Category Archives: ASIA

Lost civilization: Ancient Golan rock art sheds light on the mysterious culture around Israel

Lost civilization: Ancient Golan rock art sheds light on the mysterious culture around Israel

The chance discovery of lines carved into the boulders of an ancient tomb in what is now the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights could offer new insight into an enigmatic culture that thrived thousands of years ago.

Uri Berger, a regional archaeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority, displays engravings in a rock bearing images of animals inside a dolmen from the intermediate Bronze age, in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights

In a small clearing in the Yehudiya nature reserve, between yellow weeds and shaded by eucalyptus trees, huge dark basalt boulders and slabs form a small roofed chamber that opens to the east.

The megalithic structure is one of the thousands of so-called dolmens scattered around northern Israel and the wider region, burial tombs erected some 4,000-4,500 years ago in the Intermediate Bronze Era.

This megalithic structure is one of the thousands of dolmens scattered around northern Israel and the region, burial tombs erected some 4000-4500 years ago in the Intermediate Bronze Era

Today, on the plateau captured in 1967 from Syria, with Israeli soldiers securing the frontier just 23 kilometres (14 miles) away, scientists seek to shed light on the region’s distant past. The identity and beliefs of those who built the monuments remain largely unknown. But a recent serendipitous finding of rock art might change that.

About two years ago, “when one of the rangers here in the park walked her daily walk, she looked inside and saw something carved in the walls,” recalled Uri Berger, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The ranger contacted the IAA, and “when we looked inside we saw this is not just lines carved or some stains on the wall, this is rock art,” Berger said. The lines form the shapes of six horned animals of varying sizes, three facing east and three facing west, with two of them — likely a male and female — directly facing each other.

Another horned animal is carved into the interior of one panel, facing the other six. The zoomorphic depictions, hidden in plain sight since the study of the dolmens began 200 years ago, were the first to be discovered in the region and a major development for Berger and his research partner, Gonen Sharon.

Sharon, an archaeology professor at the Tel-Hai college in northern Israel, is responsible for a previous landmark discovery. Just north of the nature reserve, outside the northern Galilee Kibbutz Shamir, Sharon was hiking with his children in 2012 on a field with some 400 dolmens spread across it.

Uri Berger, regional archaeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority, stands amid an ancient structure near Kibbutz Shamir in the upper Galilee area of northern Israe

Crawling into the shade of the largest monument, Sharon sat down, looked up at the huge slab roof of the dome and said he noticed “weird shapes” that didn’t look like natural formations.

“It looked like someone made them,” he recalled.

The markings were found to be a series of man-made carvings resembling tridents.

“It turned out this was the first artwork done in the context of dolmens in the Middle East,” Sharon said. The Shamir carvings, unnoticed by generations of researchers, reinvigorated archaeological study in the area.

One of the sites revisited was inside an industrial zone near Kiryat Shmona, a town northwest of Shamir, where three small megalithic structures that survived the zone’s development a few decades ago are surrounded by circles of stones.

On the relatively rounded capstone of the largest dolmen there, two sets of short parallel lines are carved into each side of the rock, with a longer line carved below creating the image of closed eyes and a grimacing mouth facing the sky.

“The grooves don’t seem to be functional,” said Sharon. “To us, they look like a face.”

The stone monuments have “altered the landscape” of northern Israel, said Berger. But their prominence has also made them targets for antiquities theft, which largely stripped remains that could provide clues to their creators. Small pieces of ceramics, metal spearheads and daggers, bits of jewellery and beads and some bones are found at the sites from time to time, Sharon said. “But it’s very rare to find” anything, and such finds are very scattered.

“We know very little of the actual culture of the people who built them.”

With the discovery of the art carved into the stones, “we can say something that is much more than what we knew for 200 years,” said Berger.

The rock art findings — published in a recent article by Sharon and Berger in the journal Asian Archaeology — display the animal drawings in this ancient culture for the first time and present the larger pattern of visual presentation in the region. Berger said the drawings raise new questions about the people who created them.

“Why those animals? Why in these dolmens and not others? What made this one special?”

The slow but steady accumulation of artistic finds brings scholars “closer and closer” to the subjects of their research, “to the civilisation you’re looking to know about,” Berger said.

To Sharon, “this is like a letter from the past starting to suggest what was the world of culture and symbolism beyond just building and erecting very large stones.”

