Category Archives: ASIA

Freckled Woman with High Alcohol Tolerance Lived in Japan 3,800 Years Ago

Freckled Woman with High Alcohol Tolerance Lived in Japan 3,800 Years Ago

More than two decades after researchers discovered the 3,800-year-old remains of “Jomon woman” in Hokkaido, Japan, they’ve finally deciphered her genetic secrets.

Freckled Woman with High Alcohol Tolerance Lived in Japan 3,800 Years Ago
A facial reconstruction of the Jomon woman, who lived about 3,800 years ago in what is now northern Japan.

And it turns out, from that perspective, she looks very different from modern-day inhabitants of Japan.

The woman, who was elderly when she died, had a high tolerance for alcohol, unlike some modern Japanese people, a genetic analysis revealed. She also had moderately dark skin and eyes and an elevated chance of developing freckles.

Surprisingly, the ancient woman shared a gene variant with people who live in the Arctic, one that helps people digest high-fat foods. This variant is found in more than 70% of the Arctic population, but it’s absent elsewhere, said study first author Hideaki Kanzawa, a curator of anthropology at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. 

This variant provides further evidence that the Jomon people fished and hunted fatty sea and land animals, Kanzawa said.

“Hokkaido Jomon people engaged in [not only] hunting of … land animals, such as deer and boar, but also marine fishing and hunting of fur seal, Steller’s sea lions, sea lions, dolphins, salmon and trout,” Kanzawa told Live Science.

“In particular, many relics related to hunting of ocean animals have been excavated from the Funadomari site,” where the Jomon woman was found.

Who is Jomon woman?

Jomon women lived during the Joman period, also known as Japan’s Neolithic period, which lasted from about 10,500 B.C. to 300 B.C. Though she died more than three millennia ago — between 3,550 and 3,960 years ago, according to recent radiocarbon dating — researchers found her remains only in 1998, at the Funadomari shell mound on Rebun Island, off the northern coast of Hokkaido.

But Jomon woman’s genetics have remained a mystery all these years, prompting researchers to study her DNA, which they extracted from one of her molars.

Last year, the researchers released their preliminary results, which helped a forensic artist create a facial reconstruction of the woman, showing that she had dark, frizzy hair; brown eyes; and a smattering of freckles.

Her genes also showed that she was at high risk of developing solar lentigo, or darkened patches of skin if she spent too much time in the sun, so the artist included several dark spots on her face.

“These findings provided insights into the history and reconstructions of the ancient human-population structures in east Eurasia,” said Kanzawa, who was part of a larger team that included Naruya Saitou, a professor of population genetics at the National Institute of Genetics in Japan.

Now, with their study slated to be published in the next few weeks in The Anthropological Society of Nippon’s English-language journal, Kanzawa and his colleagues are sharing more of their results. Jomon woman’s DNA shows, for example, that the Jomon people split with Asian populations that lived on the Asian mainland between 38,000 and 18,000 years ago, he said.

It’s likely that the Jomon people lived in small hunter-gatherer groups, likely for about 50,000 years, Kanzawa noted. Moreover, the Jomon woman had wet earwax. That’s an interesting fact because the gene variant for dry earwax originated in northeastern Asia and today up to 95% of East Asians have dry earwax. (People with the dry earwax variant also lack a chemical that produces smelly armpits.)

Despite her differences from the modern Japanese population, Jomon woman is actually more closely related to today’s Japanese, Ulchi (the indigenous culture of eastern Russian), Korean, aboriginal Taiwanese and Philippine people than these populations are to the Han Chinese, Kanzawa said.

Metal books found in Jordan cave could change the view of Biblical history

Metal books found in Jordan cave could change the view of Biblical history

The discovery of seventy ancient metal books in a cave in Jordan is said to have the possibility of unlocking some of the secrets of the earliest days of Christianity.

