Category Archives: SYRIA

Syria uncovered a large intact mosaic that dates back to the Roman era

Syria uncovered a large intact mosaic that dates back to the Roman era

Syria uncovered a large intact mosaic that dates back to the Roman era

Syria uncovered a large intact mosaic that dates back to the Roman era, in the central town of Rastan, describing it as the most important archaeological discovery since the conflict began 11 years ago.

The mosaic, which shows ancient Amazon warriors, 120 square meters (around 1,300sq ft), was found in an old building that was under excavation by Syria’s general directorate of antiquities and museums.

The property, which dates back to the 4th century, was purchased by Lebanese and Syrian businessmen from the neighboring country’s Nabu Museum and donated to the Syrian state. Each panel was filled with square-shaped, small, colorful stones about a half-inch on each side.

Dr. Humam Saad, Associate Director of Excavation and Archaeological Research at Syria’s General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, said the mosaic shows the Ancient Amazon warriors as portrayed in Roman mythology.

A detail of a large mosaic that dates back to the Roman era is seen in the town of Rastan, Syria.

In Ancient Greek and Roman mythology, the demigod hero Hercules killed Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons, in one of his 12 labors. The mosaic also portrays Neptune, the Ancient Roman god of the sea, and 40 of his mistresses.

“What is in front of us is a discovery that is rare on a global scale,” Saad told The Associated Press, adding that the images are “rich in details,” and includes scenes from the Trojan War between the Greeks and Trojans.

“We can’t identify the type of the building, whether it’s a public bathhouse or something else, because we have not finished excavating yet,” Saad told the AP.

One side of the mosaic panel discovered in Rastan, Homs (AFP)

Sulaf Fawakherji, a famous actress in Syria and a member of the Nabu Museum’s board of trustees said she hopes they could purchase other buildings in Rastan, which she says is filled with heritage sites and artifacts waiting to be discovered.

“There are other buildings, and it’s clear that the mosaic extends far wider,” Fawkherji told the AP.

“Rastan historically is an important city, and it could possibly be very important heritage city for tourism.”

Over the past ten years of ongoing, violent conflict, Syrian heritage sites have been looted and destroyed.

The Islamic State group captured Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site with 2,000-year-old towering Roman-era colonnades and priceless artifacts, and partially destroyed a Roman theater.

After seizing it from armed opposition forces in 2016, Syria’s cash-strapped government has been slowly rebuilding Aleppo’s centuries-old bazaar. Before the Syrian government reclaimed the city in 2018, Rastan was a significant opposition stronghold and the scene of violent clashes.

Remains of Possible Early Muslims Identified in Syria

Remains of Possible Early Muslims Identified in Syria

A new study combining archaeological, historical and bioarchaeological data provides new insights into the early Islamic period in modern-day Syria. The research team was planning to focus on a much older time period but came across what they believe to be the remains of early Muslims in the Syrian countryside.

Remains of Possible Early Muslims Identified in Syria
Excavation at the Neolithic site of Tell Qarassa in modern-day Syria.

The Middle East is well known as a region with a rich and fascinating history embracing a wide range of ethnicities, cultures and religious practices.

While a great part of this diverse and dynamic history is known through historical records, the impressive material culture and archaeological sites in the region until recently important bioarcheological data was more difficult to retrieve due to the poor preservation of organic materials in harsh environments.

New technologies that are more capable of analysing degraded material, however, have changed this and stories from prehistoric to historic times have emerged, enriching our knowledge of this region at the crossroads between three continents.

Now, a multinational and interdisciplinary team is presenting new bioarchaeological insights into the early Islamic period in modern-day Syria.

Before the Syrian civil war

During 2009 and 2010, excavations at the Neolithic site of Tell Qarassa in modern-day Syria encountered a number of burials.

These excavations were coordinated by a Spanish-French team integrating Syrian students in all archaeological campaigns, thereby contributing to their training in archaeology.

The research was conducted with permission from and in constant coordination with the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) of the Syrian Arab Republic. Shortly after these excavations, the Syrian civil war began, which continues to this day.

“With the goal of studying the first farming groups in the region, we subjected the remains of 14 humans to ancient DNA analysis,” says archaeogeneticist Cristina Valdiosera of the University of Burgos, Spain, who coordinated the study.

