Category Archives: ASIA

490-Million-Year-Old Trilobites Could Solve Ancient Geography Puzzle

490-Million-Year-Old Trilobites Could Solve Ancient Geography Puzzle

490-Million-Year-Old Trilobites Could Solve Ancient Geography Puzzle

The humble trilobites may be extinct, but even as fossils, they can teach us much about our planet’s history. Indeed, ancient arthropods from nearly half a billion years ago, including ten newly discovered species,  may be key to understanding Thailand’s place on the former supercontinent Gondwana.

Trilobites are extinct sea creatures with half-moon-shaped heads that breathed through their legs. A 100-page monograph in the British journal offers great detail about the new species, including one named in honor of Thai Royal Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

The trilobite fossils were trapped between layers of petrified ash in sandstone, the product of old volcanic eruptions that settled on the sea floor and formed a green layer called a tuff. Unlike some other kinds of rocks or sediment, tuffs contain crystals of zircon — a mineral that formed during an eruption and are, as the name of the rock layer containing them suggests, tough.

Zircon is chemically stable as well as heat and weather resistant. It is hard as steel and persists when minerals in other kinds of rocks erode. Inside these resilient zircon crystals, individual atoms of uranium gradually decay and transform into atoms of lead.

“We can use radio isotope techniques to date when the zircon formed and thus find the age of the eruption, as well as the fossil,” said Nigel Hughes, monograph co-author and UC Riverside geology professor.

It is rare to find tuffs from this particular period of time, the late Cambrian period, between 497 and 485 million years ago. “Not many places around the world have this. It is one of the worst dated intervals of time in Earth’s history,” Hughes said.

Artist’s rendering of a trilobite based on preserved soft body parts.

“The tuffs will allow us to not only determine the age of the fossils we found in Thailand, but to better understand parts of the world like China, Australia, and even North America where similar fossils have been found in rocks that cannot be dated,” said Shelly Wernette, former Hughes lab geologist now at Texas State University, and first author of the monograph.

The fossils were uncovered on the coast of an island called Ko Tarutao. It is about 40 minutes southwest from the mainland via high-speed boat and is part of a UNESCO geopark site that has encouraged international teams of scientists to work in this area.

For Wernette, the most interesting discovery was 12 types of trilobites that have been seen in other parts of the world, but never in Thailand before. “We can now connect Thailand to parts of Australia, a really exciting discovery.”

During the trilobites’ lifetime, this region was on the outer margins of Gondwanaland, an ancient supercontinent that included Africa, India, Australia, South America, and Antarctica.

“Because continents shift over time, part of our job has been to work out where this region of Thailand was in relation to the rest of Gondwanaland,” Hughes said. “It’s a moving, shape shifting, 3D jigsaw puzzle we’re trying to put together. This discovery will help us do that.”

Location of the fossil discoveries.

For example, take the species named for Royal Princess Sirindhorn. The species was named in tribute to the princess for her steadfast dedication to developing the sciences in Thailand. “I also thought this species had a regal quality. It has a broad headdress and clean sweeping lines,” Wernette said.

If researchers can get a date from the tuffs containing her namesake species, Tsinania sirindhornae, and determine when they lived, they will be able to say that closely related species of Tsinania found in northern and southern China are roughly the same age.

Ultimately, the researchers feel that the pictures of the ancient world hidden in the fossils they found contain invaluable information for the present day.

“What we have here is a chronicle of evolutionary change accompanied by extinctions. The Earth has written this record for us, and we’re fortunate to have it,” Hughes said. “The more we learn from it the better prepared we are for the challenges we’re engineering on the planet for ourselves today.”

A rare 6,000-year-old elephant ivory vessel was unearthed near Beersheba

A rare 6,000-year-old elephant ivory vessel was unearthed near Beersheba

A rare 6,000-year-old elephant ivory vessel was unearthed near Beersheba

A recent excavation near Beersheba in southern Israel uncovered an ivory vessel crafted of elephant tusks dating to the Chalcolithic period (around 4,000 BC). The find is the first Chalcolithic ivory vessel discovered in Israel.

Although the ship was originally disassembled, careful restoration work at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) laboratories has brought it back to its former glory.

The vessel is of a type known to researchers as an amphoriskos, a small jar. This rare find sheds light on ancient trade connections between the Holy Land and Egypt some six millennia ago

The diameter of the ivory container is approximately 8 inches. Its exquisitely designed and skillfully crafted small matching handles are arranged symmetrically around its lower body and neck.

