Sunday, 7 February 2016

Princess Ukok not to be reburied

Legal bid fails to rebury remains of 2,500 year old tattooed 'ice princess'

After archeologists dug up the ancient mummy - preserved in permafrost - natural disasters were unleashed in Siberia, court told.
A mannequin - an exact replica - is displayed in the museum but on 'special occasions' VIPs would be 'provided the opportunities to see the real mummy'. Picture:
An appeal will be launched after a court this week rejected a demand by the the leader of the Teles ethnic group in the Altai Mountains to order the reburial of the world famous tattooed remains of 'Princess Ukok', dug from her tomb in 1993 by leading Russian archeologists. 
A court in Gorno-Altaisk rejected his lawsuit, allowing the relic to remain in the care of the National Museum in the city, capital of the Altai Republic.
Akai Kine, leader of the Teles ethnic group and president of the Spiritual Centre of the Turks, Kin Altai, demanded that the 'archeological complex' Ak-Alakha-3, where the mummy was found on the Ukok Plateau, should be recognised as a cultural heritage monument and the remains of the 'ice princess' classified as an integral part of the tomb. The 'integrity' of the burial site should be restored before her 2,500 year old remains should be reburied. 
Akai Kine
Akai Kine vowed to continue his fight to rebury the remains on the Ukok Plateau. Picture: Facebook
'We have the cult of ancestors,' he told the court. 'The dead cannot be disturbed, and especially they cannot be held on public display and carried around the world. After she was dug out, we immediately saw earthquakes, floods, and hail which were not known previously.'
He described her as the White Lady, a priestess guarding 'the umbilical cord of the Earth'. 'She stood as a guard at the gates of the underworld, preventing the penetration of evil from the lower worlds. However, after archaeologists removed the mummy, it has lost its strength and can no longer perform its protective function. So evil started to penetrate, natural disasters and human conflicts began.'
He accused local politicians of going back on election promises given in 2014 to rebury the mummy.
Sergey Kireev
Sergey Kireev insisted: 'The mummy will be safely kept in our museum, without going to public display.' Picture: Gorno-Altaisk Info
His move was opposed by academics involved in research on the remains, and by state bodies. The director of the National Museum Sergey Ochurdyapov said: 'We keep her in the form in which she reached us. Now the technologies are changing, a new equipment appears - and every time the mummy tells us something new.'
A senior fellow at the museum, Sergey Kireev, insisted: 'The mummy will be safely kept in our museum, without going on public display.' 
Earlier, when the remains were returned from Novosibirsk - where they were held for two decades  - there were reports that the ice princess would be put on public display. Later it was said that a mannequin - an exact replica - would be displayed but that on 'special occasions' VIPs would be 'provided the opportunities to see the real mummy'.
The chairman of the Union of National Cultures, Artem Ignatenko, also spoke out against a reburial. 'Now she is in decent place, she's treated respectfully, and her soul has calmed down,' he said. 'It simply does not make sense to do something with her body. People who want to bury her, are engaged in self-PR.'
Ukok mummy mausoleum

Mausoleum for Ukok princess
If the reburial will be approved it is planned to build a moument on the Ukok Plateau. Pictures: Spiritual Centre of the Turks Kin Altai
After the verdict at Gorno-Altaisk city court, Akai Kine said that state power including the interests of academic science and the judiciary had been pitted against him. He vowed to continue his fight to rebury the remains on the Ukok Plateau.
'We will to stop on this, our struggle continues. We will keep the filing the claims and lawsuits, demanding the reburial,' he said. 
After the mummy was removed from the burial site, archaeologists called in Moscow experts who had worked on preserving Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin's body to ensure that there was no further deterioration of the 'ice maiden's' remains.
Elders in the Altai republic had voted to rebury the remains and plans were build for a monument on the Ukok Plataeu. However, scientific research has found new and intriguing details about the ancient woman. 
For example in 2014 it was revealed after an MRI scan that the woman, believed to have been aged around 25 when she died, had suffered from breast cancer, while she is believed to have used cannabis for medical reasons to ease her suffering. 
Altai mummy MRI scan

