Monday, February 18, 2008

Egyptian Warrior Tomb Found in Luxor


Scientists have found the unique well-preserved tomb of an ancient warrior in an Egyptian necropolis on the western bank of Luxor.

The burial chamber found in the ancient Dra Abul Naga cemetery contained a mummy, a wooden coffin and five arrows made of reed, the National Geographic reported.

Archeologists say the tomb belonged to a high-ranking official who served during Egypt's 11th dynasty, when soldiers played an important role in society.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Excavation of 2500-year-old city continues at Bhubaneswar, India

"Archaeologists have dug out the remains of a 2,500-year-old fortified city at Bhubaneswar, which they believe was bigger than classical Athens.

According to researchers, they have come across a number of artefacts and structures that throw light on the existence of a flourishing urban life during the pre-historic period, which is testimony to the rich civilization of Orissa.

Eighteen pillars were found among the remnants of the grand city at Sishupalgarh, a ruined fortification first discovered 60 years ago.

Excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and scholars from universities were resumed in 2001.

Excavation has revealed that people inhabited the city was in occupation from the beginning of the third century BC till the middle of the fourth century AD.

The findings of debris of household pottery and terracotta ornaments pointed to an advanced lifestyle and the surface architecture like streets linking the gateways and water storage facilities indicated a huge urban set-up. The polished potteries even have ownership marks on them."

Oldest Human Sacrifice Site in Africa discovered north of Khartoum

French archaeologists in Sudan say they have uncovered the oldest proof of human sacrifice in Africa, hailing the discovery as the biggest Neolithic find on the continent for years.

The tomb of a 5 500-year-old man surrounded by three sacrificed humans, two dogs and exquisite ceramics were exhumed north of Khartoum by Neolithic expert Jacques Reinhold and his 66-year-old Austrian wife.

"This is the oldest proof of human sacrifice in Sudan, in Egypt, in Africa," Reinhold told reporters next to the remains in El Kadada village, a three-hour drive north of the Sudanese capital.

"I don't know of another example in Africa at this level...We don't have anything as strong in other excavations in other countries," said Reinhold, as villagers in traditional white robes carefully scrapped earth into buckets.

The archaeologist, who has led the excavation for several months, described the tomb as the most important Neolithic find in Africa since the 1990s.

That period - which Reinhold calls the first global revolution - marks the period when man evolved from hunter gatherers into farmers and producers, forever changing the structure of human society.

He says the find is nearly 1 000 years older what many consider Sudan's most spectacular discoveries of human sacrifice - scores of bodies buried together..."

"...The French team said that urns, materials used to grind wheat into flour, beeds and bracelets also uncovered at the site will be donated to the National Museum in Khartoum."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Karatepe seldom visited World Heritage site in Turkey


"Sometimes known as Aslantaş, the Lion Stone, Karatepe has an advantage for the visitor over many of the larger, more frequented sites. Troy, for example, is famously complex. The earliest remains date back to 3600 B.C., but it was a thriving city and part of the Roman Empire as late as A.D. 300. This breadth of history is fascinating but bewildering -- is this section of city wall I'm looking at Bronze Age, Hellenistic, Classical Greek -- or Roman? Karatepe's delight is that its history is so succinct. Confined to the ninth and eighth centuries B.C., archaeologists have found nothing either pre or post dating this brief period. Before you visit Karatepe, you may well know next to nothing about the so-called Neo-Hittite people who built and occupied this beautiful, wooded hilltop 1,800 years ago. But the site's very simplicity gently draws you and insistently tugs you to find out more.

So, who were the Neo-Hittites? The "golden age" of the Hittite Empire, centered around the imperial "capital" at Hattuşa, on the Anatolian plateau east of Ankara, lasted from around 1800 to 1200 B.C. On its collapse, the lands of the former empire dissolved into a number of independent city-states. These smaller entities are now termed Neo-Hittite. One of these was centered on the fertile Çukurova Plain around Adana. In the eighth century, its ruler was a king called Azatiwatas. He clearly thought he was special, as an inscription carved into the back of a statue found on the site reveals:

I am indeed Azitawatas,

The blessed of the sun, the servant of the Storm-God….

The Storm-God made me father and mother to the city of Adanawa,

And I developed the city of Adanawa,

And I enlarged the land of Adanawa, both to the west and to the east,

And in my days the city of Adanawa had prosperity,

Satiety and comfort, and I filled the arsenals of Pahara,

I added horse upon horse, shield upon shield,

Army upon army, all for the Storm-God and the Gods….

I brought prosperity to my race….

I built mighty fortresses on all my borders…

The last line quoted above is pertinent to the site. It seems Karatepe was one of the outlying fortresses built by the rulers of Adanawa (Adana) to protect their borders. Although formidable, the wall of the Toros Mountains to the north was not impregnable. From that direction wild people, such as the Scythians, posed a threat. Ironically, though, it was the Assyrians from the southeast who brought about the end the Neo-Hittite kingdoms around 700 B.C.