The find is the first Chalcolithic ivory vessel discovered in Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said and was likely either imported from Egypt or carved locally from ivory imported from there.

The broken ivory vessel deposited within the large basalt bowls.

The rare item was discovered in 2020 at Horvat Raqiq, an archaeological site near Beersheba in southern Israel, during infrastructure work to lay a water pipe, the IAA told The Times of Israel.

More than just artifacts were discovered during the excavation at Horbat Raqiq; it also uncovered an old settlement with underground buildings etched into the Loess ground. Emil Aladjem discovered the edge of a basalt vessel during the last stages of the dig, which prompted additional investigation.

Three imposing vessels were found within the excavation site after an extended search. Among them, nestled within layers of soil, lay the shattered remnants of the ivory vessel, carefully interred in antiquity – a testament to its significance.

“This find deepens our understanding of the Chalcolithic period and of the cultural exchange ties of our region with both neighboring and distant cultures,” the researchers said.

“The vessel is well-made and makes maximum use of the original tusk – which was a most precious material. If it was manufactured here, it reveals the high standard of craftspeople who dwelt here, who knew how to treat ivory, and also knew elephant anatomy.”

IAA researchers, specialists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and ivory conservationist Olga Negnevitsky collaborated to analyze and restore the ivory vessel, which was a difficult and drawn-out process.

The vessel is to be presented to the public on Thursday in Jerusalem at the annual Israel Prehistoric Society conference, along with other recent prehistoric discoveries.

Name of Iranian city identified on 1800-year-old Sassanid clay seal

Name of Iranian city identified on 1800-year-old Sassanid clay seal

Name of Iranian city identified on 1800-year-old Sassanid clay seal

In a stunning archaeological find, the name “Shiraz” was identified on a clay sealing from the Sassanid era written in Pahlavi script.

The Sassanid Empire‘s (224-651CE) territory encompassed all of what is now Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Afghanistan, eastern parts of Turkey, and parts of Syria, Pakistan, Caucasia, Central Asia, and Arabia.

The Sassanids called their empire Eranshahr “Empire of the Aryans (Persians)”. Ardashir I established the Sassanid Empire or Sassanian Dynasty following his victory over Artabanus IV Ardavan, the final Parthian (Arsacid) monarch. It came to an end when Yazdegerd III (632–651), the final Sassanid Shahanshah (King of Kings), lost his 14-year struggle to expel the growing Islamic empires.

The Sassanid era is regarded as one of Iran’s most significant and influential historical periods. Persia had a significant impact on Roman civilization during the Sassanid era, and the Romans only granted equal status to the Sassanid Persians.

The finding is important due to cementing the history of Shiraz, which is situated some 60 km south of Persepolis, once the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC).

The sealing is being kept at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. These sealings were unearthed during three seasons of archaeological excavations by experts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, conducted from 1932 to 1935.

According to the Met Museum, this sealing was impressed with four seals of varying sizes. The imagery on the seals depicts a lion walking right, a monogram, an inscription, and a horned quadruped.

This sealing was one of more than five hundred that were unearthed from the Sasanian stronghold located at Qasr-e Abu Nasr. The building burned, baking the clay and preserving the seal impressions, which is how the cache survived.

Iranian archaeologist Mohammadreza Nasab-Abdollahi said that based on the research he has done, he has identified the name of Shiraz in the Pahlavi script (Middle Persian) on the “Sasanian clay seal”, which were obtained nearly a century ago from the archaeological excavations in the “Qasr-e Abu Nasr” in the east of Shiraz.

On 6 April, Iranian archaeologist Mohammadreza Nasab-Abdollahi affirmed to ISNA news agency that the inscription “Mugh-e Shiraz” has been deciphered on these Sassanid clay sealings.

Name of Iranian city identified on 1800-year-old Sassanid clay seal

According to Nasab-Abdollahi, archaeological investigations indicate that Qasr-e Abu Nasr in Shiraz exhibits a cultural sequence from the Achaemenid to the Abbasid period, with its primary settlement dating back to the Sassanid era.

“The archaeological findings from Qasr-e Abu Nasr reveal a wide spectrum of administrative systems, techniques, and defensive structures,” the archaeologist remarked.

