Category Archives: ASIA

Sixth-Century Statue Discovered in Cambodia

Sixth-Century Statue Discovered in Cambodia

Officials and historians from the Siem Reap Provincial Department of Environment conducting research on a large Makara animal statue carved on a rock at the Phnom Kulen National Park in Siem Reap province’s Svay Loeu district.

Sun Kong, the Provincial Environmental Department director said yesterday that a resident discovered the head section of the broken statue and officials visited the site on Sunday.

He added that the statue was made of sandstone during the sixth century and the body was broken into pieces, noting that officials found 13 pieces of the body nearby the site.

Environmental officials inspect the ancient statue.

Mr Kong said: “According to the experts, this Makara animal statue is one that we have never seen before. It is approximately 2.14 meters in length and about 0.97 meters high.

We have not yet moved the body parts or excavated the head from the site and have told park rangers in the area to guard it in order for officials from relevant ministries and institutions to come and study in detail about the site’s history and reconstruct the pieces.”

He noted that experts have not found a foundation of any temple at the site and believe it was just carved out on the rock.

Chhim Samrithy, 38, a craftsman from the province who discovered the statue, said yesterday he spotted it on Saturday while searching for bamboo.

“I usually walk in the forest to look for some unique and sacred objects and suddenly spotted this rare statue,” he said. “After seeing it, I took environmental officials and archaeologists to the site and also helped to find some of the missing pieces of the statue.”

Long Kosal, Apsara Authority spokesman, said that the authorities’ archeologists visited the site yesterday and will conduct additional studies to add it to the records.

He said: “The Kulen National Park area is rich in ancient artifacts, both above and below the ground. Therefore,  I urge people, especially those living in the area, to avoid excavating or clearing archeological sites. If they find ancient objects, please report to the authorities for research to be done to preserve them for future generations.”

Fossilized Insect Discovered Not in Amber, But in Opal

Fossilized Insect Discovered Not in Amber, But in Opal

A piece of opal from Java Island, Indonesia,  holds some remarkable cargo: a stunningly preserved insect that may be at least four to seven million years old.

Amber has long been prized for not only its lush, fiery hues but its elaborate contributions to Earth’s fossil record. As Vasika Udurawane writes for Earth Archives, the petrified tree resin starts out as a viscous liquid, slowly hardening over millions of years and preserving the entrapped remains of creatures that find themselves caught up in the process.

Up to now, scientists have collected amber fossils featuring such lively scenes as a spider attacking a wasp, an ant beleaguered by a parasitic mite and even a lizard seemingly suspended in mid-air—or rather mid-amber.

To date, most scientists believe that such high-quality fossil specimens are unique to amber, Gizmodo’s Ryan F. Mandelbaum reports. But an intriguing find by gemologist Brian Berger could upend this notion, proving that the slow-forming gemstone opal is also capable of preserving the remains of ancient animals.

A precious opal discovered on the island of Java in Indonesia includes what appears to be a complete insect encased inside. While insects encased in amber are well-known, a second, much rarer, the process of opalization can also occur while still preserving the insect inclusion, which is believed to be the provenance of this specimen.

Writing in a blog post for Entomology Today, Berger explains that he recently purchased an opal originating from the Indonesian island of Java.

Dotted with a rainbow of colors—from amber-Esque shades of yellow and red to neon green and dark blue—the gemstone is impressive in and of itself. Add in the insect seemingly entombed within, however, and the opal transforms from a precious stone into a significant scientific discovery.

“You can see what appears to be a complete insect encased beautifully inside,” Berger notes. “… The insect appears to have an open mouth and to be very well preserved, with even fibrous structures extending from the appendages.”

According to Gizmodo’s Mandelbaum, it’s possible the bug was trapped in amber that then underwent a process known as opalization. Much like fossilization turns bone into stone, opalization can render organic specimens opals’ hapless prisoners.

Michelle Starr of Science Alert points out that researchers currently have a limited understanding of opal formation. Right now, the dominant theory involves silica-laden water, which flows across sediment and fills cracks and cavities in its path. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind silica deposits, starting a process that repeats until an opal finally forms.

