Category Archives: CHINA

Lost World War II Sub Discovered in South China Sea

Lost World War II Sub Discovered in South China Sea

Lost World War II Sub Discovered in South China Sea
An octopus on the “conning” or command tower of the wreck of the American submarine USS Harder, which sank near the Philippines in 1944 after a battle with a Japanese destroyer.

Shipwreck hunters have discovered the remains of a famous American submarine that sank with 79 crew members on board while fighting a Japanese warship near the Philippines in 1944.

According to the New York-based Lost 52 Project, which made the discovery, the wreck of USS Harder now lies on its keel on the bottom of the South China Sea near the northern Philippine island of Luzon at a depth of around 3,750 feet (1,140 meters).

Naval reports of the sub’s final mission say the Harder — a Gato-class sub named after a type of fish (the harder mullet) and nicknamed the “Hit ‘Em Harder” — sank with all crew on Aug. 24, 1944 after it was heavily damaged by depth charges in a battle with a Japanese destroyer.

The Harder was one of the most famous American submarines of World War II. U.S. Navy records report that it torpedoed and sank five Japanese destroyers and several other enemy ships during six successful patrols in the Pacific war theater.

“This is one of the most celebrated WWII submarines and an historic naval discovery,” Tim Taylor, the founder of the Lost 52 Project, told Live Science in an email.

USS Harder—known as the “Hit ‘Em Harder”—sank several enemy warships and was one of the most famous American submarines during World War II.
The wreck lies upright on the seafloor at a depth of about 3,800 feet. It was found by studying reports of its final battle, and by searching suitable sites with sonar and autonomous underwater vehicles.

The “Lost 52 Project” that found the wreck aims to locate all 52 American submarines that went missing during World War II and four that sank during the Cold War.

War grave

Taylor is the CEO of a company called Tiburon Subsea, which uses autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and other technologies to collect data at underwater sites. He also leads the Lost 52 Project, which aims to locate the wrecks of the 52 American submarines lost at sea during World War II and four lost during the Cold War. 

The group has already located the wrecks of eight vessels, making the wreck of USS Harder their ninth discovery, Taylor said. Each of the underwater wrecks is also a war grave for the crewmembers who died when it sank, and the missing crew of the Harder were remembered for their service when the wreck was found.

“We have a protocol that, when we locate a submarine, we memorialize the crew,” Taylor said. “We observe a minute of silence, ring the bell for every member of the crew and have a prayer service led by a deacon who is part of our expedition team.”

The team located the wreck by studying reports of its final battle and then searching suitable areas with shipboard sonar, which can reveal objects on the seafloor, and AUVs, which can go much deeper than human divers.

But even after they take steps to make the search patterns as efficient as possible, “It is a long and arduous process, like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Taylor said.

Sunken sub

The extreme depth of the wreck meant that AUV searches were essential, although a period of relatively good weather in recent weeks made the search easier. 

The Harder wreck is too deep to be visited by divers, and the U.S. Navy has designated the wreck as a protected site. “The wreck represents the final resting place of sailors that gave their life in defense of the nation and should be respected by all parties as a war grave,” the Navy said in a statement.

Taylor added that the AUV images show that the vessel appears to be in good condition. “The submarine is relatively intact, minus the damage done by the depth charges,” he said. 

And now, after 80 years under the waves, the wreck seems to be a thriving home for sea life, including an octopus that Taylor saw in the AUV images. 

“It is a protected gravesite for 79 US WWII sailors, but there is a lot of life on the submarine,” he said. “It’s quite extraordinary.”

2,700-year-old leather saddle found in woman’s tomb in China is oldest on record

2,700-year-old leather saddle found in woman’s tomb in China is oldest on record

The leather horse saddle from the tomb at Yanghai in northwest China is dated to roughly between 700 and 400 B.C. and may be the oldest ever found.

Archaeologists have unearthed an elaborate leather horse saddle — possibly the oldest ever found — from a grave in northwestern China, according to a new study. 

The saddle, preserved for up to 2,700 years in the arid desert, was discovered in the tomb of a woman at a cemetery in Yanghai, in the Turpan Basin of China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The woman was dressed in a hide coat, woolen pants and short leather boots, and had a “leather saddle placed on her buttocks as if she was seated on it,” according to the study, published Tuesday (May 23) in the journal Archaeological Research in Asia.