Ukok mummy MRI scan

Ukok mummy MRI scan
Dr Andrey Letyagin: 'We are dealing with a primary tumour in the right breast and right axial lymph nodes with metastases.' Pictures: The Sberian Times, Andrey Letyagin
Studies of the mummified remains extraordinary advances in our understanding of her rich and ingenious Pazyryk culture. The tattoos on her skin are works of great skill and artistry, while her fashion and beauty secrets - from items found in her burial chamber which even included a 'cosmetics bag' - allow her impressive looks to be recreated more than two millennia after her death. 
It is believed that she was not in fact a royal but that her use of drugs to cope with the symptoms of her illnesses may have given her 'an altered state of mind', leading her kinsmen to the belief that she could communicate with the spirits. Her lavish grave suggests she was someone of singular importance. 
The MRI, conducted in Novosibirsk by eminent academics Andrey Letyagin and Andrey Savelov, showed  that the 'princess' suffered from osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone or bone marrow, from childhood or adolescence. Close to the end of her life, she was afflicted, too, by injuries consistent with a fall from a horse: but the experts also discovered evidence of breast cancer.
Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Princess Ukok

princess Ukok
Studies of the mummified remains extraordinary advances in our understanding of her rich and ingenious Pazyryk culture. Pictures: Alexander TyryshkinInstitute of Archeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Science
'When she was a little over 20 years old, she became ill with another serious disease - breast cancer. It painfully destroyed her' over perhaps five years, said a summary of the medical findings in 'Science First Hand' journal by archeologist Professor Natalia Polosmak, who first found these remarkable human remains in 1993. 
'During the imaging of mammary glands, we paid attention to their asymmetric structure and the varying asymmetry of the MR signal,' stated Dr Letyagin in his analysis. 'We are dealing with a primary tumour in the right breast and right axial lymph nodes with metastases.'
'The three first thoracic vertebrae showed a statistically significant decrease in MR signal and distortion of the contours, which may indicate the metastatic cancer process.' He concluded: 'I am quite sure of the diagnosis - she had cancer. 
'She was extremely emaciated. Given her rather high rank in society and the information scientists obtained studying mummies of elite Pazyryks, I do not have any other explanation of her state. Only cancer could have such an impact.' 

Friday, 29 January 2016

China completes renovation of historical courier station (Yam station)

China completes renovation of historical courier station
The 800-year-old courier station in North China's Hebei province. [Photo/IC]
The renovation of an 800-year-old courier station has been finished in North China's Hebei province, a local official said Friday.
Liu Zhimin, an official with the provincial cultural relics department, said repairs to the station's 22 ancient temples, shops and residential homes have been completed recently in the 2022 Winter Olympics co-host city of Zhangjiakou.
Jiming dak, over 100 kilometers from Beijing, originally served for letter carriers to change horses and rest when carrying imperial decrees from Beijing's Forbidden City to northwestern regions. It later developed into a town now known as Jimingyi, home to more than 1,000 residents.
The repair of the town wall was finished in 2011. Renovation work started in 2009 with an expected cost of 500 million yuan (around $81 million).
Jiming Courier Station was built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and continued to function until 1913, when the then government abandoned all courier stations in favor of modern post offices.
"The station represents Zhangjiakou's role as a traffic hub in the past, and the renovation will bring more tourists to the city," said Wu Zhengshan, 70, a local tourist guide.
The station was put on the country's national relics protection list in 2001.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Approaches Asian steppe history from a "within Asia" perspective, rather than a China-focused perspective

Inner Asia and the Spatial Politics of Empire

Archaeology, Mobility, and Culture Contact

by William Honeychurch

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 2015 edition (6 Nov. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1493918141