Human remains in graves dated to the Umayyad era in the late 7th and early 8th centuries (the second caliphate).

“Only two individuals from the upper layers of the site contained sufficient amounts of endogenous DNA and these came from graves that we assumed belonged to a later prehistoric period. After radiocarbon dating, it became clear we had something unexpected and special.”

Umayyad Era

The graves dated to the Umayyad era in the late 7th and early 8th centuries (the second caliphate). In light of these surprisingly recent dates, a reassessment of the burial style showed that it would be consistent with early Muslim burial practices.

It would have been impossible to pinpoint this cultural identity without the radiocarbon dates as there were no previously known Muslim settlements or burial sites in the area and the archaeological site itself was only known as a prehistoric site.

“The genomic results were also surprising as the two individuals seemed genetically different from most ancient or modern-day Levantines. The most similar – though not identical – modern-day groups were Bedouins and Saudis, suggesting a possible connection to the Arabian Peninsula,” says evolutionary biologist Megha Srigyan, who conducted the data analysis during her Master’s studies at Uppsala University, Sweden.

“Most of our evidence is indirect but the different types of data, taken together, point to this man and woman belonging to transient groups far from home, suggesting the presence of early Muslims in the Syrian countryside,” says population geneticist Torsten Günther at Uppsala University, who co-coordinated the study.

The analysis of one man and one woman provided evidence of new cultural/religious practices arriving in the Levant.

“It is extraordinary that by studying just two individuals, we were able to uncover a small but remarkable piece of the colossal puzzle that makes up the history of the Levant,” says Cristina Valdiosera.

“In this particular case, there was no way we could have reached a conclusion without combining the archaeological, historical and bioarchaeological data, as each of these provided essential clues, highlighting the importance of a multidisciplinary approach,” Torsten Günther concludes.

The human remains recovered in Qarassa, as well as the rest of the archaeological material, was deposited at the Archaeological Museum of Sweida (Syria) and, from that moment, they have been under the responsibility of the Syrian DGAM, as per their regulations. 

One of the First Known Chemical Attacks Took Place 1,700 Years Ago in Syria

One of the First Known Chemical Attacks Took Place 1,700 Years Ago in Syria

A researcher from the University of Leicester has identified what looks to be the oldest archaeological evidence for chemical warfare — from Roman times.

At the meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, University of Leicester archaeologist Simon James presented CSI-style arguments that about twenty Roman soldiers, found in a siege-mine at the city of Dura-Europos, Syria, met their deaths not as a result of sword or spear, but through asphyxiation.

Dura-Europos on the Euphrates was conquered by the Romans who installed a large garrison. Around AD 256, the city was subjected to a ferocious siege by an army from the powerful new Sasanian Persian empire.

The dramatic story is told entirely from archaeological remains; no ancient text describes it. Excavations during the 1920s-30s, renewed in recent years, have resulted in spectacular and gruesome discoveries.

The Sasanians used the full range of ancient siege techniques to break into the city, including mining operations to breach the walls. Roman defenders responded with ‘counter-mines’ to thwart the attackers. In one of these narrow, low galleries, a pile of bodies, representing about twenty Roman soldiers still with their arms, was found in the 1930s.

The ancient Roman fort Dura Europos, in Syria Heretiq

While also conducting new fieldwork at the site, James has recently reappraised this coldest of cold-case ‘crime scenes’, in an attempt to understand exactly how these Romans died, and came to be lying where they were found.

Dr James, Reader in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester, said: “It is evident that, when mine and countermine met, the Romans lost the ensuing struggle.

Careful analysis of the disposition of the corpses shows they had been stacked at the mouth of the countermine by the Persians, using their victims to create a wall of bodies and shields, keeping Roman counterattack at bay while they set fire to the countermine, collapsing it, allowing the Persians to resume sapping the walls.

This explains why the bodies were where they were found. But how did they die? For the Persians to kill twenty men in a space less than 2m high or wide, and about 11m long, required superhuman combat powers—or something more insidious.”

Finds from the Roman tunnel revealed that the Persians used bitumen and sulphur crystals to get it burning. These provided a vital clue. When ignited, such materials give off dense clouds of choking gases. “The Persians will have heard the Romans tunnelling,” says James, “and prepared a nasty surprise for them.