The saddle — two cowhide cushions filled with a mixture of straw and deer and camel hair — was made between 724 and 396 B.C., according to radiocarbon dating. It may predate saddles known from the Scythians — nomadic, warlike horse riders from the western and central Eurasian Steppe who interacted with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The earliest Sythian saddles seem to date from between the fifth and the third centuries B.C. and have been found in the Altai Mountains region of Russian Siberia and in eastern Kazakhstan.

The graveyard near Yanghai is in the Turpan Basin region, in the east of the Tian Shan mountains, which was occupied by the Subeixi people from about 3,000 years ago. 

“This places the Yanghai saddle at the beginning of the history of saddle making,” study lead author Patrick Wertmann, an archaeologist at the University of Zurich, told Live Science.

The tombs at Yanghai are thought to be from people of the Subeixi culture, who occupied the Turpan Basin from about 3,000 years ago. The culture is named after another graveyard of tombs near the modern town of Subeixi, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Yanghai. 

Horse herds

2,700-year-old leather saddle found in woman's tomb in China is oldest on record
The archaeologists also examined a saddle from another Subeixi graveyard in the region, which is thought to have been made at about the same time.

Archaeologists now think horses were domesticated as herd animals up to 6,000 years ago. But the earliest evidence suggests they were kept for their milk and meat; horse-riding may not have started until up to 1,000 years later.

The first riders used mats secured to the backs of horses with straps; carvings show Assyrian cavalrymen with such horse-gear in the seventh century B.C.

Archaeologists don’t know exactly when true saddles were invented, but they likely were developed by horse-riders in Central Asia about the mid-first millennium B.C., which would make the Yanghai saddle among the oldest, Wertmann said. 

The development of saddles began “when riders began to care more about comfort and safety, and also the health of the horses,” he told Live Science in an email. “Saddles helped people to ride longer distances, hence leading to more interaction between different peoples.”

The early Scythian saddles and the Yanghai saddle both have distinct supports, which help riders maintain a firm position and raise themselves in the saddle, such as when shooting an arrow. The first saddles also had no stirrups, Wertmann said.

Female riders

The saddle was found in the tomb of a woman from the pastoralist Subeixi culture; it was positioned so that she seemed to be riding the saddle.

The Subeixi had similar weaponry, horse gear and garments to the Scythians and may have had contact with them in the Altai Mountains region, the study authors wrote. But while the Scythians were nomads, the Subeixi horse-riders were likely pastoralists who looked after herds of animals within the Turpan Basin.

University of Zurich biomolecular archaeologist Shevan Wilkin, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science that the extraordinary level of preservation of the Yanghai saddle suggests other, potentially older saddles, may be found nearby.

“Usually for something organic that’s this old, like leather, then we wouldn’t have any remnants of it, or very little,” she said.

The seated position of the buried woman on the saddle suggests she was a rider. “This really shifts our ideas about who was riding horses,” Wilkin said.

Birgit Bühler, an archaeologist at the University of Vienna, who also wasn’t involved with the study, told Live Science in an email that the discovery in an ordinary tomb is “strong evidence for women participating in the day-to-day activities of mounted pastoralists, which included herding and travelling.”

The find contradicts traditionalist historical narratives associating horse-riding with warfare by elite men, she said.

1,800-Year-Old Tombs Excavated in Eastern China

1,800-Year-Old Tombs Excavated in Eastern China

An ancient family in eastern China constructed three underground tombs, filled them with treasure and laid their loved ones to rest. Century after century wore on the burials. Thieves broke in. Eventually, the site was forgotten.

But not anymore.

Archaeologists in Rizhao city dug up a partially damaged mound ahead of the expansion of a nearby park, the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a May 11 news release shared via the China Archaeology Network.

Underneath, archaeologists found three tombs from the Han dynasty, a period that, according to Britannica, lasted from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D.

1,800-Year-Old Tombs Excavated in Eastern China
A view looking into the 1,800-year-old tomb known as M2, one of the robbed burials.

Uncover more archaeological finds

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The 1,800-year-old tombs were similar in style, with two burials in each and sloping tomb passageways to the entrances, the institute said. Inscriptions in two of the tombs had the same surname, Huan, indicating the complex likely belonged to a family.

Tomb M3 as seen before archaeologists removed its wooden cover.

Two of the ancient tombs had been robbed, archaeologists said. The wooden coffins were left in the graves but very few artifacts remained.

The third ancient tomb, however, was well-preserved and relatively untouched, the institute said. A photo shows this tomb, known as M3.

A view into the 1,800-year-old tomb M3.

