Category Archives: CHINA

4,800-Year-Old Fossil of Mother Embracing Baby Found in Taiwan

4,800-Year-Old Fossil of Mother Embracing Baby Found in Taiwan

It is a fitting discovery as Mother’s Day approaches.

Archaeologists have uncovered the ancient remains of a young mother and an infant child locked in a 4,800-year-old embrace. The remarkable find was among 48 sets of remains unearthed from graves in Taiwan, including the fossils of five children. 

Researchers were stunned to discover the maternal moment, and they say these Stone Age relics are the earliest sign of human activity found in central Taiwan.

Preserved for nearly 5,000 years, the skeleton found in the Taichung area shows a young mother gazing down at the baby cradled in her arms.

Researchers turned to carbon dating to determine the ages of the fossils, which they traced back to the Neolithic Age, a period within the Stone Age.

Excavation began in May 2014 and took a year for archaeologists to complete.

But of all the remains found in the ancient graves, one pair set stood out from the rest.

‘When it was unearthed, all of the archaeologists and staff members were shocked. 

‘Why? Because the mother was looking down at the baby in her hands,’ said Chu Whei-lee, a curator in the Anthropology Department at Taiwan’s National Museum of Natural Science.

According to the researchers’ measurements, the mother was just 160 cm tall, or 5 foot 2 inches.

The infant in her arms is 50 cm tall – just over a foot-and-a-half.

This breathtaking discovery came as a surprise to the researchers on sight, but it isn’t the first of its kind.

In the past, archaeologists have dug up remains of similar moments which have been preserved for thousands of years.

Preserved for nearly 5,000 years, the skeleton found in the Taichung area shows a young mother gazing down at the baby cradled in her arms. Researchers were stunned to discover the eternalized maternal moment, and they say these Stone Age relics are the earliest sign of human activity found in central Taiwan

Notably, Chinese archaeologists unearthed the interlocked skeletons of a mother and child last year from an early Bronze Age archaeological site branded the ‘Pompeii of the East’, the People’s Daily Online reported.

The mother is thought to have been trying to protect her child during a powerful earthquake that hit Qinghai province, central China, in about 2,000 BC.

Experts speculated that the site was hit by an earthquake and flooding of the Yellow River.

Photographs of the skeletal remains show the mother looking up above as she kneels on the floor, with her arms around her young child. Archaeologists say they believe her child was a boy. 

4,800-Year-Old Fossil of Mother Embracing Baby Found in Taiwan
Researchers turned to carbon dating to determine the ages of the fossils, which they traced back to the Neolithic Age, a period within the Stone Age. Excavation began in May 2014 and took a year for archaeologists to complete
According to the researchers’ measurements, the mother was just 160 cm tall, or 5 foot 2 inches. The infant in her arms is 50 cm tall – just over a foot-and-a-half

22 ancient tombs were discovered in Central China’s Henan

22 ancient tombs were discovered in Central China’s Henan

A cluster of 22 ancient tombs spanning nearly 1,600 years have recently been found in Central China’s Henan province.

22 ancient tombs discovered in Central China's Henan
Aerial photo of a cluster of 22 ancient tombs spanning nearly 1,600 years in Central China’s Henan province.

Specifically, two tombs dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), 12 built in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and eight others from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties were discovered on a hill in Laozhuangshi Village of Weishi County in Kaifeng city, the then-capital city during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

The Song tombs, mainly made of brick-chamber structures with stairways, are believed to belong to a family.

Archaeologists have found delicate decorations inside, as the chamber walls were adorned with colorful murals themed on flowers, birds, mythical creatures, furniture, weapons, and more.

Doors and windows crafted in imitation wood structures were also discovered inside the chambers.

“Among the discoveries were chairs, tables with tableware as well as wine or teapots placed atop, alongside other items such as scissors, flat irons, clothes racks, and wardrobes,” said Chang Hongjie, who works with the provincial cultural relics and archaeology institute.

