Archeology and History of the Silk Road

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Tomb of Liu Ji- Tang Dynasty

The Grandest Tomb of Tang Dynasty Found in Beijing— Tomb of Liu Ji

The tomb of Liu Ji was found in the process of some foundational construction in the year of 2011, who 
was the military governor (Jiedushi) of Lulong Circuit of Tang Dynasty. From the year of 2012 to 
2013, authorized by SACH (State Administration of Cultural Heritage), Beijing Institute of Antiquity 
has excavated the tomb as a means of rescue, and set forth a series of projects concerning 
preservation and research.

The tomb of Liu Ji is located in Changgou Town of Fangshan area, which is only 56 kilometers away 
from the capital Beijing. Lying from north to south, the tomb is 34-meter-long, and is composed 
of ten sections: slanting passage, door, front yard, front passageway, side chamber, niche, 
main burial chamber, side burial chamber, rear passageway and rear chamber.

overall view of the excavated tomb

In the south end of the tomb lies the 11.5-meter-long slanting passage. It is flanked by walls, on the  
surface of which is spread a layer of grey-clayed surface hiding behind another layer of lime. 
Beautifully painted, the frescos on those walls are divided into two layers: the lower part is painted 
at Liu’s burial, while the upper at his lady—Madame Zhang’s burial. The earth filled the passage 
had been rammed, resulting in a rather distinguished stratification.
Located in the northernmost end of the passage, the door to the front yard is constructed by bricks 
laid with alternative courses, covered with lime and painted in color.

The front yard finds itself north to the door. From there it runs northwards, connecting the door to 
the front passageway. The room measures 2.86 meters from east to west, and 1.94 meters from 
north and south. An epitaph for Madame Zhang is positioned in the center.

two epitaphs found in Liu Ji's tomb

5.2-meter long and 2.4-meter wide, the front passageway runs to the north of the front yard, and 
further connects it with the main burial chamber. On its east and west walls covered with grey clay 
and lime, then beautifully painted in color. Side chambers and niches are found along the passageway. 
An epitaph of Liu Ji is placed here.

unearthed epitaphs and murals

The floor plan of the side chambers is shaped as square with rounded angles. Brick-chambered, its 
walls are also covered with lime and then beatified by frescoes. Located on the east of the front yard 
and heralded by a 1.1-meter-wide door, the east side chamber is 2.1-meter wide from east to west 
and 2.3-meter from north to south. The west side chamber stands west to the front yard; its door 
measures 1.2 meters in width. The chamber itself is 2-meter wide from east to west and 2.3-meter 
from north to south.

The niches are nearly rectangular. Its walls are spread by lime. On its bottom, traces of painted 
Padmāsana (“Lotus Throne”) can be seen. Both niches are found in the southern half of the passage; 
the eastern one is 1.2-meter wide and 0.6-meter long, while its western one is 1.3-meter wide and 
0.65-meter long.

The door to the main burial chamber is located in the northern part of the front passageway. It is built 
by rectangular bricks, and measures 7.6 meters from east to west and 8 meters from north to south. 
As for the shape, it is nearly square-like but with rounded angles. The threshold, gate pier and pillars 
are all made of stone and very well preserved. The threshold is 1.8-meter long, 0.15-meter wide and 
0.31-meter high. The height of the pillars ranges from 2.42 to 2.43 meters; and tenons are found on 
both ends. On the pillars are exquisitely carved peonies with curling leaves. Flanked on its eastern 
and western side by two chambers, the walls of main burial chamber is spread with lime of 
considerable thickness, on which the frescoes depict scenes of instrumental performances and 
dancing with various colors including red and black. In the center of the northern part of the chamber 
is found a stone base. It is supposed to bear the weight of a wooden coffin and a stone outer coffin, 
which, unfortunately, has not survived. An everlasting lamp made of stone stands in the southeastern quarter of the room. The stone base, seen from the top, is trapezoidal in shape with the southern side longer than the northern; it is built by bars of stone alternatively laid. A painted figurine of a civil officer 
and a figurine of military office are also found in the main burial chamber.
Following the main burial chamber and standing on the northern side, the rear passageway bridges 
the main and the rear chambers. In shape, the passageway is a rectangle 2.9 meters in length and 
1.5 in width. In its southern end stand two column bases carved out of alabaster, on which sit two 
columns for the door; both are decorated with carved peonies with weaving branches.

