Category Archives: ASIA

Mysterious 1,500-Year-Old Stone Complex Unearthed in Kazakhstan

Mysterious 1,500-Year-Old Stone Complex Unearthed in Kazakhstan

Near the eastern shore of Kazakhstan’s the Caspian Sea was discovered a huge, 1500-year-old stone complex constructed by nomadic tribes.

The site comprises various stone structures scattered over around 120 hectares of land or more than 200 American football fields, archaeologists reported recently in the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.

The archaeologists Andrei Astafiev from the State Mangisto Historical and Cultural Reserves (MANCH) and Evgeniy Bogdanov, from the Russian Academy of Sciences Siberians Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, wrote in an article on the journal, “when the area was examined in detail, several types of stone structures were identified.” The smallest stone structures are only 13 feet by 13 feet (4 by 4 meters), and the biggest is 112 feet by 79 feet (34 by 24 m).

A stone structure and a carved stone that shows an animal.

The structures have been “built from vertically mounted stone blocks,” the archeologists have written. Some of the stones which look like Stonehenge, have carvings of weapons and creatures etched into them.

One of the most spectacular finds is the remains of a saddle made partly of silver and covered with images of wild boars, deer and “beasts of prey” that maybe lions, Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote in their article. The images were etched in relief, sticking out from the silver background.

“The relief decoration was impressed on the front surface,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote. The two researchers think ancient artisans designed the images out of leather and glued them onto wooden boards. “Finally, silver plates would have been laid over the shapes and fixed in place,” they said.

Stone-complex discovery

In 2010, a man named F. Akhmadulin (as named in the journal article), from a town called Aktau, was using a metal detector in Altÿnkazgan, which is located on the Mangÿshlak Peninsula, near the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, when he found parts of a silver saddle and other artifacts. Akhmadulin brought the artifacts to Astafiev who works in Aktau.

“Most of the territory consists of sagebrush desert,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote. However, Astafiev found that the desert location where Akhmadulin brought him contained the remains of an undiscovered 120-hectare stone complex. Akhmadulin located the artifacts in one of these stone structures.

“Unfortunately, the socio-economic situation in the region is not one in which it is easy to engage in archaeological research, and it was not until 2014 that the authors of this article were able to excavate certain features within the site,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote.

When excavations got underway in 2014, the archaeologists excavated the stone structure where Akhmadulin had found the saddle. They found more saddle parts, along with other artifacts, including two bronze objects that turned out to be the remains of a whip.

Who owned the saddle?

A great deal of work needs to be done to excavate and study the remains of the stone complex, the archaeologists said. “Certain features of the construction and formal details of the [stone] enclosures at Altÿnkazgan allow us to assume that they had been left there by nomad tribes,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote.

The design and decorations on the silver saddle indicate that it dates to a time when the Roman Empire was collapsing, and a group called the “Huns” were on the move across Asia and Europe, they said.

“The advance of the Huns led various ethnic groups in the Eurasian steppes to move from their previous homelands,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote.

The owner of the saddle was likely a person of considerable wealth and power as the archaeologists found symbols called “tamgas” engraved on the silver saddle above the heads of predators, something that can be “an indication of the privileged status of the saddle’s owner.” These signs may also be a link “to the clan to which the owner of the tamga belonged,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote.

The saddle’s silver facing. 
Silver facing from the rear end of a saddle flap found at the site. The image shows a beast attacking another creature while a bird attacks the animal’s nose. More birds are depicted around the edge of the saddle flap.

It’s not exactly clear why the silver saddle was placed in the stone structure, though it may have been created for a ritual purpose or as a burial good, Astafiev and Bogdanov suggested.

They found the remains of one skeleton buried beneath the stone structure; however, the skeleton may date to centuries after the silver saddle was deposited there.  

Research is ongoing, and Bogdanov said the team plans to publish another paper on research into the silver saddle.

Some of the geoglyphs found in northern Kazakhstan.