Chang added that the interior setting vividly provides a glimpse into the daily life of the tomb owners, offering valuable insights into the social life and burial customs during the Song Dynasty.

The interior decoration and exterior design of the tomb chambers replicate the residential houses and yards in reality, which helps to understand the life scenarios in Kaifeng during the Song Dynasty, according to the researchers.

Shang-Dynasty Town Discovered in Northern China

Shang-Dynasty Town Discovered in Northern China

Shang-Dynasty Town Discovered in Northern China
This bronze part from a horse chariot was unearthed from one of the tombs, suggesting the entire chariot and perhaps the horses that drew it were also entombed there.

The mysterious origins of ancient bronzeware found in a part of northern China may have been uncovered, with the discovery of the ruins of a complete Bronze Age town in the area.

Archaeologists have now recovered hundreds of astonishing artifacts — including bronze drinking vessels, painted pottery, ornaments inlaid with turquoise and carved pieces of jade — at the vast Zhaigou archaeological site, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of the modern city of Yulin in Shaanxi province. 

The relics, dating from more than 3,000 years ago, were made during the Shang Dynasty, which ruled northern China from about 1600 B.C. to 1046 B.C.

This bronze bird figurine inlaid with pieces of turquoise is among the roughly 3,000-year-old artifacts unearthed from the elite tombs at the Zhaigou site.

Archaeologists described the find at a news conference in Beijing by China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration.

Experts said that local people had been unearthing ancient artifacts on their farmland since the 1940s, but their origins were unknown. Now, the discovery of the entire Bronze Age settlement at the Zhaigou site, spread over 11 hills and covering more than 1.2 square miles (3 square kilometers), explains their history, the archaeologists said.

“All of the basic elements of a central settlement have been discovered at the site,” Xu Lianggao, a researcher with China’s Institute of Archaeology, told the state-owned newspaper China Daily. “We found some tombs and large-scale structures in this area in the past, but this time the complete face of a settlement has been unveiled.”

A bone delicately carved with designs that represent a catfish and inlaid with pieces of turquoise.

Ancient settlement

Shaanxi along with neighboring Henan and Shanxi, make up the so-called  “cradle” of ancient Chinese civilization in the Yellow River basin; and the Shang Dynasty is the earliest for which there is archaeological evidence, although the Xia Dynasty is said to have preceded it between 2070 B.C. and 1600 B.C.

A total of 13 ancient Chinese dynasties had their capitals in Shaanxi over more than 1,000 years, explaining why the modern province has been a source of many major archaeological finds.

Excavations at the Zhaigou archaeological site started in June 2022, and the ancient town is now recognized as the largest in the region, with some of the wealthiest tombs yet discovered, according to reports of the news conference.

At least seven elite tombs have been found at the Zhaigou site since excavations started in June 2022. This bronze star inlaid with turquoise is among the hundreds of artifacts found there.
The Zhaigou site is one of the largest ever found from this early period; the grave goods in the 3000-year-old tombs include these earrings made of gold and jade.
Archaeologists think the site consists of an entire settlement with tombs, central buildings, and artisan workshops spread over 11 nearby hills. The finds include this carved bone.
The Zhaigou site includes several elite tombs with wealthy grave goods, like this jade carving of a bird. Archaeologists think it may have been the capital of a state assimilated by the Shang.
The archaeological site dates from the period of the Bronze Age Shang Dynasty, between about 1600 and 1000 BC. This tortoise shell may have been used for divination.

Archaeologists have already found nine aristocratic tombs at Zhaigou, of which seven are rectangular tombs with passages, indicating they belonged to local leaders, Sun Zhanwei, a researcher at the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology, told China Daily.

“Tomb passages symbolize a high social status,” he said. “In this hierarchy, those without a high status could not have a tomb passage.” 

