Guatemalan “potbelly” sculptures have suggested people knew about magnetism more than 2,000 years ago.
People who lived some 2,000 years ago near the Pacific Coast – what is now Guatemala – made giant human-like sculptures with magnetised foreheads, cheeks and navels.
Now new research has provided the first detailed looks at how these sculpted body parts were intentionally placed within magnetic fields on large rocks – left to be struck by lightening bolts.
Harvard University geoscientist Roger Fu and his team who did the research have suggested that lightening probably struck large sections of borders that were later carved into the rotund figures- known as potbellies – as the Guatemalan site of Monte Alto.
Artisans may have held naturally magnetised mineral chunks near iron-rich, basalt boulders to find areas in the rock where magnetic forces pushed back, the scientists said in the June Journal of Archaeological Science.
Predesignated parts of potbelly figures — which can stand more than 2 meters tall and weigh 10,000 kilograms or more — were then carved at those spots.
The researchers studied 11 potbelly sculptures, six heads and five bodies.
More than 127 potbelly sculptures have been found at sites in Mesoamerica – an ancient cultural region that runs from central Mexico through much of Central America.
Handheld sensors also confirmed a 1997 report that magnetic signals occurred over the right temple and cheek of three colossal heads from Monte Alto.
The sensors also detected magnetism near the navels of four body sculptures.