2,700-year-old leather saddle found in woman’s tomb in China is oldest on record

2,700-year-old leather saddle found in woman’s tomb in China is oldest on record

The leather horse saddle from the tomb at Yanghai in northwest China is dated to roughly between 700 and 400 B.C. and may be the oldest ever found.

Archaeologists have unearthed an elaborate leather horse saddle — possibly the oldest ever found — from a grave in northwestern China, according to a new study. 

The saddle, preserved for up to 2,700 years in the arid desert, was discovered in the tomb of a woman at a cemetery in Yanghai, in the Turpan Basin of China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The woman was dressed in a hide coat, woolen pants and short leather boots, and had a “leather saddle placed on her buttocks as if she was seated on it,” according to the study, published Tuesday (May 23) in the journal Archaeological Research in Asia.

The saddle — two cowhide cushions filled with a mixture of straw and deer and camel hair — was made between 724 and 396 B.C., according to radiocarbon dating. It may predate saddles known from the Scythians — nomadic, warlike horse riders from the western and central Eurasian Steppe who interacted with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The earliest Sythian saddles seem to date from between the fifth and the third centuries B.C. and have been found in the Altai Mountains region of Russian Siberia and in eastern Kazakhstan.

The graveyard near Yanghai is in the Turpan Basin region, in the east of the Tian Shan mountains, which was occupied by the Subeixi people from about 3,000 years ago. 

“This places the Yanghai saddle at the beginning of the history of saddle making,” study lead author Patrick Wertmann, an archaeologist at the University of Zurich, told Live Science.

The tombs at Yanghai are thought to be from people of the Subeixi culture, who occupied the Turpan Basin from about 3,000 years ago. The culture is named after another graveyard of tombs near the modern town of Subeixi, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Yanghai. 

Horse herds

2,700-year-old leather saddle found in woman's tomb in China is oldest on record
The archaeologists also examined a saddle from another Subeixi graveyard in the region, which is thought to have been made at about the same time.

Archaeologists now think horses were domesticated as herd animals up to 6,000 years ago. But the earliest evidence suggests they were kept for their milk and meat; horse-riding may not have started until up to 1,000 years later.

The first riders used mats secured to the backs of horses with straps; carvings show Assyrian cavalrymen with such horse-gear in the seventh century B.C.

Archaeologists don’t know exactly when true saddles were invented, but they likely were developed by horse-riders in Central Asia about the mid-first millennium B.C., which would make the Yanghai saddle among the oldest, Wertmann said. 

The development of saddles began “when riders began to care more about comfort and safety, and also the health of the horses,” he told Live Science in an email. “Saddles helped people to ride longer distances, hence leading to more interaction between different peoples.”

The early Scythian saddles and the Yanghai saddle both have distinct supports, which help riders maintain a firm position and raise themselves in the saddle, such as when shooting an arrow. The first saddles also had no stirrups, Wertmann said.

Female riders

The saddle was found in the tomb of a woman from the pastoralist Subeixi culture; it was positioned so that she seemed to be riding the saddle.

The Subeixi had similar weaponry, horse gear and garments to the Scythians and may have had contact with them in the Altai Mountains region, the study authors wrote. But while the Scythians were nomads, the Subeixi horse-riders were likely pastoralists who looked after herds of animals within the Turpan Basin.

University of Zurich biomolecular archaeologist Shevan Wilkin, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science that the extraordinary level of preservation of the Yanghai saddle suggests other, potentially older saddles, may be found nearby.

“Usually for something organic that’s this old, like leather, then we wouldn’t have any remnants of it, or very little,” she said.

The seated position of the buried woman on the saddle suggests she was a rider. “This really shifts our ideas about who was riding horses,” Wilkin said.

Birgit Bühler, an archaeologist at the University of Vienna, who also wasn’t involved with the study, told Live Science in an email that the discovery in an ordinary tomb is “strong evidence for women participating in the day-to-day activities of mounted pastoralists, which included herding and travelling.”

