Archeology and History of the Silk Road

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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Sacrificed Humans Discovered Among Prehistoric Tombs in China

The skeleton of an adult female who is facing toward the northwest was discovered among the prehistoric tombs in China. Much of her skeleton below the abdomen is destroyed.
The skeleton of an adult female who is facing toward the northwest was discovered among the prehistoric tombs in China. Much of her skeleton below the abdomen is destroyed.
Credit: Courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.


A prehistoric cemetery containing hundreds of tombs, some of which held sacrificed humans, has been discovered near Mogou village in northwestern China.
The burials date back around 4,000 years, before writing was developed in the area. In just one archaeological field season — between August and November 2009 — almost 300 tombs were excavated, and hundreds more were found in other seasons conducted between 2008 and 2011.
The tombs were dug beneath the surface of the ground and were oriented toward the Northwest. Some of the tombs had small chambers where finely crafted pottery was placed near the deceased. Archaeologists also found that mounds of sediment covered some of the tombs, which could have marked the location of these tombs. [See Images of the Ancient Tombs and Artifacts in China]

Within the tombs, archaeologists found entire families buried together, their heads also facing the Northwest. They were buried with a variety of goods, including necklaces, weapons and decorated pottery. 
Human sacrifices were also evident in the burials. In one tomb, "the human sacrifice was placed on its side with limbs bent and its face toward the tomb chamber. The bones are relatively well preserved, and the individual's age at death is estimated at around 13 years," archaeologists wrote in a paper published recently in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

Predicting the future
A pot found in one of the tombs is decorated with a string of o's.
A pot found in one of the tombs is decorated with a string of o's.
Credit: Courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.
The goods found in the tombs included pottery decorated with incised designs. In some cases, the potter made numerous incisions shaped like the letter "O," with the O's forming patterns on the vessel. Sometimes, instead of making O's, the potter would incise wavy lines near the top of the pot.
The researchers also discovered artifacts that could have been used as weapons. Bronze sabers were found that researchers say could have been used for cutting. They also found stone mace heads. (A mace is a blunt weapon that can smash a person's skull in.) Axes, daggers and knives were also found in the tombs.
Archaeologists also found what they call "bone divination lots," or artifacts that could have been used in rituals aimed at predicting the future. Bone divination was practiced widely throughout the ancient world. In fact, when writing was developed in China centuries later, some of the earliest texts were written on bones used for divination.

Qijia culture
Most of the tombs belong to the Qijia culture, whose people used artifacts with similar designs and lived in the upper Yellow River valley.
"Qijia culture sites are found in a broad area along all of the upper Yellow River as well as its tributaries, the Huangshui, Daxia, Wei, Tao and western Hanshui rivers," Chen Honghai, a professor at Northwestern University in China, wrote in a chapter of the book "A Companion to Chinese Archaeology" (Wiley, 2013).
Honghai wrote that people from the Qijia culture lived in a somewhat arid area. To adjust to these conditions, the Qijia people grew millet, a cereal suited to a dry environment; and raised a variety of animals, including pigs, sheep and goats.
People from the Qijia culture lived in modest settlements (smaller than 20 acres), in houses that were often partially buried beneath the ground. "Remains of buildings are mainly square or rectangular, and they are usually semi-subterranean. The doors usually point south, identical to the current local custom of building houses, as rooms on the sunny side receive more light and warmth," Honghai wrote.
Scientists aren't certain why the Qijia people engaged in human sacrifice or whom they sacrificed. They may have conquered other groups, enslaving and sacrificing them, Honghai said.

The team's report was initially published in Chinese in the journal Wenwu and focused on discoveries made between August and November 2009. Their report was translated into English and was published in the most recent edition of the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.
Ancient Mogou cemetery























A cemetery dating back around 4,000 years has been discovered near Mogou village in northwestern China. Archaeologists have excavated hundreds of tombs containing burials of entire families. This image shows part of one tomb the archaeologists found. The skeleton is of an adult female who is facing towards the northwest. Much of her skeleton below the abdomen is destroyed. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)

ancient Mogou cemetery










































In this tomb a small chamber filled with pottery was found beside the skeletons. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.
ancient Mogou cemetery



























