http://www.dilos.com/region/crete/minoan

Around 1450 BC, Minoan culture experienced a turning point due to a natural catastrophe, possibly an earthquake. Another eruption of the Thera volcano has been linked to this downfall, but its dating and implications remain controversial. Several important palaces in locations such as Mallia, Tylissos, Phaistos, Hagia Triade as well as the living quarters of Knossos were destroyed. The palace in Knossos seems to have remained largely intact. This resulted in the Dynasty in Knossos being able to spread its influence over large parts of Crete, until it was overrun by Mycenaean Greeks.

Artist's impression of the interior of the double axes room at the Palace of Knossos

Artist’s impression of the room with the double axes at the Palace of Knossos http://www.dilos.com/region/crete/minoan

The Minoan palace sites were occupied by the Myceneans around 1420 BC (1375 BC according to other sources),who adapted the Linear A Minoan script to the needs of their own Mycenaean language, a form of Greek, which was written in Linear B. The first such archive anywhere is in the LMII-era “Room of the Chariot Tablets”. The Myceneans generally tended to adapt, rather than destroy, Minoan culture, religion and art, and they continued to operate the economic system and bureaucracy of the Minoans.

 

During LMIIIA:1, Amenhotep III at Kom el-Hatan took note of k-f-t-w (Kaftor) as one of the “Secret Lands of the North of Asia“. Also mentioned are Cretan cities such as Ἀμνισός (Amnisos), Φαιστός (Phaistos), Κυδωνία (Kydonia) and Kνωσσός (Knossos) and sometoponyms reconstructed as belonging to the Cyclades or the Greek mainland. If the values of these Egyptian names are accurate, then this Pharaoh did not privilege LMIII Knossos above the other states in the region.

After about a century of partial recovery, most Cretan cities and palaces went into decline in the 13th century BC (LHIIIB/LMIIIB). The last Linear A archives date to LMIIIA (contemporary with LHIIIA).

Knossos remained an administrative center until 1200 BC; the last of the Minoan sites was the defensive mountain site of Karfi, a refuge site which displays vestiges of Minoan civilization almost into the Iron Age.

Geography

Crete is a mountainous island with natural harbours. There are signs of earthquake damage at many Minoan sites and clear signs of both uplifting of land and submersion of coastal sites due to tectonic processes all along the coasts.

Homer recorded a tradition that Crete had 90 cities. To judge from the palace sites the island was probably divided into at least eight political units during the height of the Minoan period. The north is thought to have been governed from Knossos, the south fromPhaistos, the central eastern part from Malia, and the eastern tip from Kato Zakros and the west from Chania. Smaller palaces have been found in other places.

Some of the major Minoan archaeological sites are:

Great Propylea at the Palace of Knossos

The Great Propylea at the south entrance of the palace as it stands today in the Palace of Knossos 

http://www.dilos.com/region/crete/minoan_pictures.html

North entrance at the Palace of Knossos

Part of the north palace entrance, where the relief fresco of the bull on the landing of the control bastion http://www.dilos.com/region/crete/minoan_pictures.html

  • Palaces
    • Knossos – the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete; was purchased for excavations by Evans on March 16, 1900.
    • Phaistos – the second largest palatial building on the island, excavated by the Italian school shortly after Knossos
    • Malia – the subject of French excavations, a palatial centre which affords a look into the development of the palaces in the protopalatial period
    • Kato Zakros – a palatial site excavated by Greek archaeologists in the far east of the island. This is also referred to as “Zakro” in archaeological literature.
    • Galatas – the most recently confirmed palatial site
  • Agia Triada – an administrative centre close to Phaistos
  • Gournia – a town site excavated in the first quarter of the 20th century by the American School
  • Pyrgos – an early Minoan site on the south of the island
  • Vasiliki – an early Minoan site towards the east of the island which gives its name to a distinctive ceramic ware
  • Fournu Korfi – a site on the south of the island
  • Pseira – island town with ritual sites
  • Mount Juktas – the greatest of the Minoan peak sanctuaries because of its association with the palace of Knossos
  • Arkalochori – the find site of the famous Arkalochori Axe
  • Karfi – a refuge site from the late Minoan period, one of the last of the Minoan sites
  • Akrotiri – settlement on the island of Santorini (Thera), near the site of the Thera Eruption
  • Zominthos – a mountainous city in the northern foothills of Mount Ida

King Minos Throne room at the Palace of Knossos

The throne of King Minos stands today in the Palace of Knossos 

http://www.dilos.com/region/crete/minoan_pictures.html

Minoans beyond Crete

Minoan copper ingot.

Minoans were traders, and their cultural contacts reached far beyond the island of Crete — to Egypt’s Old Kingdom, to copper-bearing Cyprus,Canaan, and the Levantine coasts beyond, and to Anatolia. In late 2009, Minoan-style frescoes and other Minoan-style artifacts were discovered during excavations of the Canaanite palace at Tel KabriIsrael, leading archaeologists to conclude that the Minoan influence was the strongest foreign influence on that Caananite city state. These are the only Minoan remains ever found in Israel.

A labrus image on an ancient pot

An image on a pot of a labrus image by which Evans was able to connect to the Minoan Culture to ancient writing found by him on Crete.

Minoan techniques and styles in ceramics also provided models, of fluctuating influence, for Helladic Greece. Along with the familiar example ofThera, Minoan “colonies” can be found first at Kastri on Cythera, an island close to the Greek mainland that came under Minoan influence in the mid-third millennium (EMII) and remained Minoan in culture for a thousand years, until Mycenaean occupation in the 13th century. The use of the term “colony”, however, like “thalassocracy”, has been criticized in recent years. The Minoan strata there replace a mainland-derived culture in the Early Bronze Age, the earliest Minoan settlement outside Crete. The Cyclades were in the Minoan cultural orbit, and, closer to Crete, the islands of KarpathosSarosand Kasos, also contained Minoan colonies, or settlements of Minoan traders, from the Middle Bronze Age (MMI-II); most of them were abandoned in LMI, but Minoan Karpathos recovered and continued with a Minoan culture until the end of the Bronze Age.Other supposed Minoan colonies, such as that hypothesised by Adolf Furtwängler for Aegina, were later dismissed. There was a Minoan colony at Ialysos on Rhodes.

Inside Queen's Megaron at the Palace of Knossos

Inside the Queen’s Megaron on the east wing of the Palace of Knossos 

Frescoes with dolphins from Queen's Megaron inside the Palace of Knossos

Detail of the dolphin frescoes in the Queen’s Megaron of the Palace of Knossos 
View the original frescoe in the Heraklion Museum 

Bull leapers frescoe from the Palace of Knossos

From the Palace of Knossos, the famous “bull leapers” fresco from the East wing of the palace, dated around 15th century B.C. 
The different phases of the sport are shown. The bull leapers are both men and women.

Minoan cultural influence indicates an orbit that extended not only throughout the Cyclades (so-called Minoanisation), but in locations such as Egypt and Cyprus. Paintings from the 15th century BC, in Thebes, Egypt depict a number of individuals that are Minoan in appearance bearing gifts. Inscriptions record these people as coming from Keftiu, or the “islands in the midst of the sea”, and may refer to gift-bringing merchants or officials from Crete.

Goddesses Found in Kavoursi Excavation

Certain locations within Crete emphasize it as an “outward looking” society. The Neopalatial site of Kato Zakros, for instance, is located within 100 metres of the modern shore-line, situated within a bay. Its large number of workshops and the richness of its site materials indicate a potential ‘entrepôt’ for import and export. Such activities are elaborated in artistic representations of the sea, including the ‘Flotilla’ fresco from room 5, in the west house at Akrotiri.

Society and culture

Ladies In Blue Fresco
Fresco showing three women who were possiblyQueens.

The Minoan culture was an ancient culture that survived on the island of Crete of what is now Greece for almost 2000 years until about 1450 BCE as you will learn from my page or from class at online university. For about 3000 years until the early part of the Twentieth Century this culture was entirely unknown. Arthur Evans was intersted in seals that he found in antique shops in Greece. He soon realized the best seals wer found on Crete. He reviewed the site at Knossos and soon realized there was more to discover than seals, Arthur Evans began a systematic archeological excavation of Knossos, Crete in 1900 and he was surprised by what he found.

Frescoe with partridges from the Palace of Knossos

A fresco with partridges from the Caravan seraglio of Knossos, 16th century B.C. from the Palace of Knossos.
The original frescoe is at the Heraklion Museum.

A whole culture was revealed to him that was entirely unknown in the written record. But it was obvious to him that what he found had tremendous impact on the later culture of Greece.

The Minoans were primarily a mercantile people engaged in overseas trade. Their culture, from 1700 BC onward, shows a high degree of organization.

Many historians and archaeologists believe that the Minoans were involved in the Bronze Age’s important tin trade: tin, alloyed with copperapparently from Cyprus, was used to make bronze. The decline of Minoan civilization and the decline in use of bronze tools in favor of iron ones seem to be correlated.