The find contradicts traditionalist historical narratives associating horse-riding with warfare by elite men, she said.

1,000 years ago, Baltic pagans imported horses from Scandinavia to behead them or bury them alive

1,000 years ago, Baltic pagans imported horses from Scandinavia to behead them or bury them alive

1,000 years ago, Baltic pagans imported horses from Scandinavia to behead them or bury them alive
An illustration of a ritual sacrifice of a horse at Paprotki Kolonia, in what is now modern Poland.

Around 1,000 years ago, pagans living near the Baltic Sea imported horses from their newly Christian northern neighbors and then subjected the animals to gruesome public sacrifice, a new study finds

Horses were an important component of Balt culture between the first and 13th centuries, evidence shows; numerous ancient equestrian artifacts have been recovered, and travelers have reported that elite Balts drank fermented mare’s milk. Because the Balts were not literate prior to their conversion to Christianity, however, most information about their lives, including their pagan religion, comes from archaeological investigation.

In a new study published May 17 in the journal Science Advances, researchers detailed their biomolecular analysis of 80 sacrificed horses from nine archaeological sites in the eastern Baltic region — modern-day Poland, Lithuania and the Russian province of Kaliningrad sandwiched between them — and determined that both male and female horses were chosen for sacrifice and that some horses were imported from quite a distance.

A previous assumption within Baltic archaeology, according to the study, was that stallions were specifically selected for public sacrifice and that this ritual — which often involved decapitation, flaying, quartering the horses or burying them alive — was enacted at the funerals of elite male warriors in Balt culture. To test this, the team analyzed the DNA of the horses and found that roughly 66% were stallions and 34% were mares. 

“Our results suggest that the Balts were not exclusively selecting male horses for this ritual, as previously thought,” lead author Katherine French, a zooarchaeologist formerly at Cardiff University in the U.K. and now based at Washington State University, told Live Science in an email. 

An illustration of a sacrificial horse burial at Paprotki Kolonia.

Because horses were common in the Balts’ territory, researchers did not previously question whether the animals were sourced locally or from somewhere else.

But the new study did a strontium isotope analysis of the horses’ tooth enamel to identify the origin of the horses — and found that three were not born locally.

The strontium present in tooth crowns comes from the animals’ early diet; by measuring the ratio of two variants of strontium in one tooth or between teeth that grew at different times, researchers can match where the animal grew up or see where it moved when it was growing up.

“Results confirm that there is no possibility that the horses originated in the territory of the Baltic tribes and that the region of the highest likelihood for these horses is the Fennoscandian Peninsula, specifically east-central Sweden or southern Finland,” the researchers wrote. 

All three horses were carbon-dated to about the 11th to 13th centuries, a time when trade networks across the Baltic Sea, particularly with Sweden, were well established.

It was also a period when there was still pagan resistance within the kingdom of Sweden, which officially converted to Christianity in 1164. 

Katherine French examines a horse jaw to select a dental sample at the University of Białystok.

The fact that one nonlocal horse in Kaliningrad was buried with a Scandinavian-influenced artifact — a weight, possibly involved in trading — may suggest that its Balt owner was a pagan trader, the researchers wrote in the study. But it is also possible, they noted, that the imported horses arrived with their Scandinavian owners, who were buried in the Baltic style. 

“In either case,” the researchers wrote, “our results prove that horses were crossing the Baltic Sea on ships, a level of mobility not previously recognized archaeologically.”

Flint Dibble, a zooarchaeologist at Cardiff University in the U.K. who was not involved in the study, told Live Science in an email that the new research is both innovative and impactful, and demonstrates how scientific methods can be applied to study ancient animal populations.

“The impressive sample size — 80 individual horses — reveals the importance of applying these methods to a significant, localized dataset in order to tease out relevant archaeological patterns,” Dibble said, and “the long distance trade in horses in Northern Europe is now a topic that needs additional investigation.”

French plans to address this topic further with new research. “I’m currently working on a separate project looking at contemporary ship technology to determine how — and how many — horses could have been transported on Viking Age cargo ships.”

