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Sunday, 7 November 2010

Archaeological summer 2010, Part 1

Today:
  1. Important archaeological finds at Knossos
  2. Newly Discovered Archaeological Sites In India Reveals Ancient Life
  3. Ancient Texts Present Mayans As Literary Geniuses
  4. A Host of Mummies, a Forest of Secrets
  5. 4,500-year-old Harappan settlement excavated in Kutch
  6. Bulgarian Archaeologists Make Breakthrough in Ancient Thrace Tomb
 Important archaeological finds at Knossos
Geophysical studies at Kefala Hill in the Knossos archaeological site on Crete island, have revealed findings of the most ancient farm houses in Greece, and perhaps in all of Europe, dating back between 7,000- 6,400 BC.source
My comment: Of course, we're not talking about anything GREEK, because during that time, there were no Greece in any form. That's a Pelasgians settlement and I think the news should announce that clearly. Even though if you read Wikipedia you get the impression those guys were some ancient Greeks - they weren't. Those are the inhabitants of the Balkans before the Greek arrived. And since they spoke similar languages and since some of the islands they lived on are proved to be Thracian we can safely assume that they belonged to the same group, if they weren't the same people. But anyway, they are not Greek.
Newly Discovered Archaeological Sites In India Reveals Ancient Life
LONDON, Feb 23, 2010 (Bernama) -- Newly discovered archaeological sites in southern and northern India have revealed how people lived before and after the colossal Toba volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago, according to Press Trust of India (PTI) on Tuesday.
"This suggests that human populations were present in India prior to 74,000 years ago, or about 15,000 years earlier than expected based on some genetic clocks," said project director Michael Petraglia, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford.
Stone tool analysis has revealed that the artefacts consist of cores and flakes, which are classified in India as Middle Palaeolithic and are similar to those made by modern humans in Africa.The fact that the Middle Palaeolithic tools of similar styles are found right before and after the Toba super-eruption, suggests that the people who survived the eruption were the same populations, using the same kinds of tools, says Petraglia.
The research agrees with evidence that other human ancestors, such as the Neanderthals in Europe and the small brained Hobbits in Southeastern Asia, continued to survive well after Toba. source
My comment: Ok, I never heard of Toba eruption but it hardly matters. What's important is that they keep on finding earlier and earlier signs of human life on Earth. I find this quite exciting.

Ancient Texts Present Mayans As Literary Geniuses

March 5, 2010
(PhysOrg.com) -- Literary critics, cultural scholars and aficionados of the Mayans, the only fully literate people of the pre-Columbian Americas, have lined up to call the first fully illustrated survey of two millennia of Mayan texts assembled by award-winning scholar Dennis Tedlock, "stunning," "astounding," "groundbreaking" and "literally breathtaking."

The book is "2000 Years of Mayan Literature," published in January by the University of California Press. Its author, a SUNY Distinguished Professor, James McNulty Chair in English and Research Professor in Anthropology at the University at Buffalo, has long been recognized as one of the world's principle experts in Mayan culture and literature.
In "2000 Years," a beautifully illustrated and highly readable book, Tedlock makes the intellectual world of the ancient Mayans visible and meaningful in distinctive new ways.
His most notable accomplishment is that he establishes for the first time that two millennia of Mayan writings produced in various writing systems and media -- from stone glyphs and paper documents produced in the post-Columbian Roman alphabet -- constitute a single literary history and tradition.
He describes what Mayans dreamed and the stories they told themselves about astronomy, math, medicine and other sciences to history, mythology, poetry and spiritual practice.Tedlock says part of his inspiration lies with the late Linda Schele, an expert in the field of Maya epigraphy and iconography whose role in the decipherment of Mayan hieroglyphics he considers invaluable.
He presents the material chronologically, beginning with early "calculiform" hieroglyphic materials and moving on to paper codices considered "works of the devil" by the Spanish, who systematically destroyed most of them. Tedlock also considers literature written in their native languages by Christianized Mayans after the Spanish conquest, and ends with writings composed by contemporary Mayans, whose literature is not only thriving, but experiencing a renaissance.The author drew on his decades of work among the Mayans and the work of major scholars in this field, to assemble the book, and to challenges a number of other commonly held assumptions about this culture.
He firmly establishes, for instance, that many Mayan writers (not just a few) were women, and that Mayan inscriptions on monuments were not just the abstract speculations of priests or stories of royal life, but descriptions of the lives of every day flesh and blood human beings. Tedlock says they also simultaneously describe events in the skies among the gods.
He also challenges notions that Mayan rulers claimed the status of gods, claiming that inscriptions previously cited by scholars as describing the kings as gods are actually accounts of their good deeds as religious practitioners.
"It is clear that these rulers were not considered gods, nor did they claim to be gods," says Tedlock. "Rather, they were priest-kings whose role was to mediate between men and gods.". source
My comment: Wow, this book for sure is a must-read. I just wonder how expensive it would be. And I find it quite interesting both that the writers were women (contrary to European tradition) and the role of kings as mediators between men and gods. It resembles the role of Thracian kings - to give immortality to men. Very interesting, indeed.

