Science: The Fat Boys

A pre-Columbian mystery

They are big and roly-poly, with human heads and torsos but no sexual markings. Standing majestically in the town plaza of La Democracia (pop. 2,000) in southern Guatemala, the dozen pre-Columbian statues were excavated from a nearby ceremonial site and are a favorite target of tourist cameras. Now the "Fat Boys," as they are called, are becoming objects of scientific curiosity as well.

Examining them with a hand compass earlier this year, Dartmouth Geographer Vincent H. Malmstrom found that its needle was sharply attracted whenever he held it to the...

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