Metal books found in Jordan cave could change the view of Biblical history

The tiny books, their lead pages bound with wire, have left academics divided over their authenticity, but they say that if they are verified, they could prove as pivotal as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

The pages are not much bigger than a credit card, and on them are images, symbols and words that appear to refer to the Messiah and, possibly even, to the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Adding to the intrigue, many of the books are sealed, prompting academics to speculate they are actually the lost collection of codices mentioned in the Bible’s Book Of Revelation.

The books were discovered five years ago in a cave in a remote part of Jordan to which Christian refugees are known to have fled after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD.

Important documents from the same period have previously been found there, and initial metallurgical tests indicate that some of the books could date from the first century AD.

This estimate is based on the form of corrosion, which has taken place, which experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially. If the dating were verified, the books would be among the earliest Christian documents, predating the writings of St Paul.

David Elkington, a British scholar of ancient religious history and archaeology, and one of the few to have examined the books says they could be “the major discovery of Christian history”. “It is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

“It is vital that the collection can be recovered intact and secured in the best possible circumstances, both for the benefit of its owners and for a potentially fascinated international audience,” he said. The books’ whereabouts are also a mystery, as after a Jordanian Bedouin discovered them, an Israeli Bedouin, who is said to have illegally smuggled them across the border into Israel, where they remain, acquired the lot.

The Jordanian Government is now working at the highest levels to repatriate and safeguard the collection. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of biblical studies at Sheffield University, said there was powerful evidence that the books have a Christian origin in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.

“As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck. That struck me as so obviously a Christian image,” he said. “There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb of Jesus, a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city.

“There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem. It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls.

“The possibility of a Hebrew-Christian origin is certainly suggested by the imagery and, if so, these codices are likely to bring dramatic new light to our understanding of a very significant but so far little understood period of history,” he stated.

The British team leading the work on the discovery fears that the present Israeli “keeper” may be looking to sell some of the books onto the black market, or worse – destroy them. But the man who holds the books denies the charge and claims they have been in his family for 100 years.

“The Book of Revelation tells of a sealed book that was opened only by the Messiah,” Dr Margaret Barker, a former president of the Society for Old Testament Study, said. “Other texts from the period tell of sealed books of wisdom and of a secret tradition passed on by Jesus to his closest disciples. That is the context for this discovery,” she stated.

5000-Year-Old Water System Discovered In Western Iran

5000-Year-Old Water System Discovered In Western Iran

Ancient Water System in Iran

Archaeologists in Iran made an unexpected discovery during excavations at the Farash ancient historical site at the Seimareh Dam reservoir – a 5,000-year-old water system.

The research team is working hard to recover the water pipes, along with hundreds of other artefacts, before they are submerged by the new dam.

The Persians are one of the earliest cultures to implement advanced systems of water distribution and are among the greatest aqueduct builders of the ancient world.

They are particularly well-known for their construction of qanāts, a series of well-like vertical shafts, connected by gently sloping tunnels, which were used to create a reliable supply of water for human settlements and for irrigation.

The water system comprises a small pool and a long earthenware pipeline. Each earthenware conduit measures about one metre in length and the team leader Leili Niaken said it is likely that the structure was made and baked in the region.

The newly discovered water system.

In addition to the ancient water pipes, the team of archaeologists from the Iranian Centre for Archaeological Research (ICAR) have also uncovered more than 100 sites dating back to the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Copper Age, Stone Age, Parthian, Sassanid and early Islamic periods. Signs of the Mesopotamians’ influence in the region were identified by studies carried out on the ancient strata at the reservoir.

The archaeological team is now working hard to unearth the rest of the pipeline, which may lead archaeologists to its source. 

The aim is to recover as much as possible before it all goes underwater when the filling of the dam is complete.

Archaeologists Discover Missing Link in Human Evolution, in Israel

Archaeologists Discover Missing Link in Human Evolution, in Israel

Researchers working in Israel have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human that lived alongside our species more than 100,000 years ago.

Archaeologists Discover Missing Link in Human Evolution, in Israel
The skull fragment and jawbone were found near Ramla in Israel

They believe the remains uncovered near the city of Ramla represent one of the “last survivors” of a very ancient human group.

The finds consist of a partial skull and jaw from an individual who lived between 140,000 and 120,000 years ago.