A Host of Mummies, a Forest of Secrets


In the middle of a terrifying desert north of Tibet, Chinese archaeologists have excavated an extraordinary cemetery. Its inhabitants died almost 4,000 years ago, yet their bodies have been well preserved by the dry air.

The cemetery lies in what is now China’s northwest autonomous region of Xinjiang, yet the people have European features, with brown hair and long noses. Their remains, though lying in one of the world’s largest deserts, are buried in upside-down boats. And where tombstones might stand, declaring pious hope for some god’s mercy in the afterlife, their cemetery sports instead a vigorous forest of phallic symbols, signaling an intense interest in the pleasures or utility of procreation.
The long-vanished people have no name, because their origin and identity are still unknown. But many clues are now emerging about their ancestry, their way of life and even the language they spoke.
Their graveyard, known as Small River Cemetery No. 5, lies near a dried-up riverbed in the Tarim Basin, a region encircled by forbidding mountain ranges. Most of the basin is occupied by the Taklimakan Desert, a wilderness so inhospitable that later travelers along the Silk Road would edge along its northern or southern borders.
In modern times the region has been occupied by Turkish-speaking Uighurs, joined in the last 50 years by Han settlers from China.
The 200 or so mummies have a distinctively Western appearance, and the Uighurs, even though they did not arrive in the region until the 10th century, have cited them to claim that the autonomous region was always theirs. Some of the mummies, including a well-preserved woman known as the Beauty of Loulan, were analyzed by Li Jin, a well-known geneticist at Fudan University, who said in 2007 that their DNA contained markers indicating an East Asian and even South Asian origin.
The mummies in the Small River Cemetery are, so far, the oldest discovered in the Tarim Basin. Carbon tests done at Beijing University show that the oldest part dates to 3,980 years ago. A team of Chinese geneticists has analyzed the mummies’ DNA.
Despite the political tensions over the mummies’ origin, the Chinese said in a report published last month in the journal BMC Biology that the people were of mixed ancestry, having both European and some Siberian genetic markers, and probably came from outside China.
All the men who were analyzed had a Y chromosome that is now mostly found in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia, but rarely in China. The mitochondrial DNA, which passes down the female line, consisted of a lineage from Siberia and two that are common in Europe. Since both the Y chromosome and the mitochondrial DNA lineages are ancient, Dr. Zhou and his team conclude the European and Siberian populations probably intermarried before entering the Tarim Basin some 4,000 years ago.
In the women’s coffins, the Chinese archaeologists encountered one or more life-size wooden phalluses laid on the body or by its side.
The men’s boats, on the other hand, all lay beneath the poles with bladelike tops. These were not the oars they had seemed at first sight, the Chinese archaeologists concluded, but rather symbolic vulvas that matched the opposite sex symbols above the women’s boats.
Several items in the Small River Cemetery burials resemble artifacts or customs familiar in Europe, Dr. Mair noted. Boat burials were common among the Vikings. String skirts and phallic symbols have been found in Bronze Age burials of Northern Europe. There are no known settlements near the cemetery, so the people probably lived elsewhere and reached the cemetery by boat. No woodworking tools have been found at the site, supporting the idea that the poles were carved off site.
The Tarim Basin was already quite dry when the Small River people entered it 4,000 years ago. They probably lived at the edge of survival until the lakes and rivers on which they depended finally dried up around A.D. 400. Burials with felt hats and woven baskets were common in the region until some 2,000 years ago.
The language spoken by the people of the Small River Cemetery is unknown, but Dr. Mair believes it could have been Tokharian, an ancient member of the Indo-European family of languages. Manuscripts written in Tokharian have been discovered in the Tarim Basin, where the language was spoken from about A.D. 500 to 900. Despite its presence in the east, Tokharian seems more closely related to the “centum” languages of Europe than to the “satem” languages of India and Iran. The division is based on the words for hundred in Latin (centum) and in Sanskrit (satam).
The Small River Cemetery people lived more than 2,000 years before the earliest evidence for Tokharian, but there is “a clear continuity of culture,” Dr. Mair said, in the form of people being buried with felt hats, a tradition that continued until the first few centuries A.D.
source
My comment: Very very interesting. Especially the Tokharian language which so closely sounds like Thrakian - just its name, not the very language which should be researched. But seriously, it's so interesting. There are theories backed up by some historians saying that there were expeditions from the Balkans to India at some ancient time. Wouldn't it be interesting to know where those expeditions went and why?


