Tlaloque 1 is only 12 by 20 inches and 8 in height. It could be Pixar Wall-e’s little brother, with its 4x4 traction and 2 remote-controlled camcorders that are able to do 360 degree turns; one at the front and the other at the back. Tlaloque 1 has its own illumination source and transmits images to a computer monitor in the exterior.
In an exceptional breakthrough at the famed Teotihuacan ruins in México, this nifty gizmo has discovered a 2000 year old tunnel under an ancient temple; with a perfectly carved arch roof and intact structure, the tunnel appears stable enough to enter, archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) announced Wednesday.
The first images of the interior of the tunnel found under the Feathered Serpent Temple, in Teotihuacan, were presented to the ecstatic media, since this groundbreaking investigation might very well be the first robotic exploration in Mexico, and probably in the Americas.
Studies show the tunnel beneath the temple dates back to AD 200 – 250; it has withstood for almost two millenniums, on the basis of ancient technology.
The robot was designed and built especially for this investigation by engineer in Robotics Hugo Armando Guerra Calva, who obtained his degree at the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico (IPN). Fifteen days ago the first tests were conducted and it worked well, but we noticed that we needed to reduce the height of the devise and provide it with more potent lamps” said archaeologist Sergio Gomez, who added that the footage captured by the machine showed the arched-roof tunnel was an example of sophisticated work by the ancient inhabitants of Teotihuacan, which is located just north of modern Mexico City. “All of the passage, more than 100 meters (yards) long was excavated in the rock perfectly, and in some places you can even see the marks of the tools the people of Teotihuacan used to make it,” said Gomez
The scanner images appear to show chambers that branch off the tunnel and archaeologists think they may hold the tombs of some of the ancient city’s early rulers; a discovery of this nature would be significant, because the social structure of Teotihuacan remains a mystery after nearly 100 years of archaeological exploration at the site, which is best known for the towering Pyramids of the Moon and the Sun.
Although the tunnel was intentionally filled up with rocks and debris a long time ago, Tlaloque 1 was able to cover a few meters through a 25 centimeters high space. “In the first test the robot advanced a few meters through a small space between the vault and the debris used to fill the tunnel. Images were very important to determine the conditions of the interior: the conduct was excavated in the rock; in some parts, the marks of tools used by Teotihuacan masons are still evident. The roof presents an arched form, and, at least the part explored by the robot, appears stable, giving us many possibilities to explore it physically in the next weeks”. Excavations must be conducted in order to clear the entrance, but Gomez is hopeful, “We calculate we will be able to enter the tunnel in early December 2010.”
The tunnel was discovered in late 2003 by archaeologists Sergio Gomez and Julie Gazzola, but its exploration has required years of planning and resource negotiation so the most advanced technology can be used. A laser scanner device, which belongs to the INAH National Coordination of Historical Monuments, has also been used to conduct the 3-dimensional register of the tunnel.
“Studies conducted with geo radar by Dr. Victor Manuel Velasco, from the Geo Physics Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), have detected 3 chambers in which the remains of important personages of the city might have been buried; this hypothesis must be confirmed with exploration”.