The naturally Mummified remains of a Government official from the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) was Unearthed during Construction in central China

The naturally Mummified remains of a Government official from the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) was Unearthed during Construction in central China Henan Province

A carefully conserved Chinese mummy, found in a tomb that is 300 years old, was almost instantly destroyed once archaeologists opened the coffin – it turned black within hours of the coffin being opened.

A well-preserved mummy identified as a government official from the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912)—China’s last imperial dynasty before the creation of the Republic of China

The remains were uncovered on a construction site in a two-meter deep hole in the ground at Xiangcheng in Henan province, central China.

The individual was wearing extremely ornate clothing which indicates that he was a very high-ranking official from the early Qing Dynasty, which lasted from 1644 to 1912.

The Qing Dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of China before the creation of the Republic of China and the present-day boundaries of China are largely based on the territory controlled by the Qing dynasty.

Scientists are perplexed as to how the individual’s remains had stayed so well preserved in the first place, as it was found alongside other tombs in which the remains were mere skeletons.

According to Dr. Lukas Nickel, a specialist in Chinese art and archaeology at SOAS, University of London, the preservation was not intentional but happened as a result of the natural conditions around the coffin, combined with the fact that the coffin was lacquered and covered in charcoal which would have prevented bacteria getting in.

“The Chinese did not do any treatment of the body to preserve it as known from ancient Egypt, for instance,” said Dr. Nickel. “They did, however, try to protect the body by putting it into massive coffins and stable tomb chambers.”

However, Professor Dong disagrees with this theory and believes that the man’s family used some materials to preserve the body.

In early China, the physical structure of the body was important to them and there was a belief that the dead person ‘lived on’ inside their tomb.

Once the tomb was opened, the natural process of decay started. Although the man’s face was almost normal when it was found, within hours the face, as well as the skin on the whole body, turned black and a foul smell emanating from the coffin.

“What is amazing is the way time seems to be catching up on the corpse, aging hundreds of years in a day,” said Historian Dong Hsiung.

Researchers are working quickly to preserve what is left of the quickly decaying mummy. It is hoped that by studying the individual, archaeologists will gain a better understanding of how the body had remained so well preserved for three centuries.

Turkish bombing damages 3,000-year-old temple in northern Syria

Turkish bombing damages 3,000-year-old temple in northern Syria

According to a monitoring group and the Syrian government, Turkish airstrikes against Kurdish forces have partially damaged the 3,000-year-old temple in northern Syria.

Cultural Heritage Initiatives of the American Schools of Oriental Research collaboration has been monitoring the destruction of monuments during the war in Syria.

The temple of Ain Dara, just south of Afrin, was “extremely damaged” according to the latest update of the group

The temple was built by a group of people known as the Aramaeans in the early first millennium B.C., after the collapse of the Hittite Empire, at a time when civilizations in the region were emerging from the Bronze Age and entering the Iron Age.

Ain Dara’s walls are made up of basalt orthostats — massive, slab-like architectural blocks — that are elaborately carved on the interior and exterior with geometric designs, floral patterns, mythical creatures and animals like lions.

The limestone pavings in the doorways between the temple’s chambers (the antecella and cella) were decorated with gigantic footprints, every 3 feet (0.9 meters) in length.

Some biblical scholars have argued that the temple’s layout and decorations resemble descriptions of King Solomon’s fabled temple in scripture.

Pictures of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights shows the archaeological area of Ain Dara, parts of which were destroyed by shelling of the Turkish warplanes on the area located south of the city of Afrin.

Photos taken after the airstrike show that a large portion of Ain Dara is now covered in rubble.

“The airstrike hit in the area of the doorway between the antecella and cella, causing heavy damage to the central and southeastern portions of the building,” ASOR representatives wrote in the update. “Many of the orthostats, which were already fragile due to decades of exposure to weathering, have been blasted into fragments.

“The limestone pavings of the antecella and cella have also been badly damaged,” the ASOR report added. “Metal fragments, including a piece that may be a stabilizing fin from the bomb or missile used in the attack, were recovered in the area. The satellite imagery reveals that the rest of the mound was unharmed by the airstrike.”  

