Friday, 29 August 2014
Wednesday, 27 August 2014
The Siberian Times, 21 August 2014
By Anna Liesowska
21 August 2014
Elders in Altai Mountains vote to reinter mummy of ancient woman 'to stop her anger which causes floods and earthquakes'.
Known as 'Princess Ukok' after the plateau where her burial chamber was found by Russian scientists, the archeological discovery of her grave led to a leap in understanding of the Pazyryk people who lived before Christ in this remote mountainous region.
The Siberian Ice Maiden - aged around 25 and preserved in the permafrost at an altitude of around 2,500 metres - was found to have astonishing body artwork seen as the best preserved and most elaborate ancient tattoos anywhere in the world.
From her clothes and possessions including a 'cosmetics bag', scientists were able to recreate her fashion and beauty secrets, as our pictures show.
But local peoples from the Altai Republic, which borders Kazakhstan and Mongolia, have long objected to the fact that her burial mound was disturbed. They were also angered by a decision, after 19 years of academic research into her remains, to put her on display in a glass sarcophagus in a local museum.
Ancient beliefs say that the mummy's presence in the burial chamber was 'to bar the entrance to the kingdom of the dead'.
By removing this mummy, also known as Oochy-Bala, the elders contend that 'the entrance remains open'.
'Today, we honour the sacred beliefs of our ancestors like three millennia ago,' said one elder. 'We have been burying people according to Scythian traditions. We want respect for our traditions'.
Campaigners including shamans in support of burial said: 'Naked and defenseless, Ooch-Bala is freezing from inexplicable shame'.
A statement stressed: 'Who puts up the naked corpse of their mother for public display? She knocks into our heart, seeking compassion. She is cold from evil indifference.'
Campaigners claimed that recent flooding in Altai - the worst in 50 years - and a series of earthquakes are the result of ancient anger at the grave being disturbed. In a landmark decision, a Council of Elders session on 18 August in regional capital Gorno-Altaisk, and attended by regional head Alexander Berdnikov, voted to reinter the mummy. There was only one dissenter.
'Because the council of elders took the decision, the mummy of this respected women will finally be buried,' said Akai Kine, a zaisan - or head of the kin - of the Teles ethnic group, participant at the council. 'The next step will be the adoption of a local law, on the basis of which it will happen. Another important step will be the preparation of clothing, utensils, and approval of the ritual burial.'
The aim will be to bury her in the appropriate manner though details remain sketchy.
The regional government, while stating the matter was unprecedented, acknowledged that the reburial will now in all probability go ahead, though it remains to be seen how the federal authorities in Russia will react to the decision.
Oksana Yeremeeva, head of information and public affairs for the Altai Republic, said: 'It is correct the Council of Elders took such a decision, but can you for example bury some vase from Hermitage Museum? Of course not. The mummy, though it can sound quite rude, is still a museum exhibit, that is we cannot just bury it, no-one has done such things before.'
She added: 'The decision of Council of Elders is very respectable, but we cannot implement it immediately. We as officials should work out the way to implement it, think about the steps we need to take to make it possible.'
Asked if ultimately the aim was to implement the elders' wishes, she said: 'Yes, we are working on this now.'
She suggested that possibly Ukok mummy could be buried at a museum dedicated to her. In ancient times the princess had been buried on the Ukok Plateau.
'At the moment we need to do a lot of work in this direction,' Oksana Yeremeeva said.
Andrey Belyaev, deputy Minister of Culture in the Altai Republic, said: 'At the moment we did not get any instructions on this.'
A complicating factor might be plans by Gazprom to locate a huge gas pipeline supplying China through this mountainous region. Experts have also pointed out that despite the strong feeling among native groups to Altai, the mummy is not believed to be genetically linked to people now living in the region.
The mummy was excavated by Novosibirsk scientist Natalia Polosmak in 1993 and was seen as 'one of the most significant archeological discoveries at the close of the 20th century', reported Itar-Tass.
She is now kept at the Republican National Museum in capital Gorno-Altaisk but is not currently on display in a specially built glass sarcophagus.
For the past 19 years, since her discovery, she was kept mainly at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk, apart from a period in Moscow when her remains were treated by the same scientists who preserve the body of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin.
Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, perhaps more likely a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman than an ice princess.
There, too, was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold. And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander.
'Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated, and the most beautiful,' said Dr Polosmak. 'More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps - but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks'.
'It is a phenomenal level of tattoo art. Incredible’.
The lone voice against the move in the Council of Elders was Boris Alushkin, former El Bashchi (Public Leader) of the Altai people, currently head of the Regional Union of Journalists.
'I know the traditions and beliefs of Altai people,' he said. 'Like any other people they believe that the deceased have to be buried, including those who were great leaders. But the Altai region government allowed the archeological works. They knew about this very rare find and they took it back after all necessary scientific works.
'Moreover, they found money to build a museum in which to place the princess with great ceremonies. And after very little time this question is raised again, in the middle of an election campaign in the Republic. My position is that we may consider burying the princess, but we must not hurry with the decision right now'.