Mystery of the Copper Scroll: How biblical relic could lead to secret $3TRILLION treasure

Mystery of the Copper Scroll: How biblical relic could lead to secret $3TRILLION treasure

When an archaeologist named Henri de Contenson was leading a team of ten Bedouin in a hillside cave a few kilometres from Qumran in 1952, he uncovered two enigmatic scrolls known as the Copper Scroll in a highly oxidized state.

It had separated into two small rolled up pieces side by side on a stone when it was first discovered in the cave. One larger part contained two similar sheets riveted together end to end while the other roll is a single sheet of hammered copper.

The Copper Scroll are part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, unlike other scrolls which are literary work and written on papyrus, these scrolls contain several locations of hidden treasures and written on thin copper.

On March 14, 1952, the Copper Scroll was found in cave 3 near Khirbet Qumran. Because the scrolls were the last of 15 Dead Sea Scrolls, it is referred to as 3Q15. The original state of the scroll is measured 2.4 m in length, 0.3 m in width and 1 mm thick.

At that time, no one dares to open the scroll without damaging the text inside it. Several years later in 1955, with great care, one of the Copper Scroll finally opened by H. Wright Baker, a Professor at Manchester College of Science and Technology (UMIST). The other scroll also opened a year later in 1956.

Because the corroded metal couldn’t be unrolled easily, Professor Baker cut the scroll into 23 parts. The language itself was a big puzzle for scholars. It was written in a square form script (an early form of Hebrew script) while other Dead Sea Scrolls were written in square form Aramaic script or ‘Paleo-Hebrew’ script.

The style of the script and the spelling in the Copper Scroll is very different from other texts of the time, from Qumran or from elsewhere. But still, It has been almost unanimously classified as one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

John Allegro is the first person who translated the Copper Scroll into English. And he realizes that the scroll is a list of around 64 locations of magnificent hidden treasures including massive quantities of jewellery, precious gems, other scrolls, gold and silvers.

However, the Jerusalem team advised him to not publish his findings publicly, because it can attract treasure hunters around the world and disturb the Qumran site.

At the end of 1959 and in March 1960, Allegro decided to lead two archaeological expeditions in search of the Copper Scroll’s treasures. For several months of expeditions, he wandered around in the desert and found nothing. A few months later, he decided to publish the English translation of the scroll (The Treasure of the Copper Scroll) in 1960.

Various reactions came from the scholars after reading Allegro’s translation. Father Joseph Milik, one of the member of the original Dead Sea Scrolls translation team and Father P’ere de Vaux, the head of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jerusalem, denounced it as defective and even cast doubts on the authenticity of the Copper Scroll’s contents. While others were not so sure, and today the generally accepted view is the Copper Scroll contains a genuine list of real treasures.

The mysterious relic may reveal a great treasure under Jerusalem

In 1962 the Jerusalem team published the official Copper Scroll’s translation with the title ‘Les “Petites Grottes” de Qumran, in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series. In conventional translations of the Copper Scroll, the weight of gold mentioned in various locations is generally given as adding up to a staggering 26 tonnes and silver 65 tonnes.

The weights of the treasures item in the Copper Scrolls are Gold (1285 Talents), Silver (666 Talents), Gold and Silver (17 Talents), Gold and silver vessels (600 Talents), Mixed precious metals (2,088 Talents).

Items with unspecified weights are as follows: Gold ingots (165), Silver bars (7), Gold and Silver vessels (609).

One Talent is estimated to be about 76 lb or 34.47 kg and it is estimated that the Copper Scroll treasure worth around over $2 billion at current prices. The origins of the treasures listed in the Copper Scroll also led to controversy and have not been resolved until now. Several theories have been proposed by scholars.

According to the Copper Scroll Project, the treasures listed on the scroll probably span the history of Israel from the Exodus to the Babylonian captivity. The talents of precious metals and gems may very well be the excess materials called for by Moses and Aaron to build the Tabernacle.

Then there are the supplies stored away by King David for the 1st Temple. Yet on the scroll, it speaks of tithes and offerings of silver. Those could easily be from the Temple built by King Solomon and stored away for repairs and upkeep on the House of God stored in the remote treasury at Qumran. The treasury described in the document is, the long sought after treasury of Hakkoz known for centuries to be in the area of Qumran. However, it is unclear when the treasury was built.