The independent Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is monitoring the war, also  posted pictures of the site saying the ruins were “destroyed by shelling of the Turkish warplanes.”

The Syrian government’s antiquities department issued a call for international pressure on Turkey “to prevent the targeting of archaeological and cultural sites” in Afrin.

Turkey has led an assault on the Syrian Kurdish enclave Afrin, according to the Associated Press.

The city is held by the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish militia known as the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist group and a threat to its security; the United States has considered the YPG an ally in the fight against ISIS, Reuters reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 55 civilians had been killed since the offensive, dubbed operation “Olive Branch,” began, Agence France-Presse reported.

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.

This is the oldest known string. It was made by a Neandertal

This is the oldest known string. It was made by a Neandertal

In a rock shelter in France, What may be the world’s oldest piece of string, made by Neanderthal humans from bark about 50,000 years ago has been found

Just over two-tenths of an inch long, It’s a tiny fragment — but its discoverers say it shows Neanderthals had extensive knowledge of the trees it was made from, and enough practical ability to make a string that would hold fast under tension.

This research was first reported in the live science reports on Thursday. It is the first time that a string or rope was identified to the Neanderthals – which indicates that they have been using other ancient technologies that have since rotted away, from basketry to clothing to fishing gear.

It also suggests that Neanderthals – the archetypal crude cavemen – were smarter than some people give them credit for.

“This is just another piece of the puzzle that shows they really weren’t very different from us,” said palaeoanthropologist Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, who was part of the team that discovered the string.

A scanning electron microscope photo shows a closeup view of fibers that were twisted into a string by Neandertals as early as 52,000 years ago. The ancient string fragment is about 6.2 millimeters long.

Hardy spotted the string fragment attached to a small stone tool found at the Abri du Maras rock shelter in southeastern France, which was occupied by Neanderthals – Homo sapiens neanderthalensis – until about 40,000 years ago.

Before this, what’s thought to be the oldest string was found in Israel, and made by early modern humans – Homo sapiens– about 19,000 years ago. The tool from France was a sharp-edged flint used for cutting, and the string could have tied it to a handle, Hardy said.

Only the fragment of the string was left – but enough to be looked at with an electron microscope: “This is the oldest direct evidence of string that we have,” he said.

Twisted bark fibers have been found before, but they weren’t enough to show conclusively that Neanderthals used string. But the latest fibers were first twisted counterclockwise into single strands, and three strands were then twisted clockwise to form a string that wouldn’t unravel.

“This is the first time we found a piece with multiple fibers and two layers of twistings that tells us we have a string,” Hardy said.

The fibers are thought to come from the inner bark of a conifer tree, which implies the string’s makers had detailed knowledge of trees. “You can’t just get any old tree and get fiber from it, nor can you take the right kind of tree and get it at any time of year,” he said.

The three-ply structure also suggests the Neanderthals who made it had basic numeracy skills.

“They are showing knowledge of pairs and sets of numbers,” Hardy said. “You have to understand these elements in order to create the structure – without that, you wouldn’t get a cord.”

The discovery of the string fragment hints at a range of objects used by Neanderthals, such as wooden items, animal skins, fabrics, and ropes.

Excavations at a Neandertal site in France called Abri du Maras (shown) uncovered a stone tool containing remnants of the oldest known string.

Hardy hopes analysis of other Neanderthal finds will reveal fragments of more perishable technologies, such as basketry and weaving. Not all scientists are convinced that the latest find shows conclusively that Neanderthals made string, however.

Andrew Sorensen, a Paleolithic archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, notes the fragment is extremely fine – about as thick as five sheets of paper – and may have been too thin to be useful.

Instead, the twisted bark fibers could result from rubbing them together to make tinder for a fire, or from scraping bark off the stone tool, he said.

“I’m a fan of Neanderthals being quite intelligent and being able to do a lot of kinds of things that [early modern humans] do,” he said. “I just don’t know if this is a home-run demonstrating this activity.”

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