Details have been published in the journal Science.

The team members think the individual descended from an earlier species that may have spread out of the region hundreds of thousands of years ago and given rise to Neanderthals in Europe and their equivalents in Asia.

The scientists have named the newly discovered lineage the “Nesher Ramla Homo type”.

Dr Hila May of Tel Aviv University said the discovery reshaped the story of human evolution, particularly our picture of how the Neanderthals emerged. The general picture of Neanderthal evolution had in the past been linked closely with Europe.

“It all started in Israel. We suggest that a local group was the source population,” she told BBC News. “During interglacial periods, waves of humans, the Nesher Ramla people, migrated from the Middle East to Europe.”

The human finds were uncovered during the excavation of a sinkhole. Thousands of stone tools and animal remains were also found

The team thinks that early members of the Nesher Ramla Homo group were already present in the Near East some 400,000 years ago. The researchers have noticed resemblances between the new finds and ancient “pre-Neanderthal” groups in Europe.

“This is the first time we could connect the dots between different specimens found in the Levant,” said Dr Rachel Sarig, also from Tel Aviv University.

“There are several human fossils from the caves of Qesem, Zuttiyeh and Tabun that date back to that time that we could not attribute to any specific known group of humans. But comparing their shapes to those of the newly uncovered specimen from Nesher Ramla justify their inclusion within the [new human] group.”

Dr May suggests that these humans were the ancestors of Neanderthals.

“The European Neanderthal actually began here in the Levant and migrated to Europe, while interbreeding with other groups of humans.”

Others travelled east to India and China, said Prof Israel Hershkovitz, suggesting a connection between East Asian archaic humans and Neanderthals in Europe.

“Some fossils found in East Asia manifest Neanderthal-like features as the Nesher Ramla do,” he said.

One of the stone tools used by the Nesher Ramla humans. It was produced with the same techniques used by modern humans at the time

The researchers base their claims on similarities in features between the Israeli fossils and those found in Europe and Asia, though their assertion is controversial. Prof Chris Stringer, from the Natural History Museum in London, UK, has recently been assessing Chinese human remains.

“Nesher Ramla is important in confirming yet further that different species co-existed alongside each other in the region at the time and now we have the same story in western Asia,” he said.

“However, I think it’s a jump too far at the moment to link some of the older Israeli fossils to Neanderthals. I’m also puzzled at suggestions of any special link between the Nesher Ramla material and fossils in China.”

The Nesher Ramla remains themselves were found in what used to be a sinkhole, located in an area frequented by prehistoric humans. This may have been an area where they hunted for wild cattle, horses and deer, as indicated by thousands of stone tools and bones of hunted animals.

According to an analysis by Dr Yossi Zaidner at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, these tools were constructed in the same manner that modern humans of the time also made their implements.

“It was a surprise that archaic humans were using tools normally associated with Homo sapiens. This suggests that there were interactions between the two groups,” Dr Zaidner said.

“We think that it is only possible to learn how to make the tools through visual or oral learning. Our findings suggest that human evolution is far from simple and involved many dispersals, contacts and interactions between different species of human.”

U.S. Repatriates Looted Artifacts to Cambodia

U.S. Repatriates Looted Artifacts to Cambodia

(This August story corrects the 6th paragraph to state that Douglas Latchford was a dual citizen of Thailand and the United Kingdom, not Thailand and the United States)

The United States will return to Cambodia 30 looted antiquities, including bronze and stone statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities carved more than 1,000 years ago, U.S. officials said on Monday.

The Southeast Asian country’s archaeological sites – including Koh Ker, the capital of the ancient Khmer empire – suffered widespread looting in civil conflicts between the 1960s and 1990s.

Cambodia’s government has since sought to repatriate stolen antiquities sold on the international market.

Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said the items being returned were sold to Western buyers by Douglas Latchford, a Bangkok dealer who created fake documents to conceal that the items had been looted and smuggled.

Williams said the antiquities, including a 10th-century sandstone statue depicting the Hindu god of war Skanda riding on a peacock, were voluntarily relinquished by U.S. museums and private collectors after his office filed civil forfeiture claims.