New Thoughts on the “Lead Lady” of the Netherlands

New Thoughts on the “Lead Lady” of the Netherlands

The remains of a rich Roman woman in a grave found during works in the centre of Nijmegen in 2001 could turn out belong to a menial worker, closer inspection by archeologists has shown.

The coffin being removed from its finding place in 2001.

The remains were buried in a lead coffin which led archeologists to believe that the occupant must have been a well-to-do Roman woman.

However, the “Lead Lady” as she was christened, may have been been far from rich, an investigation has found.

“It’s a warning to all archaeologists to do our job properly,” Nijmegen city archeologist Joep Hendriks told broadcaster NOS. “If you present a story based on a some superficial research you almost always have to amend it,” he said.

Closer inspection showed the coffin had been used before. “It was a used coffin that had been folded inside out. The ornamentation that is normally on the outside a coffin was on the inside, Hendriks said. “The coffin was also covered with a tile not a lead lid, which you would have expected in a nice complete sarcophagus burial.”

The coffin was also found to be too big for the woman, measuring two metres against her 160 centimetres. “Lead was expensive and coffins were usually made to measure so why waste money on an extra 20 or 30 centimetres? It doesn’t make economic sense,” Hendriks said.

The skeleton itself also disproves the initial theory. It shows degeneration of the dorsal vertebrae and signs of arthrosis. The state of her teeth may be an indication she used them as a tool. “You can tell that she used her teeth in repetitive actions, perhaps to process animal skins or plants. That would cause this type of wear,” Hendriks said.

How the women ended up in a recycled coffin is still a mystery although Hendriks thinks the person may have been a well-loved member of a rich Roman household. She may have been an ornatrix, or hairdresser to the woman of the house, he said.

“She would have been close to her mistress who you can imagine wanted to give her a decent burial,” Hendriks said, although he doesn’t want to jump to conclusions this time around.

“Other interpretations are possible, of course, such as a working woman who made good, or perhaps the mater familias of rich family after all. Even a second-hand lead coffin was a pretty big thing.”

DNA tests

DNA tests not available in 2001 may reveal more about the woman’s identity and where she grew up, Hendrik hopes.

“Nijmegen was a melting pot in Roman times. Nijmegen was founded by people from Gaul, soldiers from Spain and people from all corners of the Roman empire, from the Eastern Mediterranean to England. We would like to know where in this mixed society the Lead Lady belonged,” he said.

The coffin and other grave finds can be seen at the Valkhof Museum in Nijmegen.

Fossil Hunters Found Bones From An Ancient Whale… And Then They Saw The Bite Marks

Fossil Hunters Found Bones From An Ancient Whale… And Then They Saw The Bite Marks

There was tremendous turmoil at the top of the water’s surface. An island of flesh, once living and swimming gracefully through these ancient seas, bobbed silently, at times yanked violently to the side or jolted upward by forces below it.

Fossil Hunters Found Bones From An Ancient Whale… And Then They Saw The Bite Marks
The whale fin fossils. (Photo: Photos courtesy Carlos Jaramillo)

Pelagornis miocaenus, an enormous prehistoric seabird circling lazily above the scene, may have noticed the whale carcass in its entirety, partially exposed to the air, but much of it underwater. It would have seen the many sharks encircling it. Some of them grabbing mouthfuls, shaking the flesh off of the body, and darting away. Others may have attacked the whale from below, propelling themselves teeth first into the dead mammal. The head and snout of a lone great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) may have appeared amongst the waves, biting off chunks from the dead whale’s side.

A whale this size isn’t devoured in a day, no matter how hungry the sharks encircling it were. With the tastier options — the tongue and most of the fatty flesh — eaten away, the carcass was beginning to come apart. The head had long since detached, its skull drifting down to the the seafloor. Other parts were carried off to be eaten, the bones discarded elsewhere. Eventually, whatever gases or fat content kept the carcass afloat would dissipate, and it would sink.

