10 JANVIER 2021 NEWS
INSTITUT SUPERIEUR D'ANTHROPOLOGIE
INSTITUTE OF ANTHROPOLOGY
ONLINE COURSES / COURS A DISTANCE
WINTER TERM : JANVIER 2021
MEXIQUE – Hidalgo Amajac - Farmers digging in a citrus grove near Mexico´s Gulf coast have found a striking, six-foot-tall statue of a female figure who may represent an elite woman rather than a goddess, or some mixture of the two. The National Institute of Anthropology and History said it was the first such statue found in a region known as the Huasteca. The carved woman has an elaborate hairpiece and marks of status, and may date to around 1450 to 1521, the institute said. While the site where it was found is nearer to the pre-Hispanic ruin site of El Tajín, the statue shows some influences of the Aztecs. The area where it was found was not previously known to be an archeological site, and the stone statue may have been moved from some unknown original site. Just who the open-mouthed, wide-eyed statue depicts remains something of a mystery. Maldonado added it could be "a late fusion between the Teem goddesses and women of high political or social status in the Huasteca." Those goddesses were part of a fertility cult .
ISRAEL - Nitzana - A recent effort to clean up Nitzana National Park, in Southern Israel, has yielded an archaeological discovery. The team happened across a 1,400-year-old tombstone inscribed with the name of a Christian citizen of the Byzantine period. A report from Haaretz explains that the inscription reads: “Blessed Maria, who lived an immaculate life.” The inscription was written in Ancient Greek and was translated by Dr. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The stone dated to between the 6th and 7th centuries is said to be only a part of the tombstone.
CHINE – Buli - Two ancient tombs decorated with rare murals dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) have been discovered in northwest China's Shaanxi Province. The delicate paintings reflect scenes of huren (tribesmen from the north) training horses and leading camels. They were found last month at Buli Village, some 40 kilometers from the provincial capital of Xi'an.A horse-taming huren painted on one of the tombs is believed to be linked to the life of the tomb's owner – an official in charge of horses in the early Tang Dynasty according to the epitaph, said Li Ming, a researcher with the academy. Li said the images of horses and hounds are very rare for tomb murals in the Tang Dynasty period, noting that the vivid humans and animals depicted are well preserved. A mural depicting a scene of music and dance in the second tomb, owned by a royal couple, is in the typical style of the golden age of the Tang Dynasty.
BRESIL – Amazonie - Researchers led by Lucas Silva of the University of Oregon think that patches of fertile soil in the Amazon rain forest known as Amazonian Dark Earths (ADEs) could have been created through natural processes, rather than through human intervention, as has been previously suggested. Silva and his team members analyzed and dated soil samples collected near the confluence of the Solimoes and Negro rivers in northwestern Brazil, and found that calcium, phosphorous, and other nutrients in the soil likely originated from fires upstream. These minerals, which are found in ADEs, could have been transported to other areas through the river flooding that occurred after a long dry period between 8,000 and 4,000 years ago. Otherwise, the researchers suggest, it would have taken a large, sedentary population thousands of years of soil management work to transform the land to support agriculture. It is more likely, they argue, that people identified and settled in areas with arable soil and then developed soil management techniques.
CHINE - Hezhang - A total of 25 ancient tombs with human skulls enfolded in vessels have been discovered in a township in southwest China's Guizhou Province. The tombs, believed to date back as early as 2,300 years, have been excavated in the Kele Yi-Miao Township of Hezhang County, with the skulls found encased in dome-shaped vessels. Bronze drums and pots, as well as iron pots, were among the vessels containing skulls in the tombs excavated since the 1970s, Wu Xiaohua, an associate researcher from the provincial research institute of cultural relics and archaeology, said Wednesday. Bones of human feet were also found encased by bronze or iron pots or basins. According to Wu, the tombs with encased skulls were used from the mid and late Warring States Period (475 BC-221 BC) to the late Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-AD 25) and were believably part of the Yelang culture. Yelang was an ancient ethnic minority kingdom in southwestern China in modern-day Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The kingdom, which originated as early as the Warring States Period, prospered during the early Western Han Dynasty, but vanished mysteriously in the middle of the dynasty, leaving few records. Some scholars said the special way of burial may have been related to people's worship of nature, soul, or vessels, and some others said it manifests the special ethnic identities of the tomb owners. The burial method may also be related to their religious belief that emphasized protecting their heads. Wu said discoveries of the tombs are of significant value for the study of Yelang culture.
NEPAL - Panchkhal - The discovery of artifacts and remnants of monuments dating back to the ancient and medieval period from a study and excavation conducted in Panchkhal area around two years ago led to this survey. A report prepared by DoA officer Bishnu Prasad Pathak and senior archaeologist Uddhav Acharya who were involved in carrying out excavation in Panchkhal area confirmed that the artifacts and a column that were found in the area date back to the Lichchhavi era and the medieval era. Similarly, the report confirmed that the remnants of a wall of ancient palace, bricks with 22 centimetres width and other artifacts found in the paddy fields belonging to various individuals at Maltar of Panchkhal Municipality-2 also date back to the Lichchhavi era and the medieval era.