I think the Sasanians placed braziers and bellows in their gallery, and when the Romans broke through, added the chemicals and pumped choking clouds into the Roman tunnel.

One of the First Known Chemical Attacks Took Place 1,700 Years Ago in Syria
One of the skeletons is believed to have died during an ancient poison gas attack

The Roman assault party were unconscious in seconds, dead in minutes. Use of such smoke generators in siege mines is actually mentioned in classical texts, and it is clear from the archaeological evidence at Dura that the Sasanian Persians were as knowledgeable in siege warfare as the Romans; they surely knew of this grim tactic.”

Ironically, this Persian mine failed to bring the walls down, but it is clear that the Sasanians somehow broke into the city.

James recently excavated a ‘machine-gun belt’, a row of catapult bolts, ready to use by the wall of the Roman camp inside the city, representing the last stand of the garrison during the final street fighting.

The defenders and inhabitants were slaughtered or deported to Persia, the city abandoned forever, leaving its gruesome secrets undisturbed until modern archaeological research began to reveal them.

Part donkey, part wild ass, the kunga is the oldest known hybrid bred by humans

Part donkey, part wild ass, the kunga is the oldest known hybrid bred by humans

The kungas of Syro-Mesopotamia were ancient equines that roamed the region 4,500 years ago. Arriving long before domesticated horses did, the stocky horse-like animals were highly valued and used for pulling four-wheeled wagons into battle, reports James Gorman for the New York Times.

Part donkey, part wild ass, the kunga is the oldest known hybrid bred by humans
The elite used the highly-prized, donkey-like creatures for travel and warfare.

Having been depicted in mosaics and their value recorded in cuneiform on clay tablets, researchers suspected the prestigious kunga was a type of hybrid donkey. Still, their proper classification in the animal kingdom remained unknown until now.

A genetic analysis using ancient skeletal remains, genetic material from the last surviving Syrian wild ass, and an investigation of the evolutionary history of the genus Equus revealed that the kunga was the cross of a female donkey (Equus Africanus asinus) and a male Syrian wild ass (Equus hemionus hemippus), reports Isaac Schultz for Gizmodo.

The find is the earliest human-made hybrid documented in the archaeological record and suggests that kungas were bred to be faster and more robust than donkeys and more manageable than wild asses, which are also called onagers or hemiones, per a French National Centre for Scientific Research statement. Scientists published details of the genetic analysis this month in Science Advances.

In the early 2000s, archaeologists first uncovered the kunga remains in a 4,500-year-old royal burial site, Umm el-Marra, located in Aleppo, Syria, reports Science’s Tess Joosse.

Dozens of equine skeletons that did not match the features of any known equine species were found buried next to royals. Study co-author Jill Weber, an archeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, suspected that the skeletons may have been kungas because marks on the teeth and patterns of wear suggested the animals were purposely fed instead of being left to graze and wore bit harnesses in their mouths, Tom Metcalfe reports for Live Science’s.

“From the skeletons, we knew they were equids [horse-like animals], but they did not fit the measurements of donkeys, and they did not fit the measurements of Syrian wild asses,” says study author Eva-Maria Geigl, a genomicist at the Institut Jacques Monod, to Live Science. “So they were somehow different, but it was not clear what the difference was.”

The Nineveh panel, Hunting Wild Asses (645-635 B.C.E.) from the British Museum in London. The art depicts ancient Mesopotamians capturing wild hemiones for breeding.

Harsh desert conditions poorly preserved DNA from the 25 skeletons obtained from the Umm el-Marra site, so researchers use advanced sequencing methods to compare the bits and pieces of DNA, Science reports.

Researchers then compared the results to an 11,000-year-old equid sample taken from the Göbekli Tepe archaeological site in Turkey and genetic material taken from a preserved museum specimen of the last surviving wild Syrian ass that went extinct in 1929, per Gizmodo.

Using Y-chromosome fragments, the team found that the kunga’s paternal lineage belonged to the Syrian wild ass and matched the species of the sample from Turkey. They also confirmed donkeys were the maternal lineage, Gizmodo reports.

According to a statement, the elite used the highly-prized, donkey-like creatures for travel and warfare. They may have been considered status symbols or exchanged as royal gifts. Ancient texts from the kingdom of Ebla and the Diyala region in Mesopotamia detail the prices of obtaining the hybrid animal, which cost six times the amount for a donkey, according to the study.