In Indonesia, home of Berger’s specimen, opalization takes on an added twist. Volcanic fluid, rather than simply water, races over the Earth and fills faults. As the fluid cools down, water contained within leaves behind silica deposits, launching the lengthy journey of opal formation.

It’s worth noting, according to Starr, that opalization appears to require a hollow cavity. Amber, however, does not fit these parameters, leaving scientists puzzled over how the opal in question if it indeed started out as amber, came to be.

Ben McHenry, senior collection manager of Earth sciences at the South Australian Museum, tells Starr that the specimen could share similarities with opalized wood, which is a common occurrence in Indonesia.

In an interview with Gizmodo’s Mandelbaum, Ryan McKellar, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada, adds that Berger’s opal reminds him of a specimen featuring wood partially embedded in resin.

The section of the wood covered in amber was preserved much like a fossilized insect, but the other side, exposed to the natural environment, transformed into petrified wood.

Moving forward, Berger hopes to recruit an entomologist or paleontologist better equipped to study the unusual opal and its insect resident.

As Science Alert’s Starr notes, the gemologist has already submitted the stone to the Gemological Institute of America, which issued a report authenticating the specimen as “unaltered, untampered precious opal, with a genuine insect inclusion.”

Reflecting on the find’s potential significance in an interview with Starr, Berger concludes, “If the process of formation is correct, from tree sap with an insect through a sedimentary process, to copal, to amber, to opal it could mean the insect has the possibility to be one of the oldest ever discovered.”

3,000-Year-Old Hebrew Inscription Discovered

3,000-Year-Old Hebrew Inscription Discovered

Archeologists at Tel Abel Beth Macaah, a joint dig between Azusa Pacific University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have recently exposed a nearly 3,000-year-old jar with the Hebrew inscription.

The ink inscription reads “lbnayo,” meaning “belonging to Benaiyo.” This implies that an Israelite man named Benaiyo lived in Abel Beth Macaah around the 9th century B.C.

This is significant because it is the northern Israelite equivalent of a name found in the Bible (see 2 Samuel 23:20; 1 Chronicles 27:5; 1 Kings 1:8) and indicates that the site may have indeed been an Israelite city at this time (see 2 Samuel 20:29). The name means “Yahweh has built”.

The ink inscription reads “lbnayo,” meaning belonging to Benaiyo, an Israelite name

“Such a discovery advances our understanding of the site and the local region considerably,” said Robert Mullins, Ph.D., co-lead archaeologist of the dig site and chair and professor in Azusa Pacific’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies.

The jar was found in the lower part of the city, where the team has already found remains from the 9th century, the time of King Ahab.

The new section of the site, Area K, had very little occupation from later periods, which allowed the archaeologists to quickly go below the topsoil and unearth a room containing several broken jars.

The team did not notice the inscription on the jar at first, but when the item was sent for restoration, faint traces of ink on one of the pieces were detected.

The Hebrew script was deciphered through multispectral images taken at the same lab in the Israel Museum that studies the Dead Sea Scrolls. “Any time you find writing on artifacts, that’s important because it can tell us so much about the history of the area,” Mullins said.

One of the other jars had a grape pip and residue in it, indicating the vessel was used to store wine, and the room may have been used for wine storage. Mullins said the team expects to find much more in the area when they resume excavation this summer.

Mullins and the team of archaeologists have excavated ancient artifacts and buildings at the site every summer since 2012. Past finds include silver earrings and ingots, a stone seal, and a small faience head of an ancient king.

Each year, Mullins is accompanied by co-directors Naama Yahalom-Mack, Ph.D. and Nava Panitz-Cohen, Ph.D., from the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University, and their team of archaeologists and scholars, including students from APU and partner schools Cornell University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Asbury Theological Seminary, and Indiana Wesleyan University.

Scientists find that tin found in Israel from 3,000 years ago comes from Cornwall

Scientists find that tin found in Israel from 3,000 years ago comes from Cornwall, England.