The Minoan trade in saffron, the stigma of a mutated crocus which originated in the Aegean basin as a natural chromosome mutation, has left fewer material remains: a fresco of saffron-gatherers at Santorini is well-known. This inherited trade pre-dated Minoan civilization: a sense of its rewards may be gained by comparing its value to frankincense, or later, topepper. Archaeologists tend to emphasize the more durable items of trade: ceramics, copper, and tin, and dramatic luxury finds of gold and silver.

Objects of Minoan manufacture suggest there was a network of trade with mainland Greece (notably Mycenae), CyprusSyria,AnatoliaEgyptMesopotamia, and westward as far as the coast of Spain.

Minoan men wore loincloths and kilts. Women wore robes that had short sleeves and layered flounced skirts. These were open to the navel allowing their breasts to be left exposed, perhaps during ceremonial occasions. Women also had the option of wearing a strapless fitted bodice. The patterns on clothes emphasized symmetrical geometric designs. It must be remembered that other forms of dress may have been worn of which we have no record.

The Minoan religion focused on female deities, with females officiating. The statues of priestesses in Minoan culture and frescoes showing men and women participating in the same sports such as bull-leaping, lead some archaeologists to believe that men and women held equal social status. Inheritance is thought to have been matrilineal. The frescos include many depictions of people, with the genders distinguished by colour: the men’s skin is reddish-brown, the women’s white.

Concentration of wealth played a large role in the structure of society. Multiroom constructions were discovered in even the ‘poor’ areas of town, revealing a social equality and even distribution of wealth.

Language and writing

Unknown signs on the Phaistos Disc.

Knowledge of the spoken and written language of the Minoans is scant, due to the small number of records found. Around 3000  clay tablets have been found with the various Cretan scripts. Clay tablets seem to have been in use from around 3000BC or earlier. Two clay cups from Knossos have been found to have remnants of ink, and inkwells similar to the animal-shaped inkstands from Mesopotamia have also been found.

Sometimes the Minoan language is referred to as Eteocretan, but this presents confusion between the language written in Linear A scripts and the language written in a Euboean-derived alphabet after the Greek Dark Ages. While the Eteocretan language is believed to be a descendant of Minoan, there is not enough source material in either language to allow conclusions to be made.

The earliest dated writing found on Crete is the Cretan hieroglyphs. It is not known if this language is Minoan and scholars often debate as to where it originated. These hieroglyphs are often associated with the Egyptians but also show relation to several other writings from the region of Mesopotamia. The hieroglyphs came into use from MMI and were in parallel use with the emerging Linear A from the 18th century BC (MM II) and disappeared at some point during the 17th century BC (MM III).

In the Mycenean period, Linear A was replaced by Linear B, recording a very archaic version of the Greek language. Linear B was successfully deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1952, but the earlier scripts remain a mystery. The overwhelming majority of tablets are written in the Linear B script, apparently being inventories of goods or resources. Others are inscriptions on religious objects associated with cult. Because most of these inscriptions are concise economic records rather than dedicatory inscriptions, the translation of Minoan remains a challenge.

Unless Eteocretan truly is its descendant, it is perhaps during the Greek Dark Ages, a time of economic and socio-political collapse, that the Minoan language became extinct.

Art

fresco found at the Minoan site of Knossos, indicating a sport or ritual of “bull leaping”, the red skinned figure is a man and the two light skinned figures are women.
Unknown Minoan Fresco

The collection of Minoan art is in the museum at Heraklion, near Knossos on the north shore of Crete. Minoan art, with other remains of material culture, especially the sequence of ceramic styles, has allowed archaeologists to define the three phases of Minoan culture (EM, MM, LM) discussed above.

Since wood and textiles have vanished through decomposition, the best preserved, and so most easily learned from, surviving examples of Minoan art are Minoan pottery, the palace architecture with its frescos that include landscapes, stone carvings, and intricately carved seal stones.

Pottery

Main article: Minoan pottery

In the Early Minoan period ceramics were characterised by linear patterns of spiralstriangles, curved lines, crossesfishbone motifs, and such. In the Middle Minoan period naturalistic designs such as fish,squidbirds, and lilies were common. In the Late Minoan period, flowers and animals were still the most characteristic, but the variability had increased. The ‘palace style’ of the region around Knossos is characterised by a strong geometric simplification ofnaturalistic shapes and monochromatic paintings. Very noteworthy are the similarities between Late Minoan and Mycenaean art. Frescoes were the main form of art during these time of the Minoan culture.

    • File:AMI - Kamaresvase 1.jpg

      Spouted vessel, 2100-1700 BC.

    • Vase with typical octopus motif, 1500 BC. (Old Palace Period)

File:Minoan Ceramic - Can.jpg

    • Vase, Marine Style, 1500 BC. (New Palace Period)

  • Cans, 1390-1070 BC. (Final Palace Period)

Religion

Main article: Minoan religion
Snake Goddess” or a priestess performing a ritual.
Side View of the Snake Goddess

The Minoans seem to have worshipped primarily goddesses, which has sometimes been described as a “matriarchal religion“. Although there is some evidence of male gods, depictions of Minoan goddesses vastly outnumber depictions of anything that could be considered a Minoan god. While some of these depictions of women are speculated to be images of worshippers and priestesses officiating at religious ceremonies, as opposed to the deity herself, there still seem to be several goddesses including a Mother Goddess offertility, a Mistress of the Animals, a protectress of cities, the household, the harvest, and the underworld, and more. Some have argued that these are all aspects of a singleGreat Goddess. They are often represented by serpents, birds, poppies, and a somewhat vague shape of an animal upon the head.

File:TheraLateCyccladicIbex06655.jpg

The only gold object found at the excavation ofAkrotiri, a small sculpture of an ibex that was hidden under a floor; a thorough evacuation in advance of the catastrophe must have occurred since few artifacts and no corpses were buried in the ash

Apesokari

Two tholos tombs have been excavated at Apesokari. The smaller and later of the two, which was excavated by the Germans during the Second World War, is the one photographed here. The tomb is notable for the fact that burials did not only take place inside the tholos tomb, but also took place in some of the outer rooms which join the tholos tomb as well. It also had a cult room, most likely a pillar crypt, since it had a wooden pillar on a stone base. A small bench altar was built in a niche to the right of the entrance. A cult image, formed from natural rock, was found on this altar. There was also a large altar outside, surrounded by a paved area.

The second tomb is located some distance to the East of the first and was excavated by Kostas Davaras. Again there was a large circular tomb with numerous rectangular side rooms. A Minoan settlement originally existed nearby.

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A major festive celebration was exemplified in the famous athletic Minoan bull dance, represented at large in the frescoes of Knossos and inscribed in miniature seals.

The Minoan horn-topped altars, since Evans‘ time conventionally called “Horns of Consecration” are represented in seal impressions, and survive in examples as far afield as Cyprus.

Minoan sacred symbols include the bull and its horns of consecration, the labrys (double-headed axe), the pillar, the serpent, the sun-disk, and the tree. However, recently a completely different interpretation of these symbols, focusing on apiculture instead of religious significance, has been suggested.

File:The Bull Leaper Knossos 1500BC.jpg

The bull leaper from Knossos (Heraklion Archaeological Museum)

Evidence that suggests the Minoans may have performed human sacrifice has been found at three sites: (1) Anemospilia, in a MMII building near Mt. Juktas, interpreted as a temple, (2) an EMII sanctuary complex atFournou Korifi in south central Crete, and (3) Knossos, in an LMIB building known as the “North House.” (explanation of abbreviations)

Like much of the archaeology of the Bronze Age, burial remains constitute much of the material and archaeological evidence for the period. By the end of the Second Palace Period Minoan burial practice is dominated by two broad forms: ‘Circular Tombs’, orTholoi, (located in South Crete) and ‘House Tombs’, (located in the north and the east). Of course, there are many trends and patterns within Minoan mortuary practice that do not conform to this simple breakdown. Over all, inhumation was the most popular form of burial, cremation does not seem to have been a popular means of burial in Bronze Age Crete. Throughout this period there is a trend towards individual burials, with some distinguished exceptions. These include the much-debated Chrysolakkos complex, Mallia, consisting of a number of buildings forming a complex. This is located in the centre of Mallia’s burial area and may have been the focus for burial rituals, or the ‘crypt’ for a notable family.

Warfare and “The Minoan Peace”

File:NAMA Akrotiri 2.jpg

Children boxing in a fresco on the island of Santorini.

Though the vision created by Arthur Evans of a pax Minoica, a “Minoan peace”, has been criticised in recent years, it is generally assumed there was little internal armed conflict in Minoan Crete itself, until the following Mycenaean period. As with much of Minoan Crete, however, it is hard to draw any obvious conclusions from the evidence. However, new excavations keep sustaining interest and documenting the impact around the Aegean.

Despite having found ruined watchtowers and fortification walls, Evans argued that there was little evidence for ancient Minoan fortifications. But as S. Alexiou has pointed out (in Kretologia 8), a number of sites, especially Early and Middle Minoan sites such as Aghia Photia, are built on hilltops or are otherwise fortified. As Lucia Nixon said, “…we may have been over-influenced by the lack of what we might think of as solid fortifications to assess the archaeological evidence properly. As in so many other instances, we may not have been looking for evidence in the right places, and therefore we may not end with a correct assessment of the Minoans and their ability to avoid war.”.