One of the whale’s fins, in shreds, had already sunk to the sand. Ancient fish may have snacked on the threads of flesh still clinging to the exposed bones. Marine invertebrates such as worms and bryozoans attached themselves onto what remained.

In time, the remnants of this fin were covered by the seafloor.

Those same remnants saw daylight again over 2 million years later, in September 2016. Professor Joaquín Atencio, two of his students, Joel Orocú and Patricio Pimentel, and Joel’s father, Félix Orocú, discovered the exposed fossil whale bones when the tide was out in the Burica Peninsula of Panama.

After spotting the fossils in the coastal outcrop, Atencio called Carlos Jaramillo, a geologist and paleontologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, who in turn put together a team of scientists to excavate them. They uncovered several disarticulated fossil whale bones and a fossil shark tooth nearby.

The research into these bones culminated in a paper published recently in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica: “Shark-cetacean trophic interactions during the late Pliocene in the Central Eastern Pacific (Panama).”

The authors determined that these bones belonged to a type of Balaenopterid, a genus of filter-feeding whales that includes today’s humpback and blue whales. Fin bones alone are not enough to determine the exact species or the size of the marine mammal, but these particular bones did offer tantalising clues into the last moments of this animal.

“When we collected the whale fossils,” explained lead author Dirley Cortés, a paleobiologist at Redpath Museum, McGill University, “from the beginning we were really surprised about the giant size of the appendicular bones. After a while of inspection, we realised some of the bones had strange serrated marks across the surface, we came up with the excited hypothesis of shark bite marks, but it took us more time to actually confirm it.”

One such bone, they reported, has 26 separate bite traces upon it. Studying such traces is the hallmark of ichnology, a field that specialises in the grooves, marks, edges and prints left behind by living species. What might look like just a bunch of cracks on ancient bone to the average person reads like an entire language to ichnologists, one that provides remarkable insight.

“Some of the bite traces show these very finely spaced parallel lines,” said Anthony Martin, ichnologist at Emory University, “which is typical of the kind of damage you would get from a serrated tooth. That damage is generally associated with sharks.”

Absent conclusive proof one way or the other, the authors conservatively propose that at least two different sharks may have scavenged upon this whale, perhaps great white sharks. Jorge Velez-Juarbe, marine mammal curator for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, explained that this assumption is due to the size difference between the bite traces.

The scenario described at the start of this article may or may not have actually occurred. While fossils tell us a great deal, they don’t reveal every detail. We don’t know whether the whale was already dead at the time of the shark bites; we don’t know whether it was scavenged while floating on the surface or whether it had already sunk and was eaten on the seafloor. We also don’t know with certainty which species of shark gnawed on its flesh.

“From what we know, at the end of the Pliocene, there is an interesting mix of more modern fauna with other more ‘archaic’ or extinct groups,” Velez-Juarbe said. “This of course changed a bit at the end of the Neogene, when there seems to have been a marine megafauna extinction event.”

In other words, some of the creatures living in oceans 3.6 million to 2.58 million years ago are very much a part of our world today. We have filter-feeding whales and great white sharks off of our coasts. The story these fossils tell is one we can instantly imagine and understand.

Today’s sharks are not known to attack full-grown whales. If their ancestors behaved in similar ways, then it is reasonable to assume ancient sharks scavenged—rather than killed then ate—this ancient whale. The bite traces support this.

“The vast majority of bite traces on bone are scavenging,” Martin said. “In many instances, and I think in this instance, too, there might not be enough flesh to prevent the teeth from contacting the bone. Once the teeth are contacting the bone, that means either that bone is exposed or the flesh is thin enough that the teeth can contact bone.”

“This finding is of scientific importance not only because we were able to tell much about sharks feeding on whales [in prehistoric times], but because of its temporal context. As we pointed out in the paper, the genetic diversity of cetaceans, and especially mysticetes, declined around the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary, an example of a global turnover event in the marine megafauna,” wrote Cortés in an email. “Fossil marine mammals, like the one preserved here, will be useful for understanding the dynamics of the marine fauna in one of the most critical periods of Earth history, the Plio-Pleistocene transition.”