Bogdanov said the team hopes to make the public aware of the newly found site. “I hope that one day there [will be] a film about the archaeological excavations on the Mangÿshlak, about ancient civilizations and modern inhabitants.

10 tons of copper coins unearthed in 2,000 years old ancient tomb

10 tons of copper coins unearthed in 2,000 years old ancient tomb

Archaeologists have unearthed more than two million copper coins from an ancient complex of tombs in the Xinjian District of China.

The 2,000-year-old money, which bears Chinese symbols, characters, and a square hole in the centre, was found at a dig site in the city of Nanchang.

The value of the coins is said to be around £104,000 ($157,340) and experts believe the main tomb is that of Liu He – the grandson of Emperor Wu, the greatest ruler of Han Dynasty.

Archaeologists have unearthed more than two million copper coins from an ancient complex of tombs in the Xinjian District of China
Archaeologists have unearthed more than two million copper coins from an ancient complex of tombs in the Xinjian District of China

The dynasty ruled between 206 BC and 25 AD.

Experts hope the discovery – which also includes 10,000 other gold, bronze and iron items, chimes, bamboo slips, and tomb figurines – may now shed more light on the life of nobility from ancient times.

The find follows a five-year excavation process on the site which houses eight tombs and a chariot burial site.

It covers (430,550 sq ft (40,000 square metres) with walls that stretch for almost 9,690 ft (900 metres) and experts believe Liu’s wife is buried in one of the tombs, RT reported.   

Xin Lixiang of the China National Museum said the next step is to look within the tomb for items that will give a clearer idea of the occupant. 

‘There may be a royal seal and jade clothes that will suggest the status and identity of the tomb’s occupant,’ he said.  

Chinese people started using coins as currency around 1,200 BC, where instead of trading small farming implements and knives, they would melt them down into small round objects and then turn them back into knives and farm implements when needed.

It meant early coins were known as ‘knife money’ or ‘tool money’, and as people began to rely on them more for commerce they were replaced by copper coins which were of very low value and often had holes in the middle.

The hole meant the coins could be strung together to create larger denominations, with typically around 1,000 coins on a single string being worth one tael of pure silver. 

The 2,000-year-old money, which bears Chinese symbols, characters, and a square hole in the centre, was found at a dig site in the city of Nanchang
The ancient money, which bears Chinese symbols, characters, and a square hole at its centre, was found at a dig site in the Xinjian District in the city of Nanchang, capital of East China’s Jiangxi Province
The hole meant the coins could be strung together to create larger denominations, with typically around 1,000 coins on a single string which was worth one tael of pure silver

At face value, they would be valued at around £104,060 ($157,340), but because of their age and history are believed to be worth far more.

A single coin can, in fact, sell for thousands of pounds, although at the time copper coins had a very low value. The Western Han was regarded as the first unified and powerful empire in Chinese history.

While there are many theories behind the fall of the Western Han Dynasty, recent research suggests human interaction with the environment played a central role in its demise.

A census taken by China in 2 AD suggests the area struck by the massive 14-17 AD flood was very heavily populated, with an average of 122 people per square kilometre, or approximately 9.5 million people living directly in the flood’s path. 

By AD 20-21, the devastated region had become the centre of a rebellion that would end the Western Han Dynasty’s five-century reign of power. 

Along with the tonnes of coins found were also chimes, bamboo slips, and tomb figurines, all of which accompanied deceased nobles of the past when they were buried underground.

The items discovered have promised to help fill in more gaps as historians try to complete the puzzle of ancient Chinese burial customs.

1,400-year-old Byzantine Hammer and Nails Discovered in Ancient Jewish Village of Usha

1,400-year-old Byzantine Hammer and Nails Discovered in Ancient Jewish Village of Usha

During a Sukkot holiday, some 8,500 individuals were participating in the IAA archeological excavations and activities, but none of them anticipated to discover the most closely associated with building the Sukkah – the hammer and the nails – from the Byzantine period, about 1400 years ago.

Aerial view of the winepresses and the adjacent ritual bath at Ancient Usha

This was the luck of a Tur’an family who participated in a Usha dig in the lower Galilee.