More significant is the fact none of the conventional theories has led to the discovery of any of the treasures listed in the Copper Scroll. Until now the Copper Scroll’s treasure is still hidden somewhere while the Copper Scroll itself is housed at the Jordan Museum in Amman, Jordan

Massive Stone Jars in the Highlands of Laos Are Shrouded in Mystery

Massive Stone Jars in the Highlands of Laos Are Shrouded in Mystery

The eerie ‘Plain of Jars’ in Laos maybe thousands of years older than previously thought, and have been in use for even longer. Limestone vessels dotting the landscape of northern Laos were placed there up to 3,300 years ago, according to an analysis of quartz crystals in the sediment underneath them.

However, the majority of the fossils discovered in the area were buried between 700 and 1,200 years ago. According to the researchers, this indicates that the jars had ‘enduring ceremonial significance.’ ‘They were important for a very long time.’

They believe the containers were used to expose dead bodies to the elements until only the bones remained, which were then buried nearby.  Mysterious stone jars are spread across thousands of square miles of northern Laos’ Xiangkhouang plateau, commonly known as the ‘Plain of Jars.’

Massive Stone Jars in the Highlands of Laos Are Shrouded in Mystery
Mysterious stone jars spread across northern Laos’ Xiangkhouang plateau have given the region the nickname ‘Plain of Jars.’ New analysis of the jars suggest they are centuries older than previously believed

The massive vessels are made of sandstone and limestone and vary in size, reaching up to 10 feet tall and weighing two tons.

While local legends claim they were goblets used by a horde of drunken giants, the scientific consensus is that the region was a sprawling cemetery and the containers were ‘burial urns’ used for storing human remains.

In the 1930s, French geologists excavated a cave near one cluster, determining it had served as a crematorium. In 2019, archaeologist Louise Shewan uncovered 1,000-year-old remains of nearly a dozen dead babies near jars in a location near Ban Nahoung, dubbed Site 1.

An example of a full skeleton buried at Site 1 in the Plain of Jars. Most remains found near the stone jars date from between 700 and 1,200 years ago

While some places only have a handful of jars, Site 1 contains around 400 vessels, scattered across more than 60 acres. For the past five years, Shewan, a researcher at the University of Melbourne, has studied Site 1 and other jar locations with Dougald O’Reilly of the Australian National University and Thonglith Luangkoth of the Laos Department of Heritage.

They’ve uncovered three basic types of burials: One where a full skeleton was laid out; another where just bundles of bones were buried, and a third variety where remains were placed inside smaller ceramic jars.

Previous radiocarbon dating of the remains suggests most they’ve found were buried between 700 and 1,200 years ago. Now Shewan and her colleagues have examined the sediment under the jars to estimate their age.

They used optically stimulated luminescence, a technique that dates the last time quartz sediment was exposed to sunlight.

‘Directly under one jar, we had a date range of 1350 to 730 B.C., and under another, we had 860 to 350 B.C.,’ Shewan told Live Science. ‘I think we’re going to find a range of dates as we continue the analysis.’

That means the larger stone vessels are centuries older than many of the bodies buried nearby. What we surmise from that is the enduring ritual significance of these sites,’ Shewan said. ‘They were important for a very long time.’ Earlier research had dated the jars more recently, between 500 BC to 500 AD. 

The team believes bodies were placed in the large jars until they decomposed, then the bones were buried nearby.  It’s not clear if different societies used the jar sites at various times or if descendants of the people who made them continued the tradition.

‘Whether they were culturally related to the people who made the jars is a question that we can’t define yet,’ O’Reilly told Live Science.

Some jars were found with decorated stone discs and smaller clay jars and a variety of other artefacts, including beads and jewellery. Images on the discs buried with their decorated sides face-down include animals, human figures, and patterns of concentric circles.

Each has a cylindrical shape with the bottom wider than the top and most have lip rims, leading to speculation they all had lids. Little is known about how they were made but some archaeologists speculate they were carved with iron chisels.

The jars appear to have been quarried from several areas in the Xiangkhouang foothills before being spread over more than 90 sites, some housing just a handful and others hundreds.

In their new report, published in the journal PLOS One, the researchers also analyzed lead and uranium isotopes in a jar at Site 1 and found it had been mined at a sandstone quarry some five miles away.