Other cuneiform texts also describe animal husbandry programs used to breed the kunga, Science reports.

Like other hybrids in the animal kingdom, such as the mule or the liger, the kunga was sterile. They had to be intentionally bred by mating a female donkey with a male wild ass, per Gizmodo. Because the strong-yet-stubborn male wild asses could run faster than donkeys, capturing these animals alone highlights the technical capabilities of the ancient Mesopotamian societies.

The breeder’s clear choice to use a female donkey also revealed the sophistication of the mating plan for combining different characteristics that these ancient societies found desirable. Since the mother was domesticated, it also would have been easier to keep her in captivity as the offspring were raised, Science reports.

“This is a great example that shows the level of organization and management techniques needed to keep these animals alive,” says zooarchaeologist Benjamin Arbuckle of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who was not involved with the study, to Science. “It’s very much like modern zoo management.”

Hybrid animal in the 4500-year-old tomb is earliest known bred by humans

Hybrid animal in 4500-year-old tomb is earliest known bred by humans

Mesopotamians were using hybrids of domesticated donkeys and wild asses to pull their war wagons 4,500 years ago — at least 500 years before horses were bred for the purpose, a new study reveals.

Hybrid animal in 4500-year-old tomb is earliest known bred by humans
The animal bones at Umm el-Marra were thought to be from kungas because their teeth had marks from bit harnesses and wear patterns that showed they had been fed, rather than left to graze.

The analysis of ancient DNA from animal bones unearthed in northern Syria resolves a long-standing question of just what type of animals were the “kungas” described in ancient sources as pulling war wagons.

“From the skeletons, we knew they were equids [horse-like animals], but they did not fit the measurements of donkeys and they did not fit the measurements of Syrian wild asses,” said study co-author Eva-Maria Geigl, a genomicist at the Institut Jacques Monod in Paris. “So they were somehow different, but it was not clear what the difference was.”

The new study shows, however, that kungas were strong, fast and yet sterile hybrids of a female domestic donkey and a male Syrian wild ass, or hemione — an equid species native to the region. Ancient records mentioned kungas as highly prized and very expensive beasts, which could be explained by the rather difficult process of breeding them, Geigl said.

Because each kunga was sterile, like many hybrid animals such as mules, they had to be produced by mating a female domesticated donkey with a male wild ass, which had to be captured, she said.

That was an especially difficult task because wild asses could run faster than donkeys and even kungas, and were impossible to tame, she said. 

“They really bio-engineered these hybrids,” Geigl told Live Science. “There were the earliest hybrids ever, as far as we know, and they had to do that each time for each kunga that was produced — so this explains why they were so valuable.”

War donkeys

The war panel from the “Standard of Ur,” a 4500-year-old Sumerian mosaic now in the British Museum, shows teams of kungas drawing four-wheeled wall wagons.

Kungas is mentioned in several ancient texts in cuneiform on clay tablets from Mesopotamia, and they are portrayed drawing four-wheeled war wagons on the famous “Standard of Ur,” a Sumerian mosaic from about 4,500 years ago that’s now on display at the British Museum in London.

Archaeologists had suspected that they were some sort of hybrid donkey, but they didn’t know the equid it was hybridized with, Geigl said.

Some experts thought Syrian wild asses were much too small — smaller than donkeys — to be bred to produce kungas, she said.

The bones of the kungas were excavated about 10 years ago from a burial mound at Tell Umm el-Marra in northern Syria by University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Jill Weber.

The species is now extinct, and the last Syrian wild ass — not much more than a meter (3 feet) tall — died in 1927 at the world’s oldest zoo, the Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna in Austria; its remains are now preserved in that city’s natural history museum.

In the new study, the researchers compared the genome from the bones of the last Syrian wild ass from Vienna with the genome from the 11,000-year-old bones of a wild ass unearthed at the archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe, in what is now southeastern Turkey.

That comparison showed both animals were the same species, but the ancient wild ass was much larger, Geigl said. That suggested that the Syrian wild ass species had become much smaller in recent times than it had been in antiquity, probably due to environmental pressures such as hunting, she said.