Scientists have revealed tin ingots from more than 3,000 years ago found in Israel. They have established that ancient tin ingots found in Israel actually came from what is now modern-day Britain.

Archaeologists believe it shows that tin was transported over long distances about 3000 years ago. Moreover, the researchers may have solved the mystery of the origin of the tin that was so vital for Bronze Age cultures.

The origins of Bronze-age tin ingots have been investigated by researchers from the University of Heidelberg and the Curt Engelhorn Center for Archaeometry in Mannheim. Tin ingots from the Bronze Age discovered by marine archaeologists off the coast of Israel.

According to Phys.org, the researchers used “lead and tin isotope data as well as trace element analysis” to identify where the metal was originally mined. What they found was totally unexpected.

The researchers established that the “3,000-year-old tin ingots found in Israel are actually from Cornwall and Devon” reports the Daily Mail.

These areas are in southwest Britain and were the sites of tin mines until modern times. The experts then analyzed tin ingots that were found in Greece and Turkey and they discovered that they had also come from Devon and Cornwall.

The original discovery of the tin ingots.
Map of Eurasia showing the locations of the tin ingots mentioned in the study (green dots), other tin objects in the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East before 1,000 BC (yellow dots), and major and minor tin deposits.

Based on the findings it seems that the tin was formed into ingots and exported from Devon and Cornwall. Given the limited technology at the time and the lack of roads, the most plausible way for the ingots to have reached modern-day Israel was by sea.

It seems that “the British Isles had developed maritime trade routes with the rest of the world as early as the Bronze Age ” according to the Daily Mail. These trade routes were probably very complex and covered great distances.

Tin was essential for societies in the eastern Mediterranean and there would have been a great demand for high-quality tin, and this would have encouraged the development of international trade routes. This could have led mariners to travel great distances to secure the metal.

The trade-in tin ingots were probably very dangerous but also very profitable. Other materials that were likely traded along these international trade networks were amber, copper, and luxury items. The fact that Bronze Age merchants could trade over vast distances shows that they were proficient sailors.

Bronze age artifacts which tin was vital for production.

The findings of the research are very important and allow us to have new insights into the trade in the distant past. It identifies for the first time the origin of the tin, that was so important in the Bronze Age.

It strongly indicates that international trade was much more advanced, 3,000 years ago, than widely supposed. The results could also guide archaeological research in the future.

Due to heavy rain: Ritual Temple Baths now fully functional in 2000 years, for the first time.

Thanks to Heavy Rains: Ritual Baths for Temple now fully functional for first time in 2,000 years

Two thousand years ago, Jews from all over Israel attended the Holy Temple in Jerusalem three times a year to worship God, as the Bible commands

Three times a year—on the festival of Pesach, on the festival of Shavuot, and on the festival of Sukkot—all your males shall appear before Hashem your God in the place that He will choose. They shall not appear before Hashem empty-handed, Deuteronomy 16:16

In the course of their spiritual preparation for the encounter of holiness on the site of Temple, these pilgrims will immerse themselves in the mikvah.

An ancient mikvah, located just south of Jerusalem, that was used by these pilgrims has been renewed by the recent rainfall in Israel and is full enough to use, according to Assaf Brezis The Gush Etzion ATV Tour Manager

The ancient mikvah, located on the road known as Derech HaAvot (Patriarch’s Route), was rediscovered just 35 years ago.

While it’s still being run by the military and not fully restored, Brezis spoke excitedly about the Biblical significance of the mikvah and the area surrounding it. He knows it has the potential to captivate Bible-based Jews and Christian alike.

Ritual Bath in the Prat Spring, Judea

He knows because he’s witnessed visitors crying at the site, as they come to understand its Biblical significance. Brezis has a vision for building a tourist attraction near the mikvah, to reenact the scenes that took place there more than 2000 years ago.

Using speakers in each all-terrain vehicle, Brezis’ company takes visitors on tours, each lasting an hour or two, during which they are introduced to the history and Biblical significance of the mikvah and the surrounding area.