How it was brought to the site is still unknown, they said.

A mystery bigger than that of Egypt’s pyramids its these massive stone blocks weighing 1,650 tons

A mystery bigger than that of Egypt’s pyramids its these massive stone blocks weighing 1,650 tons

A team of German and Lebanese archeologists just uncovered the largest manmade stone block ever discovered.

A mystery bigger than that of Egypt's pyramids its these massive stone blocks weighing 1650 tons

The block, which was found in a limestone quarry in Baalbek, Lebanon, measures 64 feet by 19.6 feet by 18 feet, Gizmodo reports and weighs an estimated 1,650 tons.

Other massive manmade blocks were previously found nearby, including one weighing up to 1,240 tons and nicknamed “The Stone of the Pregnant Woman.” 

The blocks likely date back at least 2,000 years, to around 27 BC. At the time, Discovery writes, Baalbek was a premier outpost of the Roman empire and went by the name Heliopolis—“the city of the sun.”

The German Archeological Institute reports that the block was probably intended for use in a nearby temple for the god Jupiter.

This stone and others, however, never made it out of the quarry, probably because they turned out to be much too massive to transport, the Institute reports. Indeed, a crack had already formed in one corner of the Stone of the Pregnant Woman. 

Even though the block was likely a major disappointment to its creators, they unwittingly set world records.

The newly discovered block, the Institute writes, is “the biggest boulder known from antiquity.” 

This 2,500-year-old female mummy dubbed the “Altai Princess” is one of few known mummies with visible tattoos

This 2,500-year-old female mummy dubbed the “Altai Princess” is one of few known mummies with visible tattoos

Tattoos aren’t just a trendy way for people to express themselves – they’re also apparently a time-honoured tradition dating back almost three thousand years.

A Siberian mummy, who researchers believe was buried 2500 years ago, will show off her intricate ink when she finally goes on display this month, and her shockingly well-preserved body art makes her look surprisingly modern.

The mummified body of the young woman, believed to be between 25 and 28 years old, was found in 1993, researchers told The Siberian Times.

Local groups have objected to the Siberian Princess’s remains going on display. Initially they were promised her body (pictured) would not be shown in public but that decision appears to have been reversed

Since then she has been kept frozen in a scientific institute, but she will soon be available to the public to be viewed from a glass case at the Republican National Museum in Siberia’s capital of Gorno-Altaisk.

The woman, dubbed in the media as the Ukok “princes,” was found wearing expensive clothing – a long silk shirt and beautifully decorated boots – as well as a horsehair wig.

Dug from her permafrost burial chamber on the high Ukok Plateau in 1993, analysis of the princess’ remains highlighted sophisticated tattoos of ‘great artistry’ of fantastical creatures (shown)

Archaeologists told the paper that because she was not buried with any weapons she was not a warrior and that she was likely a healer or storyteller.

Though her face and neck weren’t preserved, she was inked across both arms and on her fingers, in what researchers say was an indication of status.

“The more tattoos were on the body, the longer it meant the person lived, and the higher was his position,” lead researcher Natalia Polosmak told the Times.

The woman was buried beside two men whose bodies also bore tattoos, as well as six horses. Researchers think the group belonged to the nomadic Pazyryk people, and that their body art is something special even in comparison to other mummies who have been found with tattoos in the past.

Researchers found the woman’s tattoos were designs based on fantastical-looking animals (illustrated)

“Those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated and the most beautiful,” Polosmak told the Times.

“It is a phenomenal level of tattoo art,” she said. “Incredible.”

Not everyone was pleased that the mummy was uncovered.

Controversy erupted after she was discovered, as many believed she should not have been removed from her burial site. Some locals even believed her grave’s disruption caused a “curse of the mummy” which they blamed for the crash of the helicopter carrying her remains.

“The Altai people never disturb the repose of the interned,” Rimma Erkinova, deputy director of the Gorno-Altaisk Republican National Museum told the Times. “We shouldn’t have any more excavations until we’ve worked out a proper moral and ethical approach.”

Local authorities in the region have declared the area a ‘zone of peace,’ so no more excavations can be done in an effort to prevent plundering, though scientists believe there are many more mummies that can be found.