Chester Starr points out in “Minoan Flower Lovers” (Hagg-Marinatos eds. Minoan Thalassocracy) that Shang China and the Maya both had unfortified centers and yet still engaged in frontier struggles, so that itself cannot be enough to definitively show the Minoans were a peaceful civilization unparalleled in history.

In 1998, however, when Minoan archaeologists met in a conference in Belgium to discuss the possibility that the idea of Pax Minoica was outdated, the evidence for Minoan war proved to be scanty.

Archaeologist Jan Driessen, for example, said the Minoans frequently show ‘weapons’ in their art, but only in ritual contexts, and that “The construction of fortified sites is often assumed to reflect a threat of warfare, but such fortified centres were multifunctional; they were also often the embodiment or material expression of the central places of the territories at the same time as being monuments glorifying and merging leading power” (Driessen 1999, p. 16).

On the other hand, Stella Chryssoulaki’s work on the small outposts or ‘guard-houses’ in the east of the island represent possible elements of a defensive system. Claims that they produced no weapons are erroneous; type A Minoan swords (as found in palaces of Mallia and Zarkos) were the finest in all of the Aegean (See Sanders, AJA 65, 67, Hoeckmann, JRGZM 27, or Rehak and Younger, AJA 102).

Keith Branigan claimed that 95% of so-called Minoan weapons possessed hafting (hilts, handles) that would have prevented their use as weapons (Branigan, 1999); more recent experimental testing of accurate replicas has shown this to be incorrect as these weapons were capable of cutting flesh down to the bone (and scoring the bone’s surface) without any damage to the weapons themselves. Archaeologist Paul Rehak maintains that Minoan figure-eight shields could not have been used for fighting or even hunting, since they were too cumbersome (Rehak, 1999). And archaeologist Jan Driessen says the Minoans frequently show ‘weapons’ in their art, but only in ritual contexts (Driessen 1999). Finally, archaeologist Cheryl Floyd concludes that Minoan “weapons” were merely tools used for mundane tasks such as meat-processing (Floyd, 1999). However, this theory is thrown into question by evidence of “rapiers nearly three feet in length”[49] dated to the Middle Minoan period.

About Minoan warfare, Branigan concludes that “The quantity of weaponry, the impressive fortifications, and the aggressive looking long-boats all suggested an era of intensified hostilities. But on closer inspection there are grounds for thinking that all three key elements are bound up as much with status statements, display, and fashion as with aggression…. Warfare such as there was in the southern Aegean EBA early Bronze Age was either personalized and perhaps ritualized (in Crete) or small-scale, intermittent and essentially an economic activity (in the Cyclades and the Argolid/Attica) ” (1999, p. 92). Archaeologist Krzyszkowska concurs: “The stark fact is that for the prehistoric Aegean we have no direct evidence for war and warfare per se” (Krzyszkowska, 1999).

Furthermore, no evidence exists for a Minoan army, or for Minoan domination of peoples outside Crete. Few signs of warfare appear in Minoan art. “Although a few archaeologists see war scenes in a few pieces of Minoan art, others interpret even these scenes as festivals, sacred dance, or sports events” (Studebaker, 2004, p. 27). Although armed warriors are depicted being stabbed in the throat with swords, violence may occur in the context of ritual or blood sport.

Although on the Mainland of Greece at the time of the Shaft Graves at Mycenae, there is little evidence for major fortifications among the Mycenaeans there (the famous citadels post-date the destruction of almost all Neopalatial Cretan sites), the constant warmongering of other contemporaries of the ancient Minoans – the Egyptians and Hittites, for example – is well documented.

Architecture

The Minoan cities were connected with stone-paved roads, formed from blocks cut with bronze saws. Streets were drained and water and sewer facilities were available to the upper class, through clay pipes.

Minoan buildings often had flat tiled roofs; plaster, wood, or flagstone floors, and stood two to three storeys high. Typically the lowerwalls were constructed of stone and rubble, and the upper walls of mudbrick. Ceiling timbers held up the roofs.

The materials used in constructing the villas and palaces varied, and could include sandstone, gypsum, or limestone. Equally, building techniques could also vary between different constructions; some palaces used ashlar masonry while others used roughly hewn megalithic blocks.

Palaces

File:Palace of Knossus.jpg

Ruins of the palace at Knossos.

Fresco from the “Palace of Minos”, Knossos, Crete.

Storage jars in Knossos.

The first palaces were constructed at the end of the Early Minoan period in the third millennium BC (Malia). While it was formerly believed that the foundation of the first palaces was synchronous and dated to the Middle Minoan at around 2000 BC (the date of the first palace at Knossos), scholars now think that palaces were built over a longer period in different locations, in response to local developments. The main older palaces are Knossos, Malia, and Phaistos. Some of the elements recorded in the Middle Minoan ‘palaces’ (Knossos, Phaistos and Mallia, for example) have precedents in earlier styles of construction in the Early Minoan period.These include the indented western court, and the special treatment given to the western façade. An example of this is seen at the “House on the Hill” at Vasiliki, dated to the Early Minoan II period.

 

The palaces fulfilled a plethora of functions: they served as centres ofgovernment, administrative offices, shrines, workshops, and storage spaces (e.g., for grain). These distinctions might have seemed artificial to Minoans.

The use of the term ‘palace’ for the older palaces, meaning a dynastic residence and seat of power, has recently come under criticism (seePalace), and the term ‘court building’ has been proposed instead. However, the original term is probably too well entrenched to be replaced. Architectural features such as ashlar masonry, orthostats, columns, open courts, staircases (implying upper stories), and the presence of diverse basins have been used to define palatial architecture.

Often the conventions of better-known, younger palaces have been used to reconstruct older ones, but this practice may be obscuring fundamental functional differences. Most older palaces had only one story and no representative façades. They were U-shaped, with a big central court, and generally were smaller than later palaces. Late palaces are characterised by multi-storey buildings. The west façades had sandstone ashlar masonry. Knossos is the best-known example. See Knossos. Further building conventions could include storage magazines, a north-south orientation, a pillar room, a Minoan Hall system, a western court, and pier-and-door entrance ways. Palatial architecture in the First Palace Period is identified by its ‘square within a square’ style, whilst later, Second Palace Period constructions incorporated more internal divisions and corridors.

It’s a common architectural standard among the Middle Minoan ‘palaces’ that they are aligned with their surrounding topography. The MM palatial structure of Phaistos appears to align with Mount Ida, whilst Knossos is aligned with Juktas. These are oriented along a north-south axis. One suggested reason for this is the ritual significance of the mountain, where a number of Peak Sanctuaries (spaces for public ritual) have been excavated (i.e., Petsophas). The material record for these sites show clusters of clay figurines and evidence of animal sacrifice.

Phaistos

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The Phaistos Disc was found in this part of the Old Palace

The Palace of Phaistos lies on the East end of Kastri hill at the end of the Mesara plain in Central Southern Crete. To the north lies Psiloritis, the highest mountain in Crete. On the slopes of Psiloritis is the Kamares cave, probably a religious or cult centre for Phaistos and the Mesara plain. In this cave a very fine pottery style was discovered from the Middle Minoan period, which has been named Kamares Ware after the cave in which it was found. Kamares ware has only been found at Palace sites like Phaistos and Knossos, suggesting that it was specially produced for whatever elite was based in the Palaces.

Part of the Old Palace to the east of the New Palace

A couple of kilometres to the west of Phaistos is the important Minoan site of Ayia Triadha. To the south of Phaistos are the Asterousia mountains beyond which lies the Libyan Sea. To the south west is Kommos, the ancient port of Phaistos and to the east, the vast Mesara plain.

The Palace was excavated by the Italian archaeologist Halbherr at the beginning of the 20th century. The earliest settlements on the site, which lies close to the Yeropotamos, one of the few rivers in Crete to flow all year round, dates from the Neolothic Period (c.4000 BCE) . It is likely that in the Early Minoan period small settlements were scattered over the hill on which the Palace later stood. Dark on light pottery (Agios Onouphrios ware) has been found in the prepalatial levels on the hill, but no Vasiliki ware from the Early Minoan II period has been found on the site.

From the Old Palace area to the west of the New Palace

The Old Palace was built on the site at the beginning of the Second Millenium, known as the Protopalatial Period (c.1900-1700 BCE). Twice it was severely damaged by earthquakes and rebuilt so three distinct phases are visible to archaeologists. Levi, who excavated here from 1950 to 1971 believed that the first two phases of the Old Palace of Phaistos constitute the oldest Palatial buildings in Crete. Other finds at the site include thousands of seal impressions and some tablets containing the Linear A script from Middle Minoan II. Linear A has so far defied all attempts to decipher it.

When the Old Palace was finally destroyed, almost certainly by an earthquake, a new palace was built on the site. Fortunately for us, the builders of the new palace did not destroy all traces of the old. In fact much of the old palace was covered over at the time of the building of the new palace in order to level the ground. Some of the old palace can still be seen by visitors, especially in the north-east corner, but much of the Old Palace remains are accessible only to the experts.

