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WINTER TERM : APRIL 2020
EGYPTE – Thèbes - She may have lived 2,600 years ago, but her life - and death - is still a source of fascination. Takabuti was acquired in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes by a wealthy man named Thomas Greg from County Down in Northern Ireland in 1834. Greg donated Takabui to the Belfast Natural History Museum and Philosophical Society. Now, 185 years after she was first unwrapped on 27 January 1835, a team of experts have finally gone public with revelations from their recent research. Loynes performed CT analysis on Takabuti, which he says "reveals that Takabuti sustained a severe wound to the back of her upper chest wall. This almost certainly caused her rapid death." They discovered that the mysterious object in her body cavity was in fact resin-soaked linen believed to have been used to pack the wound. The daughter of an Egyptian priest called Nepare in the Temple of Amun in Luxor, Takabuti died in her 20s and was buried near the Temple of Hatshepsut. Her mother Tasenirit was a house mistress. According to Professor Eileen Murphy, a bioarchaelogoist from Queen's University, Takabuti took great care for her appearance, curling and styling her auburn hair. "This must have been a very important part of her identity as she spurned the typical shaven-headed style," Murphy says. The team discovered that Takabuti had 33 teeth instead of 32, a phenomenon only occuring in 0.02 percent of the population. Although tests have been conducted on Takabuti since 1835, the latest "include DNA analysis and further interpretation of CT scans which provides us with new and much more detailed information," says Dr Greer Ramsey, curator of archaeology at National Museums NI. The discovery of her heart is another important revelation as in Ancient Egypt the heart would be removed in order to be "weighed" in the after life to determine how good a life the person had led. Too heavy and it would be "eaten by the demon Ammit and your journey to the afterlife would fail," Ramsey says.
NEPAL - Panchkhal - The Department of Archaeology has confirmed that a ‘column’ unearthed at Temalbesi of Panchkhal Municipality-13, was from an ancient period. The column was found in the course of archaeological exploration carried out some four months back. According to DoA, the pillar could be part of the two pillars found in front of the main gate of the ancient temple built in Shikhara architectural style. Archaeological Officer at DAO Prakash Khadka said various inscriptions and historical monuments discovered in the area proved that civilisation on the basin of the Sunkoshi River dated back to the ancient times. “The column looks like a part of the remnant of an ancient temple constructed in Shikhara style. Further research and excavation need to be done around the place to know more about the column,” he said. A field study report prepared by Khadka stated that the column illustrated important temple architecture of the ancient period. “There was a route along the Sunkoshi River connecting Kusheshwor. At the midpoint of this ancient path near the present Temalbesi and on the Sunkoshi River banks was a temple. The temple might have been washed away by the river current. The site where the temple was located is the banks of the Sunkoshi River, 200 metres northeast from a Peepal chautari,” read the report. As stated in religious scriptures, Temalbesi is the same place at the confluence of the Sunkoshi River and Jhikukhola where the ancient sage Kushik is said to have meditated. The DoA confirmed that the heritage materials, including pillars of an ancient palace and 22 centimetres of bricks, recovered during the excavation in Panchkhal area dated back to Lichhivi and medieval eras, according to a report by Bishnu Prasad Pathak and senior archaeologist Uddhav Acharya, who were a part of the excavation. The unearthed items include stones and bricks of ancient walls, pieces of clay utensils, stone grinding machines, Shivalingas, stone spouts and some rectangular clay bricks. The column could be a part of an ancient temple constructed in Shikhara style.
HONGRIE – Buda - Two statues from the Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya), which were damaged and believed to be lost during World War II, as well as several other remains of buildings at Buda Castle, have been found during an excavation of the basement of the former building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Dísz Square, under the National Hauszmann Plan. The building, situated on Dísz tér, designed by Alajos Hauszmann’s office and damaged and destroyed in World War II, will be restored on the outside to its original state. Zoltán Fullár, head of archaeology, added that the statues depicting leaders Álmos and Előd, the works of Ferenc Mikula, decorated the northern part of the Fisherman’s Bastion until 1945. András Végh, director of the Castle Museum (part of the Budapest History Museum), also reported another significant finding: a red limestone hand-washing basin was also found in the cellar system below Dísz Sqaure 2. The pool is decorated with a lion and a dragon. According to the style of the richly decorated lavabo, it may be of medieval origin – perhaps from Verona. There are no traces of modern tools on it, but the exact determination of age and origin has yet to be clarified. According to Gábor Kőrösi, only a part of the cellar system has been discovered until now, so further findings can be expected during future works of the Hauszmann Plan.