The main burial chamber of the M3 tomb had two rooms connected with miniature windows and doors. A photo shows these unique wooden windows. Archaeologists said the residential style suggested the tomb contained a husband and wife.

A miniature wooden window found in the M3 tomb.

Archaeologists also found over 70 artifacts inside the tomb. Photos show some of these treasures, including an iron sword, bronze mirrors and stacks of several different types of pottery.

A rusty sword found in the 1,800-year-old tomb.

Around one of the wooden coffins, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a coffin carriage, a structure used to transport the coffin into the tomb, the institute said. They described it as exquisitely crafted and an uncommon find.

Several red pottery artifacts found at the ancient family’s tombs.

Archaeologists described the 1,800-year-old family tombs as a significant and important discovery. Finding the same last name inscribed in several tombs is rare, the institute said.

Some of the pottery artifacts found at the 1,800-year-old tomb complex.

The excavation in Rizhao started last December and ended in January. Rizhao, sometimes translated as Jihchao, is a city in Shandong province along the eastern coast of China, a roughly 400-mile drive southeast from Beijing.

New Dates Obtained for Modern Human Remains in China

New Dates Obtained for Modern Human Remains in China

New Dates Obtained for Modern Human Remains in China
Frontal view of the Liujiang cranial and postcranial elements.

Some of China’s oldest Homo sapiens remains are about 10 times younger than previously thought. Skeletal remains of a modern human discovered in 1958 were found in southern China’s Liujiang District.

It was previously thought that the remains were up to 227,000 years old. It is thought modern humans began their trek out of Africa about 300,000 years ago.

Location of Tongtianyan cave (Liujiang) in Guangxi Province, southern China, together with the location of other key fossils of Homo sapiens in China.

Now a re-analysis of the bones published in Nature Communications has revised the estimate age of the Chinese remains to between 33,000 and 23,000 years ago.

“These revised age estimates align with dates from other human fossils in northern China, suggesting a geographically widespread presence of H. sapiens across Eastern Asia after 40,000 years ago,” says co-author Michael Petraglia, a professor at Australia’s Griffith University.

The team’s reassessment is based on radiocarbon and other techniques: optically stimulated luminescence, which measures how long it has been since sediments have been exposed to sunlight, and U-series dating which is another radiometric technique which uses uranium isotopes instead of carbon.

“This finding holds significant implications for understanding human dispersals and adaptations in the region,” says lead author Junyi Ge from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “It challenges previous interpretations and provides insights into the occupation history of China.”

Debate continues as to when modern humans made it out of Africa, where we evolved about 300,000 years ago, to East Asia.

Fossil teeth found in southern China’s Fuyan Cave are suggested to be 80,000–120,000 years old. Other finds support the idea that Homo sapiens have been in China for at least 40,000 years.

It is believed that modern humans arrived in Australia about 65,000 years ago.

Besides Homo sapiens, however, other ancient humans made it to East Asia much earlier.

Remains found near Beijing belonging to a Homo erectus individual known as “Peking Man” are between 230,000 and 780,000 years old. Other hominin finds in China are nearly 2 million years old.

A collection of 430 burial objects found in the tomb of a 3000-year-old Noblewoman in China

A collection of 430 burial objects found in the tomb of a 3000-year-old Noblewoman in China

A collection of 430 burial objects found in the tomb of a 3000-year-old Noblewoman in China

A tomb belonging to a noblewoman dating back about 3,000 years has been unearthed in North China’s Shanxi Province.

The tomb, designated as M1033, was discovered in the Dahekou cemetery, Yicheng County. Over 600 burials and 20 chariot-and-horse pits have been discovered during the excavation of the Western Zhou Dynasty’s Dahekou Cemetery in Yicheng County, Shanxi Province, since 2007.

More importantly, the finding of the Dahekou cemetery has shed light on the existence of the Ba state, previously undocumented in the historical texts of the Western Zhou.

Bronze inscriptions found in Dahekou cemetery indicate that the state clan name was Ba 霸, with Ba Bo (the Earl of Ba) as the paramount ruler.

Burial objects recovered from the Dahekou Cemetery of the Western Zhou Dynasty in Yicheng County of Linfen City, Shanxi province.

Given that most of the province was under Jin state control during this time, it is extremely valuable for research on the feudal states in Shanxi’s southern region during the Western Zhou period and their interactions with the Jin state.

The discovery was announced by the Shanxi Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology. A pit in the middle holds the remains of a sacrificed animal, and the tomb itself is medium-sized, according to Xie Yaoting, the leader of the archaeological team.