                                                                             carvings in relief on stone base

stone coffin base
The rear chamber sits in the northernmost point of the tomb. Built with bricks, it is nearly square in 
shape but with rounded angles. The room measures 3.7 meters from east to west, and 3.6 meters 
from north to south. All walls are covered with lime, on which frescoes are painted.

Various burial goods are found within the passageway, side room, side burial chamber, main burial 
chamber and rear chamber. Based on materials and mediums, they can be sorted into jade, stone, 
clay, porcelain, bronze, iron, turquoise, amber, glass, painted wares and frescoes. All of them are 
of the highest historical, scientific and artistic values.

unearthed gold and silver ornaments
Stone artifacts include epitaphs for Liu Ji and his lady Madame Zhang, base for the coffins, figurines, 
and other components. Madame Zhang’s epitaph bears relief of the 12 Chinese Zodiacs, painted in 
color and highlighted with gold; it is the first time that such epitaph has ever been unearthed from 
the period of Tang Dynasty. Most of the other relief in front of tomb depicts tigers etc.. The figurines 
of civil officer and military officer are counted among the better preserved. In particular, they are 
rarity with its smoothly carved lines, lively countenance, and delicately depicted attires.

stone figurines

In great quantity and covering an area of considerable enormity, the frescoes are highly valued, especially
to the fields of history and art. With scenes of performances, daily life, servant girls, animals and plants, 
the frescoes convey to us the customs, costumes, and ways of entertainments of the concerning time period. They are indeed a priceless resource to the study of Tang society—especially aristocratic life 
and liberal arts—in the area of Beijing.

Porcelain ware is dominated by white glazed porcelain bowls, white glazed spittoons, and Chengni-inkstones.

Other unearthed antiquities include jade ornaments decorated with floral patterns, jade ornaments with swastika inscription, turquoise ornaments, amber, glass, “Kaiyuan tongbao” coin, bronze armor scales 
and iron armor scales.
Clearly dated, Liu Ji’s tomb is the grandest in terms of scale and standard in the area of Beijing in Tang Dynasty. Speaking of format, it is a faithful heir to Tang burials in the Central Plain of China. Producing 
a large quantity of material evidence, it is indeed a treasure horde to the study of military governor 
system and burial formation of Tang Dynasty. The tomb’s significance to the history of Beijing region 
is not to be underestimated.    (Translator: Su Minjie)

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Some sources for silk in the Stein collection


Some sources for silk in the Stein collection

To celebrate 20 years of the International Dunhuang Project, IDP has arranged an extensive programme of events including a half-day of lectures on 11 April ‘Silk on the Silk Road’. In this post I thought I would highlight two sources on silk in the Stein collection, one well-known and the second, a bit more obscure, but equally important for its reference to the silk trade in the fourth century AD.

Wooden panel from Dandan Uilik (Stein collection D.X.4: BM OA1907.11-11.73), The British Museum.
This wooden panel dating from ca. seventh century from Dandan Uilik was discovered by Aurel Stein on his first expedition to Khotan in 1900-1901. The scene is thought to depict a story related by the seventh century Chinese traveller Xuanzang of how silkworms were smuggled out of China westwards into Khotan – present day Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. A Chinese princess (second from the left), about to be married to the king of Khotan, has smuggled silkworm eggs and mulberry seeds in her headdress. She carries a basket of cocoons. On the far right, a figure holding a comb stands in front of a loom with a reel of thread behind. The four-armed deity (second right) has been identified as the patron of weaving.

Among the oldest manuscripts in the Stein collection are eight letters forming the contents of a postbag lost in transit from China to Central Asia and discovered by Stein in the watch tower T.XII.a on the Dunhuang Limes. Known as the ‘Ancient Letters’, they date from the beginning of the fourth century AD and are among the earliest documents written in Sogdian, an Eastern Middle Iranian language formerly spoken in the region around Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan (see previous posts ‘A Few of our Favourite Things #7: Hans van Roon and #14: Nicholas Sims-Williams’). The letters are mostly commercial and mention many commodities, including musk, gold, pepper, camphor, wheat and perhaps white lead, as well as cloth made of linen or of hair.

