Posts Tagged ‘bolivia’


Image: Casto Vocal
Virtual reconstruction of northernmost section of pre-Incan temple in Bolivia.

Here’s why a general education may equip the workforce of the future better than job-specific training: you never know what skills will be needed. In this example, a new breed of adaptable archaeologist is expanding the use of 3-D technology to reimagine lost worlds.

George Dvorsky writes at Gizmodo, “The 1,500-year-old Pumapunku temple in western Bolivia is considered a crowning achievement of Andean architecture, yet no one knows what the original structure actually looked like. Until now.

“Using historical data, 3D-printed pieces, and architectural software, archaeologist Alexei Vranich from UC Berkeley has created a virtual reconstruction of Pumapunku — an ancient Tiwanaku temple now in ruins. Archaeologists have studied the site for over 150 years, but it wasn’t immediately obvious how all the broken and scattered pieces belonged together. The surprisingly simple approach devised by Vranich is finally providing a glimpse into the structure’s original appearance. Excitingly, the same method could be used to virtually reconstruct similar ruins. The details of this achievement were published [last December] in Heritage Science.

“First, some background on the structure. Pumapunku, which means ‘door of the puma,’ was a temple designed and built by the pre-Incan Tiwanaku culture, who lived and thrived in what is now western Bolivia from 500 AD to 1,000 AD. …

“Pumapunku displayed a level of craftsmanship that was largely unparalleled in the pre-Columbian New World, and it’s often considered the architectural peak of Andean lithic technology prior to the arrival of the Europeans. …

“Unfortunately, the ruins of Tiwanaku, and the Pumapunku temple in particular, have been ransacked repeatedly over the past half-millenium. Archaeologists have virtually no idea what the structure actually looked like. None of the blocks that once comprised the original structure are currently located in their original place, and many of them are badly damaged or decayed. …

“To overcome these difficulties and limitations, Vranich and his colleagues integrated historical archaeological data with modern computer software and 3D-printer technology to reconstruct the ancient temple, and by doing so, devised an entirely new approach to reconstructing and visualizing ancient ruins that would otherwise be impossible to build.

“The team created miniature 3D-printed models, at 4 percent actual size, of the temple’s 140 known pieces, which were based on measurements compiled by archaeologists over the past 150 years and Vranich’s own on-site observations of the ruins. … The researchers could have performed this work exclusively in the virtual realm, but they had better luck with tangible, physical pieces they could freely move around.

“ ‘It was much easier to use the 3D-printed models,’ Vranich told Gizmodo. ‘You can quickly manipulate them in your hand and try position after position. It is much slower and less intuitive on the computer.’ …

“Satisfied with their Lego-like configurations, the researchers keyed their creations into an architectural modeling program, culminating in a single hypothetical model of the temple complex. This wasn’t terribly difficult, as the construction methods used by the Tiwanaku people, and how they formed their incredibly geometric stones, are well documented, explained Vranich. But the exercise yielded some new findings.

“ ‘What we found out is that it appears they were making prototypes for each type of stone type, and then would have copied one after the other. It’s almost like it was a pre-Columbian version of Ikea.’ …

“Another interesting finding was that the gateways scattered around the site were lined up in a way to create a mirror effect. That is, ‘one big gateway, then another smaller one in line, then another,’ he said. ‘It would create an effect as if you were looking into infinity in the confines of a single room.’ ”

Read more here.

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In Bolivia, an indigenous woman who would have been disenfranchised before the presidency of Evo Morales has become a popular wrestler. And  she loves what she does.

connects with Angela La Folklorista in La Paz to report her story at WBUR’s Only a Game.

“She calls herself, ‘Una mujer de la pollera.’ Woman of the skirt. That’s another way of saying ‘I’m a cholita.’ Cholitas are indigenous women of Bolivia, usually ethnically Quechuan or Ayamaran. You can recognize cholitas by their ankle-length puffy skirts and their tiny bowler hats, which seem like they’ll fall off any minute. …

“Until recently, cholitas were second-class citizens, boxed out from higher education and often stuck cleaning homes,” generally relegated to the kitchen.

“Where Angela works is nothing like a kitchen.