The Magnificent Staircase

The New Palace covers a smaller area than the old, thus enabling the visitor to see some of the remains of the Old Palace, including the area where the Phaistos Disc was discovered. However, excavators have been surprised by the lack of finds that one would expect at a Minoan Palace. No frescoes have been found in the New Palace and there is a complete absence of sealings and tablets. One view suggests that in the New Palace period the importance of Phaistos decreased while that of Agia Triada nearby continued to grow and that the two settlements complemented each other in some way.

The Monumental Propylaia

The site is entered at the level of the Upper West Court, which was used by both the old and the new palace. The Upper West Court is joined to the Lower West Court by a staircase which was built at the time of the upper court and was in use at the time of the Old Palace. To the north of the court is a very high wall and in front of this wall is the theatral area, with two raised walkways. There are eight rows where spectators either sat or stood to watch religious rites, ceremonies or whatever else took place there.

The Magazines where olive oil, wine and wheat were stored.

The Palace of Phaistos, like all the other palaces except for Zakros, is oriented north-south. The main entrance to the New Palace was from the West Court, up the dozen steps of the 14 metre wide Magnificent Staircase, at the top of which is an equally wide landing, behind which stood the Monumental Propylaia. This structure is the forerunner of the Propylaia of Classical Greek times.

The Central Court

Between the landing and the actual entrance itself, were two porticos. Hutchinson points out that if the West entrance to palaces was direct, then it was small, but if it was indirect then it was grand. Here, the main entrance does not lead directly into the Central Court and is very grand. It is, nonetheless, unusual for the main entrance to a palace to be in the west. Although there is a west entrance into the palace of Knossos, the main entrance was thought to be from the north.

First room with benches on west side of Central Court

To the south of the Propylaia is to be found the Palace magazine or storage area. As at other Minoan palaces, including Knossos, the ground floor of the west wing was the main storage area. At Phaistos, the magazine consisted of ten rooms, five on each side, opening onto an east-west corridor, which at its east end opened out into a two-columned hall with a portico facing the Central Court. One storage room remains in tact with a number of pithoi inside .

The Central Court lies to the east of the magazines. It measured 55 metres by 25 metres. The South East part of the Central Court is now missing. Given the large number of corridors which lead to the Central Court, it must have been central to the life of the Palace itself. It was lined on two sides by porticos with alternating columns and pillars.

Second room with benches on West side of the Central Court

The north-east wing of the palace is considered to have consisted of artisans’ workshops and the remains of a furnace for smelting metal can still be seen in the courtyard. The south-east wing collapsed some time in the past and the hill has eroded to beyond the point where it would have stood.

Much of the West wing of the central court, south of the magazines, was used for religious purposes. It contained a number of rooms which opened directly onto the Central Court. Just south of the corridor of the magazines, in the West Wing, there are two rooms with benches lining the walls. These benches were covered with gypsum, a material used extensively at Phaistos. Further south there is a pillar crypt similar to those found at other Palaces and also in the remains of the old palace at Phaistos, but this one is on a rather more modest scale than, for example, the one at Malia.

Pillar Crypt

Trees and pillars seem to have been worshipped by the Minoans and more than 25 pillar crypts have been located at Minoan sites. Questions have been raised as to whether the pillars really were objects of devotion for the Minoans, but it is certain that in many of the small pillar crypts the pillars would not have been necessary to support the roof. An alternative explanation therefore has to be sought and there is evidence of pillar worship from other sources.

The area also contained two lustral basins. Cult vases and figurines were found in this part of the West Wing, and the shapes of double axes were incised on the stone, all adding to evidence of a religious use for the building. The conventional view is that whereas the West Wing of the palaces was used for religious and administrative purposes, the East Wing contained the domestic apartments of the royal family. However, a lustral basin was originally situated in the East Wing and if the purpose of the lustral basin was religious rather than hygenic, that would tell against the theory that the East Wing comprised domestic quarters.

The “Queen’s Megaron”

The so-called Royal Apartments are in the north part of the Palace, to the East of the Monumental Propylaia. The smaller “Queen’s Megaron” lies to the south of the larger “King’s Megaraon”. These rooms would have had light wells, porticos and pier-and-door partitions which would have enabled sections of the room to be closed off. The lower walls and floors were lined with slabs of alabaster. To the west of the King’s room is possibly the best-preserved Lustral Basin in Crete.

On the slopes of the hill to the south of Phaistos and on level ground below the hill stood the Minoan town. This is still being excavated though part of it can be seen below from the perimeter of the Palace site.

The “King’s Megaron” from the East

There are many reasons why a visitor to Crete should make the effort to visit Phaistos. With the Messara plain to the east and the Ida mountain to the north, Phaistos has the most beautiful setting of any of the Minoan Palaces.

Lustral Basin behind the “King’s Megaron”

Another major advantage is the fact that it does not get quite so crowded as Knossos and even in the summer it is possible to have the site almost to oneself provided one arrives at opening time or alternatively an hour or two before closing time. Finally, it is a much more intimate site than Knossos where walkways of scaffolding scar the Palace and so much of Knossos has been roped off, preventing access to visitors, who must look from a distance. At Phaistos, everything can be seen easily and close up.


Columns

No doubt these measures were necessary to protect the Palace of Knossos from the hundreds of thousands of tourists who swarm all over the site from April to October each year. Similar measures may one day be necessary at Phaistos. Until then, an early morning or early evening visit will allow you to wander round the site in a way that simply isn’t possible at Knossos and to break off from looking at the ruins to view some of the most spectacular scenery that Crete has to offer.

One of the most notable contributions of Minoans to architecture is their unique column, which was wider at the top than the bottom. It is called an ‘inverted’ column because most Greek columns are wider at the bottom, creating an illusion of greater height. The columns were also made of wood as opposed to stone, and were generally painted red. They were mounted on a simple stone base and were topped with a pillow-like, round piece as a capital.

Villas

A number of compounds interpreted as ‘Villas’ have been excavated in Crete. These structures share many features with the central Palaces (i.e., a conspicuous western façade, storage facilities, and a ‘Minoan Hall’) of the Neopalatial era, and may indicate either that they performed a similar rôle, or that they were artistic imitations, suggesting that their occupants were familiar with palatial culture. These villas are often richly decorated (see the frescos of Haghia Triadha Villa A).

Agriculture and subsistence

The Minoans raised cattlesheeppigs, and goats, and grew wheatbarleyvetch, and chickpeas, they also cultivated grapesfigs, and olives, and grew poppies, for poppyseed and, perhaps, opium. The Minoans also domesticated bees.

Crops including lettuce, celery, asparagus and carrots grow wild in Crete, while some produce was native, such as pears, quinces, and olive trees. They also imported date palm trees, and cats (used for hunting purposes) from Egypt  and adopted pomegranatesand quinces from the Near East, although not lemons and oranges as is often imagined.

They developed Mediterranean polyculture, the practice of growing more than one crop at a time, and as a result of their more varied and healthy diet, the population increased. This method of farming would theoretically maintain the fertility of the soil, as well as offering protection against low yields in any single crop. Furthermore, Linear B tablets indicate the importance of orchard farming (i.e., figs, olives and grapes) in processing crops for “secondary products”. Olive oil in the Cretan diet (or more largely, the Mediterranean diet) is comparable to butter in the Northern diet. The process of fermenting wine from grapes is likely to have been a concern of the “Palace” economies, whereby such prestige goods would have been both important trade commodities as well as culturally meaningful items of consumption. Equally, it is likely that the consumption of exotic or expensive products would have played a role in the presentation and articulation of political and economic power.

Farmers used wooden plows, bound by leather to wooden handles, and pulled by pairs of donkeys or oxen.

The importance of marine resources in the Cretan diet is equally important to consider: the prevalence of edible molluscs in site material, and the artistic representations of marine fish and animals, including the distinctive “Octopus” stirrup jar (LM IIIC), indicate an appreciation and occasional use of fish within the economy. However, doubt remains over the functional significance of these resources in the wider Cretan diet, especially in relation to grain, olives and animal produce. Indeed, the intensification of agricultural activity is indicated by the construction of terraces and dams at Pseira in the Late Minoan period.

The Cretan diet consisted of wild animals roaming the island. Cretans ate wild deer and boar along with the meats made available to them by their livestock. Wild game can no longer be found on Crete.

Not all plants and flora would have a purely functional or economic utility. Artistic depictions often show scenes of lily gathering and performances within ‘green’ spaces. The fresco known as the “Sacred Grove” at Knossos, for instance, depicts a number of female figures facing towards the left-hand-side of the scene, flanked by a copse of trees. Some scholars have suggested that these depictions represent the performance of ‘harvest festivals’ or ceremonies, as a means to honour the continued fertility of the soil. Further artistic depictions of farming scenes are observed on the Second Palace Period “Harvester Vase” (an egg-shaped rhyton, or pouring vessel), where 27 male figures, led by another, each carry hoes. This suggests the importance of farming as an artistic motif.