Furthermore, he emphasized that archaeological evidence from the Sassanid period, including such clay sealings, as well as artifacts from the Achaemenid era such as inscribed bricks from Persepolis, corroborates that the city known today as Shiraz bore the same name in antiquity and was among the significant cities of ancient Iran.

A 4000-Year-Old Seal Found in the prehistoric coastal site of Kalba on the Gulf of Oman

A 4000-Year-Old Seal Found in the prehistoric coastal site of Kalba on the Gulf of Oman

A 4000-Year-Old Seal Found in the prehistoric coastal site of Kalba on the Gulf of Oman

Archaeologists discovered a Gulf-type seal made of soft stone dating to the end of the third millennium BC at Kalba, a prehistoric coastal site in the Gulf of Oman.

Since 2019, excavations have been carried out on the south-eastern Arabian Peninsula by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) to investigate.

As a result of this research, researchers can be detected for the first time the extensive trade networks extending from the Indus region to the Aegean Sea about 4500 years ago. According to researchers, presumably, the Gulf region already served as a nexus between East and West about 4500 years ago.

Kalba is a multi-period site situated in the Emirate of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, on the Gulf of Oman, and it is one of the sites under investigation as a hub for these early commercial networks in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula.

Kalba was continuously inhabited from the Early Bronze Age to the Iron Age (c. 2500–600 BC), despite environmental changes that made the area more arid.

In addition to providing favorable weather, Kalba’s strategic location made it an excellent entry point for caravan routes connecting land and sea. The Hajar Mountains can still be crossed via this route, which also makes it possible to trade goods with the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula.

However, the researchers emphasize the importance of considering the question of what objects or raw materials were brought to Kalba, produced and used at the site, and which presumably served as trade goods.  All indications point to a special relevance of mineral resources.

The research findings show that a multi-crafting coastal community not only occupies a favorable ecological niche but also employs sophisticated and adaptable raw-material procurement strategies. Moreover, a “Gulf-type” seal attests to Kalba’s involvement in extensive networks of trade and exchange.

According to archaeologists, this type of seal, originally produced in the Dilmun region, can be dated to the late third millennium BCE. The seal depicts a bull and possibly a lion in an attacking posture.

The bull motif, widely recognized in similar seals, is influenced by the iconography of the Indus Valley seals.

The lion, however, is intriguing, as it is not represented in Indus seals, but is rather known as a motif in the cylinder seals of the westernmost Mesopotamian region.

The motifs on the “Gulf-type” seal from Kalba, they conclude, seem to represent a potential synthesis of Eastern and Western motif traditions within a distinct local seal type in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula, emphasizing the cohesive nature of this coastal trading hub.

The “Horoscope” Scroll Found In the Judean Desert: A Glimpse Into the Mysterious Sect

The “Horoscope” Scroll Found In the Judean Desert: A Glimpse Into the Mysterious Sect

The “Horoscope” Scroll Found In the Judean Desert: A Glimpse Into the Mysterious Sect

One of the most interesting and mysterious scrolls discovered in the Judean Desert is a scroll called the “Horoscope.” This scroll shed light on the ancient practices of astrology and mysticism in a discovery that has intrigued historians and archaeologists alike.

The artifact offers a unique peek into the beliefs of a secretive sect that thrived thousands of years ago.

This ancient text reveals a worldview in which a person’s birth date not only indicates their zodiac sign but also determines their physical characteristics and the balance of light and darkness within their soul.

This unique composition was written in Hebrew in the reverse direction – from left to right- and contains signs in Greek, Aramaic, and ancient Hebrew script, as well as code.

“From the writing style, it seems the text was intended only for those who were supposed to know how to read it,” says Dr. Oren Ableman, a scroll researcher in the Judaean Desert Scrolls Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The texts were apparently secret, comprehensible only to the leadership of the Scrolls sect.”

ANDREAS CELLARIUS, 1661: Astrological aspects, such as opposition, conjunction, etc., among the planets.

The scroll presents an intriguing theory in which a person’s physical attributes are determined by the degree of light or darkness in their soul. Each date on the calendar is associated with a particular amount of light or darkness, and thus, the amount of good or evil, or light or darkness, in the soul of the person born on that date.

The “Horoscope” scroll also hints at a rigorous initiation process for new members of the community, who identified themselves as “children of light.”

