19 OCTOBRE 2023 NEWS
INSTITUT SUPERIEUR D'ANTHROPOLOGIE
INSTITUT OF ANTHROPOLOGY
COURS ONLINE – COURS A DISTANCE
INSCRIPTIONS : OCTOBRE 2023
FRANCE – XVe siècle - More than 500,000 years ago, our human ancestors used large, stone tools known as "Acheulean handaxes," to cut meat and wood, and dig for tubers. Often made from flint, these prehistoric oval and pear-shaped tools are flaked on both sides and have a pointed end. Handaxes have long been a source of fascination in our social and cultural history. Prior to the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, people thought that they were of natural origin and referred to them as "thunderstones shot from the clouds," according to texts, with the earliest records dating back to the mid-1500s. But researchers from Dartmouth and the University of Cambridge have identified that "The Melun Diptych" (circa 1455), painted by Jean Fouquet, depicts what is likely the earliest artistic representation of an Acheulean handaxe, demonstrating that these objects had an even earlier place in the modern world. The findings are published in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal. The researchers found that an Acheulean handaxe appears to have been represented in the left panel. In the painting, Chevalier is depicted wearing a crimson robe with his hands folded together as if he were praying while Saint Stephen, his patron saint, is standing next to him holding the New Testament as a stone object resembling a handaxe rests on top of the book. The stone object symbolizes the death by stoning of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
FRANCE – Saint Belec - Overlooked for millennia, a rock fragment adorned with enigmatic inscriptions has emerged as a valuable “treasure map” for archaeologists. After 4,000 years of dormancy, researchers are now using it to uncover ancient sites in northwestern France. The so-called Saint-Belec slab was claimed as Europe’s oldest map by researchers in 2021 and they have been working ever since to understand its etchings – both to help them date the slab and to rediscover lost monuments. “Using the map to try to find archaeological sites is a great approach. We never work like that,” said Yvan Pailler, a professor at the University of Western Brittany. The ancient map marks an area roughly 30 by 21 kilometers and Pailler’s colleague, Clement Nicolas from the CNRS research institute, said they would need to survey the entire territory and cross-reference the markings on the slab. That job could take 15 years, he said. In the coarse bumps and lines of the slab, they could see the rivers and mountains of Roudouallec, part of the Brittany region about 500 kilometers west of Paris. The researchers scanned the slab and compared it with current maps, finding a roughly 80% match. The slab is pocked with tiny hollows, which researchers believe could point to burial mounds, dwellings or geological deposits. Discovering their meaning could lead to a whole flood of new finds. The pieces had apparently been broken off and used as a tomb wall in what Nicolas suggests could signify the shifting power dynamics of Bronze Age settlements. The area covered by the map probably corresponds to an ancient kingdom, perhaps one that collapsed in revolts and rebellions. “The engraved slab no longer made sense and was doomed by being broken up and used as building material,” said Nicolas. The so-called Saint-Belec slab was claimed as Europe’s oldest map by researchers in 2021. Researchers examined the carved stone slab and dated it to the early bronze age. (MÖ 2150-1600)
EGYPTE – Saqqara - A new study has made exciting new revelations about this ancient practice of preserving the dead. A German-Egyptian team of researchers analyzed chemical residues from vessels unearthed at an embalming workshop in Saqqara, close to the pyramid of Unas in Lower Egypt, where ancient Egyptians used to embalm the corpses of the elite more than 2,500 years ago, during the 26th Dynasty of Egypt (664-525 B.C.). In the process, the chemical analysis of the 31 ceramic vessels revealed the nature of many embalming ingredients that were previously cryptic in recipes from surviving ancient papyrus texts. By identifying these substances, the researchers not only enriched our understanding of the complex mummification process but also inferred a rich cultural story, deciphering the meaning of some terms used in ancient texts and demonstrating the role that mummification had in fostering long-distance trade from as far as South-East Asia. These vessels were also labeled with their contents and even had instructions for use, such as "substance for the head" or "for making beautiful skin". The researchers analyzed the chemical residues in the vessels and then compared the molecular remains to the actual ingredients listed on them. This is how they came to learn that the substance labeled as antiu, previously translated as myrrh or frankincense, is actually a mixture of many different ingredients. The blend that the craftsmen in Saqqara called antiu contained cedar oil, juniper, cypress oil, and animal fats. "For the first time, we know what terms like “antiu” mean (at least in the early 1st mill BC in our workshop), as Egyptologists could only speculate about its meaning for the last almost 200 years. This will enable/force a new reading of many Egyptian texts," Stockhammer said. The pistachio resin and castor oil were used only to preserve the head, while other mixtures were used to wash the body or soften the skin. The pistachio resin, cedar oil, and bitumen were probably sourced locally in the Levant. Other identified ingredients, such as dammar gum and elemi resin, could only come from tropical Africa and Southeast Asia. Without explicitly mentioning this, the ancient residues and labels on the ceramic vessels thereby paint a remarkable picture of extensive and sophisticated trade networks that connected Egypt with tropical Africa and Southeast Asia. These trade networks were already cemented nearly 3,000 years ago.