Ancient Mesopotamia

Historians think that the Sumerians were the first to breed kungas from before 2500 B.C. — at least 500 years before the first domesticated horses were introduced from the steppe north of the Caucasus Mountains, according to a 2020 study in the journal Science Advances by many of the same researchers. 

Ancient records show the successor states of the Sumerians — such as the Assyrians — continued to breed and sell kungas for centuries — and a carved stone panel from the Assyrian capital Nineveh, now in the British Museum, shows two men leading a wild ass they had captured.

The kunga bones for the latest study came from a princely burial complex at Tell Umm el-Marra in Northern Syria, which has been dated to around the early Bronze Age between 3000 B.C. and 2000 B.C.; the site is thought to be the ruins of the ancient city of Tuba mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions.

Study co-author Jill Weber, an archaeologist at theUniversity of Pennsylvania, excavated the bones about 10 years ago. Weber had proposed that the animals from Tell Umm el-Marra were kungas because their teeth had marks from bit harnesses and patterns of wear that showed they had been purposefully fed, rather than left to graze like regular donkeys, she said. 

Kungas could run faster than horses, and so the practice of using them to pull war wagons probably continued after the introduction of domesticated horses into Mesopotamia, she said.

But eventually, the last kungas died and no more were bred from donkeys and wild asses, probably because domesticated horses were easier to breed, Geigl said.

A pyramid-shaped mound holding 30 corpses may be the world’s oldest war monument

A pyramid-shaped mound holding 30 corpses may be the world’s oldest war monument

The massive burial mound, which includes the corpses of at least 30 Syrian warriors and is now underwater, may be the oldest battle monument ever uncovered, according to experts. Tel Banat’s ruins stretch back at least 4,300 years.

Here’s what the ancient memorial looked like before it was flooded from the construction of a dam.

This monument is also the first example of a particular type of monument found in ancient inscriptions. Mesopotamia The corpses of either the enemy or the local war dead are piled up to form a highly organized structure.

The finding also shows that “as we did, ancient people paid homage to those who died in the war,” said Anne Porter, a professor of ancient Middle Eastern civilization at the University of Toronto. “I don’t know if they are the winners or losers of the battle. [the people from Tell Banat] Perhaps sometime after the incident, he took the body of the dead from another location and buried it in a huge mound that could be seen miles around, “Porter said in a statement.

A monument a little like the Step Pyramid of King Jezel Djoser To Egypt Archaeologists wrote in a paper published in the journal on May 28, except that the layers of the monument are made of earth and plaster instead of stone.

A pyramid-shaped mound holding 30 corpses may be the world's oldest war monument
The ancient war monument looked a bit like the step pyramid of Djoser in Egypt.

AncientArchaeologists write that people who lived in the area today called this mound a “white monument” because plaster shines the monument in the sun.

The site was excavated between 1988 and 1999 by a team led by Porter and Thomas McClelland, both of whom were archaeologists of the Euphrates Salvage Project at the time, but researchers have so far They did not fully understand the purpose. They carried out these excavations before the site was flooded by the construction of the Tishrin Dam.

Since then, the same archaeologist, along with an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, scrutinized the findings and determined that the location was probably the oldest known example of the war monument in the world. They also discovered that the monument was built on top of a previous building.

Dead military

Researchers were able to learn that the body was buried with great care. “Collection Human bone Deposited on Phil as a horizontal step [of the monument] It was built up. The research team placed the ancient treatises directly on the soil, without any special coverings or boundaries. “Bones are small, fragmented, somewhat diffuse, but still intentionally separate groups. It was divided into “.

The bodies were fragmented, and in many cases, the age and gender of the deceased could not be determined. Males could be identified, ranging from adults to ages 8-10. It is not clear why people between the ages of 8 and 10 are placed at the war monument.

The bones seem to have been dug out and re-buried in the monument. In his treatise, archaeologists said, “Bones may have come from old battlefields and graveyards. Nevertheless, they were selected, organized, and finally carefully preserved in the monument long after death. I did. ”

Some of the dead were buried with Kanga, a “donkey-like horse breed that pulls vehicles in ancient art,” the statement said. According to archaeologists, the soldiers buried with Kunga You may have worked as a wagon driver.