  • Approaches Asian steppe history from a "within Asia" perspective, rather than a China-focused perspective
  • Uses theory of spatial politics and mobility along with archaeological evidence to create a comprehensive view of inner Asia
  • Analyzes the development of societies in pre-history inner Asia to comment on current socio-political conditions in inner Asia

This monograph uses the latest archaeological results from Mongolia and the surrounding areas of Inner Asia to propose a novel understanding of nomadic statehood, political economy, and the nature of interaction with ancient China. In contrast to the common view of the Eurasian steppe as a dependent periphery of Old World centers, this work views Inner Asia as a locus of enormous influence on neighboring civilizations, primarily through the development and transmission of diverse organizational models, technologies, and socio-political traditions. This work explores the spatial management of political relationships within the pastoral nomadic setting during the first millennium BCE and argues that a culture of mobility, horse-based transport, and long-distance networking promoted a unique variant of statehood. Although states of the eastern steppe were geographically large and hierarchical, these polities also relied on techniques of distributed authority, multiple centers, flexible structures, and ceremonialism to accommodate a largely mobile and dispersed populace. This expertise in “spatial politics” set the stage early on for the expansionistic success of later Asian empires under the Mongols and Manchus.
Inner Asia and the Spatial Politics of Empire brings a distinctly anthropological treatment to the prehistory of Mongolia and is the first major work to explore key issues in the archaeology of eastern Eurasia using a comparative framework. The monograph adds significantly to anthropological theory on interaction between states and outlying regions, the emergence of secondary complexity, and the growth of imperial traditions. Based on this approach, the window of Inner Asian prehistory offers a novel opportunity to investigate the varied ways that complex societies grow and the processes articulating adjacent societies in networks of mutual transformation.

The Cosmic Buddah in 3D

Body of Devotion: The Cosmic Buddha in 3D

Body of Devotion: The Cosmic Buddha in 3D
January 30, 2016 – December 2016
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
1050 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC
Location: Sublevel 3, S3 Gallery
Like all Buddhas (fully enlightened beings), the Cosmic Buddha, a life-size limestone figure of Vairochana, is wrapped in the simple robe of a monk. What makes this sixth-century Chinese object exceptional are the detailed narrative scenes that cover its surface, representing moments in the life of the Historical Buddha as well as the Realms of Existence, a symbolic map of the Buddhist world. With help from the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office, the Cosmic Buddha also exists as a 3D model, enabling scholars to study the work as never before and providing worldwide access to this masterpiece of Buddhist sculpture. Body of Devotion is an interactive installation that explores not only the work itself, but also the evolving means and methods of studying sculpture, from rubbings and photographs to the technological possibilities of today.
From the site of the Smithsonian

“The Cosmic Buddha in 3D” Exhibition To Open Jan. 30

Sixth-Century Sculpture Highlighted Through New Technology in Interactive Exhibition
January 11, 2016

Related photos: 

Smithsonian X 3D - Cosmic Buddha (Buda cósmico)

