Category Archives: ASIA

Bronze Canaanite Figurines Unearthed in Israel

Bronze Canaanite Figurines Unearthed in Israel

The Canaanite god of Baal was a 3,300-year-old bronze figurine; a bronze calf statue, two seals, and Canaanite and Philistine pottery have been unearthed by a team led by Gil Davis of Macquarie University and Yossi Garfinkel of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem at the site of Khirbet el-Rai, which is located in south-central Israel.

Smiting statue: The partially intact figurine wears a tall hat and would have had its right arm raised and its other arm held out in front, possibly holding a weapon such as a spear. Credit: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In cooperation with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Israel Antiquities Authority, students of the Ancient Israel program of Macquarie University have excavated 1.7 hectares of premises. The Macquarie archaeology students were delighted when they unearthed the bronze figure of the Canaanite god Baal, poised to smite his enemies, and a small bronze calf, bringing images to mind of the biblical ‘golden calf’.

“We have high hopes and low expectations when we go through the archaeological excavation but of course it’s great when we make exciting discoveries,” says Dr. Gil Davis, Director of the Ancient Israel Program at the University of Macquarie.

“We dream of making discoveries that will change our understanding of a significant part of the ancient past.”

In order to write the history, you need to understand it from your own perspective, actually see it for yourself and experience it yourself.

Dig co-director Professor Yossi Garfinkel, Head of the Institute of Archaeology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says the partnership with Macquarie University has enabled them to excavate on a much larger scale than usual.  “Most of the discoveries at this site are thanks to the cooperation of Macquarie University.”

For three weeks from 26 January to 13 February 2020, the team worked in the warm winter sun to dig, sift and discard bucket-loads of soil to unearth these artifacts at two different locations on the site. It follows the team’s groundbreaking claim that this site was once the ancient Philistine city of Ziklag mentioned in the Bible’s Book of Samuel.

Hidden treasures: Macquarie student Hannah Newman discovered the bronze calf figurine during the last week of the excavation.

Lost city found

According to the Bible, the Philistine King Achish of Gath gave Ziklag to David — renowned for slaying the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17) —while he was fleeing King Saul. Later, after Saul’s death, David became king in Hebron and Ziklag remained in the hands of his nascent kingdom of Judah. The city’s true whereabouts have remained unknown for centuries, until now. The team’s excavations have revealed layers from the 12th–10th Centuries BCE, which covers the city’s Canaanite foundation and rule by the Philistines as well as the Israelite Kingdom of Judah. They have also found evidence of a fierce fire, burnt mud bricks, white ash, burnt wood and numerous destroyed ceramic vessels – which coincides with the biblical account of the city being raided by the Amalekites.

Scholars have been divided over the location of Ziklag, with as many as 12 potential sites put forward as contenders. But Garfinkel and co-director Dr Kyle Keimer, Senior Lecturer in the Archaeology of Ancient Israel at Macquarie University, say the assembled evidence gives Khirbet el-Rai a strong claim to be the lost biblical city.

“Our site is chronologically the right time period and as we’ve excavated and discovered how significant this site was from a political and economic and geographical stance, we sought to identify it with a biblical site,” explains Keimer.

“I wholeheartedly think that it’s a very feasible explanation, particularly in comparison to the other sites which have been proposed, all of which have one issue or another with them whether it be chronological, archaeological or geographical.”

The site has yielded a wealth of artifacts including rich finds of Canaanite pottery, vessels used to store oil and wine, a stash of flint ‘blanks’ used for sickle blades, inscriptions, oil lamps, a portable shrine, and even a large bronze spearhead. The team has uncovered a series of superimposed monumental buildings as well as multiple domestic buildings. The earliest of the monumental buildings were destroyed, preserving a room full of burnt bones and cultic objects, some of which find their origins in Cyprus. The architecture and small finds indicate that a sophisticated society with international connections was in existence at that time (the Iron Age I), rather than modest scattered settlements as scholars previously thought.

“We are bringing colour, taste, and smell to the drywalls and rooms we are uncovering here on the site.