Much debate has been animated by the discovery of storage magazines within the palace compounds. At the second ‘palace’ at Phaistos, for instance, a range of rooms in the western side of the structure have been identified as a magazine block. Within these storage areas have been recovered numerous jars, jugs and vessels, indicating the role of the complex as a potential re-distribution centre of agricultural produce. Several possibilities may be suggested, including a model where all economic and agricultural produce was controlled by the Palace and re-distributed by it. At sites such as Knossos, where the town had developed to a considerable size, there is evidence of craft specialisation, indicating workshops. The Palace of Kato Zakro, for instance, indicates workshops that were integrated into the structure of the palace. Such evidence contributes to the idea that the Minoan palatial system developed through economic intensification, where greater agricultural surplus could support a population of administrators, craftsmen and religious practitioners. The number of domestic, or sleeping, chambers at the Palaces indicate that they could have supported a large population of individuals who were removed from manual labour.

Evolution of agricultural tools in Minoan Crete

Originally the tools were made of wood or bone, and bound together to the handle with leather straps. During the Bronze Age the tools were upgraded to bronze, with wooden handles. Due to its circular hole the tool would spin around on its handle, so the Minoans invented oval shaped holes in their tools with oval shapped handles, this stopped the tools from being able to spin.

Tools List:

Minoan demise theories

Main article: Minoan eruption

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Volcanic craters on Santorini today

The Minoan eruption on the island of Thera (present-day Santorini about 100 km distant from Crete) occurred during the LM IA period. This eruption was among the largest volcanic explosions in the history of civilization, ejecting approximately 60 km3 of material and rating a 6 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index. The eruption devastated the nearby Minoan settlement at Akrotirion Santorini, which was entombed in a layer of pumice. Also, it has been suggested that the eruption and its effect on the Minoan civilization was the origin of the Atlantis myth, via Egyptian historical accounts.

It’s further believed that the eruption severely affected the Minoan culture on Crete, although the precise extent of the impact has been debated. Early theories proposed that ashfall from Thera on the eastern half of Crete choked off plant life, causing starvation of the local population. However, after more thorough field examinations, this theory has lost credibility, as it has been determined that no more than 5 millimetres (0.20 in) of ash fell anywhere on Crete.Recent studies indicate, based on archaeological evidence found on Crete, that a massive tsunami, generated by the Theran eruption, devastated the coastal areas of Crete and destroyed many Minoan coastal settlements. The LM IIIA (Late Minoan) period is marked by its affluence (i.e., wealthy tombs, burials and art) and the ubiquity of Knossian ceramic styles. However, by LM IIIB the importance of Knossos as a regional centre, and its material ‘wealth’, seem to have declined.

Significant Minoan remains have been found above the Late Minoan I era Thera ash layer, implying that the Thera eruption did not cause the immediate downfall of the Minoans. As the Minoans were a sea power and depended on their naval and merchant ships for their livelihood, the Thera eruption caused significant economic hardship to the Minoans. Whether these effects were enough to trigger the downfall of the Minoan civilization is under intense debate. The Mycenaean conquest of the Minoans occurred in Late Minoan II period. The Mycenaeans were a military civilization. Using their functional navy and a well equipped army they were capable of an invasion. There is evidence of Mycenaean weaponry being found in burials on Crete. This demonstrates Mycenaean military influence. Not many years after the eruption, and many archaeologists speculate that the eruption induced a crisis in Minoan civilization, which allowed the Mycenaeans to conquer them easily.

Sinclair Hood writes that the destruction of the Minoans was most likely due to an invading force. Although the demise of the flourishing civilization was aided by the erupting volcano on Thera, the ultimate end came from outside conquerors. Archaeological evidence leads to the fact the destruction of the island appears to be due to fire damage. Hood notes that the palace at Knossos appears to have experienced less damage than other sites along the island of Crete. Because natural disasters do not choose targets, it is most likely that the destruction was a product of invaders, for invaders would have seen the usefulness of a palace center like Knossos.

Several authors have noted evidence for exceedance of carrying capacity by the Minoan civilization. For example, archaeological recovery at Knossos provides clear proof of deforestation of this part of Crete near late stages of Minoan development.

Snapshots Best images from the week of July 29


Snapshots

Best images from the week of July 29

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An impressive iceberg arrived in Newfoundland’s Goose Cove in mid-July. “Icebergs float in from Greenland,” said the photographer, Gene Patey. This one briefly blocked the town’s harbor before breaking apart and melting, “but the fishermen took their chances.” (Photo: Gene Patey)

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In this image made available July 25, 2011 by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), an aerial photo of the London 2012 Olympic Stadium to mark “1 year to go to the Olympic Games” is seen in London. The number one mown into the grass in the Olympic Stadium indicates the start the celebrations for the “1 year to go” milestone. (AP Photo/LOCOG, Anthony Charlton)

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Saturn’s moon Enceladus, imaged at high phase, shows off its spectacular water ice plumes emanating from its south polar region in this image captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (Photo: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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A ship which broke free from a tow line lies stranded near the shore at Sheffield Beach some 60km (37 miles) north of Durban, July 26, 2011. (REUTERS/Rogan Ward)

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A 1929 Bugatti 49 (R) sports car driven by Joerg Koenig drives ahead of Alexander Vonow in a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 sports car (front L) car through a steep turn during a race demonstration at the Offene Rennbahn cycling track in Zurich’s Oerlikon suburb July 26, 2011. (REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

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Protesters look at pigs during a protest, organized by the farmer’s trade union Coldiretti in front of the Milan’s stock exchange July 26, 2011. The farmer’s union protested against international speculation of raw material that has caused the increase in price of the animal feed, and they urged the government to protect them. (REUTERS/Paolo Bona)

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Visitors dressed as DC Comics’ (L to R) Hourman, Atom and Flash walk during the 40th annual Comic Con Convention in San Diego July 24, 2009. The convention runs from July 23 to July 26. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

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This art installation was created by design team Linda and John Meyers for the VIA Advertising Agency in Portland, Maine which recently renovated and moved their offices into the old Baxter building, which served as Portland’s public library from 1888 until the 1960s. (Photo: Wary Meyers / http://www.warymeyers.com)

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This tiny ocean dwelling creature, the hydrothermal worm, was captured on an electron microscope. It is magnified 525 times! (Photo: FEI Company / Philippe Crassous / http://www.fei.com/link-to-fei.aspx)

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In this photo taken Tuesday, July 19, 2011, a leopard attacks a forest guard as another runs for cover at Prakash Nagar village near Salugara, on the outskirts of Siliguri, India. The leopard strayed into the village area and attacked several villagers, including at least four guards, before being caught by forest officials, according to news reports. The leopard, which suffered injuries caused by knives and batons, died later in the evening at a veterinary center. No people were killed in the attacks. (AP Photo)

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Spain’s Ona Carbonell and Andrea Fuentes perform during the preliminary round of the synchronised swimming duet free routine at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai July 19, 2011. (REUTERS/David Gray )

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This panoramic view provided by NASA was photographed from the International Space Station, looking past the docked space shuttle Atlantis’ cargo bay and part of the station including a solar array panel toward Earth, was taken on July 14, 2011 as the joint complex passed over the southern hemisphere. Aurora Australis or the Southern Lights can be seen on Earth’s horizon and a number of stars are visible also. (AP Photo/NASA)

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PERTH, AUSTRALIA – JULY 15: Stormtrooper Jacob French is pictured on day 5 of his over 4,000 kilometre journey from Perth to Sydney walking along Old Mandurah road approximately 20 kilometres from Mandurah on July 15, 2011 in Perth, Australia. French aims to walk 35-40 kilometres a day, 5 days a week, in full Stormtrooper costume until he reaches Sydney. French is walking to raise money for the Starlight Foundation – an organisation that aims to brighten the lives of ill and hostpitalised children in Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

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A commuter walks next to immobilized taxis during a protest near the Athens International airport, July 18, 2011. Greek taxi drivers blocked roads to Athens’ airport and main harbour on Monday, holding up thousands of tourists at the start of a two-day protest against plans to liberalise their trade. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)

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Cara Varnell, an independent art conservator who specializes in Hollywood film costumes, works with the green velvet gown from the film “Gone With the Wind,” Tuesday, July 19, 2011, in Austin, Texas. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas is working to preserve five of the dresses acquired with the collection of film producer David O. Selznick in the 1980s. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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Hackers in Union County, North Carolina used a Department of Transportation traffic sign to display their own message. (Photo: WSOCTV.com)

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Members of the Salina South High School soccer team work out for conditioning training early Wednesday, July 20, 2011, in Salina, Kansas, to beat the heat of the day. The temperature is expected to reach 106 degrees in the Salina area. (AP Photo/Salina Journal, Tom Dorsey)

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A series of images from television show Wendi Deng (3rd L) lunging towards a man trying to attack her husband, News Corp Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch, during a parliamentary committee hearing on phone hacking at Portcullis House in London July 19, 2011. (REUTERS/Parbul TV via Reuters TV)

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A woman returned from vacation to discover the imprint of an owl on her window. Resident Sally Arnold reports the bird was not found nearby so it was likely not harmed in the incident. The image was created due to “powder down” which is a protective substance on new feathers. (Photo: Sally Arnold)