U.S. Repatriates Looted Artifacts to Cambodia
Seized items are displayed during an announcement of the repatriation and return to Cambodia of 30 Cambodian antiquities sold to U.S. collectors and institutions by Douglas Latchford and seized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 8, 2022.
A person looks at a seized 10th Century Khmer sandstone statue of Skanda on a Peacock following an announcement of the repatriation and return to Cambodia of 30 Cambodian antiquities sold to U.S. collectors and institutions by Douglas Latchford and seized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 8, 2022.
A 10th-century Koh Ker-style sandstone sculpture of a Yaksha is prepared ahead of an announcement of the repatriation and return to Cambodia of 30 Cambodian antiquities sold to U.S. collectors and institutions by Douglas Latchford and seized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 8, 2022.
Lee Satterfield, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. State Department delivers remarks as he stands with seized items during an announcement of the repatriation and return to Cambodia of 30 Cambodian antiquities sold to U.S. collectors and institutions by Douglas Latchford and seized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 8, 2022.

“These statues and artefacts… are of extraordinary cultural value to the Cambodian people,” Williams said at a ceremony in Manhattan announcing the return of the antiquities.

U.S. prosecutors in 2019 charged Latchford, a dual citizen of Thailand and the United Kingdom, with wire fraud and smuggling over the alleged looting. He died in Thailand in 2020.

The antiquities will be displayed at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s U.S. ambassador Keo Chhea told Reuters at the ceremony.

In 2014, federal prosecutors returned the Duryodhana, a looted 10th-century sandstone sculpture, to Cambodia after settling with auction house Sotheby’s Inc, which had acquired it.

Last year, the Manhattan district attorney’s office returned 27 looted antiquities to Cambodia.

Holding hands for 5,000 years, a couple with mysterious jade rings and dagger

Holding hands for 5,000 years, a couple with mysterious jade rings and dagger

Bronze Age burial near Lake Baikal intrigues archaeologists who have not yet revealed the contents of the leather pouch between man’s kneecaps.

Holding hands for 5,000 years, a couple with mysterious jade rings and dagger
The man’s skeleton had a ring made of rare white jade over one eye socket.

Experts speculate that this ancient couple is an elderly man and his wife or concubine, buried for eternity in a show of affection. There are some unique aspects to the couple who are believed to be from the Bronze Age Glazkov culture.

The man’s skeleton had a ring made of rare white jade over one eye socket. Three more were on his chest. Archaeologist Dr Dmitry Kichigin said: ‘It was probably somehow connected with their ideas about the afterlife.’

Samples of the bone of the couple have been sent to Canada for radiocarbon analysis, but the Russian team involved in the excavations believe the couple to be 4,500 to 5,000 years old. 

The site is a sacred burial place since Neolithic times overlooking the waters of Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake in the world.

‘In the grave we found male and female skeletons, lying on their backs, heads to the west, hand in hand,’ he said. The site is a sacred burial place since Neolithic times overlooking the waters of Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake in the world.

The male skeleton is complete but rodents destroyed the upper part of the female. Near the woman was a ‘massive’ knife made of jade, some 13 centimetres in length and 7 cm in width. 

Pendants of red deer and musk deer teeth were found on the male skull, and around the feet. Most likely, they decorated the hat and footwear.

‘Were they relatives, or an owner and his concubine?’ asked the archaeologist. For now, the answer is unclear: he would like to conduct DNA tests to check if the pair were related, but this appears to be too expensive.

The burial unearthed this summer is located at a cape on Maloe More, the strait that separates the mainland and the Olkhon island, close to Chernorud settlement, some 260 kilometres north-east of Irkutsk. 

The precise location is being kept secret, for now, to avoid amateur diggers wrecking a site which is likely to contain more burials, possibly older than this one. 

‘We were lucky to find at least one skeleton in excellent condition, with implements and decorations – it is the dream of many archaeologists,’ said Kichigin. ‘It would be very interesting to find out the purposes the massive jade knife, which we found near the woman, was used for. 