Until recently the word for silk was not thought to have been mentioned in the Ancient Letters although there is no doubt that silk played an important role in the east-west trade at this period. However it has now been identified as occurring twice in letter 6, T.XII.a.ii.8g (BL Or.8212/97).
[You] said to me: [If] you go out (from China) to Loulan you should buy silk (pyrcyk) for me (in exchange) for it, and if [you do not find(?) any] silk you should buy camphor (in exchange) for [it] and bring it to me.

Ancient letter 6, a commercial document. Silk (pyrcyk) occurs twice in the fifth line: in the middle and at the end on the left (Stein collection T.XII.a.ii.8g: BL Or.8212/97)
The word for silk (pyrcyk) is formed from an otherwise unattested Sogdian word for silkworm (it occurs in Khotanese as pira‑, which means ‘worm’, especially ‘silkworm’) with the addition of the adjectival suffix ‑čīk, thus giving it the meaning ‘derived from the silkworm’, or ‘silk thread or cloth’. A different derivative of the same word, pyryk, is attested in Choresmian, another related middle Iranian language, with the meaning ‘cocoon’.

  • Nicholas Sims-Williams. ‘Towards a New Edition of the Sogdian Ancient Letters: Ancient Letter 1.’In E. De La Vaissière and E. Trombert (eds). Les Sogdiens en Chine. Paris 2005, pp. 181-93.
  • R.E. Emmerick and P.O. Skjærvø. Studies in the Vocabulary of Khotanese III. Wien 1997, pp. 91-3. 
  • Duan Qing. ‘于闐文的蠶字、繭字、絲字 (Khotanese words for silkworm, cocoon and silk).’In 季羨林教授八十華誕紀念論文集[Festschrift for Professor Ji Xianlin on the occasion of his 80th birthday]. Nanchang, 1991.
  • Duan Qing. ‘Were Textiles Used as Money in Khotan in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries?’ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 23 (2013), pp. 307-25.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

World's Oldest Decimal Times Table Found in China

The newly deciphered multiplication table, written on bamboo strips dated to 310 B.C., was more sophisticated than earlier versions.