Dead Sea Scroll Analyzed With Artificial Intelligence

Dead Sea Scroll Analyzed With Artificial Intelligence

According to a statement released by the University of Groningen, Mladen Popović, Lambert Schomaker, and Maruf Dhali used a computer algorithm to analyze the Great Isaiah Scroll, which was discovered in Qumran Cave 1 in 1947.

Dead Sea Scroll Analyzed With Artificial Intelligence
The Great Isaiah Scroll is over 7 metres long and the most complete of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

However, since the scribes are anonymous, scholars have been unable to identify the individuals behind the scrolls. The University of Groningen researchers have cracked the code, allowing them to uncover the scribes behind the scrolls, by combining science and the humanities. On April 21, they published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

The scribes who created the scrolls did not sign their work. Scholars suggested some manuscripts should be attributed to a single scribe based on handwriting. ‘They would try to find a “smoking gun” in the handwriting, for example, a very specific trait in a letter which would identify a scribe’, explains Mladen Popović, professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen.

Two 12×12 Kohonen maps (blue colourmaps) of full character aleph and bet from the Dead Sea Scroll collection. Each of the characters in the Kohonen maps is formed from multiple instances of similar characters (shown with a zoomed box with red lines). These maps are useful for chronological style development analysis. In the current study of writer identification, Fraglets (fragmented character shapes) were used instead of full character shapes to achieve more precise (robust) results.

He is also director of the university’s Qumran Institute, dedicated to studying the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, these identifications are somewhat subjective and often hotly debated.

Scribes

That is why Popović, in his project The Hands that Wrote the Bible which was funded by the European Research Council, teamed up with his colleague Lambert Schomaker, professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Schomaker has long worked on techniques to allow computers to read handwriting, often from historical materials. He also performed studies to investigate how biomechanical traits, like the way in which someone holds a pen or stylus, would affect handwriting.

In this study, together with PhD candidate Maruf Dhali, they focused on one scroll in particular: the famous Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) from Qumran Cave 1. The handwriting in this scroll seems near-uniform, yet it has been suggested it was made by two scribes sharing a similar writing style. So how could this be decided? Schomaker: ‘This scroll contains the letter aleph, or “a”, at least five thousand times. It is impossible to compare them all just by eye.’ Computers are well suited to analyse large datasets, like 5,000 handwritten a’s. Digital imaging makes all sorts of computer calculations possible, at the microlevel of characters, such as measuring curvature (called textural) and whole characters (called allographic).

Authors of the new paper Mladen Popovic (far left) and Maruf A Dhali (middle) with other collaborators at the Qumran Caves, where the scroll was found.(Supplied)

Neural network

‘The human eye is amazing and presumably takes these levels into account too. This allows experts to “see” the hands of different authors, but that decision is often not reached by a transparent process,’ Popović says. ‘Furthermore, it is virtually impossible for these experts to process the large amounts of data the scrolls provide.’ That is why their results are often not conclusive.

The first hurdle was to train an algorithm to separate the text (ink) from its background (the leather or the papyrus). For this separation, or ‘binarization’, Dhali developed a state-of-the-art artificial neural network that can be trained using deep learning. This neural network keeps the original ink traces made by the scribe more than 2,000 years ago intact as they appear on digital images. ‘This is important because the ancient ink traces relate directly to a person’s muscle movement and are person-specific, Schomaker explains.

Similarities

Dhali performed the first analytical test of this study. His analysis of textural and allographic features showed that the 54 columns of text in the Great Isaiah Scroll fell into two different groups that were not distributed randomly through the scroll, but were clustered, with a transition around the halfway mark.

With the remark that there might be more than one writer, Dhali then handed the data to Schomaker who then recomputed the similarities between the columns, now using the patterns of letter fragments. This second analytical step confirmed the presence of two different. Several further checks and controls were performed. Schomaker: ‘When we added extra noise to the data, the result didn’t change. We also succeeded in demonstrating that the second scribe shows more variation within his writing than the first, although their writing is very similar.’

Handwriting

In the third step, Popović, Dhali, and Schomaker have produced a visual analysis. They created ‘heat maps’ that incorporate all the variants of a character across the scroll. Then they produced an averaged version of this character for the first 27 columns and the last 27 columns. Comparing these two average letters by eye shows that they are different. This links the computerized and statistical analysis to human interpretation of the data by approximation because the heatmaps are neither dependent nor produced from the primary and secondary analyses.