Cosmic Buddha
Image courtesy of Smithsonian Digitization Program Office (Imagen proporcionada por la Oficina del Programa de Digitalización del Smithsonian)
Through cutting-edge digital technology, previously    hidden meanings of a masterpiece of ancient Chinese sculpture may now be accessed by museum visitors, students and scholars. A new interactive installation presents the original sixth-century work alongside the evolving methods used to study it—from rubbings and photographs to the technological possibilities of today. “Body of Devotion: The Cosmic Buddha in 3D” will be on view in the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Jan. 30–December 2016.
“The Cosmic Buddha,” an icon of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art collection, has been 3-D imaged by the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office, which uses a variety of tools to record and share unique Smithsonian treasures. The exhibition includes the ancient sculpture itself, ink rubbings, a digital flat map of the surface and touchscreen monitors that allow visitors to manipulate the digital images of the object and explore information about it. “Body of Devotion” offers a special opportunity to understand the ancient sculpture and evolving methods of research.
“3-D scanning is an amazing process that brings new details to light,” said Keith Wilson, Freer|Sackler curator of the exhibition. “I can continue adding findings to the digital model and easily share information with other researchers. The exhibition is a great opportunity to feature this compelling work and show how advances in digital technology open up channels to new research and information.”
The Sculpture   
In Chinese Buddhist art, the sixth century was a pivotal moment with theological debate and artistic transformation. During this dynamic period, the religion enjoyed both imperial patronage and popular support.
“The Cosmic Buddha” or “Vairochana,” a life-size headless limestone figure, is wrapped in the simple robe of a monk, but the garment is covered with incredibly complex illustrations of Buddhist stories. These low-relief images represent a symbolic map of the Buddhist world, including everything from the tortures of hell to enlightenment and paradise. When first created in north China, the scenes were probably embellished with paint, which would have made the subjects easier to discern.
“The Cosmic Buddha” was acquired by Carl Whiting Bishop, the museum’s first Chinese art curator, in 1923. He bought it in Beijing on Christmas Eve, and it has been an iconic object in the museum collections ever since.
Evolution of Research Methods
The low-relief narrative illustrations have made the work a challenge to study through the ages. Before being acquired by the Freer, scholars made rubbings of the sculpture’s surface using ink on paper, which gave stronger contrast to the inked elements against the white paper. This process, however, risked leaving ink stains on the surface of the artwork.
Now, 3-D scanning, along with a wide variety of digital tools, can be used to clarify the sculpture’s designs. Using a laser-arm scanner, the ancient work was scanned and its color recorded through more than 300 photographs of the work. The combined surface and color data creates a 3-D model made of 20 million triangles.
This digitized model now available on the Smithsonian X 3D website offers users the ability to study the work in unprecedented detail and provides worldwide access to anyone interested in this masterpiece of Buddhist sculpture. The website includes a tour functionality, allowing Freer|Sackler curators and conservators to use the 3-D data as a starting point for exploring various aspects of this sculpture, including information on what it looked like when it was first created and how it has been conserved since. This digital data may also be used to replicate the sculpture through 3-D printing.
“3-D imaging is a non-invasive method, and it has the added benefits of capturing a great depth of information and allowing broad access to treasures without the risk of harm to the object,” said Günter Waibel, director of the Digitization Program Office.
“The Cosmic Buddha” is at the forefront of the pioneering digital work underway at the Freer and Sackler galleries. They have made digital images of their entire collections available online since January 2015 providing unprecedented access to one of the world’s most important holdings of Asian and American art. The free public resource—called “Open F|S”—can be visited at, allowing anyone to explore and create with the collections from anywhere in the world. The vast majority of the 40,000 artworks have never before been seen by the public, and more than 90 percent of the images will be in high-resolution and without copyright restrictions for non-commercial use. The Freer and Sackler galleries are the first Smithsonian and the only Asian art museums to digitize and release their entire collections, and in so doing, join just a handful of museums in the U.S.
About the Freer and Sackler Galleries
The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museum of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The galleries also contain important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler. The Freer Gallery of Art, which will be closed during the exhibition, is scheduled to reopen in spring 2017 with modernized technology and infrastructure, refreshed gallery spaces and an enhanced Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium.
About Smithsonian Digitalization
The Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office helps integrate digitization into the core functions of the Smithsonian. With 138 million objects and specimens, 157,000 cubic feet of archival materials and 2 million library volumes housed in 41 facilities, 19 museums and nine research centers, the scale and diversity of Smithsonian collections presents a unique digitization challenge. The DPO establishes metrics that track digitization progress across the Smithsonian, runs mass digitization projects to cost-effectively image entire collections and uses 3-D digitization to bring iconic Smithsonian collection objects to the world.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Exhibition coins under Mongolian rul Pax Mongolica 1210-1350