” ‘In the ring,’ Angela says in Spanish, ‘I have a technical fighter style. I’m not rough. I’m on the nice side. There are bad cholitas, as you would call them, but my style is technical.’

“Angela is a cholita luchadora — a Bolivian pro-wrestler. She fights in a league similar to Lucha Libre in Mexico or the WWE in the United States. It’s the kind of wrestling with heroes and villains, entrance songs. Angela gives me two ringside tickets for the upcoming bout in El Alto – La Paz’s sister city. She’s the headliner. …

“Angela doesn’t fight other women. She fights the men. There’s some weird sexist stuff happening, but by the end of the match Angela is always the winner. …

“ ‘I’m very happy and content to have another night of fighting,’ she says in Spanish, ‘another night of art, adrenaline and strength, another night that I’m in the center of the ring, happy, doing what I like most.’ She’s covered in sweat.

“ ‘Mi madre es luchadora,’ Angela’s middle-school aged daughter Theresa says.

“ ‘It’s a pleasure for me that she’s a wrestler,’ Theresa says in Spanish, ‘I’m very proud of her, I’m her number one fan.’

“Theresa describes the cholitas luchadoras as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But she doesn’t want her mom’s job. It’s too dangerous for her. And unlike the cholitas who came before her, Theresa can choose her own dream.”

More here.

Photo: Trevin Spencer/Only A Game
The cholitas luchadoras of El Alto. Angela La Folklorista is on the far right.

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Azzurra Cox at the Atlantic‘s City Lab website wrote recently about design students and a nonprofit theater group that “created a ‘park-in-a-cart’ to serve the fast-growing city of El Alto, Bolivia.

“One bright July afternoon in El Alto, Bolivia, a playground paraded across a busy intersection.

“In the country’s second-largest city—and, at approximately 13,500 feet, the highest major urban settlement in the world—desfiles are a frequent occurrence, even a way of life. …

“But this parade was different. Dodging a stream of minibuses, a few individuals wearing carnivalesque costumes tugged two colorful metal carts—one resembling an astroturf bee, the other an elephant—to the center of a nearby plaza.

“Working in the harsh sunlight, they set about disassembling the carts. The shell of the bee became a series of green mounds, while the elephant trunk revealed itself as a slide.

“In a matter of minutes a playground was born, and the sounds of children playing rippled across the plaza. …

“In this dense city, driven by commerce at all scales, streets, sidewalks, and communal spaces are often transformed into informal markets, where vendors and minibuses compete for real estate. While this competition brings vitality, it requires novel methods of occupying urban space for play.

“The pop-up playground aims to do just that. Over three summers, the International Design Clinic (IDC), a ‘guerrilla design’ collective, has collaborated with Teatro Trono to design and build a pair of mutable, movable playspaces …

“Toward the end of that July afternoon, the park collapsed its way back into the carts. As one mother convinced her five-year-old to take her last turn down the slide, she asked one of the designers where she could find the playground next. Megan Hoffman, who studied anthropology at Temple University, recalls a grandmother who offered the group a sleeve of crackers to express her gratitude.

“ ‘That day,’ Hoffman says, ‘our pop-up playground was a space of joy.’ ”

More at City Lab.

Photo: Megan Hoffman
The mobile park on parade in El Alto this summer.

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The Associated Press had a story not long ago about some energetic Bolivians  competing at handball.

“A group of Bolivian grandmothers and great-grandmothers have a pretty nontraditional way of easing the aches and pains of old age. These Aymara women get together every Wednesday in the city of El Alto and play handball.

“The ‘awichas,’ as grandmothers are known in the Aymara language, don sports jerseys over their traditional skirts and look forward to meeting and exercising with friends every week. …

“Team handball is an Olympic sport; two teams pass a ball using their hands to throw the ball into the opposite team’s goal.

“The handball team is part of a program where about 10,000 older people are practicing sports and playing Andean music; they also get free medical care.”

See some great great quotes and photos at NBC News, here.

Photo: Juan Karita/AP
In this Feb. 4, 2105 photo, 72-year-old Aurea Murillo prepares to make a pass during a handball match among elderly Aymara indigenous women in El Alto, Bolivia.

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