Cortés emphasised the importance of further exploring the Burica Peninsula in Panama and other nearby sites. While whale fossils are common throughout the world, discoveries have been relatively few in Central and South America. The whale specimen described here is actually the first marine mammal recorded from the Neogene (a period that spanned from 23 million years ago to 2.58 million years ago) in the Burica Peninsula.

“One of the reasons,” Cortés offered, “may be the lack of fully exposed Cenozoic outcrops in particular in the Pacific side of Central America, which makes it difficult to prospect this succession and get data. Another important reason is the number of researchers per capita.”

She described how paleontology is still an emerging science in countries such as Panama and Colombia. To illustrate this further, she explained that out of “1 million citizens, Colombia has less than 90 scientists, of which a minimum amount is involved in paleontology. Without enough paleontologists, research becomes a challenged although privileged way of life. And the panorama for women scientists does not look so encouraging either.”

“Something paleontologists always highlight is that no matter how complete, what matters most is the amazing story that fossil has to tell us,” wrote Cortés.

The stories yet to be told — the fossils hidden for millions of years — are just waiting to be found.

Mummified remains of Incan ‘Princess’ who died 500 years ago finally returned to Bolivia

Mummified remains of Incan ‘Princess’ who died 500 years ago finally returned to Bolivia

Mummified remains of Incan 'Princess' who died 500 years ago finally returned to Bolivia
In this Aug. 15, 2019 photo, the 500-year-old mummy of an Incan girl sits inside a vault at the National Museum of Archaeology in La Paz, Bolivia. Nicknamed Nusta, a Quechua word for “Princess,” the mummy recently returned to its native Bolivia 129 years after it was donated to the Michigan State University museum in 1890.

A 500-year-old mummy of an Incan girl has been returned to Bolivia some 129 years after it was donated to the Michigan State University Museum, marking what an official says is the first time human remains of archaeological importance have been repatriated to the Andean country.

Known as Ñusta, a Quechua word for “Princess,” the mummy amazes many because of its excellent state of preservation: Its black braids seem recently combed and its hands still cling to small feathers.

Experts say the mummy originally came from a region in the Andean highlands near La Paz during the last years of the Inca civilization.

Radiocarbon tests also have revealed that it dates to the second half of the 15th century, confirming the likelihood that its tomb burial preceded the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the conquest of the Inca by the Spanish.

“Despite the fact that it was given the name Ñusta, or ‘Princess,’ we don’t know if she was really a princess. We will only be able to answer that with DNA studies,” said William A. Lovis, an MSU emeritus professor of anthropology who worked for years to help bring the remains home.

The mummy was returned more than two weeks ago with the assistance of the U.S. embassy in La Paz, and a new study is expected to be carried out by November by Bolivian academics and foreign experts. Until then, accompanying funerary objects will be exhibited to the public during a celebration that pays homage to the dead on Nov. 2.

In this Aug. 15, 2019 photo, a student opens the door to a vault inside the National Museum of Archaeology where the 500-year-old mummy of an Incan girl is being stored in La Paz, Bolivia. Experts say the mummy originally came from a region in the Andean highlands near La Paz during the last years of the Inca civilization.

Culture Minister Wilma Alanoca said that in recent years, the Bolivian government has achieved the repatriation of several archaeological goods that were taken illegally, but this is the first time that a body has been brought back.

“It’s the first time that a body has been recovered, a mummy from the Inca period,” she said.

Still, many mysteries remain unsolved.

The girl, who is thought to have been part of an ethnic Aymara group known as the Pacajes, had originally been placed in a stone tomb along with sandals, a small clay jar, pouches, feathers and several types of plants including maize and coca—perhaps because some Andean civilizations believed that offerings helped the dead transition into the next life.