This pot, found in the tomb with the small chamber, contains o-shaped incisions that form an elaborate design. It is handmade and made of red clay. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)

ancient Mogou cemetery





































Another pot, found in the same tomb, has two lines of o's encircling it. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)

ancient Mogou cemetery
























Different artifacts were found in other tombs. This image shows animal bones that would have been used for divination – rituals aimed at trying to predict the future. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)

ancient Mogou cemetery




























This ceramic vessel was found in another tomb and has two lines of o-shaped incisions near its narrow center. The lines encircle the vessel. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)

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Call mummified remains 2.500 years old Altai Princess to be reburied

The Siberian Times  26 May 2015

Elders claim mummy's absence has caused natural disasters and send new petition to Kremlin after first snub from Putin.
Thought to be about 25 years old when she died, she was found preserved in permafrost at an altitude of about 2,500 metres, with two men also discovered nearby. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya
Elders in the region where a tattooed princess was found preserved in permafrost have re-sent a petition to Vladimir Putin demanding she be immediately reinterred.
More than 22,000 people across the Altai Republic – 10 per cent of the population – signed a special 150-metre-long piece of canvas calling for the mummified remains put back in her final resting place.
They say that since her removal the area has been hit by a series of natural disasters and insist a reburial would 'stop her anger that caused floods and earthquakes'.
Ancient beliefs dictate that her presence in the burial chamber had been to 'bar the entrance to the kingdom of the dead'. Scientists say she lived more than 2,500 years ago, meaning she was alive five centuries before the birth of Christ.
Ukok mummy to be buried

Ukok mummy to be buried

Ukok mummy to be buried
More than 22,000 people across the Altai Republic – 10 per cent of the population – signed a special 150-metre-long piece of canvas calling for the mummified remains put back in her final resting place. Pictures: IA Regnum
Akai Kine, the zaisan (leader) of the Teles ethnic group, and president of the Spiritual Centre of the Turks Kin Altai, had sent the petition to the Russian President last year but decided to reissue it after hearing nothing back from the Kremlin.
It is also being forwarded to the head of the Altai Republic Alexander Berdnikov and the leadership of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
He said: 'Residents of Altai Republic are asking Vladimir Putin to rebury the body of the princess according to human traditions, taking into account the interests of science, in the sarcophagus at the site of her original burial. 
'Scientists will still be able to extract the body of the mummy from the tomb, if it’s necessary to carry out any research.'
In their letter to Mr Putin, the elders claim that scientists have a positions of disrespect to the citizens of the republic and the indigenous population.
Mausoleum for Ukok princess

Ukok mummy mausoleum
'Residents of Altai Republic are asking Vladimir Putin to rebury the body of the princess according to human traditions, taking into account the interests of science, in the sarcophagus at the site of her original burial.' Pictures: Spiritual Centre of the Turks Kin Altai
They add: 'We, the people of the Republic of Altai, do not want to be like children standing beside the body of our mother, and dividing, whose mother she is more.'
The tattooed mummy was excavated by Novosibirsk scientist Natalia Polosmak in 1993 and was heralded as 'one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century'.
Thought to be about 25 years old when she died, she was found preserved in permafrost at an altitude of about 2,500 metres, with two men also discovered nearby.
Known as Princess Ukok, buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled and said to have been her spiritual escorts to the next world.
Archaeologists also found ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold as well as a small container of cannabis and a stone plate on which coriander seeds were burned. From her clothes and possessions including a 'cosmetics bag', scientists were able to recreate her fashion and beauty secrets.
Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'
Once her body is finally returned to Altai, the local elders have plans to build a special mausoleum at her burial ground, on the pristine grasslands of the Ukok plateau. Pictures: Alexander Tyryshkin
Her head was completely shaved, and she wore a horse hair wig on top of which was a carving of a wooden deer. The princess's face and neck skin was not preserved, but the skin of her left arm survived.
But the most exciting discovery was her elaborate body art, which many observers said bore striking similarities to modern-day tattoos.
On her left shoulder was a fantastical mythological animal made up of a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. The antlers themselves were decorated with the heads of griffons.
The mouth of a spotted panther with a long tail could also be seen, and she had a deer’s head on her wrist.
Her remains spent most of the past two decades at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk, and are now at the Republican National Museum in Gorno-Altaisk. They have been treated by the same scientists who preserved the body of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin.
Once her body is finally returned to Altai, the local elders have plans to build a special mausoleum at her burial ground, on the pristine grasslands of the Ukok plateau.