The dig is also unique in that the 32 students from Macquarie’s Ancient Israel Program have been given the chance to make their mark on history by gaining hands-on experience in the field. Six were specially selected as mentorees and paired with an Israeli supervisor to learn how to manage and run their own excavation square.

“It’s so exciting and I’ve learnt so many things that I never even thought were part of archaeology,” says mentoree Eva Rummery.

“In order to write the history you need to understand it from your own perspective, actually see it for yourself and experience it yourself, and that means you can not only write it so much more accurately but you can get your own feeling of what’s happening. And it connects you back to the geography of the place, how the environment works, which is so important because that puts you in the life of the people who originally lived here.”

In the field: Archaeology student Eva Rummery says the practical experience has helped her to pursue postgraduate study at Macquarie.

Mentoree Michaela Ryan says the dig creates opportunities for participants to pursue future study.

“I think you need to understand not just the theories and what we learn from a textbook but the actual practical experience behind it – it will help me immensely in going into postgraduate studies in the field,” Michaela said.

The entire experience instills the students with an “invaluable work ethic” going forward, said Davis. “These are bright and engaged students already but the experience of working as a team, having to problem solve, having to deal with difficult conditions, having to relate to different cultures and languages changes them, and after the dig their motivation and their grades are enhanced,” Davis said.

Chemistry lab a field first

Evidence-based findings: Dr. Sophia Aharonovich carries out a soil sample test in the field alongside student Edward Clancy.

In another major innovation, the students have been trained in sampling for residue analysis using an on-site chemistry laboratory overseen by Dr. Sophia Aharonovich. They have been taught how to collect soil samples from different locations and carry out six chemical tests on each one to get immediate preliminary results in the field. These results can show whether there was human activity (such as cooking or sleeping) and organic material (such as remnants of oil and wine) in a certain location, giving a clearer understanding of what each area was used for in ancient times.

“We are bringing colour, taste, and smell to the drywalls and rooms we are uncovering here on the site,” explains Aharonovich. Macquarie University has been excavating at Khirbet el-Rai since 2018, with the dig funded by the Roth Families of Sydney and the on-site chemistry laboratory funded by Isaac Wakil in memory of his late wife Susan.

600-Year-Old Buddha Statue Discovered In China As Reservoir Water Level Drops

600-Year-Old Buddha Statue Discovered In China As Reservoir Water Level Drops

Lower water levels in a village in eastern China led to a shocking discovery the other day. What was discovered was an approximately 600-year-old Buddha statue almost perfectly preserved.

Archaeologists Investigate the Buddha Head at the Hongmen reservoir

The statue was discovered at Hongmen Reservoir in the Nancheng county of Jiangsu Province. It is in this location that a nearby hydropower gate is under renovation, which led to the drop in water levels by nearly 33 feet or 10 meters.

Sitting against a cliff, the statue appears to be watching over the remaining body of water. Many locals believe it to be an auspicious sign. It might be so much more than just a statue though, archaeologists believe it could just be the tip of a buried treasure trove.

According to local history records, the reservoir may be located on the ruins of Xiaoshi – an ancient settlement. It’s likely that this large Buddha, which stands a whopping 3.8 meters (12.5 feet) tall, was the centerpiece of the village.

The statue itself is still surprisingly detailed given how old it is. It is estimated to be around 600-years-old dating back to early the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) but could go back as far as the Yuan Dynasty, making it even older.

So how is this possible? Well, Xu Changqing, director of the Research Institute of Archaeology of Jiangxi province, has stated that being submerged underwater has acted as a preserving agent. If it was exposed, it probably would have suffered weathering or oxidation damage but it’s almost perfectly preserved with the same detail that it would have had the day it was done.

The natural preservation isn’t just the remarkable thing about this statue, the fact that is also survived the country’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s when people were told to get rid of everything old, feudalistic and superstitious is also quite amazing.

According to Guan Zhiyong, a local official, this miraculously preserved Buddha statue was built by ancient people as a spiritual protector to calm the rapid-flowing current where two rivers converge.

When the Hongmen reservoir was built back in 1960, the statue was submerged. Local authorities were not aware of heritage protection at that time so the statue was completely ignored.