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This misfortunate pilot landed his vintage tri-plane on its nose. The man had been flying the famous Fokker Dreidecker aircraft at the Flying Legends airshow at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambsridgeshire. But when he landed the WW1 fighter aircraft a sudden gust of wind blew it on its nose. No one was hurt in the incident. (Philip Tyler / Rex)

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President Barack Obama shakes the prosthetic hand of U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Leroy Arthur Petry of Santa Fe, N.M., who received the Medal of Honor for his valor in Afghanistan in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2011. Petry lost his right hand as he tossed aside a live grenade during a 2008 firefight in Afghanistan, sparing the lives of his fellow Army Rangers. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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The sun is seen as it sets between Manhattan buildings on 42nd Street during a phenomenon known as “Manhattanhenge,” Wednesday, July 13, 2011 in New York City. Manhattanhenge, sometimes referred to as the Manhattan Solstice, happens when the setting sun aligns with the east-to-west streets of the main street grid. The term comes from Stonehenge, at which the sun aligns with the stones on the solstices in England. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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United States’ Abby Wambach goes up for a header against France’s Sandrine Soubeyrand during the semifinal match between France and the United States at the Women’s Soccer World Cup in Moenchengladbach, Germany, Wednesday, July 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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A Dalmatian named Milly who herself was born in a huge and rare litter of 16 puppies has proved lightning can strike twice after she also gave birth to 16 beautiful spotted pups six weeks ago on 28 May. Milly’s new arrivals were delivered at Newlands Veterinary Clinic in Ludlow, Shropshire. They are now being cared for at home by Lisa and Terry Elvins and their daughters in near Church Stretton, Shropshire, before they are all but one found new homes. (Photo by Diensen Pamben/Newsteam/Getty Images)

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Kids run into the mud pit during the annual Mud Day in Westland, Mich., Tuesday, July 12, 2011. Wayne County mixes more than 200 tons of topsoil and over 20,000 gallons of water to ensure that the mud is just right. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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Children on bicycles watch men working on a clay statue at Taman Budaya Yogyakarta in Yogyakarta July 14, 2011. Indonesian artist Eddi Prabandono and his 15 workers made a 4-metre-by-4-metre statue modelled after the head of Prabandono’s daughter Luz, now 5 years old, as part of a series of art works called the “Luz Series”. The statue will be displayed at Jog Art, an annual art exhibition held in Yogyakarta that is attended by more than 150 artists. (REUTERS/Dwl Oblo)

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French aircraft trail smoke in the colours of France’s tricolour over the Arc de Triomphe and the the Champs Elysees at the start of the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris, Thursday July 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

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Britain’s Catherine , Duchess of Cambridge (L) speak to actress Nicole Kidman at the BAFTA Brits to Watch event in Los Angeles, California July 9, 2011. Photos of the slim Duchess in Los Angeles have sparked concerns about her weight. (REUTERS/Mark Large/Pool)

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A model walks the runway during the Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2011/2012 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on July 4, 2011 in Paris, France. This was 27-year old designer Iris van Herpen’s Paris debut of her futuristic designs. She employs unusual techniques and equipment for her work with materials such as leather, rubber, plastic and metal. Other designs included a vest fashioned from metal piping and white plastic dress. (Photo by Victor Boyko/Getty Images)

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The space shuttle Atlantis lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Friday, July 8, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Atlantis is the 135th and final space shuttle launch for NASA. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

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Yemeni girls play in front of female anti-government protestors attending noon prayers, during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, July 5, 2011. Officials in Yemen say airstrikes have killed six militants and three civilians in southern towns seized by Islamist fighters. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

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Fireworks explode behind a life-size, inflatable head of the Statue of Liberty on Monday, July 4, 2011 at Gas Works Park in Seattle during the Family 4th on Lake Union celebration. All across the country, Americans marked the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo)

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The pack passes world heritage site Mont Saint Michel, rear, a rocky tidal island which holds a monastery, during he sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 226.5 kilometers (140.7 miles) starting in Dinan, Brittany, and finishing in Lisieux, Normandy, western France, Thursday July 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

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A runner leads Torrestrella bulls and steers during the first bull run of the famous running of the bulls San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 7, 2011. (REUTERS/Eloy Alonso)

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Dummies and puppets representing Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (R) are held aloft by Rupert Murdoch at the launch of the …….

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Protesters carrying a Kingdom of Libya flag attend a rally against Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi in Misrata July 6, 2011. (REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani)

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A videographer records the Valles Caldera National Preserve burned by the Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos, N.M., Saturday, July 2, 2011. With firefighters holding their ground against the largest wildfire ever in New Mexico, officials at the nation’s premier nuclear weapons laboratory and in the surrounding city planned for the return of thousands of evacuated employees and residents. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Snapshots

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A rare white buffalo walks in a corral after a Native American naming ceremony was held in Greenville, Texas Wednesday, June 29, 2011. The buffalo, named Lightning Medicine Cloud, was born to the Texas herd last month and holds a special place in Native American culture. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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In this June 27, 2011 photo, three wooden markers show where the shore line was in three past droughts at Clear Lake in West Palm Beach, Fla. This years’ drought has taken more of a toll on the lake than the ones in 2001, 2007 and 2009. The lake houses some of the city’s drinking water. South Florida’s drought problem has reached a critical stage. The National Weather Service rates parts of South Florida at drought stage, D4, or the “exceptional drought” stage. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

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This image provided by NASA Wednesday June 29, 2011 shows the galaxy best known as Messier 78, the two round greenish nebulae are actually cavities carved out of the surrounding dark dust clouds. The extended dust is mostly dark, even to Spitzer’s view, but the edges show up in mid-wavelength infrared light as glowing, red frames surrounding the bright interiors. The image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope exposes the depths of this dusty nebula with its infrared vision, showing stellar infants that are lost behind dark clouds when viewed in visible light. A string of baby stars that have yet to burn their way through their natal shells can be seen as red pinpoints on the outside of the nebula. (AP Photo/NASA)

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Palestinian children play with colored parachutes at an event organised by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) seeking to achieve a world record for the largest number of people flying parachutes from the ground, at a sports stadium in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, June 30, 2011. The event was part of the “Summer Games”, a six-week summer camp organised by UNRWA to provide a recreational outlet for children in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

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A person with a painted face attends a parade celebrating Sexual Diversity Day in Managua, Nicaragua, Tuesday June 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

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A CRH high-speed train leaves the Beijing South Station for Shanghai during a test run on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway in Beijing, Monday, June 27, 2011. China’s bullet train builders have conducted a test run of their showcase Beijing-to-Shanghai line amid controversy over the system’s high cost. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

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The head of a lawn deer remains above the waters from the Souris River in an evacuated western neighborhood of Minot, N.D. Friday, June 24, 2011. About one-fourth of the city’s 40,000 residents have evacuated their homes (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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A model wears a creation by British new creative director Bill Gaytten for John Galliano collection as part of spring-summer 2012 men’s fashion, presented in Paris, Friday, June 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arrives at Macdonald-Cartier International Airport on June 30, 2011 in Ottawa, Canada. The newly married Royal Couple have arrived in Canada today for their first joint overseas tour. Ottawa is the start of a 12-day visit to North America which will take in some of the more remote areas of the country such as Prince Edward Island, Yellowknife and Calgary. The Royal couple will also join millions of Canadians to take part in tomorrow’s Canada Day celebrations which mark Canada’s 144th Birthday. (Photo by Chris Jackson-Pool/Getty Images)

Snapshots: Week of June 3

Snapshots: Week of June 3

A swarm of bees disrupted life in New York City this week when they descended on this Little Italy mailbox. The block was shut down for several hours as beekeepers worked to move the insects to a safer location. (Photo: INF)

Brown bear cub Medo plays with the Logar family dog in Podvrh village, central Slovenia

REFILE – ADDING SPECIES OF BEAR Brown bear (Ursus arctos) cub Medo plays with the Logar family dog in Podvrh village, central Slovenia June 1, 2011. The Slovenian Logar family has adopted the three-and-half-month-old bear cub that strolled into their yard about 30 days ago. Although the family would like to prepare a fenced enclosure for it, veterinary authorities would prefer to move it into a shelter for wild animals. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic (SLOVENIA – Tags: ODDLY IMAGES OF THE DAY ANIMALS)

Snapshots: Week of June 3

This ‘invisible’ bathtub, designed by Stern McCafferty Architecture & Interiors, features a thick sheet of glass between two tile walls.… Read more » It reminds us of a fish tank! (Photo: Eric Roth)

The Italian Frecce Tricolori aerobatic squad performs during the military parade to celebrate Italy's 150th anniversary of unification in Rome

The Italian Frecce Tricolori aerobatic squad performs during the military parade to celebrate Italy’s 150th anniversary of unification in Rome June 2, 2011. Italy marked 150 years as a unified state on Thursday, inviting world leaders to festivities that contrasted starkly with a febrile political mood after crushing local election losses for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY – Tags: MILITARY POLITICS ANNIVERSARY)

Sriram Jagadeesh Hathwar of New York spells a word in 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee contest in Maryland

Sriram Jagadeesh Hathwar of Painted Post, New York, reacts after he spells a word in the semifinals of the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee contest at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES – Tags: SOCIETY EDUCATION)

An Indian roofed turtle stands in the hand of a Thai custom official during a news conference at custom office in Bangkok,Thailand, Thursday, June 2, 2011. Thai customs authorities say 431 turtles and

An Indian roofed turtle stands in the hand of a Thai custom official during a news conference at custom office in Bangkok,Thailand, Thursday, June 2, 2011. Thai customs authorities say 431 turtles and other rare reptiles were stuffed into four suitcases and smuggled into the Bangkok airport.