Burial objects recovered from the Dahekou Cemetery of the Western Zhou Dynasty in Yicheng County of Linfen City, Shanxi province.

The tomb’s owner was a female between 31 and 34 years old who was buried in a supine posture with straight limbs.

Archaeologists believe that the tomb’s owner was likely a middle-ranking noblewoman from the mid-Western Zhou (1046BC-771BC) period.

Burial objects recovered from the Dahekou Cemetery of the Western Zhou Dynasty in Yicheng County of Linfen City, Shanxi province.

The tomb yielded a collection of 430 burial objects divided into 93 groups, including bronze wares, pottery, jade artifacts, and shellfish containers.

The earliest Buddha statues in China found in northwestern Shaanxi

The earliest Buddha statues in China found in northwestern Shaanxi

The earliest Buddha statues in China found in northwestern Shaanxi

The two copper-tin-lead alloy Buddha statues discovered in northwestern Shaanxi Province became the earliest Buddha statues of this kind unearthed in China.

Two alloy Buddha statues and a number of items were excavated from a group of ancient tombs dating to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) in northwest China‘s Shaanxi Province, the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology said Friday.

The tombs were located in Chengren Village, Xianyang City. Six tombs were excavated in May this year.

The details of the two statues were revealed. One is for Sakyamuni and the other for Five Tathāgatas.

The total height of the Sakyamuni statue is 10.5 centimeters, the diameter of the base it sits on is 4.7 centimeters, and the total height of the Five Tathāgatas is 15.8 centimeters and the width is 6.4 centimeters.

According to archaeologists, the carved figures, which were widely believed to embody religious beliefs, did not appear until the Sixteen Kingdoms Period, dating back 200 years earlier than previous discoveries.

Two alloy Buddha statues and a number of items were excavated from a group of ancient tombs dating to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology said Friday.

Based on preliminary results of the modeling characteristics, manufacturing process analysis, and metal composition detection of the Buddhas, it can be concluded that the two statues are of Gandhara style and made locally, which has important research value for the introduction and Sinicization of Buddhist culture.

The two Buddha statues are both copper-tin-lead alloy according to archaeological analysis, said Li Ming, a researcher with the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology.

“The findings of the Buddha statues are of great significance to the study of the introduction of Buddhist culture to China and its localization in the country,” Li added.

According to Li Ming, the leader of the archaeological project, the excavation site called Hongduyuan cemetery in the north of Chang’an, now known as Xi’an, as the capital city of ancient China’s Han and Tang dynasties, was the highest grade cemetery in the period apart from the emperor’s mausoleum. Most of those buried in the tombs are found to be royal relatives, senior officials, and dignitaries, all recorded in historical books.

From June 2020 to November 2021, 3,648 ancient tombs, spanning from the Warring States period (475 B.C. – 221 B.C.) to Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), have been excavated by the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology in Shaanxi’s Xianyang City.

So far, more than 16,000 pieces (sets) of cultural relics have been unearthed, and quite a number of important archaeological findings have been reported.

The excavations are continuing at the site.

Well-preserved Ming Dynasty tomb unearthed in China’s Shanxi Province

Well-preserved Ming Dynasty tomb unearthed in China’s Shanxi Province

Well-preserved Ming Dynasty tomb unearthed in China’s Shanxi Province

Archaeologists from the Shanxi Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology have unearthed a well-preserved tomb from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in Xinzhou city of Northern China’s Shanxi province.

To coordinate with a national highway realignment project, archaeologists from the institute and local cultural relics and archaeology departments in Xinzhou excavated relics in the city’s Xinfu district.

Even though the tomb is over 430 years old, its elaborate funerary furniture and wooden coffin are still intact and in excellent condition. In Shanxi, it is rare to find a tomb in such good condition with well-preserved wooden furnishings.

The excavations have uncovered the remains of structures from the Longshan Period (2900-2100 B.C.) and the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), and 66 tombs from the Han, Tang, Jin, Yuan and Ming and Qing dynasties.

Among them was an intact Ming Dynasty tomb discovered on the west terrace of Hexitou village in Xinzhou’s Xinfu district.

Comprising a sloping passageway 17 meters (55.7 ft) long, a central burial chamber, and a smaller rear chamber, the tomb stretched about 25.3 meters (83ft) in length.

A striking image captured the tomb’s sealed entrance, adorned with a stone gatehouse and a set of imposing double doors. The gate is stone carved to imitate a wood structure.