“It seems to have been a kind of manual for crafting a ‘horoscope,’ using one’s birth date to determine their personality and physical features. New members had to prove their suitability to join the ranks of the righteous. This, in effect, suggests that a person could believe in the sect’s beliefs and customs but still be rejected because they were not born on the right date, or their head shape did not fit,” says Dr. Ableman.

The discovery of the scroll has reignited interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient Judean Desert sects, serving as a reminder of humanity’s enduring quest for knowledge and the mystical.

The earliest Buddha statues in China found in northwestern Shaanxi

The earliest Buddha statues in China found in northwestern Shaanxi

The earliest Buddha statues in China found in northwestern Shaanxi

The two copper-tin-lead alloy Buddha statues discovered in northwestern Shaanxi Province became the earliest Buddha statues of this kind unearthed in China.

Two alloy Buddha statues and a number of items were excavated from a group of ancient tombs dating to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) in northwest China‘s Shaanxi Province, the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology said Friday.

The tombs were located in Chengren Village, Xianyang City. Six tombs were excavated in May this year.

The details of the two statues were revealed. One is for Sakyamuni and the other for Five Tathāgatas.

The total height of the Sakyamuni statue is 10.5 centimeters, the diameter of the base it sits on is 4.7 centimeters, and the total height of the Five Tathāgatas is 15.8 centimeters and the width is 6.4 centimeters.

According to archaeologists, the carved figures, which were widely believed to embody religious beliefs, did not appear until the Sixteen Kingdoms Period, dating back 200 years earlier than previous discoveries.

Two alloy Buddha statues and a number of items were excavated from a group of ancient tombs dating to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology said Friday.

Based on preliminary results of the modeling characteristics, manufacturing process analysis, and metal composition detection of the Buddhas, it can be concluded that the two statues are of Gandhara style and made locally, which has important research value for the introduction and Sinicization of Buddhist culture.

The two Buddha statues are both copper-tin-lead alloy according to archaeological analysis, said Li Ming, a researcher with the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology.

“The findings of the Buddha statues are of great significance to the study of the introduction of Buddhist culture to China and its localization in the country,” Li added.

According to Li Ming, the leader of the archaeological project, the excavation site called Hongduyuan cemetery in the north of Chang’an, now known as Xi’an, as the capital city of ancient China’s Han and Tang dynasties, was the highest grade cemetery in the period apart from the emperor’s mausoleum. Most of those buried in the tombs are found to be royal relatives, senior officials, and dignitaries, all recorded in historical books.

From June 2020 to November 2021, 3,648 ancient tombs, spanning from the Warring States period (475 B.C. – 221 B.C.) to Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), have been excavated by the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology in Shaanxi’s Xianyang City.

So far, more than 16,000 pieces (sets) of cultural relics have been unearthed, and quite a number of important archaeological findings have been reported.

The excavations are continuing at the site.

Rare 2,800-Year-Old Assyrian Scarab Amulet Found In Lower Galilee

Rare 2,800-Year-Old Assyrian Scarab Amulet Found In Lower Galilee

Erez Avrahamov, a 45-year-old inhabitant of Peduel, made an incredible discovery while hiking in the Tabor Stream Nature Reserve located in Lower Galilee. He stumbled upon an ancient seal shaped like a scarab that dates back to the First Temple period.

Rare 2,800-Year-Old Assyrian Scarab Amulet Found In Lower Galilee

This ancient artifact is as unique as it is stunning. Avrahamov initially mistook it for a bead or an orange stone lying on the ground. However, upon closer inspection, he realized it was intricately engraved, resembling a scarab or beetle.

Recognizing its potential significance, Avrahamov promptly contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority to report this extraordinary discovery.

Nir Distelfeld, an Inspector from the Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, swiftly realized Avrahamov had stumbled upon something extraordinary. He instructed him to carefully examine the other side of the scarab – the flat side – to see if it bore any engravings.

The scarab, an ancient sacred symbol, has a rich history that dates back to the late Paleolithic era when beetle-shaped ornaments were common. By the time of Egypt’s Old Kingdom in the 3rd millennium B.C., scarabs had evolved into aesthetically pleasing objects with deep shamanic symbolism. They played a significant role in early animal worship.

The Egyptian name derives from the verb “to become” or “to be created”, as the Egyptians saw the scarab as a symbol of the creator god. This is corroborated by archaeological findings from King Den’s reign during Dynasty I.