The Bronze Age town’s center was made with rammed-earth, a building technique in which a mix of damp soil is compacted inside a mold or framework. Buildings with different functions have also been discovered there, including artisan workshops and pottery kilns.

According to the Chinese state-owned television channel CGTN, archaeologists at Zhaigou have also unearthed several bronze pieces of horse chariots and the remains of horses, which will be “crucial evidence for exploring the emergence of chariots in China and the development of chariot burial customs.”

Archaeologists have now unearthed more than 200 items from tombs there, such as lacquerware, that are similar to those found at other Shang dynasty sites.

Experts at the news conference said that the ruins at Zhaigou may have once been the capital of a separate state that had been conquered by the Shang, who was based in the city of Yinxu in Henan, and thereafter paid tribute to them. 

12,000 Years Ago, Mysterious Egg-Headed People Inhabited China

12,000 Years Ago, Mysterious Egg-Headed People Inhabited China

Archaeologists excavated 25 human skeletons with elongated skulls dating back perhaps as long as 12,000 years ago from Houtaomuga archaeological site in northeast China.

The strange shape of the skulls symbolizes a part of the ritual in ancient China. The discovery provides additional proof that cranial alterations were prevalent in ancient East Asia and was a customary practice throughout the world during prehistoric times.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology in 2019, a team of researchers, led by bioarchaeologist Quanchao Zhang and paleoanthropologist Qian Wang, discovered 25 skeletons at a location known as Houtaomuga.

The remains were dated between approximately 12,000 and 5,000 years ago. Out of the 25 skeletons, 11 had skulls that had been intentionally elongated, with flattened bones at both the front and back of the head.

The researchers from China’s Jilin University and Texas A&M University who conducted the excavations were surprised at the abundance of “anomalies” and suggested that many were “egg-shaped.”

Study co-researcher Qian Wang, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Texas A&M University College of Dentistry said: “This is the earliest discovery of signs of intentional head modification in Eurasia continent, perhaps in the world.

If this practice began in East Asia, it likely spread westward to the Middle East, Russia, and Europe through the steppes as well as eastward across the Bering land bridge to the Americas.” 

12,000 Years Ago, Mysterious Egg-Headed People Inhabited China
The M72 skull is between 6,300 and 5,500 years old.

The Chinese civilization is one of the most ancient and continuous in the world. While their recorded history can be traced back to the 5th century BC, with the emergence of the Zhou dynasty, there is archaeological evidence that suggests their history dates back even further.

The earliest documented records refer to semi-mythical people called the “Yellow Emperor” and his beastly advisors – known as the “Foolish Old Men.”

Currently, the Chinese egg-shaped skulls are considered to be the oldest in the world. Besides, it was noted that the tradition of stretching heads had been formed long before the Neolithic Revolution (First Agricultural Revolution) took place. It was believed that the tradition of skull modification started around 9,000 years ago.

According to Archaeology, the discovered skulls exhibited artificially elongated braincases and flattened bones at both the front and back of the head.

The researchers identified three different types of cranial deformations in eleven of the skulls. Out of these 11, five were adults, with one female and others male. The remaining skulls belonged to children, and the ages of the individuals varied from 3 to 40 years old.

Scientists still do not know why in ancient times people deliberately pulled their skulls out and where it started. The children’s heads were clamped in a special vice or in a device of two boards. In the process, not only the bones of the skull were stretched, but also the inside structure deformed. At the same time, the bones of the skull became very thin.

It is still unknown how the tradition of artificially modified skull start.

Archaeologists believed that humans with deformed skulls were trained to perform important social roles. For example, to become priests of a certain cult.

They believed that elongated skulls would open some unusual abilities, and allow them to communicate with higher powers. At least, people probably thought that by pulling back their heads, they acquire a strong social status in their society.

For centuries, our ancestors utilized various wooden, rag, and rope techniques to scar their own and their children’s heads, seeking aesthetic enhancement. The desire for such body modification has persisted worldwide for thousands of years, with some still practicing it, especially in Africa.