The ancient mikvah on Derech HaAvot, for example, has two entrances, separated by a wall in the center. This is different from most mikvahs, both ancient and modern, which are just a single pool.

Ancient mikvah with two entrances

Brezis told Breaking Israel News that there is a similar mikvah in what is today known as the Davidson Center in Jerusalem’s Old City. This type of construction is a clue that the mikvah was in heavy use by Jews on their way to Jerusalem.

When he gets visitors to imagine a time that the area around the mikvah was once “crowded with thousands of pilgrims together,” it often brings them to tears.

In addition to the ancient mikvah, the ATV tours bring people to other sites of Biblical significance nearby, such as Herodian (where King Herod is buried), Sde Boaz (Boaz’s field) where significant episodes from the Book of Ruth occurred, Roman milestones on roads to Jerusalem that were in use 4000 years ago and Mitzpor HaElef, a lookout more than 3000 feet above sea level.

The Talmud suggests that people who were coming to the Holy Temple could immerse themselves in a mikvah as soon as they felt the spiritual pull of Jerusalem. Brezis explained that it was common for pilgrims coming from the south to already sense Jerusalem at this location, making it a particularly well-known and heavily-used mikvah.

It is still possible today to see Jerusalem from the nearby Jewish community of Neve Daniel. Brezis connected this location to Avraham’s vision of Jerusalem on his journey to fulfill God’s command to sacrifice his son Yitzchak (Isaac). 

On the third day Avraham looked up and saw the place from afar. Genesis 22:4

Shannon Nuszen, the political activist in the area, told Breaking Israel News that the site also has contemporary political significance. “I take [people on] tours there because it’s significant to the political fight here.

Derech HaAvot runs right through Judea and is full of archaeological finds that prove this land has always been Jewish. Just steps from the mikvah is a wine press and an ancient Roman milestone.

“While you’re standing there, you can look up and see the community of Netiv HaAvot, located on the same road where 17 homes were destroyed in the legal battle where claims were made that the land may or may not belong to us.”

Since the mikvah hasn’t yet been fully restored, the rainwater-filled pools may only last a few weeks, during Israel’s rainy season. Nevertheless, Brezis concluded that “It’s amazing to see this place, even without the water.”

Prehistoric humans ate bone marrow like canned soup 400,000 years ago

Prehistoric humans ate bone marrow like canned soup 400,000 years ago

A new study has found that prehistoric humans have preserved bone marrow in their caves for up to nine weeks as a soup pot.

Researchers previously thought that Paleolithic people lived a hand-to-mouth existence but this research shows they were sophisticated enough to preserve meat using bones like we use modern-day cans. 

The research shows this took place in Qesem cave in what is now Tel Aviv between 420,000 and 200,000 years ago. According to the study published in Science Advances, it is the earliest evidence of delayed food consumption in the world.

The earliest evidence of delayed food consumption

Professor Ran Barkai of the university in Tel Aviv, who was involved in research, said, “The bones were used as ‘ cans ‘ that preserved the bone marrow for a long time until it was time to take off the dry skin, shatter the bone and eat the marrow.

“Bone marrow constitutes a significant source of nutrition and as such was long featured in the prehistoric diet.

“Until now, evidence has pointed to the immediate consumption of marrow following the procurement and removal of soft tissues. In our paper, we present evidence of storage and delayed consumption of bone marrow at Qesem Cave.”

Inhabitants of the cave brought in selected body parts of hunted animal carcasses. 

“The most common prey was fallow deer, and limbs and skulls were brought to the cave while the rest of the carcass was stripped of meat and fat at the hunting scene and left there,” said Professor Jordi Rosell from the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES).

Researchers found deer leg bones had specific chopping marks on them which do not look like marks left from stripping fresh skin.

They believe the bones were left covered in the skin to help preserve them until they needed the meat. 

Scientists have also found people regularly used fire, cooked and roasted meat in Qesem Cave. 

“We assume that all this was because elephants, previously a major source of food for humans, were no longer available, so the prehistoric humans in our region had to develop and invent new ways of living,” said Professor Barkai. 