Just as Christians revere the cross today, Egyptian pharaohs profoundly respect dung beetles – likely viewing them as sacred symbols.

”The scarab, made of a semi-precious stone called carnelian, depicts either a mythical griffin creature or a galloping winged horse. Similar scarabs have been dated to the 8th century BCE.” Distelfeld adds that, “the beautiful scarab was found at the foot of Tel Rekhesh, one of the most important tells in Galilee.

The site has been identified as ‘Anaharat’, a town within the territory of the tribe of Issachar (Joshua 19:19),” Professor Emeritus Othmar Keel of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland explained.

Scarabs were crafted from various stones, including semi-precious ones like amethyst and carnelian. However, most were made from steatite – a soft talc stone with a grayish-white hue, typically coated with a blue-green glaze. This glaze could only withstand dry climates like Egypt’s.

Hence, scarabs discovered in Israel seldom show remnants of it. This particular scarab’s deep orange color is uncommon and visually captivating in this scenario.

According to Dr. Itzik Paz, an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist who excavated at Tel Rekhesh, the discovery of this significant artifact from Tel Rekhesh, dating back to the Iron Age (7th–6th centuries BCE), is truly noteworthy.

During this period, a large fortress was present on the tell, seemingly under Assyrian rule – the same empire that led to the downfall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

The scarab found at the base of the tell could potentially indicate an Assyrian (or maybe even Babylonian) administrative presence at that location.

The griffin design on the seal is a recognized theme in ancient Near Eastern art and frequently appears on Iron Age seals. If we can accurately date this seal, it might provide a direct connection to Assyrian influence in the Tel Rekhesh fortress – an incredibly significant find!

Well-preserved Ming Dynasty tomb unearthed in China’s Shanxi Province

Well-preserved Ming Dynasty tomb unearthed in China’s Shanxi Province

Well-preserved Ming Dynasty tomb unearthed in China’s Shanxi Province

Archaeologists from the Shanxi Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology have unearthed a well-preserved tomb from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in Xinzhou city of Northern China’s Shanxi province.

To coordinate with a national highway realignment project, archaeologists from the institute and local cultural relics and archaeology departments in Xinzhou excavated relics in the city’s Xinfu district.

Even though the tomb is over 430 years old, its elaborate funerary furniture and wooden coffin are still intact and in excellent condition. In Shanxi, it is rare to find a tomb in such good condition with well-preserved wooden furnishings.

The excavations have uncovered the remains of structures from the Longshan Period (2900-2100 B.C.) and the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), and 66 tombs from the Han, Tang, Jin, Yuan and Ming and Qing dynasties.

Among them was an intact Ming Dynasty tomb discovered on the west terrace of Hexitou village in Xinzhou’s Xinfu district.

Comprising a sloping passageway 17 meters (55.7 ft) long, a central burial chamber, and a smaller rear chamber, the tomb stretched about 25.3 meters (83ft) in length.

A striking image captured the tomb’s sealed entrance, adorned with a stone gatehouse and a set of imposing double doors. The gate is stone carved to imitate a wood structure.

Two dragon heads look outwards on each end of the roof. The stone slabs above and on each side of the doors are carved with florals.

Archaeologists discovered two beautifully decorated wooden coffins with intricate motifs in the main burial chamber, as well as two niches: one in the south with four porcelain jars and one in the north with five porcelain jars and four bottles. The porcelain vessels contained grains, liquids, or oils.

Brightly colored flowers, grasses, and specifically peacocks are painted on the well-maintained inner coffin. The better-preserved exterior coffin of the larger of the two features gold patterns in the shape of diamonds set against a tan backdrop.

The smaller chamber is furnished with wooden altars, tables, chairs, candlesticks, lampstands, incense burners, tin pots, tin cups, tin plates, painted wooden figurines, inkstones, brushes, pen holders and other writing utensils.

An epitaph inscribed in seal script offers a clue to the possible identity of the deceased: “Epitaph of the Prince of Ming Ru Hou’an,” hinting at a noble lineage and prestigious title.

The second coffin, distinguished by a diamond-shaped pattern, bears an inscription in regular script. The inscription reads: “Ming Gu Rong Kao Hou Ru Wang Gong”, translating to “Entrusted by the Ming Dynasty to serve the royal court as a palace official.

The wooden burial objects and sacrificial items were well-preserved, making this discovery rare in the city and even throughout the whole province, according to the institute.