A photo of an ancient multiplication table.
A bundle of ink-inscribed bamboo strips bought at a Hong Kong art market turned out to be the oldest decimal-based calculator in the world.
Jeremy Berlin
Q: How much is 230 times 10?
A: The number of years humans have been calculating with decimals.
A crack team of scholars in Beijing learned this last year when they solved a 23-centuries-old puzzle. And it only took them five years.
The complex mathematical problem arose in 2008, when an alumnus of Tsinghua University donated a bundle of ink-inscribed bamboo strips he'd bought at a Hong Kong art market.
But the strips were an inscrutable mess. They were out of order, and some were broken. All were reeking, caked in mud and mold.
Clearly they'd come from a looted tomb. But what were they?
Cracking the Code
On the top floor of Tsinghua's Research and Conservation Center for Excavated Texts, a multidisciplinary team of researchers got together—and got to work. Laying out the 2,500 strips in a climate-controlled room, they spent three painstaking months drying and cleaning them.
"We had to be very careful," says Wen Xing, a paleography professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, who was involved from the start. "They were saturated with water, so we had to stop the mold from growing and making them completely rotten. And we had to use soft brushes, to keep the ink on the strips. It was a very difficult process."
But it paid off. They could soon see a vertical line of calligraphy, brushed in black ink, on each strip, which were 20 inches (51 centimeters) long and a half inch (1.27 centimeters) wide. After they applied antioxidizing chemicals, they carbon-dated the batch to 310 B.C.
For the next four years Xing and his colleagues read through every strip, sorting them by their content and calligraphy style—and finding more than 60 discrete texts.
"Most were historical works," says Xing, "including chapters from theBook of Documents, [which is] one of the Five Classics [of the Confucian canon]. There were some military texts too, all written in a beautiful style used in the ancient state of Chu."
Yet 21 of the strips stood out. They were painted with numerical characters, not alphabetical ones. When Feng Lisheng, a math historian at Tsinghua, placed them in the proper order, they formed a base-10 multiplication matrix—the oldest decimal-based calculator in the world.
How It Works
It looks a lot like a modern multiplication table. The top row and the far-right column contain the same 19 numbers: 0.5, the integers 1 through 9, and multiples of 10 from 10 to 90.
It's remarkably simple to use, says Joseph Dauben, a distinguished history professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
To multiply 8 times 7, for example, find the 8 on the top row and the 7 on the far-right column. Follow the numbers beneath the 8 until they intersect with the numbers to the left of the 7. The answer is at the intersection: 56.
"You can see [the answer] at a glance," says Dauben. "And that's probably its great virtue. It's impressive the way this thing is put together."
(The Chinese written system didn't use a symbol for zero, because it didn't need one. When Chinese mathematicians recorded the result of a computation, says Dauben, they used a specific character for each power of ten. So for 57 they would write 5 tens and a 7. But for 507 they would write 5 hundreds and a 7.)
The Tsinghua table also lets you multiply partial numbers between 0.5 and 99.5, though to do that you have to first convert the equations into sums. For instance, (29.5 × 31.5) would be (20 + 9 + 0.5) × (30 + 1 + 0.5). That creates nine separate multiplications (20 × 30, 20 × 1, 20 × 0.5, then 9 × 30, and so on), each of which can be read off the table. Adding up the answers gives you the final result.
But to what end? Feng says he suspects the table was used to calculate land area, crop yields, and taxes. "We can even use the matrix to do divisions and square roots," he says. "But we can't be sure that such complicated tasks were performed at the time."
Guo Shuchun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences calls the table "very advanced for the world at that time, an important discovery in the mathematical history of China—and the world."
On the Timeline of Math
"Mathematics," says Dauben, "has been around since someone looked up and realized there was a sun and a moon and objects around them. The record of human counting goes back to prehistoric caves, to Paleolithic times, with lines indicating times between months or how many animals were killed on a given day."
"Like the art found in southern France and northwestern Spain," writesMarlboro College math professor Joseph Mazur in his bookEnlightening Symbols: A Short History of Mathematical Notation and Its Hidden Powers, "number writing came about through the human endeavor to record. ... Humans have always had an uncanny ability to recognize numbers beyond the values for which they had words."
After humans learned to count, they developed arithmetic. In the West, that started with the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians. According to Mazur, Sumerian cuneiform number writing dates to 3400 B.C. And well before 2000 B.C. both civilizations were adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.
Yet they did it differently than we do. The Babylonian number system was sexagesimal, or base 60—the basis for 60 seconds, 60 minutes, and 360 degrees. And their multiplication tables, says Dauben, were used to compute fractions.
"But they weren't a matrix setup like [the Tsinghua table], where you take a number and can run down the column to any other given number and find out what the product is going to be."
The Egyptians did use a base-10 system like ours—perhaps based on having 10 fingers and 10 toes—but they didn't have place values. So they represented orders of magnitude with different symbols in hieroglyphs (a coiled rope for 100, a lotus flower for 1,000) or a cursive system called Hieratic.
The Chinese weren't far behind.
"China has had written numerals since as early as the Shang Dynasty, circa 1200 B.C. or slightly earlier," says Dauben. Compared with the Greeks of their time, "they made comparable achievements. It's sometimes said that they didn't develop the concept of 'proof' that's fundamental to Euclid and Archimedes, but this is wrong. They [may not have used] an abstract axiomatic method—and much of their math was based on practical concerns like business, bureaucracy, astronomy, and calendars—but they understood the importance of being able to prove that their results were correct."
What's more, he says, "Chinese mathematicians stayed at the mathematical forefront until the Renaissance, when the rebirth of ancient mathematics in the West soon led to new methods that advanced the algebra of the Islamic world and forged new methods, including Descartes's analytic geometry and the infinitesimal calculus of Newton and Leibniz."
That's also when decimal tables appeared in Europe. Though records show they existed as early as the 12th century A.D., they weren't used widely until the Renaissance, when the printing press aided their spread.
Sign of the Times
The multiplication table deciphered at Tsinghua wasn't the first one found in China. But it was particularly sophisticated and practical.
Earlier examples, says Dauben, "only list the results of multiplication: 9 times 9 is 81, 9 times 8 is 72, et cetera. What makes the Tsinghua table unique is its matrix structure, and the simplicity with which it allows any multiplications—or divisions or even, possibly, the determinations of square roots—simply by reference to the table.
"It's considerably more advanced than later times tables produced in the Qin Dynasty. Those tables date to between 221 and 206 B.C., and they show simple sentences like the kind you recited in class: 'Two times one is two, two times two is four, two times three is six.' You can't really use sentences to calculate elaborate multiplications, never mind divisions, square roots, et cetera, in the same way you can with a matrix."
The Tsinghua table was made during the Warring States period, says Xing, a century before the first Qin Dynasty emperor, Qin Shi Huang, unified China.
One of the emperor's first undertakings was to try to stamp out the ideas of Confucius and other philosophers he deemed a threat to his authority. He executed scholars, rewrote texts, burned books, and banned private libraries.
The bamboo strips at Tsinghua escaped that fate, probably because they were buried underground in a tomb. Their survival offers us a glimpse of life—historical, intellectual, philosophical—during a formative period in China.
"They tell us about thinking in early China," says Xing. "They were using characters to describe numbers and do calculations. It also helps establish the place-value system, a crucial development in the history of math. This is material evidence of that."
Over the next 50 years, says Dauben, "the archaeology that's coming out of China is going to change our understanding of history. And this [times table is] just one good example. Until this thing turned up, nobody had a clue that the Chinese had been so clever as to present an immediate visual understanding of multiplication."