Certain aspects of the scroll and the positioning of the text had led some scholars to suggest that after column 27 a new scribe had started, but this was not generally accepted. Popović: ‘Now, we can confirm this with a quantitative analysis of the handwriting as well as with robust statistical analyses. Instead of basing judgment on more-or-less impressionistic evidence, with the intelligent assistance of the computer, we can demonstrate that the separation is statistically significant.’

New window

In addition to transforming the palaeography of the scrolls – and potentially other ancient manuscript corpora – this study of the Great Isaiah Scroll opens up a totally new way to analyse the Qumran texts based on physical characteristics. Now, researchers can access the microlevel of individual scribes and carefully observe how they worked on these manuscripts.

Popović: ‘This is very exciting because this opens a new window on the ancient world that can reveal much more intricate connections between the scribes that produced the scrolls. This study found evidence for a very similar writing style shared by the two Great Isaiah Scroll scribes, which suggests a common training or origin. Our next step is to investigate other scrolls, where we may find different origins or training for the scribes.’

In this way, it will be possible to learn more about the communities that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. ‘We are now able to identify different scribes’, Popović concludes. ‘We will never know their names. But after seventy years of study, this feels as if we can finally shake hands with them through their handwriting.’

Additional information:

Digital images of the Dead Sea Scrolls and of the Great Isaiah Scroll were kindly provided by Brill Publishers and the Israel Antiquities Authority (the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library).

The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in jars like this.

From 6-8 April 2021, an international online conference took place, Digital Palaeography and Hebrew/Aramaic Scribal Culture, organized by the University of Groningen. A link to presentations will appear soon on this page: https://www.rug.nl/ggw/news/events/2021/digital-palaeography-and-hebrew-aramaic-scribal-culture

Reference: Mladen Popović, Maruf A. Dhali, and Lambert Schomaker, Artificial Intelligence Based Writer Identification Generates New Evidence for the Unknown Scribes of the Dead Sea Scrolls Exemplified by the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa)

The mystery of India’s ‘lake of skeletons’

The mystery of India’s ‘lake of skeletons’

The view of an enormous pile of skulls and bones tangled under the water surface is quite enticing. You wonder who they are, and especially how they came here first because that lake is 16,000 feet above sea level and there is nothing more than ice tops and frozen glaciers around it.

The roopkund lake.

Every year, the ice melts and shows the human remains of more than 300 unfortunate people who rest at the bottom of the Roopkund, better known as the Skeleton Lake. This frozen, frozen, shallow lake is hidden deeper into the Indian Himalayas.

This “spectacular” view can be enjoyed in the core of the dark forest of Lohajung in Uttarakhand, India, by any enthusiastic trekking enthuse who wishes to walk down the steep path up to the glacier lake, which most of the moment is frozen, in a tiny valley elevated in the Garhwal section of the Himalayas.

Roopkund Lake contains hundreds of skeletons and is flanked by sheer cliffs.
The remains of an estimated 600-800 people have been found at the site

However, the ice begins to melt and the surface begins to see for a month when the temperature is sufficiently friendly. Then, the six-foot-deepest depth of the lake demonstrates what lies underneath the small and apparently typical natural wonders.

This is a death-ground filled with skeletons and not only that, but also the hair, nails, spears, knives, and gems, preserved by the frosts as if these souls had been decimated and found mysteriously their way into the bottom of this lake.

This stunning mystery has been tried by scientists, anthropologists, and historians to unravel. In 1942when the contents of the lake were first found by a British forest guard, Remains of unfortunate Japanese soldiers passing through the mountains were believed to be recent humans.

On the snow just outside the lake, the guard stumbled over a human skull, and on the basis of the preservation with a complete bunch of hair, it took on the most probable scenario. He submitted a report soon after finding more skeletons nearby and below the frozen lake surface.

And his hypotheses seemed logical at first. But there was no inquiry of the bones, and nobody knew who they were, what they were and what had occurred. So obviously, in moments of conflict, the authorities had the same initial conviction that these are the residues of a military battalion that passed through the hills in the direction of India.

But all these first impressions came down the drain after a more thorough inquiry when spears and all sorts of various old arms or bars were discovered lying next to the bones, and it was evident comprehensive research of the remains needed to be done.

The mystery had been unresolved for some moment and many theories were brought to life about what had occurred. People even accepted a local faith in an old goddess who would lay waste to a group of individuals who defied her.