“This kind of behavior allowed humans to evolve and enter into a far more sophisticated kind of socio-economic existence.”

The cave was discovered 15 years ago during the construction of a road to Tel Aviv. 

A 2010 study into the traces caused controversy in the archaeology world as it questioned the theory of Homo sapiens originating in Africa, but the archaeologists were unable to draw a concrete conclusion from the evidence.

Sixteenth-Century Wall Unearthed at Japan’s Gifu Castle

Stonewall points to Japan’s oldest castle keep built by Nobunaga

This seems like another pile of rocks to the uninitiated. But stones unearthed here apparently constitute part of the oldest castle keeps ever built in Japan. The stones form part of the top section of the base of a Gifu Castle keep likely built by legendary warlord Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582).

The Gifu Castle keep is seen in the background of a statue of Oda Nobunaga in Gifu Park.
Gifu Castle 

The discovery was made last October and is regarded as significant in the study of castle building in Japan.

City officials, revealing the discovery on Jan. 7, said it is the first time researchers have identified what they believe was part of the original keep.

The hilltop castle was captured by Nobunaga during the Warring States period (late 15th to late 16th centuries).

The castle was renamed from Inabayama Castle after Nobunaga defeated its lord, Saito Tatsuoki, in 1567. He also renamed the region, then called Inokuchi, Gifu.

Luis Frois, a Portuguese missionary who visited the site two years after the takeover, wrote, “There was a gorgeous Japanese-style guest room (at the castle on the mountain),” according to the city’s education board.

A detailed image of the stone wall, including the base of the keep, is depicted in a drawing dating to the Genroku Era (1688-1704).

Stone walls of a keep are depicted in a drawing of the castle made during the Genroku Era (1688-1704) of the Edo Period (1603-1867).

However, it had been believed that most of the original wall was long gone, as the structure was torn down during reconstruction work in 1910.

The excavation work covers an area of about 1,410 square meters atop Mount Kinkasan.

Team members decided to excavate around a stone sticking diagonally out of the ground near a wall where the rebuilt structure stands. After digging out about five square meters, the members found what is believed to be the original stone wall.

An excavated stone wall in Gifu believed to have been built under Oda Nobunaga. The excavation team started digging around a stone, center, sticking diagonally out of the ground.

The section, about 1.8 meters long and 70 centimeters high, has three levels and is located above a layer at the northwestern corner that was created during the Warring States period.

The team also found a piece of stone that supports the bottom of the corner as well as areas where the stones were joined with mazumeishi pebbles to fill the gaps, matching the characteristics of walls built under Nobunaga.

In the castle drawing, a four-meter-high stone wall is depicted above the three layers of stone walls in the vicinity of the one recently discovered.

“We will continue our research to uncover all of the details,” said Mayor Masanao Shibahashi.

Hitoshi Nakai, a professor of history of castle building in Japan at the University of Shiga Prefecture, said the discovery will shed light on the history of castle building, particularly how feudal-era keeps originated.

Nakai added that similar techniques were used for building stone walls at Azuchi Castle, and noted that the same might be true for Sakamoto Castle, where a subordinate of Nobunaga, warlord Akechi Mitsuhide (1528-1582), resided.

Farmer Digging a well find the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang in China

Farmer Digging a well find the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang in China

When farmers Yang Zhifa found a piece of an old terracotta as he dug a well, he thought he’d stumbled on a disused kiln that could supply him with free jars. How wrong he was: it turned out to be the first warrior of the famous Chinese terracotta army.

It was in the Chinese New Year in March 1974 and was especially dry in that time, Yang’s production unit decided to dig a well to water the crops of the cooperative farm.

“At first the digging went well. The second day we hit hard red earth. The third day, my hoe dug out the neck of a terracotta statue without a head, but the opening at the bottom was about the size of a bowl,” he recalled.

Farmer Digging a well find the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang in China
When archaeologist Zhao Kangmin picked up the phone in April 1974, all he was told was that a group of farmers digging a well nearby had found some relics.

“I commented to my workmate that it was probably the site of an old kiln. He advised me to dig carefully so that we’d be able to dig out any old jars and take them home for our own use.”