Days gone by: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) continues to be deprived of its Gandharan glory

Due to the absence of a museum in the region, all artefacts discovered from the Peshawar Valley in the British era were transported to the nearest museum in Lahore. PHOTO COURTESY: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Due to the absence of a museum in the region, all artefacts discovered from the Peshawar Valley in the British era were transported to the nearest museum in Lahore. PHOTO COURTESY: WIKIMEDIA COMMONSDue to the absence of a museum in the region, all artefacts discovered from the Peshawar Valley in the British era were transported to the nearest museum in Lahore. PHOTO COURTESY: WIKIMEDIA COMMONSDue to the absence of a museum in the region, all artefacts discovered from the Peshawar Valley in the British era were transported to the nearest museum in Lahore. PHOTO COURTESY: WIKIMEDIA COMMONSDue to the absence of a museum in the region, all artefacts discovered from the Peshawar Valley in the British era were transported to the nearest museum in Lahore. PHOTO COURTESY: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Originating from an area that was once known as the ‘centre of education’ in the world and a pinnacle of Buddhist culture, priceless Gandhara antiquities and sculptures from across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) remain in possession of museums in other parts of the country.
A source at the K-P Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, requesting anonymity, said there were a large number of unspecified artefacts with various museums across Pakistan, in particular at Taxila Museum, Punjab. He added that these artefacts were in so high a number that the department had no exact records of them.
“This cache was in the possession of the federal department of archaeology’s sub-regional office (SRO),” he said, “After the 18th Amendment, this department was devolved to the province; however, the artefacts remain at the museum.”
Another source familiar with the matter corroborated that these antiquities were stored at the museums in Islamabad and Taxila. However, he added that it was difficult to determine their exact places of origin. He said the SRO’s material had been collected from various parts of the country and the material would now have to be sifted through.
Another museum that is teeming with artefacts from Gandhara is the Lahore Museum. Explaining how these pieces were ‘loaned’ out and never returned, an insider said a majority of the antiquities were shifted there by the British before the creation of Pakistan.
“There was no museum in this region, where the earliest excavation of Gandhara sites was started by the British,” he said. “Almost all of the artefacts had to be shifted to the nearest museum, which was in Lahore.”
Tallying the numbers
A list compiled by the K-P Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, available with The Express Tribune, shows that the National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi alone has about 6,824 such pieces from K-P in its possession.
The breakdown shows that the National Museum in Karachi has 1,118 artefacts in its custody, along with another 5,706 ‘confiscated items’. Similarly, the Exploration and Excavation Branch Karachi has 206, Taxila Museum has 1,666 and Islamabad Museum has about 158 artefacts.
The list puts just the total documented number of K-P’s antiquities in possession of museums across Pakistan at 8,854. The actual figure of the lost remnants is said to be much higher.
Taking (no) action
Earlier, there were reports that under the former director, K-P’s provincial archaeology directorate has approached the aforementioned museums to reclaim their property. Despite repeated attempts and claims, though, K-P’s archaeological heritage remains in the line of dispute.
The provincial government, in the past, has referred the issue to UNESCO, stating that it is a universally accepted principle that archaeological material recovered from ancient sites located in a particular region is the property of that region and should be returned there.
The federal and provincial governments have also been reminded multiple times that the geographical boundaries of Gandhara were limited to present-day K-P, except for Taxila. Resultantly, they claim that Punjab and Sindh have no cultural, historical or legal right to artefacts from Gandhara.
However, K-P Archaeology Director Professor Dr Nasim Khan, claimed they were preparing a comprehensive list of these artefacts and that he was not aware of any such steps taken in the past.
The chairman of the Department of Archaeology at Hazara University Dr Abdul Samad, on the other hand, opposes any idea of reclaiming the antiquities, terming cultural heritage as ‘universal property’ and saying that the whole world has a right to it.
“Go to Peshawar Museum and see for yourself what conditions these remnants of history are in,” said Samad, adding that he opposed the return of the pieces on the same grounds, since K-P had no capacity to take care of heritage assets.
Dr Samad went on to propose that K-P should divide its archaeological reserves with other museums of the country, so that these items do not deteriorate in storage. He claimed the Gandhara pieces at Lahore attract a large crowd and are more appreciated there than they are at their place of origin. The professor proposed a barter system, saying that Peshawar Museum should take pieces from Moen jo Daro, and vice versa, adding that such steps will lead to greater cross-cultural understanding.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2014.