Exhibition/Display Details

Pax Mongolica 1210–1350

Genghis Khan established the Mongol Empire in 1206. It rapidly expanded during the following decades, continuously invading new territories. 
By the end of the 13th century, the vast Empire covered a large part of Eurasia, stretching from the Korean peninsula to Central Europe. These coins reflect the great diversity of peoples living under Mongolian rule and their different cultures.
Image: Dirham of Abaqa (1265–82)
Gallery 7 | Admission Free

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Archaeologists discover world's oldest tea buried with ancient Chinese emperor

The tea aficionado ruler – the Han Dynasty Emperor Jing Di – died in 141 BC, making the leaves 2,150 years old
The tea drinking emperor, Jing Di
Archaeologists have discovered the oldest tea in the world among the treasures buried with a Chinese emperor.
New scientific evidence suggests that ancient Chinese royals were partial to a cuppa – at least 2150 years ago.
Indeed, they seem to have liked it so much  that they insisted on being buried with it – so they could enjoy a cup of char in the next world.
Previously, no tea of that antiquity had ever been found – although a single ancient Chinese text from  a hundred years later claimed that China was by then exporting tea leaves to Tibet.
The new discovery was made by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
By examining tiny crystals trapped between hairs on the surface of the leaves and by using mass spectrometry, they were able to work out that the leaves, buried with a mid second century BC Chinese emperor, were actually tea

The scientific analysis of the food and other offerings in the Emperor’s tomb complex have also revealed that, as well as tea, he was determined to take millet, rice and chenopod with him to the next life.
Human figures buried in the tea-drinking emperor, Jing Di tomb complex near Xian
The tea aficionado ruler – the Han Dynasty Emperor Jing Di – died in 141 BC, so the tea dates from around that year. Buried in a wooden box, it was among a huge number of items interred in a series of pits around the Emperor’s tomb complex for his use in the next world.
Other items included weapons, pottery figurines, an ‘army’ of ceramic animals and several real full size chariots complete with their horses.
The tomb, located near the Emperor Jing Di’s capital Chang’an (modern Xian), can now be visited. Although the site was excavated back in the 1990s, it is only now that scientific examination of the organic finds has identified the tea leaves.
The tea-drinking emperor himself was an important figure in early Chinese history. Often buffeted by intrigue and treachery, he was nevertheless an unusually enlightened and liberal ruler. He was determined to give his people a better standard of living and therefore massively reduced their tax burden. He also ordered that criminals should be treated more humanely – and that sentences should be reduced. What’s more,  he successfully reduced the power of the aristocracy.
“The discovery shows how modern science can reveal important previously unknown details about ancient Chinese culture. The identification of the tea found in the emperor’s tomb complex gives us a rare glimpse into very ancient traditions which shed light on the origins of one of the world’s favourite beverages,” said Professor Dorian Fuller, Director of the International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology, based in UCL, London.
The research has just been published in Nature’s online open access journal Scientific Reports.
The tea discovered in the Emperor’s tomb seems to have been of the finest quality,  consisting solely of tea buds – the small unopened leaves of the tea plant, usually considered to be of superior quality to ordinary tea leaves.

Prosthetic Leg with Hoofed Foot Discovered in Ancient Chinese Tomb

Live Science by Owen Jarus 11 January 2016
A 2,200-year-old prosthetic leg was discovered in a tomb in China and would've been worn by a man with a deformed knee.
A 2,200-year-old prosthetic leg was discovered in a tomb in China and would've been worn by a man with a deformed knee.
Credit: Images courtesy Chinese Archaeology

The 2,200-year-old remains of a man with a deformed knee attached to a prosthetic leg tipped with a horse hoof have been discovered in a tomb in an ancient cemetery near Turpan (also spelled Turfan), China.
The tomb holds the man and a younger woman, who may or may not have known the male occupant, scientists say.  