TANZANIE – Olduvai - The earliest evidence of facial piercing in Africa has been discovered in the skeletal remains of a young man who lived around 12,000 years ago. After reanalyzing the teeth of the man, researchers found they had been worn down by an object rubbing against them—indicating his lip and cheeks were pierced. Evidence of prehistoric piercing—and other types of body modification—are difficult to find as it tends to be performed on soft tissues, like skin and muscle, that normally degrade after death. For a study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, researchers looked at the remains of a skeleton dubbed Olduvai Hominid 1 (OH1). The skeleton belonged to a young man who lived towards the end of the Late Pleistocene (20,000 to 12,000 years ago). The skeleton was first discovered in Tanzania in 1913, and evidence suggests he had been deliberately buried. Previous research on his teeth suggests they had been filed down in a body modification practice—the practice of ablation, where teeth are purposefully removed, is known to have been used as a way of identifying an individual as being part of a group. However, Willman and colleagues say the wear to the teeth is more likely the result of a lip piercing. "Our review of the literature shows no evidence for facial piercings in Africa prior to about 10,000 years ago, in individuals from archaeological sites in Sudan," he told Newsweek. Ablation, he noted, was common in Africa between 20,000 and 12,000 years ago. The jewelry that OH1 wore would have been fairly large, at least an inch wide. What they were made of is unknown as they were not found in the burial. They may have been made from wood that decomposed over time, or they may have been removed before burial. When the practice of facial piercing may have started and for what reason is unknown. Today, people change their appearance for a huge number of reasons, from expressing an individual identity, to showing they belong to a specific group. Willman says OH1 probably has similar reasons for his facial piercings.
ROYAUME UNI – West Sussex - The grave of an Iron Age "warrior" buried 2,000 years ago has been discovered in West Sussex. The "incredibly rare" find is one of only a handful known in the South of England and dates back to the late Iron Age or early Roman period (first century BC to AD50). An iron spear and a sword in a highly decorated scabbard were found inside the grave, but the skeleton had not survived. Archaeologists are working to find out more about the identity and social status of the individual. "Although the soil conditions destroyed the skeleton, the items discovered within the grave suggest that the occupant had been an important individual." Studies of the sword and scabbard found copper-alloy decoration at the scabbard mouth, which would have been highly visible when the sword was in use. An X-ray of the items revealed dotted lines which may be the remains of a studded garment worn by the individual when they were buried. The remains of a wooden container, believed to have been used to lower the individual into the grave, were also discovered. Four ceramic jars made from local clays had been placed outside the container, but still within the grave. They would have been used for food preparation, cooking and storage, and were likely placed inside the grave as containers for funerary offerings - perhaps to sustain the deceased in the afterlife.
ITALIE – Herculaneum - Anthropologist Pier Paolo Petrone is the lead author of a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that revealed vitrified brain tissue found in the skull of the caretaker of the College of Augustales following the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. The completely carbonized body was wrapped in a sponge-like solid substance and discovered lying face-down in bed, suggesting that perhaps the caretaker was sleeping when the eruption occurred.
GRECE – Epidaurus - The Asclepieion of Epidaurus on the Peloponnesian Peninsula is one of the most important ancient sites in the entire world. Today, it owes a great deal of its fame to the theater, a wonder of acoustics which is still in operation today, but in ancient times it served as a medical sanctuary, and serious illnesses were healed there. People from all over the Eastern Mediterranean region flocked to Epidaurus in antiquity to find cures for their various maladies. It was a spacious resort which included guesthouses, a gymnasium, a stadium and the famous theater, which served to “elevate the soul,” which ancient Greeks saw as the goal of all theatrical plays, both tragedies and comedies. According to the poet Hesiod, who was active between 750 and 650 BC, Asclepius, the son of Apollo who was considered the ancient Greek god of medicine, was born in Epidaurus. A new building found at Epidaurus’ Asclepieion area, which was dedicated to this god, gives new insight into the famous sanctuary, mainly concerning the early years of its creation. The newly-uncovered building is a structure from the archaic era, whose function is currently unknown. It was built on a site adjacent to where the Tholos, or dome, the most iconic building of the Asclepieion, is situated. The building, rectangular in plan, had a basement space corresponding to the ground floor, with mosaics placed in a peristyle form. According to the information gleaned so far from the excavation, which is still in progress, the building dates back to around the year 600 BC. University of Athens Professor Vassilis Lamprinoudakis, head of the excavations in ancient Epidaurus, explained to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency “This means the worship of Asclepius appears to have begun earlier in the Asclepieion of Epidaurus. Until now, it was believed to have begun around 550 BC, i.e., in the middle of the sixth century BC. “Now it is evident that the structures are earlier, and this is particularly important for the history of the sanctuary and for the history of Asclepius himself,” the archaeologist noted. “At the place where the Tholos was later built, a part of a building, a ‘double’ building, with basement and ground floor has been found. Since there is a basement, like in the Tholos, we consider it to be a forerunner of this ‘mysterious’ building called the Tholos,” Lamprinoudakis stated.“When it was decided to build the Tholos, this building was demolished. The empty space created by its basement was filled with relics from the old building, but also from other parts of the sanctuary. That is because (when) the great program of the 4th century BC began, some other buildings were also demolished, the material of which was buried with respect in the place,” he added. The archaeologist explained that the name Tholos “was only given to the structure by the ancient traveler Pausanias in the second century AD. Its original name, as we know from the inscriptions of the 4th century BC, was ‘Thymeli.’ Thymeli was a kind of altar (used in sacrifice), in which offerings were made without blood.” Lamprinoudakis continued, saying “Research tells us that the Tholos was a kind of underground house of Asclepius, where patients were treated by injection.” The patient who slept in this special place would dream of the god Asclepius to reveal to him the cure for his illness. “This former building had a function similar to that of the Tholos, that is, its basement served as the seat of Asclepius on earth,” the archaeologist explained. “The new building, however, also gives important clues to the topography of the sanctuary. It explains the orientation of some other constructions that follow,” Lamprinoudakis concluded.