Today, however, the statue will be fully protected and once excavated, is likely to be placed in a museum for all to see in its full glory.

It’s already stirred up old feelings with Huang Keeping, an 82-year-old local blacksmith who said he first saw the Buddha back in 1952. There’s no doubt it will be bringing back lots of nostalgia for many others too.

The statue was submerged in 1960 when the Hongmen reservoir was built.

As investigations continue into both the Buddha statue, as well as the ancient settlement, there’s not much more than can be done.

Authorities are currently working on removal as well as preservation plan for the statue. For now, though, the best place for it is under the water! It’s lasted for over half a millennium so it can definitely last another few years until it’s possible to safely remove it. Until such a time, it’s possible to admire it from afar with all the photographs and videos that have been posted online.

China is home to several spectacular Buddha statues, not least this hidden one. Alongside this centuries-old wonder, China offers incredible Buddhist cliff and cave carvings such as the famous Leshan Giant Buddha, which is the world’s tallest Buddha statue.

Leshan Giant Buddha, china

Check out this striking 25,000-year-old hut built out of mammoth bones

Check out this striking 25,000-year-old hut built out of mammoth bones

Dr. Alexander J.E. Pryor, an archeological postdoctoral researcher at Southampton University, has recently published a research paper from Cambridge University Press.

The members of his team claiming they have found the oldest man-made structure in Russia about three hundred miles from Moscow. No one knows for certain why it was built.

Kostenki 11 is a large bone circle built during the Upper Paleolithic era, over 40,000 years ago. It’s located within the Kostyonki–Borshchyovo archaeological complex in the Khokholsky District, Voronezh Oblast, Russia.

Close up of the structure, featuring long bones, a lower jaw (top middle) and articulated vertebrae.

The majority of the bones in the circle and the remnants of a bone hut were made from woolly mammoths, but bones from Arctic foxes, reindeer, bears, wolves, and horses have also been found, the findings were published in the journal Antiquity.

The archaeological site was discovered in 1951, but little work was done there until the 1960s when the first bone circle was discovered.

In 1970, another mammoth bone structure and a pit were discovered about sixty feet from the circle. Another five feet away is the newly discovered bone hut that is about forty-one feet in diameter and sits on a gradual slope.

The circle has no break for an entrance, but just outside are three small pits where burnt bones, ivory, and charcoal were found. They were carbon-dated to around twenty-five thousand years old.

Dwelling made with mammoth bones. Reconstruction based on the example of Mezhirich. Exhibit in the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan

Some scientists believe the shelter may have been covered with animal skins, but Dr. Pryor does not believe it was a living abode as all of the common artifacts usually found among dwellings were absent.

According to The Independent, some researchers have suggested structures such as this might have been ritual monuments.

There is, however, no evidence for this conclusion. Another factor is that some of the bones were still stuck together indicating there was still animal material on them when they were stacked.

This would have been not only smelly but very dangerous, as it would attract predators.

The mammoth bone structure discovered.

Circular bone features such as this have been found in about twenty-five different locations in the Ukraine and Russia but none are as old as Kostenki 11, which is still being studied.

Built at the end of the last ice age when winters were long and harsh, reaching twenty degrees below zero on average, by the humans that didn’t travel south to escape the cold, Dr. Pryor believes the hut may have been used for food storage, as a garbage dump that would keep scavengers away from their living area, or even for rituals of some sort.

The Mammoth Bones structure seen from above

Evidence of tool usage including percussion rocks and striking platforms were found as well as over fifty small seeds that had been partially burned leading researchers to wonder if they were from native plants growing around the area or from plants that had been collected and brought to the site for consumption.

Three other pits in the same area tested exactly the same as the materials found at the bone hut according to Dr. Pryor’s research paper on Cambridge Core.

Dr. Pryor stated that Kostenki 11 is a rare site where scientists can learn more about hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic era and how they survived in such a harsh climate, the height of the last ice age.

The site is providing information as to what places like this may have been used for. He notes that the people of that time used ingenuity in finding ways to survive using the materials available in their ice age environment.