“About 20 iron hammers are recorded with the records of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, of which only six are from the Byzantine period,” according to Yair Amitzur and Eyad Bisharat, the directors of the excavation for IAA.

“It is already known that Usha settlers produced large quantities of glass vessels, as we find several wine glasses and glass lamps together with raw material glass lumps, and the discovery of the hammer, nails, and the adjacent iron slag tells us that they also made iron tools on the site.”

Some of the 15,000 pupils who participated in the archaeological excavations at Usha over the past year

Alongside these industries, complex pressing installations for the production of olive oil and wine indicate that the primary occupation and source of income of the Usha inhabitants was the large-scale processing of the agricultural produce of the olive trees and the vines that they cultivated on the surrounding gentle hillslopes.

Adjacent to the oil and winepresses were exposed two rock-hewn ritual baths with plastered walls and steps, dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods, about 1800 years ago.

The discovery of the ritual baths indicates that the Jewish press workers took care to purify themselves in the ritual baths in order to manufacture ritually-pure oil and wine.

The 1,400-year-old iron hammer and nails that were found at Usha

The main ‘workforce’ excavating the site are school children, youth and volunteers, who participate in the excavations thanks to the Israel IAA’s policy of bringing the community closer to its own cultural heritage.

Over the past year, more than 15,000 youth and families have taken part in the educational venture at Usha, digging and exposing the fascinating past of the site.

Amitzur also said that the town of Usha had been mentioned in Jewish sources since the first century CE.

“The settlement of Usha is mentioned in the Jewish sources many times in the Roman and Byzantine periods, as the village where the institution of the Sanhedrin was renewed, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and after the failure of the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135 CE”.

“The Sanhedrin was the central Jewish Council and Law Court, and it was headed by the President, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel the Second, who both presided in Usha, and then his son Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi”.

“Here in Usha, the Rabbis of the Sanhedrin made decrees to enable the Jewish people to recover after the war against the Romans, and to reconstruct Jewish life in the Galilee”.

Ancient wine glasses found at Usha

“The Jewish sources mention that Rabbi Yitzhak Nafha was an inhabitant of Usha, and his name ‘Nafha’, meaning ‘the blower’ indicates that he probably worked as a glass manufacturer”.

“The many delicate wine glasses, glass lamps, and glass lumps indicate that Usha inhabitants were proficient in the art of glassblowing. The ritual baths adjacent to the presses indicate that the Sanhedrin Sages paid particular attention to issues of ritual purity”.

The excavations at Usha are part of the Sanhedrin Trail Project that was initiated by the IAA, crossing the Galilee from Bet Shearim to Tiberias, following the movement of the Sanhedrin sages who finally convened in Tiberias.

The excavation is underway, continuing throughout the year with the participation of thousands of school children, youth and volunteers.

Also planned are special activity days open to the general public.  

11,000-year-old ancient temple found in eastern Turkey

11,000-year-old ancient temple found in eastern Turkey

In the form of the famous and controversial Góbekli Tepe, Archaeologists have uncovered a Temple from the Neolithic Age with 3 almost intact stelae.

In southeast Turkey’s Mardin province, the ancient temple was unearthed in Dargeçit’s district of Ilısu, which archeologists say has now turned 11,300 years old.

The scientific adviser for excavations at the Bencuklu Tarla (Beaded Field), the earliest known human settlement in the city, is Ergül Kodaş. Investigated from the Archeology Department of Mardin Artuklu University.

He told the press that this ancient spiritual center was active in the same era as the famous Göbekli Tepe which is considered the birthplace of early civilization and the oldest temple on earth.

Earliest Known Settlement at the Mini Göbekli Tepe

Dr. Kodaş and his team of archaeologists discovered that the 11,000-year-old temple walls were made of rubble and held in place with a hardened clay base, but they haven’t yet reached the base of the structure.

It is estimated that it might take at least a month to reach into the sacred building’s foundations. According to a report in Daily Sabah, within the excavation site, the archaeologists found four stone stelae, three of which were described as being “very well preserved” but “no figurative inscription” were found on any of the four stelae.