The reason behind this practice remains uncertain, puzzling scientists who can only surmise that some compelling motivation drove our forebears to endure such pain. Even though the Houtaomuga man is the oldest known case of deliberate skull reshaping in history, it is a mystery whether other known instances of deliberate skull reshaping spread from this group, or whether they rose independently of one another, Wang said.

An excavation at the site during 2010.
An excavation at the site in 2010.

Oddly shaped, intentionally modified skulls have been discovered in various regions across the globe. While assertions from the 1980s contended that two Neandertal skulls, estimated to be around 45,000 years old, had been reshaped during infancy, numerous scholars have since refuted these claims.

The most ancient skulls that exhibit widely acknowledged indications of cranial modification date back to approximately 13,000 to 10,000 years ago in the western areas of Asia, southeastern Australia, and most recently, East Asia. On the other hand, this practice began over 8,000 years ago in the Americas.

Despite the popular belief that the elongated skull, thought to be around 12,000 years old, was intentionally altered, some experts disagree. Although the skull does display some elongation, it is not significant enough to suggest intentional deformation. In fact, evidence only supports forced skull modification in those dating back 6,000 years ago.

The peculiar case of “Paracas skulls” is another discovery of elongated skulls, however, it is different from the rest of skull elongation cases.

The size of the cranium of Paracas skulls is significantly larger, by 25% and 60% heavier than typical human skulls, which indicates that they were not artificially altered through head flattening. Moreover, these skulls possess a single parietal plate, instead of two. Due to the absence of any cranial deformation, the elongation of these skulls remains unexplained and has been so for many years.

The significance of the discovery in Houtaomuga remains noteworthy, irrespective of the ongoing controversy. It highlights the existence of deliberate skull alterations during the Neolithic period in the region. Additionally, the findings offer insights into the community’s culture and convictions during the latter phase of the Stone Age.

A 42,000-year-old pendant found in northern Mongolia may be the earliest known phallic art

A 42,000-year-old pendant found in northern Mongolia may be the earliest known phallic art

A 42,000-year-old pendant found in northern Mongolia may be the earliest known phallic art

An international team of researchers has found a pendant in northern Mongolia that may be the earliest known example of a carved phallus. This pendant suggests that for at least 42,000 years, our species has been artistically depicting the penis.

The stone was found at a dig site in northern Mongolia’s Khangai Mountains. The piece of ornament interpreted as a phallus-like representation is about 4.3 centimeters long and made by humans.

According to researchers behind a study of the pendant, published this week in Nature Scientific Reports, the carved graphite is the “earliest-known sexed anthropomorphic representation.”

The dating of the material shows it was from approximately 42,400 to 41,900 years ago, putting its creation in the Upper Paleolithic.

Three-dimensional phallic pendants are unknown in the Paleolithic record. It attests that hunter-gatherer communities used sex anatomical attributes as symbols at a very early stage of their dispersal in the region.

The pendant was produced during a period that overlaps with age estimates for early introgression events between Homo sapiens and Denisovans, and in a region where such encounters are plausible,” the science team wrote in the study published in Nature.

Microscopic images of the modifications observed on the graphite pendant: (a–b) mid-section groove, (c) short groove located at one extremity of the artefact, (d–e) parallel striations observed on the flat side of the artefact, (f) highly smoothed and shiny facet present on the flat side of the artefact, (g) 3D reconstruction of the mid-section groove, (h–i) profile of the mid-section groove, (j) 3D reconstruction of the groove located at one extremity of the artefact, (k–l) profile of the groove located at one extremity of the artefact. Credit: Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-36140-1

The black pendant has several grooves, but two of them caught the attention of scientists.

Researchers think these grooves were carved into the stone to make it resemble a human penis. But not everyone is convinced that the Mongolian pendant represents a phallus.