BIULGARIE – Hisarya - A sensational discovery in the resort town of Hisarya, Southern Bulgaria. In the Roman Baths, archaeologists discovered a marble slab, which is 1,900 years old with an ancient inscription in Greek, which reveals who ruled the finances of the province of Thrace and when exactly the construction of the baths began. The marble slab was found in a special premise and is dedicated to the Emperor Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius. The text gives precise information that the baths were built in the middle of the 2nd century and the finances of the province of Thrace were managed by Volusius Severus. "The inscription is intact, 1.3 x 70 cm in size. When we talk about an imperial cult, it means that it was placed in a cult place. The room in which it was found is a deep pool, a huge amount of marble, cipher slabs and certainly this room was sacred," explained Associate Proffesor Mitko Madjarov - Director of the Archaeological Museum - Hisarya. After the site was declared an imperial possession, construction began on the Roman Baths, which then became the spa capital of the province of Thrace and the Balkans.
ESPAGNE – Cova Dones - One of the most significant Palaeolithic art sites found in recent years has been discovered within a 500-meter-long cave on Europe’s Eastern Iberian Coast. Hailed by archaeologists as “arguably the most important” cave art discovery in the region, the trove of ancient images, which are believed to be close to 24,000 years old, was found at Cova Dones, a site near Millares located a short distance from Valencia, Spain. Among the first representations the researchers recognized at the site had been an auroch, an extinct species of cattle featuring large, elongated horns that are widely regarded as the undomesticated ancestors of modern cattle that thrived during the Pleistocene, with remnant populations remaining in northern Europe until as recently as 1627. Since the discovery was made, more than one hundred designs have been documented among the ancient paintings by the research team. The paintings offer enough variety both in the motifs represented, as well as the techniques used to produce the art, to be regarded as one of the most significant Palaeolithic cave art discoveries in recent years, featuring the most motifs of any similar site since the discovery of similar art at Atxurra almost a decade ago. Other animals documented at the site include hinds, horses, and deer, most of which were painted using clay, an unusual medium for art of the period. Ruiz-Redondo said the paintings were made by their ancient artists using their fingers and palms, and the humid environment gradually dried them over time. Some of the paintings were further preserved by coatings of calcite that formed over them slowly over periods of thousands of years. Further investigations into the Palaeolithic art at Cova Dones will be undertaken by the researchers, which they say will likely reveal additional findings in the years ahead, although their current findings were the subject of a new paper by Ruiz-Redondo and colleagues Virginia Barciela and Ximo Martorell, which appeared in the journal Antiquity.
ANGLETERRE – Hampshire - New light has been shed on a little-known part of British history after the discovery of an Iron Age coin in Hampshire. The coin, found by metal detectorist Lewis Fudge, was found stamped with the name of a forgotten ruler from the period meaning British history may have to be rewritten to fit in the unrecorded king. Esunertos is the name stamped on the coin, who experts believe may have ruled as king from Danebury Fort near Winchester. Iron Age experts have called the find “one of the outstanding discoveries of recent decades”, with the coin being struck sometime between 50 and 30BC. The coin was studied by Iron Age experts who identified the name “IISVNIRTOS”, roughly translating to “mighty as the God Esos”.