Four stelae were found at the Mini Göbekli Tepe discovery.

This 861 square foot (80 square meters) temple shares certain features with Göbekli Tepe and a Hürriyet report says “intense work” has been carried out in a large area which also includes the site known as Boncuklu Tarla (Beaded Field), the earliest known human settlement in Mardin which was discovered in 2008 during a field survey.

Ancient Finds In The Beaded Field

Erdoğan said that it was in the Aceramic Neolithic period that the “first sedentary society” emerged and that artifacts from this phase have been found in only a handful of places in Anatolia with “ stone or bone tools and weapons, ornamental items, and the first resident villages”.

However, there are further ancient sites which when interpreted with the new discovery reveal the building traditions of the ancient architects.

The mini Göbekli Tepe site is only one of a few similar sites.

A 2017 Daily Sabah article says archaeological excavations conducted by Mardin Museum Director Nihat Erdoğan and his team in the Boncuklu Tarla settlement uncovered the buildings, cultures, social lives, and burial traditions of the people who lived in northern Mesopotamia during the Aceramic Neolithic period between 10,000 BC to 7,000 BC. And just like this new discovery, their buildings had “rubble stone walls with foundations hardened by clay”.

Göbekli Tepe: Crown Of The Ancient World

While the discovery of this new temple adds volumes to our understanding of the religious and spiritual traditions of our forebears, it falls short of the mystique contained within Göbekli Tepe, the most ancient temple structure ever discovered.

This ancient site in southeastern Turkey is changing the way archaeologists think about the origins of human civilization and within its circular structure of elaborately carved T-shaped pillars dating to over 12,000 years ago, it is not only older than the invention of pottery, but it was built before agriculture was even conceived.

According to National Geographic the early dates associated with Göbekli Tepe “have upended the idea that agriculture led to civilization” because scholars had long thought hunter-gatherers had settled and began growing crops providing food surplus”, making it possible for complex societies to emerge, but no evidence of a permanent agricultural settlement at Göbekli Tepe has ever been discovered.

This leads many scientists to settle on the idea that because the temple is situated on the top of a hill commanding views southwards over plains, it was “a regional gathering place”.

A Cathedral Of Deep History?

Jens Notroff, a German Archaeological Institute archaeologist who works at Göbekli Tepe, says “back then”, 12,000 years ago, people would have to meet regularly to keep “the gene pool fresh” and to exchange information.

Now, with smaller versions of the pillars, symbols, and architecture of Göbekli Tepe being found, does this mean Göbekli Tepe was similar in function to Ness of Brodgar on Orkney; a vast Neolithic cathedral serving regional churches ( temples)?

Forgetting Ness of Brodgar was built around 3,000 BC while Göbekli Tepe was active before 12,000 BC, both buildings were early spiritual landmarks, spiritual sentinels, and organized spaces in wild and unpredictable landscapes.

Maybe the most successful hunter-gatherer groups met at Göbekli Tepe on key dates through the year, with each one having its own local monumental structure for feasts and to display the first excesses resources – wealth.

7,000-year-old Fortress Found Under the Yumuktepe Mound, Turkey

7,000-year-old Fortress Found Under the Yumuktepe Mound, Turkey

At the Yumuktepe mound in southern Turkey’s Mersin province, a fortress wall dating back 7000 years from the Chalcolithic period was unlodged.

Map of the Hittite Empire at its greatest extent, Mersin and the Yumuktepe mound is located on the southern coast

As an ongoing settlement 9,000 years since the neolithic era, the Yumuktepe Mound is extremely important.

Two and a half months of excavations at the mound are coming to an end on Friday.

In this year’s excavations, a group of 30 people led by Isabella Caneva-a professor of archeology at the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy – focused on Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods

Caneva said that the 7-meter fortress wall discovered this season can now be shown to the public.

A fortress wall dating 7,000 years back to the Chalcolithic Age has been unearthed at the Yumuktepe Mound in southern Turkey’s Mersin province.