Dr. E. James Dixon, emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico, is quoted by smithsonianmag.com saying that this is a “fascinating time period in Eurasian archaeology” and the study “clearly demonstrates that modern humans were adapted to higher latitudes at the very height of the last ice age.”

This 5,500-Year-Old Leather Shoe is the Oldest Ever Discovered

This 5,500-Year-Old Leather Shoe is the Oldest Ever Discovered

The oldest leather shoe known to archeologists was discovered lodged in a sheep dung pit in a cave in Armenia, and is about 5,500 years old, according to a BBC article. The so-called Areni-1 shoe is an example of early, simplistic footwear which may have influenced the creation of other types of shoe design in the ancient world.

Anthropologists believe that humans started wearing shoes around 40,000 years ago contributing to anatomical changes in human feet and limbs. However, we have very little idea of what these prehistoric shoes might have looked like.

Entrance to the Areni-1 cave in southern Armenia near the town of Areni. The cave is the location of the world’s oldest known winery and where the world’s oldest known leather shoe has been found.

Entrance to the Areni-1 cave in southern Armenia near the town of Areni. The cave is the location of the world’s oldest known winery and where the world’s oldest known leather shoe has been found.

Several pairs of rope sandals discovered by archaeologists in a cave in Oregon are thought to be the oldest footwear ever discovered, dating to approximately 8,000 BC. However, the oldest shoe, made from leather and featuring a closed toe, was found in a remote cave in Armenia in 2008.

The shoe was excavated as part of a project led by archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia.

The team was exploring a cave known as Areni-1, in the Vayots Dzor region. Areni-1 contained a number of Neolithic and Copper Age remains, including food containers holding barley, wheat and apricots.

The shoe itself was found inside a pit, perfectly preserved in the cool, dry conditions of the cave. It was cemented in with several layers of sheep dung, which acted as a seal, protecting the contents of the pit from the air and water.

The Areni-1 shoe was made from a single piece of tanned leather from the hide of a cow. It was seamed at the front and the back and tied together with leather cords, and appears to have been made to measure.

According to National Geographic, the leather was probably wrapped around the foot before stitching to ensure a tight fit. It corresponds to a size 7 (US) in modern footwear, and so could have conceivably been worn by either a man or a woman.

The archaeological site of Areni-1 in 2012.

The shoe was also found stuffed full of grass. The archaeologists could not determine whether this was intended as a way to ensure that it held its shape while not being worn, or whether it was insulation designed to keep the wearer’s feet warm.

The Areni-1 shoe was carbon-dated to around 3,500 BC, making it the oldest footwear of its kind ever to be discovered. Shoes would have been particularly important to the Copper Age inhabitants of the cave, as the area around the site is well known for its rocky terrain, with sharp, pointed rocks and thorny plants.

The shoe itself showed considerable signs of wear and tear, particularly at the heel and ball of the foot, suggesting that the wearer habitually walked very long distances. This assumption is further supported by the other items discovered in the cave including obsidian, thought to have been brought from a site over 75 miles away.

According to National Geographic, the Areni-1 shoe appears to be an example of the earliest leather footwear designs, creating a basic prototype that would be exported throughout the region.

Replica of the footwear worn by Ötzi The Iceman (about 5000-years-old) found in Alps.

The shoe closely resembles other ancient shoes discovered in the Middle East and North Africa and even draws a comparison with traditional clothing from the Balkans and North Africa, which are still worn in festivals today. In particular, it bears close similarities to the opanke, a form of traditional Balkan footwear.

The second oldest leather shoe discovered by archaeologists was found on Ötzi “the Iceman”, a mummified corpse uncovered in the Austrian Alps and dating from between 3,400 and 3,100 BC.

Reconstruction of Otzi the Iceman.

Ötzi’s shoe was significantly more sophisticated, comprising a bearskin base and deerskin side panels, pulled tight with a bark-string net. Dating just a few hundred years after the Areni-1 shoe, Ötzi’s shoe represents a significant leap forward in footwear design and technology.

Nevertheless, the Areni-1 shoe provides an important and extremely rare insight into the clothing and footwear worn by the Copper Age inhabitants of Armenia. Today it is on display in the History Museum of Armenia in Yerevan.