National Geographic : 1989 Oct
OCTOBER 1989 GEOGRAPHICA NATIONAL GEOGRASHI MAGAZINE Herculaneum's Dead Still Tell Tales Archaeologists continue to uncover the remains of victims buried in the seaside chambers of Hercula neum (NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, May 1984), destroyed in the same eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried its sister city of Pompeii in A.D. 79. The exca vations are yielding buried treasure as well. Since 1986 crews digging in the chambers that once stood at the edge of the Bay of Naples have found more than 80 skeletons (right), many hud dled together in mute testimony to the suddenness of the eruption and the havoc it wrought. They included a mother sheltering her child and, in a chamber nearby, a youth with a dog. One room also held one of the rich est finds yet uncovered from the cham bers. Amid the rubble were a gold brooch with the image of Helios, the sun god (below), gold earrings, rings, 0. LOUIS MAZZATENTA,NGS STAFF two snake-head bracelets, silver vases, the imprint of a wicker basket, and the bronze and silver coins it once held. There was also a glass bottle containing the residue of a dozen aromatic sub stances that may have been used as an ointment. Meanwhile a study of 139 skeletons uncovered earlier produced a surprise: Sara Bisel-a physical anthropologist sent by the National Geographic Soci ety at the request of Italian authorities to preserve the remains-says the skeletons reveal that the average age of the people in the chambers was older 0. LOUIS MAZZATENTA,NGS STAFF than expected. This suggests that many children and young people may have been able to escape the destruction. But Dr. Bisel cautions that the "miss ing" youths may be found in chambers not yet excavated. Tidying the "World's Highest Trash Pit" iz Nichol and Bob McConnell went Sto Mount Everest in 1987 as part of an expedition that came within a thousand feet of the summit via a North Face route. They will return next summer-not to climb up, but to clean up. Filled with shame that mountaineers have created the "world's highest trash pit," Nichol and McConnell will lead a month-long expedition to the advance base camp, at 18,500 feet, on the Tibet an side of Everest. They will gather trash that has been left by climbers, burn what can be burned on the world's highest mountain, and separate the rest to be carried out and buried or recycled. The Everest Environmental Expedi tion, based in Colorado Springs, Colo rado, hopes to enlist the cooperation of Tibetans in properly disposing of trash and preserving the area's beauty. It also will work to remind climbers worldwide to carry out their trash and waste. The effort has the support of the American Alpine Club, the Explorers Club, and the American Mountain Foundation. It's a Twig, a Catkin... No! It's a Caterpillar! mitation is the sincerest form of flattery, even for a caterpillar. Nemoria arizonaria, a kind of inchworm found on oak trees in the southwestern United States and Mexi co, produces two broods a year. When the first brood hatches in the spring, the oaks are covered with fuzzy, spiky flowers called catkins. The caterpillars eat these flowers and end up looking like the catkins (below). A few months later a second brood hatches. By this time the catkins are gone, and the new brood of caterpillars eat leaves. Instead of resembling catkins, the summer brood ends up looking like oak twigs. Erick Greene of the University of California, Davis, who discovered this "developmental novelty," has found that the form the caterpillar takes is determined by what it eats. "I can take eggs from either brood and turn them into the catkin or the twig form after they hatch, depending on what I feed them," he says. Catkins are more nutritious, but they are available as a food bonanza only for a month or so. ERICKGREENE The mimicry probably provides cat erpillars with visual cover from birds flying around in search of food, Greene says. That may explain why if you put a catkin mimic on a catkin, it remains still; but if you put it on a leaf, it heads for the nearest catkin.