In addition, the team found pellets buried near the dead. In the ancient world, pellets fired from slings are often used as weapons, which may symbolize the role the deceased played when he was alive.

In a statement, Porter said, “I realized that there is a clear pattern of burial. A pair of bodies with horse skin on one part of the monument and pellets of soil on the other.

It’s a single individual, “he added, adding that the placement suggests individual bodies. It belonged to the ancient army. The organized ancient army could have been divided into various units, such as wagon units and infantry units equipped with slings and pellets.

A pattern suggesting an individual placed in “appears. [the memorial] Not only did they participate in the battle, but they also participated in a formal way: they were part of an organized army and were divided into infantry and infantry, “the archaeologist wrote.

The team also found a model of a covered wagon, a figurine depicting a clay kunga and wheels with the dead. The pyramid-shaped mound containing 30 bodies may be the oldest war monument in the world

Source link The pyramid-shaped mound containing 30 bodies may be the oldest war monument in the world

Russian Divers Discover Ancient Roman Sea Fortress at Tartus

Russian Divers Discover Ancient Roman Sea Fortress at Tartus

According to an announcement by Dmitry Tatarkov, director of the Centre for Maritime Science and Technology at Russia’s Sevastopol State University, an ancient port claimed to date back to the Roman period has been discovered off the Syrian coast of Tartus (SSU).

“It may not have even been a port, but it is a sea fortress from the 1st century AD. Remains of hydraulic structures, a lighthouse, and four marble columns have been found.

Accompanying ceramic materials will allow for a more detailed dating of the piece. This is a major finding,” said Tatarkov.

Russian Divers Discover Ancient Roman Sea Fortress at Tartus
Underwater divers have discovered naval structures, an ancient port and a Roman sea fortress off the coast of Syria at Tartus.
More remains of the structures.
Scientists from Sevastopol State University discover the ruins of an ancient Roman port in the Syrian waters of Tartus. They are believed to be the remains of the ancient defensive walls of Arvard Island

“These are the remains of ancient Greek amphorae, Phoenician pots, Egyptian vases, and household items made of Roman stone.

These materials will allow us to rebuild the maritime trade routes linking this region with the major Mediterranean regions. We will be able to determine the life cycle of the ports that existed at the time,” he explained.

The ruins are thought to belong to the ancient Arvad Island which was originally settled by the Phoenicians in the early 2nd millennium BC.

They were found during the second field season by a Russian-Syrian archaeological mission launched in 2019 by SSU with the support of Russia’s Ministry of Defence and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy Sciences.

The expedition was carried out as part of an agreement between the university and Syria’s Ministry of Culture and includes both Russian and Syrian specialists.

According to the Russian university’s website, one of the objectives of the expedition will be the advanced training of Syrian specialists and students from Damascus University and the University of Latakia.

9,500-year-old Syrian decorated skulls

9,500-year-old Syrian decorated skulls

The human skulls date back between 9,500 and 9,000 years ago, (on which) lifelike faces were modeled with clay earth.

DAMASCUS: Archaeologists said on Sunday they had uncovered decorated human skulls dating back as long as 9,500 years ago from a burial site near the Syrian capital Damascus.      

“The human skulls date back between 9,500 and 9,000 years ago, (on which) lifelike faces were modelled with clay earth … then coloured to accentuate the features,” said Danielle Stordeur, head of the joint French-Syrian archaeological mission behind the discovery.      

Located at a burial site near a prehistoric village, the five skulls were found earlier this month in a pit resting against one another, underneath the remains of an infant, said Stordeur.          

The French archaeologist described as “extraordinary” the find at the Neolithic site of Tell Aswad, at Jaidet al-Khass village, 35 kilometers from Damascus.    

The discovery was not the first of its kind in the Middle East, but “the realism of two of these skulls is striking,” stressed Stordeur, in charge of the excavation along with Bassam Jamous, the chief of antiquities of Syria’s National Museum.        

“They surprise by the regularity and the smoothness of their features,” Stordeur said of the skulls.              

“The eyes are shown as closed, underlined by black bitumen. The nose is straight and fine, with a pinched base to portray the nostrils.

The mouth is reduced to a slit,” said Stordeur, of the Asian research house of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), France’s largest scientific establishment.         

The decorated skulls were devoted “only to important individuals, chosen according to social or religious criteria,” she added.