Academics restart work to unlock secrets of mystery medieval civilization with links to Persia on edge of the Siberian Arctic.
The 34 shallow graves excavated by archeologists at Zeleniy Yar throw up many more questions than answers. But one thing seems clear: this remote spot, 29 km shy of the Arctic Circle, was a trading crossroads of some importance around one millennium ago.
The medieval necropolis include 11 bodies with shattered or missing skulls, and smashed skeletons. Five mummies were found to be shrouded in copper, while also elaborately covered in reindeer, beaver, wolverine or bear fur. Among the graves is just one female, a child, her face masked by copper plates. There are no adult women.
Nearby were found three copper masked infant mummies - all males. They were bound in four or five copper hoops, several centimeters wide.
Similarly, a red-haired man was found, protected from chest to foot by copper plating. In his resting place, was an iron hatchet, furs, and a head buckle made of bronze depicting a bear.
The feet of the deceased are all pointing towards the Gorny Poluy River, a fact which is seen as having religious significance. The burial rituals are unknown to experts.
Artifacts included bronze bowls originating in Persia, some 3,700 miles to the south-west, dating from the tenth or eleventh centuries. One of the burials dates to 1282, according to a study of tree rings, while others are believed to be older.
The researchers found by one of the adult mummies an iron combat knife, silver medallion and a bronze bird figurine. These are understood to date from the seventh to the ninth centuries.
Unlike other burial sites in Siberia, for example in the permafrost of the Altai Mountains, or those of the Egyptian pharaohs, the purpose did not seem to be to mummify the remains, hence the claim that their preservation until modern times was an accident.
The soil in this spot is sandy and not permanently frozen.A combination of the use of copper, which prevented oxidation, and a sinking of the temperature in the 14th century, is behind the good condition of the remains today.
Natalia Fyodorova, of the Ural branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: 'Nowhere in the world are there so many mummified remains found outside the permafrost or the marshes.
'It is a unique archaeological site. We are pioneers in everything from taking away the object of sandy soil (which has not been done previously) and ending with the possibility of further research.'
In 2002, archeologists were forced to halt work at the site due to objections by locals on the Yamal peninsula, a land of reindeer and energy riches known to locals as 'the end of the earth'.
The experts were disturbing the souls of their ancestors, they feared. However, work is underway again, including a genetic study of the remains headed by Alexander Pilipenko, research fellow of Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Fyodorova suggests that the smashing of the skulls may have been done soon after death 'to render protection from mysterious spells believed to emanate from the deceased'.
With work underway again, archeologists hope for clearer answers.
Tuesday, 26 August 2014
In this Therese Schoofs Memorial Lecture, Asian Art Museum Docent, Julia Verzhbinsky, discusses the discovery of the "black city" of Khara Khoto.
January 10, 2014 Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Eighth Annual Leon Levy Lecture Sponsored by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation
06 November 2014, 06:00 PM2nd Floor Lecture Hall
Jessica Rawson (University of Oxford)
While ancient Chinese ritual implements were made of bronze and jade, the peoples of the steppe favoured gold and iron, most especially from 700 BC. The talk will discuss cultural boundaries between the Chinese and their steppe neighbours. Major archaeological discoveries at Majiayuan in Gansu province, where large tombs have been excavated, have enabled a reassessment of the ways in which these two groups interacted; there the occupants, outsiders with links to the steppe, were decked in gold, silver and beads; they carried iron weapons and were accompanied into the afterlife by chariots and horse and cattle heads. Such groups introduced gold and iron to the Chinese of the Central Plains, who took over these materials, but used them in new ways. The Chinese did not favour solid gold, but gilded their bronzes vessels and luxurious bronze chariot parts; iron they cast, rather than working it cold, as their neighbours did. This major technological innovation, used for tools in particular, encouraged the opening up of new lands for agriculture. As they had before, over many centuries, the Chinese and their northern neighbours remained distinct and separate.
Seating is limited, registration required to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Rawson is Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology in the Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology Art and Culture in the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford. She graduated from Cambridge University in History and from London University in Chinese Language and Literature. She became Deputy Keeper of the Department of Oriental Antiquities in 1976 and Keeper of the Department in 1987. Prior to her current position, she was Warden of Merton College, Oxford University 1994-2010.
Profesor Rawson was appointed a Fellow of the British Academy in 1990 and elected a member the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012. She is an Advisor to the Centre of Ancient Civilisations, Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Science.
Her current work concerns major changes in Chinese material culture as a consequences of interactions with Siberia and Inner Asia in the Zhou, Qin and Han period (1000BC – AD200) and she has also written extensively on Tang dynasty (AD 618 – 906) silver and ceramics, and especially on Chinese ornament and design. She currently holds a five year (2011-2016) Leverhulme Trust grant on China and Inner Asia, 1000-200 BC: Interactions that Changed China.
Reception to follow
Event is open to the public
By Ksenia Lugovskaya
First exclusive pictures inside the grave of 'giant' warlord horseman who held sway in the 11th century but lost his left arm in his final battle.