Solange Rigaud, an archaeologist at the University of Bordeaux and the study’s lead author, thinks the strongest argument for the pendant as a phallic representation comes from the features its maker focused on.

“Our argument is that when you want to represent something abstractly, you will choose very specific features that really characterize what you want to represent,” she says. For example, the carver appears to have taken care to define the urethral opening, she notes, and to distinguish the glans from the shaft.

A combination of microscopy and other surface analyses show that stone tools were likely used to carve out the grooves for both the urethra and the glans.

The pendant was also discovered to be smoother on the back than the front; a string was likely fastened around the glans, suggesting the ornament may have been worn around the neck.

The amount of wear on the surface suggests it was likely handed down across multiple generations.

Graphite wasn’t widely available near Tolbor, suggesting the pendant may have come from elsewhere, perhaps through trade.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

Explore 1,400-year-old ruins, submerged in Eastern China – Atlantis of China

Explore 1,400-year-old ruins, submerged in Eastern China – Atlantis of China

Deep in Qiandao Lake, between China’s Five Lion Mountains, lie the mysterious ruins of two ancient cities, dating back to the Han and Tang dynasties. Known as the ‘Atlantis of China,’ the place is largely preserved intact even after centuries.

Qiandao Lake, also known as Thousand Island Lake, is a sprawling body of fresh water, covering 573 sq. km. The name comes from the fact that there are over a thousand islands in the lake.

The underwater city of Shicheng is a magnificent, mysterious time capsule of Imperial China. Shi Cheng – which means Lion City in Mandarin – was purposely flooded in 1959 to make way for the Xin’an Dam and its adjoining hydroelectric station.

This was a massive government project that forced 300,000 people to relocate their homes as more than 1,300 villages and tens of thousands of acres of farmland were flooded and submerged.

In addition to the direct impact on the local residents, two ancient cities located in the valley at the foot of the mountain were also submerged into the lake.

Explore 1,400-year-old ruins, submerged in Eastern China – Atlantis of China

The city was “rediscovered” in 2001 when the Chinese government organized an expedition to see what might remain of the lost metropolis.

The early divers found Shi Cheng to be largely intact, with many of the structures, carvings, guardian lions, and arches still preserved. There have been efforts to map & document Shi Cheng by divers and researchers, as well as looking into protective measures to prevent damage to it.

In January 2011, the cities were declared historical relics under the protection of the Zhejiang Province.

Shi Cheng was once the center of politics and economics in the eastern providence of Zhejiang. It is believed the city of Shi Cheng was built during the Tang Dynasty in 621 AD. Based on records of the region’s history, it is thought to be quite large, possibly over 60 football fields, and featuring 265 arches throughout the city. 

Shi Cheng was also unusual in that it was constructed with 5 city gates and towers, as opposed to the norm of 4.  The city of He Cheng is believed to date back even further to the Han Dong dynasty (25 -200 AD).

The city achieved the zenith of its glory from 1368-1644 when the Ming dynasty ruled China. The existing walls of the city date to the sixteenth century.

In 2014, after the authorities realized that the city was intact below water, they allowed tourists to visit the area by diving. Visitors can relish the 1,400-year-old architectural wonders at the diving site. However, only expert divers are allowed.

Today, advanced divers can get up close to the ruins with dive operators such as Big Blue and Zi Ao Diving Club, which run regular dives between April and November. Since the ruins have yet to be fully mapped, the dive is still considered “Exploratory”.

12 tombs with Beautiful Decorations and Carved Bricks from the period of Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, were found in China

12 tombs with Beautiful Decorations and Carved Bricks from the period of Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, were found in China

12 tombs with Beautiful Decorations and Carved Bricks from the period of Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, were found in China

China has a rich history. In addition to the fossil records from the Paleolithic Period, the country has witnessed the rise and fall of several empires and dynasties.

Recently, archaeologists excavating in Shandong, China, have unearthed 12 incredible tombs estimated to be around 700 years old.