While every year’s excavations have provided historical insights, this year’s dig produced especially “striking” Neolithic and Chalcolithic findings, Caneva said.

Caneva said the layer in Yumuktepe Mound is special in that it contains very special architecture.

Similar seal as to what was discovered at the Yumuktepe mound.

The fortress wall was made with a variety of materials, including a 1.5-meter-thick support wall made of limestone at the bottom, 2 meters of well-cut stones and 3 meters of mudbrick.

Previous excavations had discovered the existence of the castle, dating back to 5,000 B.C., but the team did not uncover the wall until this season’s deeper dig in the area.

“We didn’t know that there was such technology in that period in technical terms. Now we see it and it’s a special structure.

There was certainly a special product being made there because a normal village would not require such a thick and solid wall,” Caneva said, explaining that the village is the oldest site in the world known to produce molten copper.

“This is a very important product. Later on, there was a war for metal. It was an important technology and a valuable substance. Tools, flashy objects and weapons were all made with copper,” she said.

The team also discovered that homes in the Neolithic period were built in a certain way, continuously constructed on top of one another, for 2,000 years.

Caneva expressed hopes that the site will be developed into an open-air museum for visitors in the future.

Well-Preserved Byzantine Church Uncovered in Israel

Well-Preserved Byzantine Church Uncovered in Israel

The Church of the Byzantine Age was discovered by Israeli archeologists on Wednesday in a neighborhood west of Jerusalem.

The Israel Antiquities Authority showed some of the objects of the almost 1.500-year-old church after three years of excavations.

During this discovery, scientists found many sophisticated mosaics depicting birds, fruit and plants and vivid frescoes on the church walls.

The church was also elaborately designed, including a marble chancel and a calcite flowstone baptismal.

One floor mosaic contains an eagle, a symbol of the Byzantine Empire.

“We know of a few hundred churches in the Holy Land but this church by far surpasses most of them by its state of preservation and the imperial involvement which funded it,” said Benjamin Storchan, the excavation’s director.

One of the Greek inscriptions said the church was dedicated to an unnamed ‘glorious martyr’

Mystery martyr

An inscription in the courtyard says the site is dedicated to a “glorious martyr,” although researchers are still puzzling over their identity.

An underground crypt below the main area of the church is believed to have contained the martyr’s remains.

“The martyr’s identity is not known, but the exceptional opulence of the structure and its inscriptions indicate that this person was an important figure,” Storchan said.

The site was likely a popular destination for pilgrims and was well-funded by the Byzantine empire

Another inscription on the site revealed that Byzantine emperor Tiberius II Constantinus helped fund the church’s expansion.

Researchers believe the site was likely a popular destination for pilgrims until it was abandoned during the Muslim Abbasid caliphate in the 9th century AD.

Following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the entrances to the church were sealed with large stones.

Excavators were able to move the heavy stones, revealing glass lamps and a piece of the vault where the nameless martyr is believed to have been buried.

Ancient City of ‘Mahendraparvata’ Hidden Beneath Cambodian Jungle

Ancient City of ‘Mahendraparvata’ Hidden Beneath Cambodian Jungle

The “lost city of Cambodia” was eventually rediscovered by researchers. The city was officially called Mahendraparvata and was the first capital of the Angkorian Empire–a Hindu Buddhist empire that had been in Southeast Asia from the 9th to the 15th centuries.

Although archeologists and historians have been aware of several decades of the old city of Mahendraparvata, they did not know exactly where it stood before now.

The international research team was able to locate the old lost town under the Cambodian Jungle, thanks to laser scanning (or lidar) and ground surveys.

Angkor

More precisely, the city was found in the Phnom Kulen plateau which is located to the north-east of Angkor.

According to their paper, “The mountainous region of Phnom Kulen has, to date, received strikingly little attention.”

It went on to read, “It is almost entirely missing from archaeological maps, except as a scatter of points denoting the remains of some brick temples.”The researchers went into further details on their findings in their paper which can be read in full here.