4,500-year-old Harappan settlement excavated in Kutch
Ahmedabad, Mar 7 (PTI)

A vast settlement surrounded by a fortified structure believed to be about 4,500 years old and belonging to the Harappan civilisation has been excavated at Shikarpur village in Kutch district.
"A huge fortified structure made out of unbaked mud bricks has been excavated by our team. The ratio of height, width and length of the bricks is 1:2:4 which is what we call Harappan ratio," Ajithprasad told PTI.
"The fortification is spread over nearly one hectare area, with 10 m thick walls," he said.
"Though the exact period when this structure could have been constructed is yet to be ascertained, primarily it appears to be roughly 4500-years-old, built between 2500 BC and 2200 BC and is part of the Harappan civilisation," Ajithprasad said. source
My comment:

Bulgarian Archaeologists Make Breakthrough in Ancient Thrace Tomb

One of Bulgaria’s top Ancient Thrace sites, the Starosel Tomb, has been dated to the 4th century BC after years of research.
With German help a team of archaeologists of the Bulgarian National History Museum led by Dr. Ivan Hristov has managed to estimate the timing of the construction of the largest underground temple on the Balkan Peninsula, the Starosel Tomb, located in the Hisarya Municipality, Plovdiv District.
In the summer of 2009, the archaeological team took samples from a stake in the middle of the tomb where gifts to the Greek goddess of the hearth Hestia were laid.
The radio carbon dating analysis carried out in Heidelberg, Germany, in the laboratory of Dr. Bernd Krommer, have shown that the stake was burned in the period after 358 BC, when the temple was constructed, and the earth was heaped on top of it to form a burial mound.
The analysis of the lab research and of the events which happened at that time have given archaeologist Ivan Hristov grounds to conclude that the temple in the village of Starosel, in the so called Chetinyova Mound, and the nearby Thracian ruler’s residence under Mount Kozi Gramadi were built during the reign of the Thracian King Amatokos II (359-351 BC), of the Thracian Odrysian state (5th-3rd century BC).
The family coat of arms of King Amatokos was a doubleheaded ax, or a labrys. Symbols of a labrys were discovered on several items around Starosel, including Thracian coins.
The archaeologists believe that the region was the power center of Ancient Thrace in the 4th century BC. It was destroyed during the rise of the Macedonian state of Philip II in 342-341 BC.The Bulgarian archaeologists have reconstructed the so called “Holy Road” of the Thracians leading to their underground temples in Starosel, and are determined to continue revealing its secrets.
source
My comment: Hm, how did they understand the Temple is dedicated to Greek Goddess? That doesn't make sense at all? Thracians had enough god and goddesses and to put a Greek one on their Holy Road sounds absolutely crazy. Even more, if it's the same temple I've been to, it looked much more Egyptian than Greek. Though maybe I'm wrong, I'm not an expert, it just looks weird. Besides, at that time, deities were transferred from one people to the others and often, their meaning changed in the process, so who knows...
More evidence unearthed at ancient port of Muziris - A figure of a pouncing lion carved in great detail on a semi precious stone and a bright micro metal object with intricate designs are two of the special objects found during the ongoing excavations that began in February. Copper antimony rods, usually associated with cosmetic use, were also found.
Kerala's possible Mediterranean links unearthed by researchers
News Date: 9th March 2010
A wide range of megalithic burials recently discovered in some northern districts of Kerala during a research project have thrown light on possible links between the Mediterranean and Kerala coasts in the prehistoric stone age that occurred between 6000 BC and 2000 BC. 
Interestingly, the finds were unearthed at a time when the researchers have firmly established the maritime links between the Mediterranean region with Kerala since ancient times.  source

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