Karatepe then, was a citadel. Around a kilometer in circumference, its walls ran in an irregular oval around the top of a hill, which dominated the valley of the Ceyhan River. The lower courses of wall were stone, the upper mud brick. The citadel was entered by one of two T-shaped gates piercing, respectively, the southwestern and northeastern walls. Both were reached by sloping ramps and protected by flanking towers. The walk up to the southwest gate from the parking lot half a kilometer below is delightful, with the rough track dappled by sunlight, birds chattering away in the mixed woodland and the fierce heat of this part of Turkey tempered by altitude, shade and breeze. Occasional views across the soft, undulating foothills and the blue waters of the Aslantaş reservoir are beautiful..."

"...in 1947 excavations commenced. Over the next few years the wonders of Karatepe were slowly revealed -- the walls, the gateways, statues of a sphinx, lions and the magnificent statue of the Hittite storm-god Tarhunzas, astride a pair of bulls. Perhaps most evocative are the relief carvings which show scenes from mythology, war and everyday life. Thanks to the dedication of [archaeologist Halet] Çambel, all these statues and carvings have remained in situ, as they were in the days of Azatiwatas, and not carted off to the museum in Ankara..."

"...Derided by some as crude and primitive, the relief carvings have a charm and vibrancy, which helps us to imagine the people who lived here as ordinary human beings. The relief of a man on a chair is the king, but he is touchingly ordinary, sitting there with a meat patty in one hand, reaching out greedily for more. One relief shows a woman suckling a child beneath a date palm, others show musicians, sailors and warriors, hunters and servants.

It will probably only take you a couple of hours to wander around Karatepe, but everything you see is remarkable. The Semitic and hieroglyphic "writing," liberally scrawled over the carvings, enabled linguists to crack the Hittite code -- making them Turkey's own Rosetta Stone."

Friday, February 08, 2008

Pre-Zeus Altar discovered on Mount Lykaion

"Before Zeus hurled his first thunderbolt from Olympus, the pre-Greek people occupying the land presumably paid homage and offered sacrifices to their own gods and goddesses, whose nature and identities are unknown to scholars today.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

MYSTERY RELIGION From left, Dan Diffendale, Dr. Arthur Rhon and Arvey Basa at Mount Lykaion’s altar of Zeus.

But archaeologists say they have now found the ashes, bones and other evidence of animal sacrifices to some pre-Zeus deity on the summit of Mount Lykaion, in the region of Greece known as Arcadia. The remains were uncovered last summer at an altar later devoted to Zeus.

Fragments of a coarse, undecorated pottery in the debris indicated that the sacrifices might have been made as early as 3000 B.C., the archaeologists concluded. That was about 900 years before Greek-speaking people arrived, probably from the north in the Balkans, and brought their religion with them..."

Shakespeare's Death Mask and Comparisons to other representations is subject of book


Two years ago I posted an abstract from an article about the controversy surrounding a death mask identified as William Shakespeare. I recently received an email from University of Mainz academic Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, who is a champion of the mask, pointing out that she has written a book about the mask entitled "The True Face of William Shakespeare. The Poet's Death Mask and Likenesses from Three Periods of His Life". In it, she explains the scientific methods she used to analyze the mask and compare it to four Shakespearean portraits.

She also includes information about how the portraits and mask point to the cause of Shakespeare's early death at 52 years old.

"By combining exhaustive academic research with the latest technology and collaborating over
many years with specialists from the most varied disciplines - including forensic experts from the German Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BKA=CID), Professors of Medicine, 3D imaging engineers, archivists and an expert on old masters - Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel has proved the authenticity of the Chandos portrait, the Darmstadt
death mask and the Flower portrait (recently incorrectly dismissed as a ‘fake’ by the National
Portrait Gallery, as shown by the author's latest evidence). Her revolutionary research has also
authenticated another true face of Shakespeare - the Davenant bust. This haunting sculpture has resided in the Garrick Club since 1855 and was thought to be the work of an eighteenth century sculptor. According to the author’s new documentary sources, it derives from the collection of Sir William Davenant (1606-1668), Shakespeare’s godson, who also owned the Chandos portrait.

By tracing the development of certain signs of illness in each of the images, first noticed by
Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, the author’s medical experts have identified and verified the most probable cause of Shakespeare’s death. The conspicuous growth on the upper left eyelid, they interpreted as Mikulicz Syndrome (a probably cancerous abnormality of the tear glands), the swelling in the nasal corner of the left eye as a fine caruncular tumour, and the considerable swelling on the forehead (in conjunction with the other pathological symptoms) as systemic sarcoidosis, an inner disease that affects the organs and takes a very protracted course, but proves to be fatal."

Professor Hammerschmidt-Hummel has also written a comprehensive biography of William Shakespeare that was released in October 2007.