As they went on digging, the peasants came across the shoulders and torso of a statue. So it evidently wasn’t a kiln, they thought, but a temple. Then they realised that it was a complete body, apart from one leg that had been cut off, and the missing head. As they went on digging, they turned up bronze items. One of Yang’s colleagues teased him: “You like a nice pipe, and these things will be worth quite a bit of money. You’ll be able to swap them for tobacco.”

Suspicious villagers

“It was the middle of the Cultural Revolution at the time, and everything was topsy-turvy in the villages. People had gathered round and were watching us. When the older ones saw these ‘statues of gods’ and the bronze objects we had dug up, they weren’t at all pleased. They said they were part of the local feng shui, and that digging them up would do no good either to the village or to us.” But Yang had spent six years in the army and knew something about ancient objects.

“People had always said that the tomb of the Qin emperor covered an area of just over 9 hectares and that our village was about two kilometres from the mausoleum. These objects could be of historic interest. So I called some women and harnessed up three two-wheeled carts to transport them […] to the Lintong district museum several kilometres away.“

Yang wasn’t too sure what the museum would say about his find. “If they aren’t of any historic interest, I’ll throw them into the river, have a wash and go home,” he thought as he and his colleagues transported their unusual load. The experts at the museum recognised the fragments and the “statue of the god” as dating from the Qin dynasty – the third century B.C. – and that they were therefore extremely valuable.

“They paid us CNY10 (yuan) per cart, so a total of CNY30. We were really happy to get so much for having brought three carts of terracotta,” said Yang. At the time CNY10 was the equivalent of an annual salary in poor rural areas.

When they got back to the village they handed the money to their production unit, as was required under the collective system. Each one of them was awarded five points – the equivalent of half a day’s work – or 13 fen (a fen being a hundredth of a yuan) that they could use to buy food or other goods. At first, that was their entire reward.

Hour of glory

Yang Zhifa is one of the discoverers of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor
Archaeologists at the site in 1979 – Zhao is not pictured

The authorities then decided to build a museum on the site of the mausoleum. The villagers – including Yang – were displaced. He received 5,000 yuan in compensation for his 167 square metres of land.

He moved to a new village, called Qinyong (meaning “Qin warriors”), six kilometres from the museum. He was given a three-room flat, similar to the ones allocated to other relocated villagers. But they were angry with him: if they had to leave their homes it was “because of him”, he explained. To get away from their hostile looks and remarks, he moved about a kilometre away.

When he thinks about it now, it didn’t really make much difference to his life. But he says that the discovery of the site and the reforms introduced by the authorities led to a rise in the standard of living and some of the villagers have been able to make money by setting up businesses.

But Yang doesn’t have a head for that sort of thing. The museum gave him job signing autographs for visitors. “At first I was earning CNY300 a month. By the time I retired it was 1,000.” Yang had his hour of glory when Bill Clinton visited the museum and asked for his autograph. The former US president isn’t the only world leader Yang met. He can’t remember all the names, but he has their photos on his wall. At the end of March 1990, Swiss photographer Daniel Schwartz, together with an assistant and a technician from Hong Kong, travelled to Lintong to.

Philosophical

When he stopped working at the museum, Yang found himself with practically no income. But he is philosophical about it.

“Whether it’s fair or not, I can’t do anything about it. I’m only a simple peasant,” he commented, but he is not unhappy either. “There were too many people at the museum. Sometimes I didn’t feel too well after working all day.” The museum now draws millions of visitors a year and earns some CNY480 million from them (about CHF72 million).

But few people still remember Yang. His name does not even appear on the explanatory board at the entrance to the display, which says simply that the terracotta army was discovered by local peasants. The People’s Daily wrote that “peasants don’t know anything about science. It’s impossible that they should have discovered anything,” said Yang.

“That’s life. Even if there is a lot of injustice in society, there’s no point in getting angry about it.” And as he pointed out, the discovery of the “eighth wonder of the world” may not have made him rich, but it still makes him proud.