Posts Tagged ‘archaeology and architecture’

An Egyptian Family Odyssey

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Enjoy riding camels with the whole family!

Enjoy riding camels with the whole family!

There is something exotic and adventurous about Egypt. Every child knows that in a desert somewhere in the North African desert, there are gigantic pyramids, “cursed” tombs, and an abundance of mummies. Exploring Egypt as a child provides an experience that lasts a lifetime, possibly resulting in your child becoming an archaeologist, historian, or diplomat.

You might not expect your mummy-obsessed child to want to  be a SCUBA diver,  particularly in the desert land of Egypt. But in locations like Alexandria and along the Nile River, archaeologists and environmentalists need to go underwater to do their research.

For environmentalists, there is the concern about rising sea levels, which would affect Egypt’s coastal cities and communities along the Nile river. For archaeologists, Egypt’s many shipwrecks and submerged buildings are of great interest, as they provide a record of Egyptian nautical history, as well as many stone and metal artifacts.  These kinds of materials do not deteriorate easily, and while underwater, objects can be preserved from wind, weather and war.

So even if your child wants to be a certified SCUBA diver, you may find yourself visiting her in Egypt someday.

Have you been to Egypt? What was your favorite highlight?

Take the whole family to Egypt! Our Egyptian Family Odyssey has dates available in 2010 and 2011.

A Grand Canyon Weekend Adventure

Monday, July 12th, 2010
A rainbow at the Grand Canyon, Photo by Nancy Holland

A rainbow at the Grand Canyon, Photo by Nancy Holland

It’s practically the American rite of passage. At some point in our lives, we are compelled to visit the Grand Canyon—and for good reason. There is no place on the planet as stunningly beautiful or shockingly vast. With more than five million visitors each year, the Grand Canyon has achieved American icon status. This is a stark difference to the 44,173 visitors in 1919, when the Grand Canyon was first declared a National Park.

While most people visit the Canyon for hiking, photography, and family vacations, it was originally home to many Native American tribes including the Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo (also known as the Diné). The oldest artifacts found date back more than 12,000 years, and are well preserved due to the hot and dry climate. It would be easy to think that with all of our technology we would know everything about the Grand Canyon, but the reality is that modern archeologists and other scientists have only surveyed 3% of the Canyon and surrounding parkland, leaving this part of the United States still full of mysteries.

What is your favorite family memory of the Grand Canyon?

What You Need to Know About Machu Picchu

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
A stone archway of Machu Picchu with the Andes in the background

A stone archway of Machu Picchu with the Andes in the background

Nobody wants to stand at a nice reception when an acquaintance announces she just got back from the absolutely fabulous Machu Picchu and have no idea what the fuss is all about. To make sure that never happens to you, here are the basics about Peru’s Machu Picchu so you can be as smart and cultured as the next guy.

  1. Machu Picchu is Quechua for ”Big Mountain.” The Quechua are the indigenous people of Peru, and the archaoelogical site of Machu Picchu is located south of the equator in the Andes Mountains and outside the city of Cuzco. But the location of the ruins is truly amazing as it sits in between the Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu mountains, making it difficult to approach and easily defensible in an attack.
  2. The city was built in 1450 at the height of the Incan Empire. By 1572, the city was abandoned, but there is some confusion as to why. It doesn’t appear that the Spanish conquistadors defaced or damaged any part of Machu Picchu, so it is thought that smallpox, which the Spanish brought from Europe, may have been a major factor in the fall of the city.
  3. The buildings located at the site were very well built using a technique called ashlar. This involved cutting blocks of stone and stacking them without the use of mortar. The result is a long-lasting, earthquake-proof structure.
  4. Popular culture has cited Hiram Bingham as the person who “discovered” Machu Picchu in 1911. However, there is some evidence that he wasn’t the first non-Native to stumble upon the site. Simone Waisbard, a longtime researcher in Cuzco, believes three men named Enrique Palma, Gabino Sánchez, and Agustín Lizárragal left their identities inscribed on a rock at the site on July 14, 1901. Others believe a German businessman named Augusto Berns looted the site – a common practice at the time—in 1867. Physical evidence has shown Machu Picchu to be listed on maps as early as 1874. While Bingham gets the most credit today, there may have been other visitors prior to his notable arrival in 1911.
  5. In 1983, Machu Picchu was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site and was described as “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization.”

With these little tidbits in your back pocket, you can be the hit at the party too—or at least answer that Final Jeopardy question and impress your friends.

Have you been to Machu Picchu? Share below.

Want to go? Peru is truly amazing! We still have room on our 2010 tours, or you can plan for 2011!

Video: Angkor Wat in 3-D

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat is considered to be one of the most significant archaeological sites in South-East Asia and dates as early as the 9th century. After time, neglect, and war damaged the site, UNESCO put the historical remains on its World Heritage List, as well as the World Heritage in Danger List to save it from further destruction and looting. Since then, there has been work to preserve the temples by both professional archaeologists and locals. To see the size and scope of this monument located in the Cambodian jungle, check out this 3-D digital interpretation.

Explore this and other UNESCO World Heritage sites on the Treasures of Angkor Wat and Vietnam tour.

What is your favorite UNESCO World Heritage site? Share Below

Travel Hit List: Greece

Friday, June 26th, 2009
The Parthenon of Athen's Acropolis. Photo: Flickr user roblisameehan.

The Parthenon of Athens' Acropolis. Photo: Flickr user roblisameehan.

We can’t wait to go back to Greece to sample the region’s famous ancient sites, tasty food, and lively music. We’re sure you’ll enjoy this incredible destination as much as we do! Scroll down to learn more.

Read: How archeologist-turned-forensic-architects have unlocked Greek construction techniques in their quest to restore the Parthenon.

Listen: Traditional Greek ballads, sung by Jimmy Lindaros.

Watch: What the oldest, best preserved Greek tomb paintings have to teach us about this ancient culture’s beliefs in terms of the afterlife.

Eat and Drink: Enjoy Smithsonian Journeys program manager Gloria Baxevanis’ account of a lovely meal in a small Greek café.

Check out: Coinage from Corinth, one of the largest cities in Ancient Greece, courtesy of the folks in the numismatics department at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Travel: Now is a great time to book a journey to Greece.

Join: Smithsonian Journeys is on Facebook. Become a fan today.

Share your memories of past travel or future travel plans to Greece below.