17 MARS 2020 NEWS





RUSSIE – Kostenki  Kostenki 11 - Some 25,000 years ago, prehistoric humans gathered dozens of mammoth bones from the Russian steppes and arranged them in a massive circular structure for reasons that are still mysterious. The incredible structure is the “oldest known circular mammoth-bone feature built by modern humans on the Russian Plain,” according to a study published on Monday in the journal Antiquity. The gnarly bone circle may have provided shelter, warmth, storage, and ritual significance to this Ice Age community. This is far from the only bone circle made by ancient peoples—roughly 70 of them have been found strewn across Ukraine and Russia since the 1950s. But the site, which was discovered in 2014, is 3,000 years older than its neighboring circles at Kostenki 11, a major hotspot for archaeologists that lies roughly 300 miles south of Moscow. “The mammoth-bone circle is large, with a diameter of approximately 12.5 meters (41 feet) and is positioned on an east-facing slope with an incline of approximately six degrees,” said the authors, led by University of Exeter archaeologist Alexander Pryor. “The bones form a continuous circle that has no obvious entrance.” Pryor and his team were able to extract unprecedented clues about this group’s survival tactics by examining fire pits inside the circle, which indicate that people gathered here to cook meat and burn bones and wood for heat. Indeed, the circle is the first structure of its kind to undergo a systematic “flotation programme,” which is an archaeological technique that can reveal fine details about the materials left by a past community. The structure is built from more than 100 bones sourced from roughly 60 mammoths, in addition to a smattering of reindeer, fox, horse, and bear remains. Pryor and his colleagues also uncovered signs of knapping, the process by which stones are shaped into tools, indicating that human activity was clustered around the firepits. The flotation technique revealed that roots and tubers were probably cooked at the site, and that pine and spruce were a major source of firewood for these humans. “The presence of conifer trees near Kostenki—perhaps located in low-lying, moist and sheltered areas in the ravines near to the site—would have been an important resource that attracted hunter-gatherers to the area during the glacial period,” according to the study.


IRAN – 3409582  Teymareh -  The rare 14-centimetre rock carving was first spotted in the Teymareh rock art site in Khomein county, central Iran, during surveys between 2017 and 2018, but could not be identified due to its unusual shape. The petroglyph shows a six-limbed creature with the head and arms of a praying mantis, but with two circles at its sides, similarly to the famous 'squatter man' petroglyph found at several locations around the world, ScienceDaily reported on Monday. “It has six limbs has been described as part man, part mantis.”Rock carvings, or petroglyphs, of invertebrate animals, are rare, so entomologists teamed up with archaeologists to try and identify the motif. They compared the carving with others around the world and with the local six-legged creatures which its prehistoric artists could have encountered, the report said. The six limbs suggest an insect, while the triangular head with big eyes and the grasping forearms are unmistakably those of a praying mantis, a predatory insect that hunts and captures prey like flies, bees and even small birds. Even more mysterious are the middle limbs, which end in loops or circles. The closest parallel to this in archaeology is the 'Squatter Man,' a petroglyph figure found around the world depicting a person flanked by circles. While they could represent a person holding circular objects, an alternative hypothesis is that the circles represent auroras caused by atmospheric plasma discharges. t is presently impossible to tell exactly how old the petroglyphs are because sanctions on Iran prohibit the use of radioactive materials needed for radiocarbon dating. However, experts Jan Brouwer and Gus van Veen examined the Teymareh site and estimated the carvings were made 40,000-4,000 years ago. One can only guess why prehistoric people felt the need to carve a mantis-man into rock, but the petroglyph suggests humans have linked mantis to the supernatural since ancient times. 


CHINE – Xi an Xi'an - Researchers have uncovered the remains of donkeys in the tomb of an ancient Chinese noblewoman who died in Xi'an in A.D. 878. According to a study published in the journal Antiquity, the woman—known as Cui Shi—was buried with the donkeys so that she could play polo in the afterlife. While ancient Chinese texts from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) indicate that noblewomen played polo riding donkeys, the authors say the latest discovery represents the first archaeological evidence of this practice, highlighting the significance of these animals for the elite of imperial China. Experts think that polo—a game traditionally played on horseback—originated in ancient Iran, spreading across the territories of the Parthian Empire (c. 247 B.C.–A.D. 224.) By the seventh century A.D., the game was being played on the Tibetan Plateau and central China. At the time, it was considered a prestigious sport, played by the military and the nobility of the Tang Dynasty, which was centered around the cosmopolitan city of Xi'an, located at the starting point of the Silk Road. So important was the sport that one Tang Dynasty ruler, Emperor Xizong, even used a polo competition to select military generals. In fact, one of the winners of this competition was the husband of Cui Shi. Nevertheless, the game was dangerous to play when large horses were used and sometimes resulted in fatalities. A similar sport known as "Lvju" using donkeys—smaller and steadier animals than horses—became popular among elite women and older individuals. But while Lvju is mentioned in the historical literature, it had only previously been documented in artworks and artifacts. According to the team, the stresses they observed on the bones indicate that the donkeys buried in the tomb were used for tasks other than burden carrying, with the presence of a stirrup in the tomb—in addition to the owner's status—making it likely the animal was used for polo. At this time in Chinese history, animals were often placed in tombs so that they could be used for specific purposed in the afterlife. "There was no reason for a lady such as Cui Shi to use a donkey, let alone sacrifice it for her afterlife," Songmei Hu, another author of the study from the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology, said in a statement. "This is the first time such a burial has been found."