June 5, 2008

Reconstructing history

Two interesting pieces of news that I found read yesterday.

1) A research team including a British scientist believes that Machu-Pichu, the lost city of the Incas, was "discovered" by a German adventurer, who looted the site with the help of the Peruvian government, more than four decades before its discovery in 1991 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham.

Oh... so now we're debating who looted it first? (I say this because, as wikipedia enlightens us:
Peru has long sought the return of the estimated 40,000 artifacts, including mummies, ceramics and bones, Bingham had removed from the Machu Picchu site. On 14 September, 2007, an agreement was made between Yale University and the Peruvian government for the return of the objects.[1] though on April 12, 2008, the Peruvian government stated that they had revised previous estimates of 4,000 pieces up to 40,000.[3]
Earlier this year:
Sacred ruins older than Incas found in Peru
No more room on the Inca Trail (Also, this related older news from 2001: Lost city of the Incas in peril from landslide)

2) The Stasi jigsaw puzzle:
In the dying days of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Stasi officers were ordered to destroy their reports by shredding and then burning them. So numerous were the reports, that shredding machines stopped working, and officers were forced to tear the documents by hand. A problem with transport meant that the estimated 45 million A4 sheets of paper were not burned. Since 1991, a team of 30 workers has been carrying out the painstaking task of reconstructing the documents, revealing new information on the activities of the Stasi and its collaborators. The team has now reconstructed the contents of 350 sacks, but with over 16,000 remaining, the task would require a further 400 to 800 years to complete by hand.

Now new technology developed by the Fraunhofer Institute of Production Facilities and Construction Technology (IPK) could complete the work in a fraction of the time. The E-Puzzler, the world's most sophisticated pattern-recognition machine, was completed in 2003, and has now received Government funding for a pilot project to reconstruct the contents of 44 sacks.
Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it, says I. So, this project should be a real fascinating one!

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