This Aug. 15, 2019 photo shows a 500-year-old mummy of an Incan girl clinging to bird feathers, inside a vault at the National Museum of Archaeology in La Paz, Bolivia. The girl is believed to have been around 8 years of age when she died. She is also believed to have been part of an ethnic Aymara group known as the Pacajes, which was under Inca control, said William A. Lovis, an MSU emeritus professor of anthropology who worked for years to help return the mummy to the Andean country.
In this Aug. 15, 2019 photo, an anthropology student analyzes bird feathers that were held by the 500-year-old Incan girl mummy now stored at the National Museum of Archaeology in La Paz, Bolivia. The mummy had originally been placed in a stone tomb along with sandals, a small clay jar, pouches, feathers and several types of plants, including maize and coca. Andean civilization used to give offerings to the dead under the belief that it would help their transition into the other life.
In this Aug. 15, 2019 photo, the fingers of a 500-year-old Incan girl mummy holds bird feathers, inside a vault at the National Museum of Archaeology in La Paz, Bolivia. Experts say the mummy originally came from a region in the Andean highlands near La Paz during the last years of the Inca civilization. Radiocarbon tests also have revealed that it’s as old as the second half of the 15th century, confirming the likelihood that its tomb burial predated the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the conquest of the Inca by the Spanish.

“It’s possible that the girl was an important person and that the objects placed with her had as much sacred importance as they had a useful purpose,” said Lovis. “Another possibility is that her death was an Inca sacrifice to appease or an offer to Inca deities.”

Ñusta is believed to have been about 8 years old when she died and was buried in a dress made with threads from llama or alpaca, animals which were domesticated more than 4,000 years ago in the Andes and still roam the highlands of Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Chile.

David Trigo, who heads the National Archaeology Museum in La Paz, said the well-kept objects open new doors into a society that has barely been studied.

“We can say that she was an important member of her ethnic group,” Trigo said, referring to Incan and Aymara traditions of building adobe or stone tombs known as chullpa for elite members of their communities.

For now, the remains are being preserved in a refrigerated chamber at the National Archaeology Museum in downtown La Paz.

Newly Discovered Human-Sized Dinosaur Footprint Is The Largest Ever Found

Newly Discovered Human-Sized Dinosaur Footprint Is The Largest Ever Found

Newly Discovered Human-Sized Dinosaur Footprint Is The Largest Ever Found
The prints indicate enormous animals that were probably around 5.3 to 5.5 metres at the hip.

Australian researchers digging in the area known as “Australia’s Jurassic Park” have found the world’s biggest dinosaur footprint yet to be discovered.

According to their findings published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the University of Queensland and James Cook University paleontologists found 20 more dinosaur footprints while digging around the Kimberly area in Western Australia.

Until now, the biggest known dinosaur footprint was a 106cm track discovered in the Mongolian desert.

At the new site, along the Kimberley shoreline in a remote region of Western Australia, paleontologists discovered a rich collection of dinosaur footprints in the sandstone rock, many of which are only visible at low tide.

The prints, belonging to about 21 different types of dinosaur, are also thought to be the most diverse collection of prints in the world.

Steve Salisbury, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Queensland told ABC News: “We’ve got several tracks up in that area that is about 1.7 meters long.

So most people would be able to fit inside tracks that big, and they indicate animals that are probably around 5.3 to 5.5 meters at the hip, which is enormous.”

The prints, found along the Kimberley shoreline, belong to about 21 different types of dinosaur and are thought to be the most diverse collection of prints in the world.

Salisbury said the diversity of the tracks was globally unparalleled and made the area the “Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti”. He also dubbed it “Australia’s own Jurassic Park”.

“It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the early Cretaceous period,” he said.

The findings were reported in the Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

“There are thousands of tracks,” said Salisbury. “Of these, 150 can confidently be assigned to 21 specific track types, representing four main groups of dinosaurs.”

The largest tracks belonged to sauropods, huge Diplodocus-like herbivores with long necks and tails.

The scientists also discovered tracks from about four different types of ornithopod dinosaurs (two-legged herbivores) and six types of armored dinosaurs, including Stegosaurs, which had not previously been seen in Australia.

