Tuesday, April 17, 2018

New Statuette

I just received a small statue of Julius Caesar (above). The detail is good--the boots, pteruges and other features are impressive.

Note the eagle emblem on the breastplate and staff. The eagle was the symbol of ancient Rome.
Unlike others for sale, this statuette is not colored. I prefer the white version, as it looks stunning near the table lamp.
By now I have a fairly good collection of sculptures or art objects, besides dinosaur figures.
Previously I obtained sculptures of Augustus Caesar who, with Julius, marked the end of the Roman Republic.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Alien figures

About 20 years ago, I got the shadowbox alien set. Among the ET types are the Roswell alien, above. I don't know if it's accurate, but it may be. The figure is based on the second hand testimony of Frankie Rowe and others.

The set includes the more typical gray alien (above, left) and the childlike neonate ET (right).

The more bizarre reported types, such as the "reptilian" ET (above, left) and the "insectoid" (right) are also included.

Lastly, the set has unusual humanlike beings, such as a "Man in Black" or MIB (above, left) and a "nordic" alien.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Theropod Tooth Replicas

Above are two Spinosaurus tooth replicas, one still in its original packaging. The dentition of spinosaurids converged with that of crocodilians, and suggests piscivory. In contrast to teeth which ripped dinosaurs apart, the conical teeth of spinosaurs just maintained a grip on aquatic prey. Generally Spinosaurus and close relatives waded or swam in estuaries and rivers, hunting fish. Spinosaurs occasionally devoured other, small dinosaurs but were basically not adapted to fighting and hunting on land.

Carcharodontosaurus (tooth replica above) lived alongside Spinosaurus and the titanosaur Paralititan. It may have killed and eaten both. The serrated, bladelike teeth of Carcharodontosaurus indicate a lifestyle unlike that of spinosaurs and more typical of large theropods i.e. hunter of large terrestrial prey (those which lacked osteoderms, hence could be slashed by sharp teeth).

Above is a detailed copy of a Giganotosaurus tooth. Giganotosaurus was a giant predator roughly contemporaneous with Carcharodontosaurus. As its dentition indicates, it filled the same predatory niche. With its deadly teeth, Giganotosaurus slaughtered sauropods such as Nopcsaspondylus and Andesaurus.

This replica indicates further variation in theropod lifestyle or prey preference. The teeth of Tyrannosaurus were more robust than those of carcharodontosaurs. Whereas the latter evolved to slash unarmored prey, Tyrannosaurus teeth evolved to cope with big armored quarry, originally Alamosaurus, but were also effective against ankylosaur armor and ceratopsian defenses (including tough scales).

Friday, March 02, 2018

Naval Inaction 259 CE

        In the third century the Roman Empire was heavily beset by seaborne raiders. From c 251 to 270 CE, Goths and others launched a series of major assaults. The barbarians targeted the Danubian provinces of Moesia and Thrace, Greece, Asia Minor and islands in the eastern Mediterranean. 
      Aware of the possibility of attacks by sea, the Romans established four fleets to deal with them. One, the Classis Pontica, patrolled the southern Black Sea. Another, the Classis Moesica, defended the western part. If they failed to halt a thrust into the Mediterranean, the Classis Syriaca and Classis Alexandrina (Classis Iskandrina?) formed a reserve.
    Against the early incursions, the Roman navy performed well. Despite attacks in Anatolia and Greece in 251 and 253, the Classis Syriaca beat the enemy near Rhodes, Crete and Cyprus. Another raid on Anatolia in 254 was similarly beaten. In 256, Gallienus, co-emperor in the West (while Emperor Valerian was in Syria) launched counterattacks along the Rhine and Danube.
      In 259, however, a massive raid seems to have gone unopposed. Passing down the lower Danube in boats, the Goths first looted Moesia and Thrace, then reached the Propontis. With several hundred vessels they surrounded and overran Cyzicus, in the process neutralizing the Classis Pontica.  Proceeding southward, the marauders then plundered Athens, the Pelopponese, the Ionian coast and the temple of Ephesus. 
     On this occasion the Roman fleet was conspicuous by its absence. Where was the Classis Syriaca, which had distinguished itself a few years earlier? No doubt Roman historians would've mentioned any success in 259, just as they recorded victories before and after that date.
    The problem was the increased threat of invasion by land. In those circumstances, the navy lost men to the army.  With regard to the eastern fleets, the specific problem was Persia.
     By 259 the Romans were bracing themselves for a major Sassanian attack. The Persian king, Shapur, was eager to plunder Rome's eastern provinces. The Persians had already captured Dura Europos c 256, and in 258 Valerian, seeking the support of Odainathus, the Palmyrene ruler, made him vir consularis. The emperor must have known the Persians were coming, well before their invasion materialized in 260 CE.
     Considering the importance of Syria and Egypt to the Empire, Valerian was determined to protect them. If Syria were overrun, Egypt might go too, costing Rome most of its grain supply. So it is likely     Valerian, by 259, gave orders to maximize emphasis on the army, even if it meant sacrificing the eastern fleets. The soldiers manning ships were to be added to the legions guarding Syria.
       Valerian and his generals were aware of the risk they were taking. In order to focus on Persia,  they left the Balkans and Asia Minor to their fate. Experience had shown that the Classis Pontica (even if intact) was not sufficient to prevent Gothic penetration of the Aegean and beyond. 
      After Successionus, a Roman officer, won a victory against the Goths, Valerian promoted him. But the emperor seemed unable or unwilling to stop the sea assaults of 259.
 Valerian's gamble failed miserably. His sacrifice of Athens, and Ephesus etc did not prevent the smashing defeat of his army by Shapur, or the sacking of Syria.
       Fortunately for the Balkans and Asia Minor, Persia soon ceased to drain resources from the fleet. After 260, Sassanid power greatly ebbed. Odainathus's march on Ctesiphon in 262 attested to this. Apparently learning the lesson of 259, the Romans under Gallienus revived the eastern fleets.
In 268, with a rebuilt Classis Pontica, Venetianus demolished a Gothic fleet, and while its remnants sacked Athens, they were soon wiped out.
In 269 the Romans won the greatest naval victory of the Imperial era. Commanding the Classis Syriaca, Probus annihilated a Gothic armada. After destroying the barbarian warships the Romans captured those carrying civilians and baggage. The enemy, who first attacked Rhodes, Crete and Cyprus, failed utterly against Roman reserves, including the Classis Alexandrina, which assisted the Classis Syriaca.
   Probus's victory was decisive. For over a century, there were no further Gothic sea raids. The barbarians simply could not match Roman naval power, and their expeditions, while lucrative, ultimately proved too costly.