The legend says that this goddess was so furious by the group of people who ostensibly passed by her unspoiled shrine in the mountains that she flung iron hailstones over these petty disrespectful people and killed them on the spot. The legend said she was so furious.

In recent studies, it has been found, in fact, that the skulls and their shoulders have clear signs of round-shape blows as if they had been struck from above. In 2004, the lake received samples and research from an expedition led by a team of Indian scientists with a few Europeans.

During the progress of DNA testing, the bones and some of the preserved human tissue could now be examined. The common belief was that the skeletons were the remains of people who over the years were killed by severe weather and sudden storms on the hills and slipped into the lake with snow, which prevented the natural process of decomposition.

Human skeletons at Roopkund Lake.

Although the bodies discovered that their height and body are distinguished, Almost all remains from the same time, at about 850 A.D., are found in the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit of the University of Oxford, UK. In addition, two separate body types with similar DNA were found.

A group of smaller and thinner people and one completely the opposite. This resulted in them thinking it had to be a pilgrimage group or a kind of mountain excursion which hired local guides. Sadly, a baseball-style hail storm murdered them on their manner trapped in a valley and nowhere to find a shelter. That’s the recent scientific research at least.

One group of shorter individuals with smaller and thinner bones, and one completely the opposite. Which led them to believe that it must have been a group on pilgrimage or some kind of expedition in the mountains that hired some local guides. Unfortunately for them, trapped in a valley, and nowhere to be found with shelter, they were killed by a baseball-sized hail storm. This, at least, is based on recent scientific research.

According to the historical Himalayan legend of the ancient goddess, a king went on a pilgrimage in India to the Nanda Division Raj Jat Festival only once every 12 years, with his spouse, family, servants, musicians and others.

They hired locals to help them get there, but along the way, and despite locals telling them otherwise, the goddess Nanda Devi was angry and punished with their loudness. But most of all, a pregnant woman was in the group that presumably gave birth in the sacred land of the goddess. The newborn was the biggest sin of all and she had “hard-as-iron” sent out a storm of hailstones and murdered them.

This shrine in honor of Nanda Devi lies along the trail to Roopkund Lake.

Although it wasn’t the goddess ‘ wrath, it was certainly the fury of what killed hundreds of people. At least part of a legend clarified the mystery well before science. That means something completely distinct until more information and further research are revealed. This should be followed by a science or academic institution because sadly all trekking passers-by pick a bone or two as souvenirs, and very shortly there might be nothing left to be studied.

Original 15th-Century Castle Wall Found in Tokyo

Original 15th-Century Castle Wall Found in Tokyo

The Mainichi reports that a 400-year-old stone wall standing about 13 feet tall has been uncovered at Edo Castle, which was constructed in the mid-fifteenth century A.D. by Ōta Dōkan, a samurai warrior-poet who eventually became a Buddhist monk.

The historic remnants were excavated at the spot where Sannomaru Shozokan (Museum of the Imperial Collections) is undergoing renovation work, in the East Garden of the Imperial Palace, in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.

The stone walls are not thought to have been repaired since they were first built at the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1867). An official at the Chiyoda Ward Government said the finding “allows us to examine stone wall construction techniques at the time.”

Original 15th-Century Castle Wall Found in Tokyo
Stone walls from the Edo Castle, thought to be about 400-years-old, are seen at a construction site in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward

According to the ward government, the stone walls were found near the Imperial Palace’s Otemon Gate.

They run about 16 meters north to south and measure about 4 meters high — or about seven steps. It seems they were part of the stone wall for the water-filled moat, and a band-shaped white line for indicating the water flow at the time remains on its surface. It is believed water went up to the stone walls’ fourth to fifth steps.

Researchers assume the whole stone walls were buried by the mid-1600s, based on the loss of its top, the condition of soil on the structure, and drawings from the time.

The field excavation survey was conducted from November to December 2020. Researchers are examining and analyzing the excavated relics and soil and will summarize the results in the future. The stone walls will be covered with soil again afterwards.

Stone walls from the Edo Castle, thought to be about 400-years-old, are seen at a construction site in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward

Sannomaru Shozokan is set to greatly expand its storage and exhibition areas and had aimed to open fully to the public in 2025, but the effects of the excavation survey mean a year’s delay is now expected.