"In this extraordinary study, Professor Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel sets the great English playwright firmly in his time and reveals his deep involvement in the dramatic political events of the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. After coming to the throne, Queen Elizabeth I made Anglicanism, a version of the Protestant faith, the official State religion. Catholicism was to be eradicated within her own lifetime. Brutal persecution of priests and believers in the Old
Religion followed, and they were forced to go underground or into exile. This background of
religious ferment meant that, due to their potentially explosive content, nearly half of
Shakepeare’s works could not be published during his lifetime, only becoming public seven
years after his death. Hammerschmidt-Hummel demonstrates how this turbulent religious and
political backdrop is the key to understanding so many of the secrets and puzzles of Shakespeare’s life and work.

Who were Shakespeare’s friends and enemies? What did he do during his ‘lost years’? How did
he manage to become the most influential writer in England in such a short time? What did his
contemporaries think and write about him? Why did he stop writing comedies, suddenly
producing mainly tragedies and problem plays? Is Hamlet, the tragedy of a great Prince in a
rotten State, a reflection of the dramatic and tragic events at the end of the Elizabethan age?
And why did Shakespeare fail to write one word of homage to the dead Queen after her 45-year
reign? Professor Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel answers these and other key questions
in this comprehensive and groundbreaking biography of William Shakespeare. "

Professor Hammerschmidt-Hummel's website: http://www.hammerschmidt-hummel.de

Monday, February 04, 2008

Petrie Finds to be displayed at Columbia Museum of Art (South Carolina)

"One swings down a rope ladder for 25 feet, then squeezes through the top of a doorway nearly choked with debris, and at once slides down the slope inside into the water," wrote William Flinders Petrie of his 1888 excavation of a flooded tomb in the heart of an ancient Egyptian pyramid. "The whole of the walls are pitch-black, owing to some deposit or growth when the water has filled the chambers. So it is very dark and the candle only just shows you where you collide with floating coffins and skulls that go bobbing around."

The text reads like a dramatic scene from an Indiana Jones movie adventure, but Petrie, whom many regard as the Father of Scientific Archaeology, was describing a moment that had become almost commonplace in his extraordinary career. For more than 60 years, from 1880 when at the age of 27 he first traveled to Egypt to survey the pyramids at Giza to 1942 when he died in Jerusalem, the redoubtable Petrie dominated the discipline of field archaeology and amassed a vast collection of artifacts, many of which he brought back to England and to University College, London, where he was a professor.

As a result of his efforts and the generous bequests of other patrons, the permanent collection of what is now called the Petrie Museum numbers approximately 80,000 items. For a limited time, while a new building is constructed in London to showcase the collection, about 200 of Petrie's most significant finds are on view in the United States. Organized by the Petrie Museum in collaboration with the Carlos Museum at Emory University, "Excavating Egypt," an exhibition devoted to these extraordinary finds, can now be seen at the Columbia Museum of Art..."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

More golden mummies found at El Faiyum


"Four ancient tombs containing well-preserved mummies and ornate painted coffins have been unearthed at El Faiyum, an oasis about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Cairo (see map).

This gold-painted mask—photographed November 21, 2007—was found on a female mummy, a rare treasure for a site known to be a frequent target for modern-day grave robbers.

The mask was the first of its kind found at the El Faiyum site, an ancient "city of the dead" known as Deir el-Banat, offering hope to archaeologists that more valuable antiquities await discovery there." - National Geographic News

Friday, February 01, 2008

Human sacrifice in early China

I found this article not only interesting from an archaeological perspective but from a cultural development view. I did not realize that human sacrifice was practiced in China up to the 17th century CE.

"A 2,500-year-old tomb containing nearly four dozen victims of human sacrifice has been excavated in eastern China, yielding a treasure trove of precious artifacts and new insights into ritual customs during the era of Confucius, archaeologists say.

The tomb was discovered in January 2007 after police caught looters plundering the site in the province of Jiangxi (see map), said Xu Changqing, who heads the excavation team. Ancient Chinese tomb and sword picture

The burial chamber was constructed for the patriarch of an aristocratic family and contains 47 dead buried side by side, Xu said.

Among the most impressive artifacts found in the tomb is a black, gold, and blood-red sword inscribed with pictures of dragons. Xu described it as "the most beautiful and best-preserved sword ever found in this part of China."

Also discovered among the dead were gold and bronze artifacts, along with elaborate silk gowns.

But the most startling discovery was that "most of those buried had been sacrificed to accompany their master into the afterlife," said Xu, a scholar at the Archaeology Institute of Jiangxi.

Some aristocrats arranged for the sacrifice of their servants, their concubines, or others closest to them upon their death so they could travel together into the next life, he said.

"At that time, some ruling elite believed that they could lead afterlives similar to their lives here on Earth," he explained..."

"...The practice of human sacrifice is recorded in China's earliest writings, dating back as far as the Shang dynasty 4,000 years ago, experts say.

"According to the pictographs archaeologists have been able to decipher, there were in the Shang era 37 categories of blood and food sacrifices," said Herbert Plutschow, an expert on China's Shang dynasty at UCLA.

But around the time the Jiangxi tomb was being built, the philosopher Confucius began denouncing human sacrifice and called for the practice to be banned..."