A Roman warship battling Gothic raiders


Raffaele D'Amato Imperial Roman Warships 193--565 AD  Osprey Publishing 2017

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Sunflowers and Old Selfies

Views of my sunflower gardens, back in the '90s. I've grown helianthus for over 25 years. Besides being beautiful, they're good for the environment.
In recent years, bee populations have come under stress and declined. Pesticides are largely to blame for this problem. Here, bees can gather all the pollen they want without encountering poisons of any kind.

A more recent pic, showing the garden of 2013.

Selfies, from that same period. At the time I used single use cameras.

Monday, January 22, 2018

UFO Town

About a decade ago, a penpal visited Roswell, NM. Long famed for the 1947 UFO crash, the city has many reminders of the event. The penpal photographed a number of them.

The streetlights in Roswell have an otherwordly look. I don't think, however, the Roswell ETs closely resembled the typical grays.

Reminders of ET are ubiquitous, even among local businesses.

The city has a UFO museum and research center.

The penpal also sent an artist's depiction of the 1964 Socorro incident.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Ankylosaurus Narial Defense

After writing "The Evolution of Ankylosaurus" in my Dinosaur Home blog, I discovered that the Carnegie Ankylosaurus is realistic enough to illustrate my points. It may be even better for this purpose than the pictures appearing in the other blog.
Seen in dorsal view, the head of Ankylosaurus (above) displays many caputegulae or "head tiles." Among the most important were the loreal caputegulae. They appear in anterolateral positions i.e. on the sides of the snout near the front. The loreal caputegulae overlie the external nares, not visible in dorsal view but positioned laterally on the snout instead of in front, as in most ankylosaurs.

Seen in lateral view, the right external naris is, in the words of Arbour, "roofed over by cranial ornamentation" or specifically the right loreal caputegulum. It is clearly a robust osteoderm, which most likely evolved to protect the nostril from T. rex. The nares are prime targets for carnivores, which often try to suffocate prey by crushing or fusing them. By overlying the nostrils, the loreal caputegulae shielded them from the deadliest, or maxillary, teeth of T. rex.
 Enhanced defense was also the reason for the lateral shift in the nostril's position. The front of the snout (or premaxillae) could not accomodate enough armor to adequately protect the nostrils. The nostrils themselves would've weakened the defense.
Although the premaxillae were armored in earlier ankylosaurs, such as Saichania and Tarchia, this was no longer sufficient by the time of T. rex. Saichania and Tarchia faced Tarbosaurus which, although large, was not as powerful as the later (late Maastrichtian) Tyrannosaurus. T. rex had unmatched jaw musculature conferred in part by its posteriorly expanded skull (i.e. providing increased area for muscle attachment). In addition to jaw power, T. rex had the most robust teeth. Less vulnerable to breakage and more capable of crushing or penetration, such teeth were ideal for use against armored quarry. Without doubt, T. rex was the most dangerous nemesis of ankylosaurs (as well as other taxa). It is not surprising that the ankylosaurid contemporary of T. rex required, besides the largest size, the best narial defense to survive.