"The excavators soon came to find that the left leg of the male occupant is deformed, with the patella, femur and tibia [fused] together and fixed at 80 [degrees]," archaeologists wrote in a paper published recently in the journal Chinese Archaeology.

The fused knee would have made it hard for the man to walk or ride horses without the prosthetic leg, the researchers found. The man couldn't straighten his left leg out so the prosthetic leg, when attached, allowed the left leg to touch the floor when walking. The horse hoof at the bottom of the prosthetic leg acted like a foot.
The prosthetic leg was "made of poplar wood; it has seven holes along the two sides with leather tapes for attaching it to the deformed leg," the archaeologists wrote. "The lower part of the prosthetic leg is rendered into a cylindrical shape, wrapped with a scrapped ox horn and tipped with a horsehoof, which is meant to augment its adhesion and abrasion."
 "The severe wear of the top implies that it has been in use for a long time," they added.
Radiocarbon dating indicates that the tomb dates back around 2,200 years. The only other known prosthetic leg in the world that dates to that time is part of a bronze legfound in Capua, Italy. That leg was destroyed in a bombing raid during World War II. Prosthetic toes, dating to earlier times, have been found in Egypt.
Who used it? 
Two other studies, published in the journals Bridging Eurasia and Quaternary International, provide more details about the man who used the hoofed leg. Researchers estimate that the man was about 5 feet 7 inches (1.7 meters) tall, and between 50 and 65 years old when he died.
A diagram of a tomb in China which held the bones of a man with a deformed knee and prosthetic leg.
The man died when he was 50 or 60 years old; some time after he died his tomb was reopened and the body of a woman was put in, disturbing the man's bones.
Credit: Images courtesy Chinese Archaeology
What caused the odd fusion of his left knee joint? "Different causes, like inflammationin or around the joint, rheumatism or trauma, might have resulted in this pathological change," archaeologists wrote in the journal Bridging Eurasia.
Researchers found evidence that the man was infected with tuberculosis at some point in his life. They think that inflammation from the infection may have resulted in a bony growth that allowed his knee to fuse together. "The smooth surface of the bones affected by the ankyloses [joint fusion] suggests the active inflammatory process stopped years before death," the researchers wrote in Bridging Eurasia.
The man appears to have been a person of modest means, as he was buried with nonluxurious items: ceramic cups and a jar, a wooden plate and wooden bows, the archaeologists found. Sometime after he died, his tomb was reopened, and the body of a 20-year-old woman was put in, disturbing the man's bones. What relationship the man and woman had (if any) is unknown. The tomb was one of 30 that archaeologists excavated in the cemetery. 
Gushi people 
Based on the results of the radiocarbon dating, "the occupants of the cemetery might have belonged to the Gushi [also spelled Jushi] population," archaeologists wrote in the Chinese Archaeology article.
Little is known about these people. Ancient Chinese texts suggest that the Gushi had a small state. "As recorded in the Xiyu zhuan (the Account of the Western Regions) of the Hanshu (Book of Han, by Ban Gu), during the middle of the Western Han, there lived in the Turfan Basin the Gushi population, who constitutes one of the 'Thirty-six States of the Western Regions' of the Qinand Han Dynasties," the archaeologists wrote.
The Gushi state was conquered by China's Han Dynasty during a military campaign in the first century B.C., according to ancient records. "Given that the study of the Gushi culture is yet at its nascent stage, the [cemetery] provides valuable new materials," the archaeologists wrote.
Excavations at the cemetery were conducted between 2007 and 2008 by scientists at the Academia Turfanica, a research institute. A paper reporting their findings was published in 2013, in Chinese, in the journal Kaogu. That paper was recently translated and published in the journal Chinese Archaeology.
The papers reporting the study of the man's skeleton were publishedin 2014 in the journal Bridging Eurasia and in 2013 in the journal Quaternary International.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on the Silk Road

Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on the Silk Road

Hardcover – 6 May 2016