Category Archives: ASIA

Statue Fragments Found Near Cambodia’s Bayon Temple

Statue Fragments Found Near Cambodia’s Bayon Temple

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA— The large statue fragments have been recovered from a canal near the Gate of the Dead at Angkor Thom by members of Cambodia’s Department of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology, the heritage police, and agents from the Apsara Authority.

Two sandstone heads of tug-of-war statues have been spotted near the Gate of the Dead

“The god statue found by the working team has four pieces, while another giant statue has only the back part without a face,” said Chhouk Somala of the Department of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology.

Two sandstone heads of tug-of-war statues have been spotted and brought out from a canal near the Gate of the Dead. This was found today on the eastern side of Siem Reap province’s Bayon temple.

Chhouk Somala, an officer in charge of archaeological registration at the Department of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology said, two heads of statues including one god and a giant of the tug-of-war statue at the Gate of the Dead, have been found by the department’s working team, heritage police, and Apsara Authority’s travel agents.

He added, “The god statue found by the working team has four pieces, while another giant statue has only the back part without a face.”

The finding of the two statues was not accidental because the general structures of the tug-of-war statue have been damaged due to the age of the structure, natural forces, and war which made some of those statues fall into the water and get buried in the ground.

Long Kosal, Apsara Authority spokesman, said archaeologists in the past have also discovered the sandstone statues at some sites in the Angkor Archaeological Park, and have been brought to the Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum for study and preservation.

“After taking these two statues out of the water, our working team has brought it to the Department of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology to register them as art objects, repair and conduct further studies before handing them over to be artifacts in the museum,” he said.

Ritual Site Dedicated to Mesopotamian War God Discovered in Iraq

Ritual Site Dedicated to Mesopotamian War God Discovered in Iraq

At the site of Girsu (also known as Tello) in Iraq, archeologists recently uncovered a 5,000-year-old cultic region that hosted fiery feasts, animal sacrifices and ritual processions dedicated to Ningirsu, a Mesopotamian warrior-god.

Archeologists excavated over 300 broken ceremonial ceramic cups, bowls, pots, and spouted vessels along with a large number of animal bones in an area of Girsu known as the Uruku (a name which means “the sacred city”).

The sacred plaza, seen here, was at the heart of Girsu. A cultic area that had over 300 broken ceremonial objects was recently uncovered near its entrance.

The items were within or near a “favissa” (ritual pit) that was 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) deep, said Sebastien Rey, director of the British Museum’s Tello/Ancient Girsu Project, and Tina Greenfield, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Saskatchewan who works on the project.

Greenfield presented the team’s findings at the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting held in San Diego in November 2019. 

One of the most striking objects the archaeologists found was a bronze figurine shaped like a duck, with eyes made out of the shell.

The object may have been dedicated to Nanshe, a goddess associated with water, marshlands and aquatic birds, Rey and Greenfield told Live Science in an email. The researchers also uncovered a fragment of a vase that has an inscription dedicated to Ningirsu.

Rey and Greenfield said that the cups and goblets they found were probably used in a religious feast before being ritually discarded in the pit, while the bones — which were from sheep, cow, deer, gazelle, fish, goat, pig and birds — were likely the remains of animals that were either consumed or killed for ritual sacrifices. 

The area has a thick layer of ash that was likely leftover from large ritual fires. The team also found eight ash-filled oval structures that were likely the remains of lanterns or floor lamps. 

Archaeologists believe that the cultic area was in use during a time period called the “early dynastic,” which lasted between 2950-2350 B.C. 

Details of the favissa and its objects and animal bones can be seen in this picture. The cultic area that it’s in dates back almost 5,000 years.

Festivals and processions

A large number of ceremonial ceramics, as well as the burnt floors and a favissa strongly, connects the recently uncovered cultic area to the place “where according to the cuneiform texts religious festivals took place and where the population of Girsu gathered to feast and honour their gods,” Rey and Greenfield said in the email.

Cuneiform tablets found at Girsu in the late 19th and early 20th century describe the religious feasting and processions that the cultic area was used for.

The tablets say that a religious feast in honor of Ningirsu was carried out twice a year and lasted for three or four days, Rey and Greenfield said. 

During the festival, a religious procession began at the center of Girsu and crossed the city’s territory before arriving at the “Gu’edena,” an area that may have been located just outside Girsu — and then turned back and ended at Girsu’s center. 

Archaeological work is ongoing at Girsu, and the researchers will continue to publish new findings in the future.

Ancient City found atop huge Rock in Srilanka

Ancient City found atop huge Rock in Srilanka

Sigiriya (The Lion Mountain) is often considered to be the eighth wonders of the world and an ancient stone fortress used by a king of Sri Lanka as a site to build his palace and hide from attacks by his Enemy brother.

Located in Sri Lanka’s central Matale district, the fortress is surrounded by the remains of extensive reservoirs and gardens on all sides.

The most significant feature of this geologic masterpiece is the Lion staircase leading to a palace garden on the top of the rock.

Sigiriya Rock

The Lion staircase is a complex structure, a walkway with tiles that rises from the open mouth of the beast that takes its name from and is made of brick and timber. The bricks surround ancient limestone steps. 

Named a world heritage site by UNESCO, this rock is full of archeological importance. The other primary feature that draws thousands of tourists every year is the surviving frescoes and other paintings.

The few paintings that survive are the earliest examples of a Sri Lanka school of classical realism, which was fully formed by the 5th century when the paintings at Sigiriya were produced. There are also remains of paintings in some of the caves that are nestled at the foot of the giant rock.