‘We also found some metal implement in a small leather bag between male’s kneecaps.’ The analysis will begin with the finds in the autumn. 

‘The cape, where we conducted excavations, was obviously a sacred place for ancient people,’ he said. It was not a settlement but used for religious rites and as a graveyard from ancient times.

‘We can expect a lot of interesting discoveries on this archaeological site, so we plan to continue our work next year.’ 

The archaeological team led by Dr Kichigan is from Irkutsk National Research Technical University, with the assistance of Yuliana Yemelyanova, from the Laboratory of Archeology, Paleoecology, and Life Support Systems of the Peoples of North Asia.

The burial unearthed this summer is located at a cape on Maloe More, the strait that separates the mainland and the Olkhon island, close to Chernorud settlement.

9,000-Year-Old Underground Settlement With Megalithic Stone Circle, Discovered Beneath The Mediterranean Sea

9,000-Year-Old Underground Settlement With Megalithic Stone Circle, Discovered Beneath The Mediterranean Sea

Not far off the coast of the village of Atlit in the Mediterranean Sea, near Haifa in Israel, lies the submerged ruins of the ancient Neolithic site of Atlit Yam.

The prehistoric settlement, which dates back to the 7th millennium BC, has been so well preserved by the sandy seabed that a mysterious stone circle still stands as it was first erected, and dozens of human skeletons lay undisturbed in their graves. 

Atlit Yam is one of the oldest and largest sunken settlements ever found and sheds new light on the daily lives of its ancient inhabitants.

9,000-Year-Old Underground Settlement With Megalithic Stone Circle, Discovered Beneath The Mediterranean Sea

Today, Atlit Yam lies between 8 – 12 metres beneath sea level and covered an area of 40,000 square metres.

The site was first discovered in 1984 by marine archaeologist Ehud Galili, and since then underwater excavations have unearthed numerous houses, stone-built water wells, a series of long unconnected walls, ritual installations, stone-paved areas, a megalithic structure, thousands of flora and faunal remains, dozens of human remains, and numerous artefacts made of stone, bone, wood and flint.

At the centre of the settlement, seven megaliths (1.0 to 2.1 metres high) weighing up to 600 kilograms are arranged in a stone semicircle. The stones have cup marks carved into them and were once arranged around a freshwater spring, which suggests that they may have been used for a water ritual.

Another installation consists of three oval stones (1.6 – 1.8 metres), two of which are circumscribed by grooves forming schematic anthropomorphic figures.

Top: A diver examines megaliths at Atlit Yam. Bottom: Artist’s reconstruction of stone formation.

Another significant structural feature of the site is the stone-built well, which was excavated down to a depth of 5.5. metres. At the base of the well, archaeologists found sediment fill containing animal bones, stone, flint, wood, and bone artefacts. This suggests that in its final stage, it ceased to function as a water-well and was used instead as a disposal pit.

The change in function was probably related to the salinization of the water due to a rise in sea level. The wells from Atlit-Yam had probably been dug and constructed in the earliest stages of occupation (the end of the 9th millennium BC) and were essential for the maintenance of a permanent settlement in the area.

The ancient artefacts unearthed at Atlit Yam offer clues into how the prehistoric inhabitants once lived. Researchers have found traces of more than 100 species of plants that grew at the site or were collected from the wild, and animal remains consisted of bones of both wild and domesticated animals, including sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, and cattle, suggesting that the residents raised and hunted animals for subsistence.

In addition, more than 6,000 fish bones were found. Combined with other clues, such as an ear condition found in some of the human remains caused by regular exposure to cold water, it seems that fishing also played a big role in their society.

The archaeological material indicates that Atlit-Yam provides the earliest known evidence for an agro-pastoral-marine subsistence system on the Levantine coast. The inhabitants were some of the first to make the transition from being hunter-gatherers to being more settled farmers, and the settlement is one of the earliest with evidence of domesticated cattle.