Snapshots: Week of June 3

Artist Olek crocheted this incredible new work for an upcoming August show. … Read more. (Photo: Agataolek.com)

In this May 17, 2011 photo, a view of Zedekiah's Cave is seen in Jerusalem's Old City. Underneath the stone buildings and crowded alleys of old Jerusalem, hundreds of people are moving at any given mo

In this May 17, 2011 photo, a view of Zedekiah’s Cave is seen in Jerusalem’s Old City. Underneath the stone buildings and crowded alleys of old Jerusalem, hundreds of people are moving at any given moment through tunnels, vaulted medieval chambers and Roman sewers in a rapidly expanding subterranean city invisible from the streets above.

 

The Norway attacks


The Norway attacks

The country continues to mourn and investigate the loss of 68 people killed on the island of Utoya who were attending a youth summer camp of the country’s left-wing Labor Party as well as eight killed by a car bomb in Oslo last Friday. Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik is accused of the shootings and attacks. Over the weekend it was reported that more than 100,00 people gathered in Oslo for a flower vigil to remember the victims. — Lloyd Young

Flowers and candles are seen at a temporary memorial site for the victims of the shooting spree and bomb attack in Norway, on the shore in front of Utoeya island, northwest of Oslo, July 26. Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik is in all likelyhood “insane”, his lawyer said after the anti-Islam radical admitted to bomb and shooting spree in Norway on Friday that killed 76 people. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

Elizabeth Amundsen,16, cries as hundreds of thousands of people gather at a memorial vigil following Friday’s twin extremist attacks, July 25 in Oslo. Anders Behring Breivik, 32, claimed that he has “two more cells” working with him as he appeared in court following a bomb blast at a government building in Oslo and a shooting massacre on nearby Utoya Island that killed at least 76 people in all. The death toll was originally reported as 93. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #

 

Thousands attended a vigil walk near Utoya Island in Sundvolden. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) #

A rose is seen above a sea of flowers and lit candles at a temporary memorial site for the victims of the shooting spree and bomb attack in Oslo July 27. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters) #

Victims received treatment outside government buildings in the center of Oslo, July 22 following an explosion that tore open several buildings including the prime minister’s office, shattering windows and covering the street with documents. (Fartein Rudjord/Associated Press) #

Blood smears the pavement, as a victim is treated outside government buildings in the center of Oslo, Friday July 22. (Fartein Rudjord/Associated Press) #

A swat team aimed their weapons while people take cover during a shoot out at Utoeya island, some 40 km south west of the capital Oslo on July 22. (Jan Bjerkeli/AFP/Getty Images) #

A wounded woman is brought ashore opposite Utaoya island after being rescued from a gunman who went on a killing rampage targeting participants in a Norwegian Labor Party youth organisation event on the island, some 40 km southwest of Oslo July 22. (Svein Gustav Wilhelmsen/AFP/Getty Images) #

A medic comforts an unidentified survivor from the shooting at an island youth retreat outside a hotel where survivors are being reunited with family members in Norway July 23. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press) #

Police continue their investigations July 25 on the Utoya island in the Tyrifjorden lake in Norway were a shooting massacre at a youth camp took place Friday. The man who confessed to the twin attacks that killed 93 people in Norway will be arraigned in court Monday and has requested an open hearing for his first appearance so that he can explain his massacre to the public. (Terje Bendiksby/Associated Press) #

Norwegian police continue searches around the coast of Utoya island following Friday’s twin extremist attacks July 24. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) #

Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik (L), the man accused of a killing spree and bomb attack in Norway, sits in the rear of a vehicle as he is transported in a police convoy as he is leaving the courthouse in Oslo July. A judge ordered eight weeks detention on Monday for Breivik who has admitted a bombing and shooting massacre. (Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Aftenposten via Scanpix) #

Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg visited the scene of the bomb explosion of the twin extremist attacks on July 26. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)#

Destroyed windows are seen in a street near the damaged government building’s area in Oslo July 27. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters) #

The damaged entrance of Norwegian newspaper VG building in Oslo on July 23 next to the government headquarters building area, a day after twin attacks here and on a youth camp, Norway’s deadliest post-war tragedy. (Aleksander Andersen/AFP/Getty Images) #

A rose is placed over shattered glass from the blast site after a memorial march to mourn for the victims of the killing spree and bomb blast in Oslo July 25. At least 100,000 people, many carrying white or red roses, rallied in Oslo on Monday to show support for victims of the attacks. (Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters) #

Survivors from the shooting at the island of Utoya walked along a street in central Oslo July 25. An Oslo district court judge decides to hold the arraignment for the suspect in the twin attacks in Norway behind closed doors, depriving him of the platform he’s looking for to air his belief that Europe must be saved from Muslim colonization. (Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press) #

Friends and loved ones gather at the Oslo cathedral to mourn 93 victims killed in twin terror attacks from a bombing in downtown Oslo and a mass shooting on Utoya island on July 24. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #

People gather in memory of those who died in the Oslo bomb attack and shooting spree in the city of Bergen, July 25. An estimated crowd of 20,000 people attended according to the police. (Thomas Anthun Nielsen/Reuters) #

People lay flowers and candles at Tyrifjorden Lake opposite Utoya island, following Friday’s twin extremist attacks, on July 25. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) #

Oslo’s town hall is decorated with flowers by some of the 150,000 people who gathered for a flower vigil on July 25 in Olso, during a show of solidarity with the victims of recent attacks in Norway. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images) #

Relatives gather to observe a minutes silence opposite Utoya Island, following Friday’s twin extremist attacks on July 25. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) #

A Norwegian girl draws a heart on a mural for victims of the twin attacks on Friday, in central Oslo, Norway July 23. (Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press) #

A woman holds a rose as she arrived to pay tribute to victims of the twin attacks at a memorial service at Oslo Cathedral July 24. (Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press) #

A young boy throws a rose into the lake opposite to the island of July 24. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press) #

A girl looks on as Norway’s Foerign Minister Jonas Gahr Store addresses inside the World Islamic Mission Mosque in Oslo July 26. Friday’s attacks by Anders Behring Breivik traumatised normally peaceful Norway, which has been struggling to come to terms with its worst peace-time massacre of modern times. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters) #

People sit outside a cafe near Oslo station July 27. Norway’s prime minister on Wednesday pledged a security review after a mourning period for at least 76 people killed by a far-right zealot in bombing and shooting attacks that have traumatised the nation. Jittery Norwegians tried to restore some normality five days after the bloodletting, but a security alert forced the evacuation of Oslo station, keeping nerves on edge. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters) #

Norwegian military stand guard near the site of the bombing in the city centre, as people mourn the victims killed in twin terror attacks from the bombing in downtown Oslo and a mass shooting on Utoya Island on July 24. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #

People gather outside Oslo City Hall to participate in a “rose march” in memory of the victims of Friday’s bomb attack and shooting massacre July 25. (Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press) #

Flowers are left opposite Utoya Island, following Friday’s twin extremist attacks on July 25. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) #

Norwegians hold roses and confort each other as thousands of people gather at a memorial vigil following Friday’s twin extremist attacks on July 25 ,2011 in Oslo, Norway. Anders Behring Breivik, 32, claimed that he has “two more cells” working with him as he appeared in court today following a bomb blast at a government building in Oslo and a shooting massacre on nearby Utoya Island. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #

A girl holds a flower as she takes part in a march near Utoeya island to pay their respects for the victims of the killing spree and bomb attack in Norway, in the village of Sundvollen, northwest of Oslo, July 26, 2011. Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik is in all likelyhood “insane”, his lawyer said after the anti-Islam radical admitted to the bomb and shooting spree in Norway on Friday that killed 76 people. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters) #