Archaeologists have excavated 12 ancient tombs dating back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) in Jinan, in east China’s Shandong Province, the local archeology institute said Wednesday. This is one of the most important finds ever made in the eastern Chinese province.

The Yuan dynasty was founded by conqueror Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan. Based on an inscription discovered at the burial complex, the tombs belong to a family called Guo.

Murals in one of the Yuan Dynasty tombs with two burial chambers were comparatively well preserved.

The carved brick murals were created using chisels and wooden hammers to make patterns in the bricks. The magpies and branches on the murals were a classic Chinese design for good fortune.

A view of the tomb cluster.

According to the institute’s director Li Ming, this was the largest cluster of Yuan Dynasty brick mural tombs unearthed in the province.

“The tombs were arranged in an orderly and apparently planned way, and some of the owners were related by blood, providing new material for the study of the arrangement of family cemeteries in the Yuan Dynasty,” Li said.

The excavation, which started on April 23, turned up more than 60 pieces of pottery and porcelain ware, bronze mirrors, copper coins, and other cultural artifacts.

The results will aid in the study of porcelain produced in the region and its environs during the Yuan Dynasty.

Kublai Khan, the fifth Khagan emperor of the Mongol Empire and a member of the Borjigin family reigned it from 1271 until 1368.

Some of the first humans in the Americas came from China, study finds

Some of the first humans in the Americas came from China, study finds

Some of the first humans in the Americas came from China, study finds
During the second migration, the same lineage of people settled in Japan, which could help explain similarities in prehistoric arrowheads and spears found in the Americas (pictured), China and Japan.

Some of the first humans to arrive in the Americas included people from what is now China, who arrived in two distinct migrations during and after the last ice age, a new genetics study has found.

“Our findings indicate that besides the previously indicated ancestral sources of Native Americans in Siberia, northern coastal China also served as a genetic reservoir contributing to the gene pool,” said Yu-Chun Li, one of the report authors.

Li added that during the second migration, the same lineage of people settled in Japan, which could help explain similarities in prehistoric arrowheads and spears found in the Americas, China, and Japan.

It was once believed that ancient Siberians, who crossed over a land bridge that existed in the Bering Strait linking modern Russia and Alaska, were the sole ancestors of Native Americans.

More recent research, from the late 2000s onwards, has signaled that more diverse sources from Asia could be connected to an ancient lineage responsible for founding populations across the Americas, including in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and California.

Known as D4h, this lineage is found in mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from mothers and is used to trace maternal ancestry.

The team from the Kunming Institute of Zoology embarked on a 10-year hunt for D4h, combing through 100,000 modern and 15,000 ancient DNA samples across Eurasia, eventually landing on 216 contemporary and 39 ancient individuals who came from the ancient lineage.

By analyzing the mutations that had accrued over time, looking at the samples’ geographic locations, and using carbon dating, they were able to reconstruct the D4h’s origins and expansion history.

The results revealed two migration events. The first was between 19,500 and 26,000 years ago during the Last Glacial Maximum, when ice sheet coverage was at its greatest and climate conditions in northern China were probably inhospitable.

The second occurred during the melting period, between 19,000 and 11,500 years ago. Increasing human populations during this period might have triggered migrations.

It was during this second migration that the scientists found a surprising genetic link between Native Americans and Japanese people, particularly the indigenous Ainu.

In the melting period, a subgroup branched out from northern coastal China to Japan, contributing to the Japanese people, the study said, a finding that chimes with archeological similarities between ancient people in the Americas, China, and Japan.

Li said a strength of the study was the number of samples they discovered, and complementary evidence from Y chromosomal DNA showing that male ancestors of Native Americans lived in northern China at the same time as female ancestors made researchers confident of their findings.

“However, we don’t know in which specific place in northern coastal China this expansion occurred and what specific events promoted these migrations,” he said.

“More evidence, especially ancient genomes, is needed to answer these questions.”