FRANCE - Reims - The three barrels were discovered in 2008, along the right bank of the river Vesle which runs through Reims, as part of an archaeological excavation. Dating from the 1st century AD to 4th century AD, the three barrels were in an “outstanding state of preservation” and were being used as water butts at the end of their working lives. Trace analysis of the barrel staves, however, revealed the tell-tale remains of malic and tartaric acids which are common indicators of alcoholic fermentation. Furthermore, there were markings on the barrels that indicated they had been used in the wine trade before they were eventually repurposed. Each barrel was composed of 22 to 25 two-metre long staves and had capacities of 1,000 to 1,200 litres. Such was the state of their preservation that the researchers have been able to identify how the barrels were put together and where all the component parts were from. For instance, the wood used in their construction was not oak but European silver fir (Abies alba). The staves were then shaped, as they are to this day, by tools such as the doloire, adze and croze, the marks of which are still clear on the interior of the staves. The hoops were made from hazelnut saplings which were fastened in one instance (barrel 354) with esparto grass which, unlike the fir and hazelnut, is not native to northern Europe but the Mediterranean. The other hoops were tied with cord which was likely procured locally. The barrels had also been sealed in places with pitch, which it is known was produced in this period by pyrogenation (distillation) of pine wood. The barrels are also covered in all manner of marks and stamps that were either struck or branded on by the makers and later owners of the barrels (again as modern examples are). A total of 45 marks were found on the three barrels. As the researchers explained in their findings: “Stave makers used these marks, specific to their craft, to mark their work with their name or that of the workshop owner, thus fixing its quality and cost, doubtlessly during organised sales. The cooper who assembles the staves in his workshop leaves another type of mark, called a reference mark, which is used on the workbench to ensure the best possible juxtaposition of the staves. “The assembling was entrusted to a master craftsman, as the strength, sealing and durability of the barrel depended on him. Once the barrel was assembled, the cooper branded his mark on it with a hot iron. These large branded cartouches appear as a highlight on the bottom of the barrels, often positioned transversely and encompassing two staves, as well as directly above the bung hole.” In addition, the wine merchant who owned the barrels would also mark them so that barrels could be sent to the wine supplier who would then fill the barrel and return it to the merchant in question. As the report continued: “The branded marks of the wine merchants regularly appear as seals on the bungs at the bilge of the barrels. Once the barrel was filled, it was mandatory to add a mark. This is the case of the ‘COSAT’ branded mark of vat 378 of the Reims site, which was repeated three times, with the seals half on the bung and half on the vents.” Furthermore, should the merchant have pre-sold a barrel, marks were sometimes added to designate the end customer, while those who shipped the barrels (and much of the wine trade was riverine) would also stamp it. In addition, several of the staves bear graffiti scratched into the staves on the outside, much of which are names and when followed by the word ‘fecit’ (Latin for ‘made it’), this likely indicates the winemaker themselves. In some instances the type of wine and quantity shipped is also noted and these include wines for the army as well as merchants and tavern keepers, with barrels being used for multiple purposes over the course of their lives, which various studies have been unable to determine precisely but could be as long as 25-30 years. The researchers concluded: “It thus becomes clear that many different agents in the wine sector were involved. This network brings together winegrowers, craftsmen, merchants, sponsors, transporters and sworn agents in circulations of remarkable geographical, provincial and economic scope, based –as was the ancient textile industry– on the collaboration of a very large number of specialised craftsmen.” For the full report in English and French click here.
CHINE – Dunhuang - A team of researchers led by Nottingham Trent University’s Imaging and Sensing for Archaeology, Art history and Conservation (ISAAC) Lab in collaboration with the Dunhuang Research Academy in China and The British Library have discovered a mistake made in the artwork of Dunhuang’s Mogao Caves dating back some 700 years. The text appears to be similar to scripts found in other caves dating to the 13th-14th century Mongol/Yuan period, a fact that has led researchers to believe that this too is from the same period. Prior to the discovery, estimated dating of art in the cave ranged across 500 years, from the ninth century Tibetan period, to the 11th-13th century Tangut period, to the Mongol/Yuan period. Paintings from other caves have been dated to as early as the fourth century and as late as the 14th. The discovery comes from Cave 465, where text beneath the foot of one of the Buddha images is flipped backwards, suggesting that the text was was accidentally adhered face down. Prof. Haida Liang, head of the Imaging and Sensing for Archaeology, Art History & Conservation research group at Nottingham Trent University in England said: “This has been a huge debate for many years, but now our analysis has enabled us to date this cave with much more certainty than ever before.” She continued: “The written paper prints seem to have been produced and pasted on the ceiling during the construction of the cave temple as part of a consecration ritual. That was a fascinating discovery, we believe it was a mistake, perhaps the workmen who put it up didn’t understand Sanskrit.”