Two dragon heads look outwards on each end of the roof. The stone slabs above and on each side of the doors are carved with florals.

Archaeologists discovered two beautifully decorated wooden coffins with intricate motifs in the main burial chamber, as well as two niches: one in the south with four porcelain jars and one in the north with five porcelain jars and four bottles. The porcelain vessels contained grains, liquids, or oils.

Brightly colored flowers, grasses, and specifically peacocks are painted on the well-maintained inner coffin. The better-preserved exterior coffin of the larger of the two features gold patterns in the shape of diamonds set against a tan backdrop.

The smaller chamber is furnished with wooden altars, tables, chairs, candlesticks, lampstands, incense burners, tin pots, tin cups, tin plates, painted wooden figurines, inkstones, brushes, pen holders and other writing utensils.

An epitaph inscribed in seal script offers a clue to the possible identity of the deceased: “Epitaph of the Prince of Ming Ru Hou’an,” hinting at a noble lineage and prestigious title.

The second coffin, distinguished by a diamond-shaped pattern, bears an inscription in regular script. The inscription reads: “Ming Gu Rong Kao Hou Ru Wang Gong”, translating to “Entrusted by the Ming Dynasty to serve the royal court as a palace official.

The wooden burial objects and sacrificial items were well-preserved, making this discovery rare in the city and even throughout the whole province, according to the institute.

Unexpected Origins of Mysterious Mummies Buried in Boats in a Chinese Desert

Unexpected Origins of Mysterious Mummies Buried in Boats in a Chinese Desert

Unexpected Origins of Mysterious Mummies Buried in Boats in a Chinese Desert

In 1990, hundreds of mummified bodies were found buried in boats in an inhospitable desert area in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China. Known as the Tarim Basin mummies they have now been genetically examined and scientists have narrowed down the origins of the mysterious mummies. The results are quite surprising.

The mummies’ bodies and clothing are strikingly intact despite being up to 4,000 years old, having been discovered in the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang.

Their facial features and hair color are visible, having been naturally preserved by the dry desert air.

The mummies were discovered buried in boat-shaped coffins which were covered with cow hides. Beside them were signs of a farming society: food items like wheat, barley, and cheese, as well as livestock like sheep, goats, and cattle.

They had the appearance of strangers from a foreign land because they were tall, had wool felt hats and leather booties on, and some of them had fair hair.

However, the genomes of 13 remarkably preserved 4,000-year-old mummies weren’t migrants who brought technology from the West, as previously supposed. A study of the mummies’ DNA finds that they were locals with deep roots in the area.

In a study in the Nature Journal, researchers analyzed the genetic data gathered from mummies. They date back to 2,100 to 1,700 BCE and have revealed where the people came from.

They appear to be relics of an ancient population that disappeared in Eurasia after the last ice age—one that was ancestral to Indigenous peoples living in Siberia and the Americas today.

A naturally mummified Bronze Age woman, who was buried in the Tarim Basin.

Individuals 400 kilometers apart at opposite ends of the Tarim Basin had DNA that was as similar as siblings.

Even though the mummies were locals who had not intermarried with the migrant herders in nearby mountain valleys, they were not culturally isolated. By 4000 years ago, they had already embraced new ideas and cultures: they wore woven woolen clothing, constructed irrigation systems, grew nonnative wheat and millet, herded sheep and goats, and milked cattle to make cheese.

Although previous work has shown that the mummies lived on the shores of an oasis in the desert, it’s still unclear why they were buried in boats covered in cattle hides with oars at their heads – a rare practice not found anywhere else in the region and perhaps best associated with the Vikings.

According to the study, the group had been in the area for some time and had a distinct local ancestry, which refuted theories that they were herders from the southern Russian Black Sea region, Central Asians, or early farmers on the Iranian Plateau.

Christina Warinner, a study author, professor of Anthropology at Harvard University, and research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said in a statement: “The mummies have long fascinated scientists and the public alike since their original discovery. Beyond being extraordinarily preserved, they were found in a highly unusual context, and they exhibit diverse and far-flung cultural elements.”

Researchers also said it was possible for a population to be genetically isolated but also be culturally cosmopolitan.

In addition to examining genomes sequenced from the remains of five individuals from the Dzungarian Basin further north in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, the researchers also examined genetic data from the oldest mummies from the Tarim Basin, which date from 3,700 to 4,100 years old.

Dating back between 4,800 and 5,000 years ago, they are the oldest human remains found in the region.