At the time the prints were left, 130m years ago, the area was a large river delta and dinosaurs would have traversed wet sandy areas between surrounding forests.

The latest investigation was prompted after the region was selected as the site for a liquid natural gas processing precinct in 2008.

The area’s traditional custodians, the Goolarabooloo people, who were aware of the prints, contacted Salisbury and his team and asked them to investigate.

The scientists from Queensland University and James Cook University, along with Indigenous representatives, spent 400 hours documenting the prints.

“Dinosaur tracks have been known through that area, probably for thousands of years. They form part of the song cycle,” Salisbury said told ABC News.

“We got contacted to come in and have a closer look, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that … there was a spectacular dinosaur track fauna preserved there that was at risk.”

Siberian Princess reveals her 2,500-year-old tattoos

Siberian Princess reveals her 2,500-year-old tattoos

The intricate patterns of 2,500-year-old tattoos – some from the body of a Siberian ‘princess’ preserved in the permafrost – have been revealed in Russia. 

The remarkable body art includes mythological creatures and experts say the elaborate drawings were a sign of age and status for the ancient nomadic Pazyryk people, described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus.

But scientist Natalia Polosmak – who discovered the remains of ice-clad ‘Princess Ukok’ high in the Altai Mountains – is also struck about how little has changed in more than two millennia.

The Body of Princess Ukok, who died aged 25, had several tattoos on her body, including a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. The tattoos have been perfectly preserved for 2,500 years.

‘I think we have not moved far from Pazyryks in how the tattoos are made,’ she told the Siberian Times ( SiberianTimes.com ). ‘It is still about a craving to make yourself as beautiful as possible.”For example, about the British. 

‘A lot of them go on holiday to Greece, and when I’ve been there I heard how Greeks were smiling and saying that a British man’s age can be easily understood by the number of tattoos on his body.  ‘I’m talking about the working class now.  And I noticed it, too. 

‘The older a person, the more tattoos are on his body.’ Dr. Polosmak added: ‘We can say that most likely there was  – and is – one place on the body for everyone to start putting the tattoos on, and it was a left shoulder. 

Researchers also found two warriors close to the Princess , and were able to reconstruct their tattoos. Here, one is shown with an animal covering the right side of his body, across his right shoulder and stretching from his chest to his back.

‘I can assume so because all the mummies we found with just one tattoo had it on their left shoulders.’ And nowadays this is the same place where people try to put the tattoos on, thousands of years on. 

‘I think its linked to the body composition – as the left shoulder is the place where it is noticeable most, where it looks the most beautiful. ‘Nothing changes with years, the body stays the same, and the person making a tattoo now is getting closer to his ancestors than he or she may realise.

‘The tattoo patterns are from the ancient ‘princess’ who died at around the age of 25 – and from two warriors found on an ancient permafrost burial site at Ukok Plateau some 2,500 meters above sea level close to Russia’s frontiers with modern-day  Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.

Princess Ukok’s hand with marked tattoos on her fingers. She was dug out of the ice 19 years ago, and is set to go on public display in the Altai Republic.

The reconstruction of the tattoos in the images shown here was released to coincide with the moving of the remains of the princess, dug out of the ice 19 years ago, to a permanent glass sarcophagus in the National Museum in Gorno-Altaisk, capital of the Altai Republic.  

Eventually, she will be displayed to tourists. Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, though experts are divided on whether she was a royal or a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman. 

Next to hear body 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. 

‘Tattoos were used as a mean of personal identification – like a passport now if you like,’ said Dr. Polosmak. ‘The Pazyryks also believed the tattoos would be helpful in another life, making it easy for the people of the same family and culture to find each other after death.  

The tattoos of one of two warriors found on the ancient permafrost burial site at Ukok Plateau some 2,500 meters above sea level close to Russia’s frontiers with modern-day Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan
Tattoos are clearly visible on one of the warrior’s shoulders. The designs are similar to those found on the Princess.