Between 2012 and 2017, the team conducted several Lidar survey flights over that area and were able to find numerous archaeological features that hadn’t been noticed during the ground surveys.

The researchers used light detection and ranging, or lidar, to create maps of Mahendraparvata.

They noticed several features from the lost city that was around 50 square kilometers and were laid out in a grid-like pattern of linear axes.

The researchers explained it further by stating, “Dams, reservoir walls and the enclosure walls of temples, neighborhoods and even the royal palace abut or coincide with the embanked linear features.”

A map showing the study area.

Jean-Baptiste Chevance, who is from the Archaeology and Development Foundation in the UK as well as the first author of the paper, told Newsweek, “The Ancient Khmer modified the landscape, shaping features on a very large scale – ponds, reservoirs, canals, roads, temples, rice fields, et cetera.”

He went on to say, “However, the dense forest often covering the areas of interest is the main constraint to investigating them.”

While the city was designed in an elaborate and sophisticated way, it did not last long as the Khmer Empire moved its important operations to Angkor which was their new capital city.

Team member Damian Evans, who is from the French School of the Far East, told New Scientist, “The city may not have lasted for centuries, or perhaps even decades,” adding, “But the cultural and religious significance of the place has lasted right up until the present day.”

An aerial view of Mahendraparvata as well as a photo of a temple site can be seen here.

8,000-Year-Old Pearl, Found In Abu Dhabi, Is World’s Oldest.

8,000-Year-Old Pearl, Found In Abu Dhabi, Is World’s Oldest.

An 8,000-year-old pearl that archaeologists say is the worlds oldest will be displayed in Abu Dhabi, according to authorities who said Sunday it is proof the objects have been traded since Neolithic times.

Dubbed the ‘Abu Dhabi Pearl’, it was found in layers carbon-dated to 5800-5600 BCE, during the Neolithic period.

This finding proves that pearls and oysters have been used in the UAE nearly 8,000 years ago and is the first confirmed evidence of pearling discovered anywhere in the world.

The small pearl was found in the floor of a room during excavations at Marawah Island

The Abu Dhabi Pearl, on loan from the Zayed National Museum collection, will feature in the special exhibition 10,000 Years of Luxury, taking place at Louvre Abu Dhabi from October 30, 2019, to February 18, 2020.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “The Abu Dhabi Pearl is a stunning find, testimony to the ancient origins of our engagement with the sea.

The discovery of the oldest pearl in the world in Abu Dhabi makes it clear that so much of our recent economic and cultural history has deep roots that stretch back to the dawn of prehistory.

Marawah Island is one of our most valuable archaeological sites, and excavations continue in the hope of discovering even more evidence of how our ancestors lived, worked and thrived.”

Prior to the Abu Dhabi Pearl discovery, the earliest known pearl in the UAE was uncovered at a Neolithic site in Umm al-Quwain.

Ancient pearls from the same time have also been found at a Neolithic cemetery close to Jebel Buhais in the emirate of Sharjah. The carbon dating indicates that Abu Dhabi Pearl is older than both these discoveries.

Aside from the priceless Abu Dhabi Pearl, significant finds from the Marawah site have included an imported ceramic vase, beautifully worked flint arrowheads and shell and stone beads.

Numerous painted plaster vessel fragments were also discovered and represent the earliest known decorative art yet discovered in the UAE. At the beginning of 2020, a major new excavation will take place at the site to further uncover its secrets.

Experts have suggested that ancient pearls were possibly traded with Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) in exchange for highly-decorated ceramics and other goods. Pearls were also likely worn as jewellery by the local population, as indicated by the finds at Jebel Buhais in Sharjah.

The art of pearling required in-depth knowledge of pearl beds and their locations and expert seafaring skills.

Once these were mastered by the ancient inhabitants of Marawah, pearling was to remain a mainstay of the UAE’s economy for millennia.

The Venetian jewel merchant Gasparo Balbi, who travelled through the region, mentions the islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi as a source of pearls in the 16th century. The industry flourished until the 1930s.