The Great Sphinx is a large human-headed lion that was carved from a mound of natural rock. It is located in Giza where it guards the front of Khafre’s pyramid.
The most popular and current theory of the builder of the Sphinx holds that it was commissioned by the 4th Dynasty King, Khafre (2558-2532 BCE). Khafre was one of the sons of Khufu (Cheops). The Sphinx lines up with the Pyramid of Khafre at the foot of its causeway. As one rounds the northeast corner to the front of the Sphinx, the alignment of the two structures becomes more apparent.
Legends have been told for many years about the Great Sphinx. These stories tell about the powers and mysteries of this sphinx. Some people even believe that there are hidden passageways or rooms underneath the Great Sphinx, but nothing has been found yet.
The beginning of one story about the Great Sphinx is written on a stele (monument) between the sphinx’s paws.
The story reads that one day, a young prince fell asleep next to the Great Sphinx. He had been hunting all day, and was very tired. He dreamt that the Great Sphinx promised that he would become the ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt if he cleared away the sand covering its body (the Great Sphinx was covered up to its neck).
The rest of the story is gone, so you will have to use your imagination to work out the ending. This stele was put up by the pharaoh Thutmosis IV who lived around 1400 B.C.
Tepuis are flat table-top mountains found in the Guayana Highlands of South America, especially in Venezuela. In the language of the Pemon people who live in the Gran Sabana, Tepui means ‘House of the Gods’ due to their height.
Tepuis tend to be found as isolated entities rather than in connected ranges, which makes them host to hundreds of endemic plant and animal species, some of which are found only on one tepui.
Towering over the surrounding forest, the tepuis have almost sheer vertical flanks, and many rise as much as 1,000 meters above the surrounding jungle. The tallest of them are over 3,000 meters tall.
The nearly vertical escarpments and dense rainforest bed on which these tepuis or mesa lie make them inaccessible by foot. Only three of the Gran Sabana’s mountains can be reached by foot, among which the 2,180m-high Roraima is the most accessible.
Tepuis are the remains of a large sandstone plateau that once covered the granite basement complex between the north border of the Amazon Basin and the Orinoco, between the Atlantic coast and the Rio Negro, during the Precambrian period. Over millions of years, the plateaus were eroded and all that were left were isolated flat-headed tepuis.
Although the tepuis looks quite barren, the summit is teeming with life.
The high altitude of tepuis causes them to have a different climate from the ground forest. The top is often cooler with frequent rainfall, while the bases of the mountains have a tropical, warm and humid climate.
Many extraordinary plants have adapted to the environment to form species unique to the tepui.
Some 9,400 species of higher plants have been recorded from the Venezuelan Guayana, of which 2322 are registered from the tepuis. Approximately one-third of the species occur nowhere else in the world.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion (Photograph by Christopher Payne).
by Rachel Nuwer
In the heart of New York City lies an abandoned island. Although it is clearly visible to commuters on the Bronx’s I-278 or passengers flying into La Guardia airport, few people are even aware of its existence.
If anything, they have only heard that the infamous Typhoid Mary spent her final years confined to a mysterious island, situated somewhere within view of the city skyline. But even that sometimes seems the stuff of rumor.
Until 1885, the 20-acre spot of land—called North Brother Island—was uninhabited, just as it is today.
That year saw the construction of the Riverside Hospital, a facility designed to quarantine smallpox patients.
Workers and patients traveled there by ferry from 138th Street in the Bronx (for many of the latter, it was a one-way trip), and the facility eventually expanded to serve as a quarantine center for people suffering from a variety of communicable diseases.
By the 1930s, however, other hospitals had sprouted up in New York, and public health advances lessened the need to quarantine large numbers of individuals.
In the 1940s, North Brother Island was transformed into a housing center for war veterans and their families. But by 1951, most of them—fed up with the need to take a ferry to and from home—had chosen to live elsewhere.
For the last decade of its brief period of human habitation, the island became a drug rehabilitation center for heroin addicts.
Mere decades ago, North Brother Island was a well-manicured urban development like any other. Judging from aerial photos taken in the 1950s, the wildest things there were a few shade trees.
In those years, North Brother Island was covered by ordinary roads, lawns and buildings, including the towering Tuberculosis Pavilion built in the Art Modern style.
Grouped together in Peru’s lush Cuzco region, the ringed Incan ruins known as Moray have long been a mystery, but it is looking more and more likely that the nested stone rings may have been part of a large-scale agricultural experiment.
Unlike a number of the elaborate metropolises and statuary left behind by the Incan people, the rings at Moray are relatively simple but may have actually been an ingenious series of test beds.
Descending in grass-covered, terraced rings, these rings of rings vary in size, with the largest ending in a depth of 30 meters (98 feet) deep and 220 meters (722 feet) wide.
Studies have shown that many of the terraces contain soil that must have been imported from other parts of the region.
The temperature at the top of the pits varies from that at the bottom by as much as 15ºC, creating a series of micro-climates that — not coincidentally — match many of the varied conditions across the Incan empire, leading to the conclusion that the rings were used as a test bed to see what crops could grow where.
When British explorers happened upon Kangaroo Island—south of what today is the city of Adelaide—the animals took them by surprise.
Unlike the wild ‘roos of the mainland, who knew to keep their distance, these creatures were utterly tame and approachable (so much so that the arriving crew reportedly slaughtered 31 for a giant kangaroo stew).
The reason the animals were unaccustomed to humans (and tragically unfamiliar with their bad habits) was because no humans lived there. Aboriginals had once inhabited the island, but they’d abandoned it at least 2000 years prior, for reasons unknown.
After a couple of centuries of life alongside human settlers, the animals here are understandably a little more wary—but the humans, for their part, have gotten a lot more respectful. Which means that today, this one of the most incredible places to get up close and personal with some very interesting creatures out in the wild.
The best way to meet them is to tour with a local company like Exceptional Kangaroo Island.
Experienced guides are familiar with the animals and their habitats—so they can probably find you a tricky-to-spot echidna and point out where a koala is likely to be hiding in the crook of a tree—but they also ensure that you won’t bother the animals in the process.
(And in lieu of kangaroo stew, they serve fantastic lunches that highlight the local produce.)