Monday, 25 May 2015

1500 years old stolen Buddha head of white jade returned

CCTV May 23, 2015

An ancient jade Buddha statue has been reunited with its stolen head after an 18-year separation. A reunion ceremony was held at the Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. After the ceremony and an exhibition in Taiwan, the statue will be sent back to the mainland.

 

Highlights:
* Made of white jade, the sculpture dates back to the North Qi of the South and North Dynasties, between 550 AD and 557 AD.
* It was originally worshipped in North China’s Hebei Province, where the Buddha’s head was stolen in 1996.
* Master Hsing Yun, founder of the Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Taiwan, received a donation of a White Jade Buddha head in May 2014.
* To celebrate the reunion of the head and the body, an art exhibition of Buddhist statues from Hebei province is being held in Foguangshan.

 CCTV’S Ian Mickanau filed this report.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

New Gandhara Site Unearthed in Pakistan

Largest Buddha Death Scene in South Asia

Bhamala site
The recent excavation aimed to expose the remaining portions of the site and to reconfirm that it dates back to the 7th century AD.
A 14-meter-tall statue depicting the death of Buddha made of kanjur stone was discovered last month during a 12-week excavation at the World Heritage Site of Bhamala in northwest Pakistan.
Bhamala is a historical village in the Taxila valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province in northwest Pakistan.
The archeological site, which was erected by the ancient Gandhara Kingdom, is located along the northernmost part of the right bank of Haro River.
Taxila valley was included on the list of World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1980.
The Bhamala Buddhist complex enjoys an important geographical position in the Taxila valley and is one of very few sites to have a cruciform stupa.
Stupas are mound-like Buddhist complexes that contain Buddhist relics. They are used as places of meditation. The cruciform stupa is cross-shaped and is usually built and reserved for Buddha himself or for a chakravartina great and wise Buddhist man.
Abdul Hameed, lecturer of archeology at Hazara University in Mansehra district, says archeological excavations began in the area in 1930 by a British archeologist named John Marshall.
According to Abdul Hameed, the latest excavation unearthed a main stupa surrounded by votive stupas – a type of stupa constructed to gain spiritual benefits according to Buddhist beliefs – as well as some chapels and a monastery complex to the east of the main stupa.
The excavation was conducted under the supervision of archeologists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (U.S.), Baroda University of India, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums of KP, in addition to the archaeology department at Hazara University.
Discovering Buddha’s Death Scene
 
“During the joint venture, some other parts of the monastic complex have been exposed and the death scene of the 14-meter-tall Buddha was discovered. Now it’s the largest sculpture of Buddha in South Asia,” says Abdul Hameed, who worked as a field director with the Directorate of Archeology and Museums of KP during the excavation.
The Pakistani archeologist told OnIslam that the parinirvana (death scene of Buddha) found in Bhamala is the largest sculpture in the world made from kanjur stone.
He says that the pieces of this huge sculpture include the right leg of the Buddha and a portion of his left leg covered with drapery, in addition to the feet and shoulders.
“The statue was placed facing the east. The upper side of the left leg and the arms were found damaged to the east of the sculpture due to unknown reasons. The death scene of Buddha in stucco is now on display in the museum of Taxila city, Punjab province,” he says.
Abdul Hameed explained that after Marshall’s initial excavations, no major works were carried out at Bhamala until now.
The recent excavation aimed to expose the remaining portions of the site and to reconfirm that it dates back to the 7th century AD.
Priceless Artifacts Found
 
During the current excavation, about 510 antiquities, including terracotta sculptures, have been unearthed.
Among the items discovered were iron nails, hooks, door fittings and hairclips. The excavations also uncovered 14 copper coins belonging to the 3rdcentury AD Kushan Empire.
Balqees Durrani, an archeologist at Peshawar Museum, explained that a cruciform stupa was found behind the death scene of Buddha during the recent excavations.
Bhamal’s cruciform stupa is unique, she says, because all the other stupas belonging to the ancient Ghandara Kingdom all the way up to present day Peshawar are mostly square in shape.
“Nine chapels were exposed during the current investigation. In the newly excavated chapels, the images of Buddha are provided with double halos, which are very unique and don’t exist in the rest of the Buddhist sites of ancient Gandhara,” Durrani explains.
The Pakistani female archeologist said that such successful excavations of ancient sites show the rich heritage of Pakistan and the KP province in particular.
“We have similar sites in different areas of KP that belong to Ghandara and similar ancient kingdoms. If the Pakistani government showed further interest in excavating and exploring more of these historical sites, tourists and archeologists from all over the world will certainly visit these historical landmarks and the Pakistan will easily generate huge revenue,” she says.