Human remains reveal the oldest known case of Tuberculosis

Ten flexed burials encased in clay and covered by thick layers of sand were discovered, both inside the houses and in the vicinity of Atlit Yam, and in total archaeologists have uncovered 65 sets of human remains. One of the most significant discoveries of this ancient site is the presence of tuberculosis (TB) within the village. 

The skeletons of a woman and child, found in 2008, have revealed the earliest known cases of tuberculosis in the world. The size of the infant’s bones, and the extent of TB damage, suggest the mother passed the disease to her baby shortly after birth.

What caused Atlit Yam to sink?

One of the greatest archaeological mysteries of Atlit Yam is how it came to be submerged, a question that has led to heated debate in academic circles.

An Italian study led by Maria Pareschi of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Pisa indicates that a volcanic collapse of the Eastern flank of Mount Etna 8,500 years ago would likely have caused a 40-metre-high tsunami to engulf some Mediterranean coastal cities within hours.

Some scientists point to the apparent abandonment of Atlit Yam around the same time, and the thousands of fish remains, as further evidence that such a tsunami did indeed occur.

However, other researchers have suggested that there is no solid evidence to suggest a tsunami wiped out the settlement. After all, the megalithic stone circle still remained standing in the place in which it had been constructed.

One alternative is that climate change caused glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise and the settlement became flooded by a slow rise in the level of the Mediterranean that led to a gradual abandonment of the village.

Whatever the cause of the submerging of the settlement, it was the unique conditions of clay and sandy sediment under salty water that enabled this ancient village to remain so well preserved over thousands of years.

10,000-Year-Old Rock Paintings Depict UFOs And Aliens

10,000-Year-Old Rock Paintings Depict UFOs And Aliens

The State Department of Archaeology and Culture in Chhattisgarh, India, is seeking assistance from the Indian Space Research Organisation to research a set of ancient rock paintings found inside caves near the town of Charama in Kanker district, in the tribal Bastar region, according to a news report in the Times of India. 

According to one archaeologist, the art reflects the belief among ancient humans that we are not alone in the universe.

The Indian state of Chhattisgarh has an abundance of ancient rock paintings, according to their website. Many sites have paintings of humans and animals in everyday scenes.

Old Rock Paintings

However, some researchers have referred to more unusual paintings, such as those depicting what appear to be kangaroos and giraffes, which are not native to the country, as well as human-fish hybrid creatures. Now, it is claimed that aliens and UFOs can be added to this collection.

“The paintings are done in natural colours that have hardly faded despite the years. The strangely carved figures are seen holding weapon-like objects and do not have clear features. Especially, the nose and mouth are missing. In a few pictures, they are even shown wearing space suits,” said archaeologist JR Bhagat.

Bhagat, who has studied rock art, claims that the newly-discovered depictions date back some 10,000 years, although the dating method has not been clarified.

Bhagat suggests that the images may depict extra-terrestrials and UFOs as the paintings include large, humanoid beings descending from the sky, some wearing what looks like a helmet or antennae, as well as a disc-shaped craft with three rays (or legs) coming from its base.

“The findings suggest that humans in prehistoric times may have seen or imagined beings from other planets which still creates curiosity among people and researchers.

“Extensive research is needed for further findings. Chhattisgarh presently doesn’t have any such expert who could give clarity on the subject,” Bhagat told the Times of India.

One of the ancient rock paintings

Bhagat explained that there are several beliefs among locals from the area.

While few worship the paintings, others narrate stories they have heard from ancestors about “rohela people”, which translates to “the small sized ones”. 

According to legend, the rohela people used to land in the sky in a round-shaped flying object and take away one or two persons of the village who never returned.  However, Bhagat does concede, 

“We can’t refute the possibility of imagination by prehistoric men.”

Bhagat has not made reference to the fact that the paintings in question depict what, in other contexts, archaeologists typically identify as shamanic images of humans, human-animal hybrids, and geometric forms. Images of figures with antlers, antennae, or spirit rays are familiar, and in fact quite common, in shamanic art.

The research on the rock paintings is ongoing, and Bhagat says more archaeologists will be consulted to help identify the mysterious creatures and objects in the ancient artwork.