Norway gunman surrendered with hands held high

APBy IAN MACDOUGALL – Associated Press,LOUISE NORDSTROM – Associated Press | AP – Wed, Jul 27, 2011
Norway gunman surrendered with hans held high,
Police officer Haavard Gaasbakk, right   and chief of police Sissel Hammer during a press briefing in Hoenefoss, Norway  Wednesday July 27 2011. Police have come under close scrutiny over how long it took them to reach the island after first reports of shots being fired at the island youth camp Friday. Although the island is only about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Norwegian capital, police needed 90 minutes to get to the scene. Squad leader  Gaasbakk told reporters that  the shooter, Anders Behring Breivik,  lay down his weapon and held his hands high over his head when approached by his team. (AP Photo /Terje Bendiksby, Scanpix)  NORWAY OUT
Police officer Haavard Gaasbakk, right and chief of police Sissel Hammer during a press briefing in Hoenefoss, Norway Wednesday July 27 2011. Police have come under close scrutiny over how long it took them to reach the island after first reports of shots being fired at the island youth camp Friday. Although the island is only about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Norwegian capital, police needed 90 minutes to get to the scene. Squad leader Gaasbakk told reporters that the shooter, Anders Behring Breivik, lay down his weapon and held his hands high over his head when approached by his team. (AP Photo /Terje Bendiksby, Scanpix) NORWAY OUT
Police officer Haavard Gaasbakk  during a press briefing in Hoenefoss, Norway  Wednesday July 27 2011. Police have come under close scrutiny over how long it took them to reach the island after first reports of shots being fired at the island youth camp Friday. Although the island is only about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Norwegian capital, police needed 90 minutes to get to the scene. Squad leader  Gaasbakk told reporters that  the shooter, Anders Behring Breivik,  lay down his weapon and held his hands high over his head when approached by his team. (AP Photo /Terje Bendiksby, Scanpix)  NORWAY OUT
Police officer Haavard Gaasbakk during a press briefing in Hoenefoss, Norway Wednesday July 27 2011. Police have come under close scrutiny over how long it took them to reach the island after first reports of shots being fired at the island youth camp Friday. Although the island is only about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Norwegian capital, police needed 90 minutes to get to the scene. Squad leader Gaasbakk told reporters that the shooter, Anders Behring Breivik, lay down his weapon and held his hands high over his head when approached by his team. (AP Photo /Terje Bendiksby, Scanpix) NORWAY OUT

OSLO, Norway (AP) — On an island strewn with the corpses of his victims, Anders Behring Breivik ended his killing spree the moment police approached him, authorities said, handing himself over with his hands raised high above his head.

“If he had come closer or taken longer, he would have been shot,” said Anders Snortheimsmoen, the head of the anti-terror unit that arrested him.

Police gave a detailed account of the arrest for the first time Wednesday, five days after the 32-year-old Norwegian unleashed his massacre on the annual summer camp of the left-wing Labor Party’s youth wing.

Breivik has confessed to both the shooting that killed 68 people and a bomb explosion that killed eight at the government district hours earlier in Oslo.

The police operation started off badly. The gunman had already been shooting on the island for an hour when eight members of the anti-terror squad and two local police officers arrived on the shore of the Tyrifjorden lake northwest of Oslo, and jumped into a police boat.

But on their way to Utoya island, the engine stalled, said Haavard Gaasbakk, one of the local police officers.

Stranded on the lake, the police had to summon two private speedboats, take them over and continue toward Utoya divided in two teams of five, Gaasbakk said.

“We can see that shots are being fired on the southern tip of the island. We can see ammunition hit the water, and we hear the cracks,” Gaasbakk said.

They landed the boat, and ran about 380 yards (350 meters), yelling “armed police” to draw the gunman’s attention.

“We come to a forested area and the suspect stands there right in front of us with his hands high above his head,” Gaasbakk said. The shooter’s weapon was 16 yards (15 meters) behind him.

Still, Snortheimsmoen said the police believed he might be wearing explosives — and he escaped being shot by a narrow margin.

“The situation was very tense, and they couldn’t see — the way he was clothed, they worried he could have had a suicide bomber vest,” Snortheimsmoen told The Associated Press.

He said Breivik used a semiautomatic rifle that he appears to have modified to make it into anautomatic rifle.

Gaasbakk said some members of the team detained the suspect, while the others started administering first aid to the wounded. More police arrived. Then came the doctors and volunteers from the area who used their private boats to ferry youth to the mainland.

“There was a flood of evacuated people who came running or were carried by police,” he said.

“I’m proud and humbled by the crews that were there and contributed,” Gaasbakk said. “They showed determination and courage the whole way.”

Breivik’s lawyer said Tuesday his client had expected police to detain him sooner.

____

Nordstrom contributed from Stockholm.

First Asteroid Companion of Earth Discovered at Last


First Asteroid Companion of Earth Discovered at Last

by Charles Q. Choi, SPACE.com Contributor
Date: 27 July 2011 Time: 01:01 PM ET
Orbit of Trojan Asteroid 2010 TK7
This almost edge-on view of the Earth’s orbit and that of the Trojan asteroid 2010 TK7 shows (in green) the vertical motion of the asteroid relative to the Earth over the course of several years. The asteroid was discovered by NASA’s WISE telescope and is the first confirmed Trojan asteroid in Earth’s Lagrange points.
CREDIT: Paul Wiegert, The University of Western Ontario 

The first in a long-sought type of asteroid companion to Earth has now been discovered, a space rock that always dances in front of the planet along its orbital path, just beyond its reach.

The asteroid, called 2010 TK7, is nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) across and currently leading the Earth by about 50 million miles (80 million kilometers).

The asteroid is the first in a category known as Earth’s Trojans, a family of space rocks that could potentially be easier to reach than the moon, even though its member asteroids can be dozens of times more distant, researchers said. Such asteroids, which have long been suspected but not confirmed until now, could one day be valuable destinations for missions, especially loaded as they might be with elements rare on Earth’s surface, they added. [Photo and orbit of Asteroid 2010 TK7]

To imagine where Trojan asteroids are, picture the sun and Earth as being two points in a triangle whose sides are equal in length. The other point of such a triangle is known as a Trojan point, or a Lagrangian point after the mathematician who discovered them. The sun and Earth have two such points, one leading ahead of Earth, known as its L-4 point, and one trailing behind, its L-5 point.

The sun and other planets have Lagrangian points as well, and asteroids have been seen at those the sun shares with Jupiter, Neptune and Mars. Scientists had long suspected the sun and Earth had Trojans as well, but these companions would dwell mostly in the daytime sky as seen from Earth, making them largely hidden in the sunlight.

Now, with the aid of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite launched in 2009, astronomers have discovered Earth’s first probable Trojan, a rock that spends its time at the sun-Earth L-4 point.

WISE Telescope Image of Asteroid 2010 TK7
NASA’s WISE satellite has spotted Earth’s first Trojan asteroid. The object, asteroid 2010 TK7, orbits ahead about 50 million miles ahead of Earth in the planet’s orbit and is about 1,000 feet wide.
CREDIT: NASA

Earth’s first Trojan asteroid

Asteroid 2010 TK7 has a bizarre, chaotic orbit.

Trojan asteroids typically do not orbit right at the Lagrangian points but in tadpole-shaped loops around them, due to the gravitational attraction of other bodies in the solar system. However, 2010 TK7’s tadpole orbit is unusually large, at times taking it nearly as far as the opposite side of the sun from the Earth. [Photos: Asteroids in Deep Space]

“This one has behavior much more interesting than I thought we would find,” study co-author Martin Connors, an astronomer at Athabasca University in Canada, told SPACE.com. “It seems to do things not seen for Trojans before. Still, it had to have some kind of extreme behavior to move it far enough from its Lagrangian point to get within our view.”

Connors and his team began their search for an Earth Trojan using data from WISE’s asteroid- and comet-hunting project, called NEOWISE, named after Near-Earth Objects and WISE.

The WISE telescope scanned the whole sky in infrared light from January 2010 to February 2011, a hunt that resulted in two candidates, one of which, 2010 TK7, was confirmed to be an Earth Trojan after follow-up observations at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

The researchers have calculated the asteroid’s orbit well enough to understand where it will be over the next 10,000 years — 2010 TK7 will not approach Earth any closer than 12.4 million miles (20 million kilometers), which is more than 50 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

“It’s as though the Earth is playing follow the leader,” said Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator of NEOWISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was not a part of the study. “Earth is always chasing this asteroid around.”

The fact that 2010 TK7’s behavior is chaotic enough to take it quite far from its rather stable Trojan point suggests it is only marginally trapped there, having perhaps only recently been disturbed from its original position. The researchers will run more computer models of its orbit to find out what happened, Connors said.

Asteroid 2010 TK7 may be the first confirmed Earth Trojan asteroid, but there are several space rocks known to exist in relatively stable orbits in our planet’s neighborhoods. They include asteroids Cruithneand 2010 SO16, which have vast horseshoe-shaped orbits, and at least two others. But none of these other asteroids have been conformed to be Earth Trojans.

Still much unknown

So far 2010 TK7 does not have a formal name. “Its orbit needs to be nailed down before a name is considered, so it’ll take a couple of years more observations before the WISE team can give it one,” Connors said.

No color information of it is at yet available of 2010 TK7 to shed light on its composition. In principle asteroids could have a similar makeup to Earth’s, but since they are smaller they would have cooled down faster, meaning that heavier substances would not have had time to sink to their centers as they did on our planet.

As such, elements that are uncommon on Earth’s surface might be more accessible on asteroids.

“We could be mining these things one day,” Connors said.

Unfortunately, 2010 TK7 is not a good target because it travels above and below the plane of Earth’s orbit, which means it would require large amounts of propellant to reach. However, if other Earth Trojans do exist, they could prove more accessible.

Now that the researchers have found one, “it makes you want to wonder if there are any more,” Connors said. He noted hopefully the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) array of telescopes and cameras aimed at detecting near-Earth objects could turn more up.

The scientists detailed their findings in the July 28 issue of the journal Nature.

Follow SPACE.com contributor Charles Q. Choi on Twitter @cqchoi. Visit SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.