|Without a Rope

On June 3, 2017, Alex Honnold free soloed – which means without ropes or safety gear – the Freerider route on El Capitan, Yosemite’s 3,000-foot southwest face. It’s a vertical obstacle course that can take veteran climbers using ropes several days to ascend. He completed the route in less than four hours. Honnold spent nearly a decade thinking about the climb and more than a year choreographing thousands of precise moves to get through a gantlet of physical and nerve-testing challenges.

An image of Alex Honnold’s chalk-covered hands, following one of his practice climbs. Honnold completed a historic free solo climb up the 3,000-foot southwest face of El Capitan in June 2017.

Honnold inspects his hands after completing a practice session on El Capitan. For a free soloist, finger strength can mean the difference between life and death.

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|The Mysterious Ritual Killing of the Children of Chimú

More than 500 years ago in what is now Peru, the Chimú people killed 269 boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 14 in shocking rituals. Why? Ancient texts, including the Hebrew Bible, attest to the practice of child sacrifice, but clear evidence of mass killings of children is rare. And reconstructing events at Huanchaquito is difficult, mainly because archaeologists and historians know very little about the Chimú. Theirs may be the greatest empire that few have ever heard of. Did their costly offering bring relief from the flooding rains? It’s impossible to know, but the disturbing event may be a window into the last, desperate years of a dying empire. Join now ›

A headdress of macaw feathers adorns the skull of a child sacrificed 500 years ago by the Chimú people of Peru. Researchers say the headdress indicates this youth may haver been from an elite family.

A headdress of macaw feathers adorns the skull of a sacrificed child who had shoulder-length hair. Many of the children were buried alongside very young llamas and possibly alpacas – the Andean animals were among the Chimú’s most valuable assets.


|Too Many Roos

Australia has a complicated relationship with its national symbol. Kangaroos are among the world’s most iconic, charismatic species. And Australians are demonstrably proud of them. Kangaroos star in movies and TV shows, poems and children’s books. Their images adorn the country’s currency, coat of arms, commercial airlines, naval vessels, Olympic insignia, and athletic uniforms. To outsiders, the big-footed, fat-tailed, perky-eared creatures are a stand-in for the country itself: Australia means roos, and roos mean Australia. There may be no animal and nation in the world more closely identified.

But with more than twice as many kangaroos as people in Australia, many Aussies consider them pests that destroy crops and cause car accidents. Driven by droughts, groups of roos (called mobs) are increasingly coming into contact with humans. Join now ›

Two young male kangaroos in a boxing match near Grampians National Park in Victoria. Kangaroos can use their tail for balance and kick with both feet. Resembling human boxers, kangaroos often spar a lot before they actually fight.

The image of a “boxing” kangaroo first appeared in an 1891 cartoon inspired by exhibitions that pitted man against roo. Here, two young males duke it out near Grampians National Park in Victoria.


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