The remains of the fearsome warrior - who towered some 25 centimetres over his peers - were unearthed by archeologists near Omsk in an ancient burial mound. Experts are intrigued by his death mask and the elaborate nature of his grave which indicates his importance.
Nicknamed 'Bogatyr' or 'Great Warrior', he is believed to have been trained in combat since childhood. He was buried with the massive fang of a bear embedded in his nose, seen as a sign of his strength and power.
A decorated mirror - a bronze plate - lay on his chest, inside a birch bark cover. The mirror was evidently a tool to communicate with the gods.
In the grave, too, were 25 war arrows - which are still sharp today - and bronze tools.
Archeologist Mikhail Korusenko who led the expedition to the Muromtsevsky district of Omsk region told The Siberian Times the find came as his team were about to complete fifth season of work.
'We had almost finished our research and suddenly this warrior decided to meet with us,' he said, calling the discovery a 'milestone' and a 'sensational find'.
The pictures of the skeleton, shown here, were taken at the burial site. The image shows how archeologists believe warriors such as this 'Bogatyr' looked at this time. His death mask originally comprising fabric included caskets made of birch bark covering the eye sockets and mouth.
Inside the caskets were metal figurines of fish with their heads broken off.
By his feet lay a bronze cauldron with the remains of food to nourish him in the afterlife.
Close by were remains of leather and fur, perhaps part of his costume or from the quiver decorations on his arrows.
'We found 25 arrowheads - armour-piercing and diamond shaped, made from metal and bone,' said the academic, a candidate of historical sciences, from the Omsk branch of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
'Some of them were clearly of military purpose. Behind his skull we found a ringed bridle' - a sign that the warrior was an accomplished horseman.
'It is interesting that the fish figures were cast as one, and then broken in two. It was an intentional action, definitely. Perhaps, it had some religious importance. Then, next to his nose was the fang of big predator, a bear, this beast being traditionally associated with strength, power and warriors.'
'Our warrior was killed in the battle. His left arm was severed in battle and placed near the body, and his shoulder was broken. But he was buried according to ritual which means he was a respected person. All the elements of the ritual give us an opportunity to discover historical and political conditions of the epoch the warrior lived in'.
He is believed to have been around the age of 40 when he died, and was a member of the indigenous Khanty and Mansi peoples, though at 180 cm in height was significantly taller than most Siberian natives of this period.
'There was a mirror on his chest, made as a metal plate. Usually such mirrors were worn as amulets, as a tool to communicate with gods.
'I am doubtful he was a shaman himself. Rather he was very important man. We called him 'Bogatyr' (great warrior), and there is a connection with folklore.
'This man belonged to the tribes that were the ancestors of modern Khanty and Mansi peoples; usually small, these tribes had to protect their borders and often had few men of outstanding physical condition. Our man was about 180 cm tall, which was very tall for those times.
The items found in the grave, and the remains of his lower arm and hand buried with the rest of the corpse, but severed from it, indicate this Siberian hero perished in battle.
'There is no doubt that the burial belonged to Ust-Ishim culture, the historical ancestors of modern Khanty and Mansi people,' Mikhail Korusenko said.
'The first studies we made allow us to date the burial to approximately 11th-12th centuries AD. It is a truly unique find which would allow us to fill pages about not only the cultural, but the military history of this part of the region, as we know very little about this particular period of time.'
by Sören Stark — Aug 25, 2014
ISAW’s project investigating the Ancient and Medieval defense system of the Bukhara oasis, directed by Sören Stark, began its 2014 field season on June 30th (in cooperation with the Uzbek Academy of Sciences). Apart from members of the ISAW community, our team consists of specialists from Uzbekistan, Germany and Russia.
This year we started excavating a new site (today called Adzhvandi-tepa) at the eastern fringes of the oasis. As a fortified border town, it caught our attention prior to excavation because of its circular citadel, which is unique in the region. So far we have exposed a substantial 5th century CE outer ring of fortifications in an excellent state of preservation, with rectangular towers at regular intervals, and a checkerboard pattern of arrow slits spread over the entire façade. As we continued to excavate we were surprised to find that an inner ring of towers had preceded this outer ring of fortifications, anticipating most architectural features of the outer ring wall, but—according to the associated ceramic material—dating to the 4th century CE. The fortifications of this older phase also appear to be in an excellent state of preservation, making them one of the best-preserved 4th century fortifications in this part of Central Asia. The site appears to have great potential to substantially improve our knowledge of one of the most enigmatic periods in the history of Western Central Asia: the transitional era between Antiquity and the early Middle Ages that witnessed substantial upheaval and change over the course of the ‘Hunnic invasions’ into Sogdiana.
In order to complement stationary excavations at Adzhvandi-tepa we also initiated an UAV based aerial survey this year, conducted by the team of the Archaeocopter project team at the University of Applied Sciences, Dresden—one of the first of its kind in this part of Central Asia. During the course of our survey we documented a total of 12 border fortresses (plus the famous 11th century mosque at Degaron), resulting in detailed 3-D models for each of them.