‘Pazyryks repeated the same images of animals in other types of art, which is considered to be like a language of animal images, which represented their thoughts.’ The tattoos were ‘used to express some thoughts and to define one’s position both in society and in the world. The more tattoos were on the body, the longer it meant the person lived, and the higher was his position. 

‘For example, the body of one man, which was found earlier in the 20th century, had his entire body covered with tattoos, as you see on the picture of his torso,’ said Dr. Polosmak. ‘Our young woman – the princess – has only her two arms tattooed. So they signified both age and status.’

The Ukok plateau, Altai, Siberi, where Princess Ukok and two warriors were discovered. Their bodies were surrounded by six horses fully bridles, various offering of food and a pouch of cannabis.

The Siberian Times said: “The tattoos on the left shoulder of the ‘princess’  show a mythological animal – a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. ‘The antlers are decorated with the heads of griffons. ‘And the same griffon’s head is shown on the back of the animal.

The mouth of a spotted panther with a long tail is seen at the legs of a sheep. ‘She also has a dear’s head on her wrist, with big antlers. ‘There is a drawing on the animal’s body on a thumb on her left hand.  ‘On the man found close to the ‘princess’, the tattoos include the same fantastical creature, this time covering the right side of his body, across his right shoulder and stretching from his chest to his back. 

‘The patterns mirror the tattoos on a much more elaborately covered male body dug from the ice in 1929 whose highly decorated torso in reconstructed in our drawing here. 

‘His chest, arms, part of the back and the lower leg are covered with tattoos. There is an argali – a mountain sheep – along with the same dear with griffon’s vulture-like beak, with horns and the back of its head which has griffon’s head and an onager, is drawn on it.’

1,800-Year-Old Tombs Excavated in Eastern China

1,800-Year-Old Tombs Excavated in Eastern China

An ancient family in eastern China constructed three underground tombs, filled them with treasure and laid their loved ones to rest. Century after century wore on the burials. Thieves broke in. Eventually, the site was forgotten.

But not anymore.

Archaeologists in Rizhao city dug up a partially damaged mound ahead of the expansion of a nearby park, the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a May 11 news release shared via the China Archaeology Network.

Underneath, archaeologists found three tombs from the Han dynasty, a period that, according to Britannica, lasted from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D.

1,800-Year-Old Tombs Excavated in Eastern China
A view looking into the 1,800-year-old tomb known as M2, one of the robbed burials.

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The 1,800-year-old tombs were similar in style, with two burials in each and sloping tomb passageways to the entrances, the institute said. Inscriptions in two of the tombs had the same surname, Huan, indicating the complex likely belonged to a family.

Tomb M3 as seen before archaeologists removed its wooden cover.

Two of the ancient tombs had been robbed, archaeologists said. The wooden coffins were left in the graves but very few artifacts remained.

The third ancient tomb, however, was well-preserved and relatively untouched, the institute said. A photo shows this tomb, known as M3.

A view into the 1,800-year-old tomb M3.

The main burial chamber of the M3 tomb had two rooms connected with miniature windows and doors. A photo shows these unique wooden windows. Archaeologists said the residential style suggested the tomb contained a husband and wife.

A miniature wooden window found in the M3 tomb.

Archaeologists also found over 70 artifacts inside the tomb. Photos show some of these treasures, including an iron sword, bronze mirrors and stacks of several different types of pottery.

A rusty sword found in the 1,800-year-old tomb.

Around one of the wooden coffins, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a coffin carriage, a structure used to transport the coffin into the tomb, the institute said. They described it as exquisitely crafted and an uncommon find.

Several red pottery artifacts found at the ancient family’s tombs.

Archaeologists described the 1,800-year-old family tombs as a significant and important discovery. Finding the same last name inscribed in several tombs is rare, the institute said.

Some of the pottery artifacts found at the 1,800-year-old tomb complex.

The excavation in Rizhao started last December and ended in January. Rizhao, sometimes translated as Jihchao, is a city in Shandong province along the eastern coast of China, a roughly 400-mile drive southeast from Beijing.

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