According to ancient texts, the entire rock fortress was built by King Kashyapa and, after his death, was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

Who Rediscovered Sigiriya?

The gardens and palace at Sigiriya were abandoned but later assumed by a Buddhist monastery which would occupy the land until the 14th century.

There are no records of the activity at Sigiriya between the 14th and 16th centuries, but by the 17th century, it was used as an outpost for the Kingdom of Kandy independent monarchy.

Western civilization re-discovered Sigiriya in 1831 when British army Major Jonathan Forbes of the 78th Highlanders discovered the bush-covered summit of Sigiriya on a horseback trip across the island.

In the 1890s archaeologist, H.C.P. Bell spent some time at Sigiriya, overseeing a small dig and research operation.

It would be another twenty years until the natural rock formation would return to the public eye; British explorer John Still’s visit to Sigiriya in 1907 sparked international discussion and renewed interest in the Sri Lanka treasure.

Full-scale archaeological work would not begin until 1982 when government-funded Cultural Triangle Project focused its attention on the ancient city.

It was during this time historians learned of Lion’s presence at the gate to Sigiriya, its head having collapsed long ago.

3000-year-old Nimrud lens could rewrite the history of science

3000-year-old Nimrud lens could rewrite the history of science

The lens of Nimrud is a rock crystal object, 3000 years old, which Sir John Layard found in 1850 at the Assyrian Nimrud Palace in modern Iraq.

The Nimrud lens is kept at the British Museum.

Since its discovery over a century ago, scientists and archaeologists have been discussing how the lens has been used as part of a telescope by one famous Italian professor who believed that the ancient Assyrians knew so much about astronomy.

The Nimrud lens (also referred to as the Layard lens), dated between 750 and 710 BC, is made of natural rock crystal and is a slightly oval in form. It was roughly ground, perhaps on a lapidary wheel. It has a focal point about 11 centimeters from the flat side and a focal length of about 12 cm.  

This would make it equivalent to a 3× magnifying glass (combined with another lens, it could achieve much greater magnification). The surface of the lens has twelve cavities that were opened during grinding, which would have contained naptha or some other fluid trapped in the raw crystal. The lens is said to be able to focus sunlight although the focus is far from perfect.  

There has been much debate over the original use of the Nimrud lens.  Some speculate that it was used as a magnifying glass, or as a burning-glass to start fires by concentrating sunlight, while others have proposed that the lens was part of a telescope. 

However, if we are to believe the British Museum’s description, the Nimrud lens “would have been of little or no practical use”, and while they acknowledge that “this piece of rock crystal has been carefully ground and polished, and undoubtedly has optical properties”, they reach the unusual conclusion that the optical properties were “probably accidental”.  

I wonder if the British Museum also maintains that the hundreds of other carefully crafted and polished lenses found throughout the ancient world were also “accidental”?

The British Museum finished by saying that: “There is no evidence that the Assyrians used lenses, either for magnification or for making fire, and it is much more likely that this is a piece of inlay, perhaps for furniture.” However, many disagree with this claim.

Sir John Layard suggested that Assyrian craftsmen used the lens as a magnifying glass to make intricate and minuscule engravings, such as those that have been found on seals and on clay tablets using a wedge-shaped script. But experts on Assyrian archaeology are unconvinced. They say that the lens is of such low quality that it would have been a poor aid to vision.

An example of the minuscule text engraved on clay tablets

Another hypothesis is that the lens was used as a burning-glass to start a fire. Burning-glasses were known in the ancient world. Aristophanes refers to “the beautiful, transparent stone with which they light fires” in his play The Clouds (424 BC). Pliny the Elder (23-79AD) describes how glass balls filled with water could set clothes on fire when placed in line with the sun. However, there is no clear evidence to support the theory that this was the purpose for which the Nimrud lens was created.

Italian scientist Giovanni Pettinato of the University of Rome has proposed that the lens was used by the ancient Assyrians as part of a telescope.  According to conventional perspectives, the telescope was invented by Dutch spectacle maker, Hans Lippershey in 1608 AD, and Galileo was the first to point it to the sky and use it to study the cosmos. But even Galileo himself noted that the ‘ancients’ were aware of telescopes.

While lenses were around before the Nimrud lens, Pettinato believes this was one of the first to be used in a telescope.  The earliest lenses identified date back around 4,500 years ago to the 4 th and 5 th Dynasties of Ancient Egypt (e.g., the superb `Le Scribe Accroupi’ and `the Kai’ in the Louvre), where it appears they were used as schematic eye structures (iris/pupil inserts) associated with funerary statues.

Latter examples have been found in Knossos dated to around 3,500-years-old.  In total, there are several hundred reported lenses now on record from around the ancient world, so it appears that the ancients knew a lot more about lenses than some, like the British Museum, give them credit for. 

One of the reasons Pettinato believed that the Assyrians used the Nimrud lens as part of a telescope is that some of their knowledge about astronomy seems impossible to have acquired without a telescope. 

For example, the ancient Assyrians saw the planet Saturn as a god surrounded by a ring of serpents, which Pettinato suggests was their interpretation of Saturn’s rings as seen through a telescope.

However, other experts say that serpents occur frequently in Assyrian mythology, and note that there is no mention of a telescope in any of the many surviving Assyrian astronomical writings.

Whatever its purpose, as an ornament, as a magnifying lens, a burning glass, or part of a telescope, the Nimrud lens certainly appears to be more than an “accident”.  But exactly how it was used, we may never know.