The following article is about the same subject from Ancient Origins bLiz Leafloor
Buddha statue at Borobudur.

Large, Rare Statue Portraying the Death of Buddha Unearthed at Ancient Bahmala Stupa Site

Two rare and ancient Buddha statues have been unearthed at the Bhamala Stupa site in Pakistan. The largest ever statue found at the site depicts the death of ancient sage Buddha. A second statue unearthed is a Buddha with a double halo, the first of this type to be found at Bhamala Stupa.
The team of archaeologists with the Department of Archaeology and Museums in Pakistan found these artifacts and 510 others at the Bhamala Stupa archaeological complex, a UNESCO Heritage site.
Dr. Abdul Samad, director of the Department of Archaeology, Hazara University says of the artifacts, “This is one of the few sites in the world to have the cruciform Stupa which was reserved for Buddha himself.”
MORE
The stupa monument at Bhamala. Stupas are mounded spiritual sites, usually containing Buddhist relics.
The stupa monument at Bhamala. Stupas are mounded spiritual sites, usually containing Buddhist relics.  Muhammad Zahir/Wikimedia Commons
The 14-meter (46 feet) long statue of the dying Buddha is the largest known from the Gandhara civilization. It rests on a 15-meter (49 feet) platform, and portrays a scene known as Mahaparinirvana, said to be the moment Buddha’s consciousness left his body and he died.
Sanskrit palm leaf manuscript illustrating the Buddha's entry into Parinirvana. Artwork created circa 700-1100 CE.
Sanskrit palm leaf manuscript illustrating the Buddha’s entry into Parinirvana. Artwork created circa 700-1100 CE. Public Domain
The death scene of the Buddha is a significant moment in the Buddhist religion, represented in art and literature.
News site The Asahi Shimbun reports that a scroll depicting Buddha's death is being exhibited in Kyoto during this year's memorial service to commemorate Buddha’s passing. The large and elaborate vertical scroll dates to the 15th century and is 12 meters by 6 meters (39 feet by 19 feet) in size.
The Asahi Shimbun writes, “It was created by painter and monk Mincho (1352-1431) in the early Muromachi Period (1338-1573), and is one of the largest ‘nehanzu’ (paintings of Buddha's death) in Japan.
The painting depicts the dying Buddha with his head facing west as he is surrounded by mourning disciples and animals. A cat is depicted at the bottom of the picture grieving Buddha’s death, a rare feature in a nehanzu painting.”
The Death of the Buddha, a hanging scroll painting at the British Museum.
The Death of the Buddha, a hanging scroll painting at the British Museum. Credit: © Trustees of the British Museum
“Gautama the Buddha is the founder of Buddhism, a religion with around 300 million adherents, and is seen as a master and teacher even today,” writes Digital Journal.
The Bhamala Stupa site in Pakistan has revealed a wealth of history and treasure dating back thousands of years. Other excavations have uncovered hundreds of “terracotta artifacts, stucco sculptures, architectural elements, copper coins, iron nails, door sittings, pottery and 14 coins from the Kushan era,” reports The Express Tribune.
The site is believed to date back 2,000 years, and pending laboratory tests on recent finds, it may be even older.  Clay Buddha heads unearthed at the site this year might date back to the 3rd century A.D.
Unfortunately, some of the discoveries have suffered damage due to illegal excavations and looting over the years.
Samad notes, “The statue of Buddha's head is however missing, and may have been looted. “Other parts of the statue such as the left leg and arms were also found in a damaged condition.”
Excavations continue at the Bhamala Stupa – ancient site filled with long-hidden historical and spiritual treasures.
Hazara University Archaeologist - Dr. Muhammad Zahir - excavating at Bhamala Site in February 2013.
Hazara University Archaeologist - Dr. Muhammad Zahir - excavating at Bhamala Site in February 2013. Muhammad Zahir/Wikimedia Commons
Damaged stucco sculptures of Buddha at Bhamala.
Damaged stucco sculptures of Buddha at Bhamala. Credit: K-P Directorate of Archaeology & Museums
Featured Image: Buddha statue at Borobudur. Source: BigStockPhoto