Ancient Nomads Spread Earliest Domestic Grains Along Silk Road, Study Finds

Source:  1 April 2014
Findings at ancient nomadic campsites in Kazakhstan push back earliest known East-West interaction along Slik Road by 2,000 years.
Ancient Nomads Spread Earliest Domestic Grains Along Silk Road, Study Finds
Charred grains of barley, millet and wheat deposited nearly 5,000 years ago at campsites in the high plains of Kazakhstan show that nomadic sheepherders played a surprisingly important role in the early spread of domesticated crops throughout a mountainous east-west corridor along the historic Silk Road, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.
"Our findings indicate that ancient nomadic pastoralists were key players in an east-west network that linked innovations and commodities between present-day China and southwest Asia," said study co-author Michael Frachetti, PhD, an associate professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University and principal investigator on the research project.
Findings are based on archaeobotanical data collected from four Bronze Age pastoralist campsites in Central Eurasian steppe/mountains: Tasbas and Begash in the highlands of Kazakhstan and Ojakly and Site 1211/1219 in Turkmenistan.
Frachetti and a team of WUSTL researchers led the on-site excavations, working closely with archaeologists based in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Italy. Spengler conducted the paleoethnobotany laboratory work at WUSTL, under the directorship of Gayle J. Fritz, PhD, professor of archaeology and expert in human-plant relationships.
ancientnomads2A photo of the long-term settlement stratigraphy at the site of Tasbas. Mudbrick/clay oven (visible on right lower portion) contained earliest evidence for grain farming. Credit: Paula Doumani /Washington University in St. Louis (2011

 A view of the Byan Zhurek valley and setting near Tasbas. Credit: Michael Frachetti/Washington University in St. Louis (2011)
Frachetti said that ancient wheat and broomcorn millet, recovered from the sites "show that prehistoric herders in Central Eurasia had incorporated both regional crops into their economy and rituals nearly 5,000 years ago, pushing back the chronology of interaction along the territory of the 'Silk Road' more than 2,000 years." 
While these crops have been known to exist much earlier in ancient China and Southwest Asia, finding them intermingled in the Bronze Age burials and households of nomadic pastoralists provides some of the earliest concrete signs for east-west interaction in the vast expanse of Eurasian mountains and the first botanical evidence for farming among Bronze Age nomads.
Bread wheat, cultivated at least 6,000 years ago in Southwest Asia, was absent in China before 2500 B.C. while broomcorn millet, domesticated 8,000 years ago in China, is missing in southwest Asia before 2000 B.C. This study documents that ancient grains from eastern China and southwest Asia were present in Kazakhstan in the center of the continent by 2700-2500 B.C. (nearly 5,000 years ago).
"This study starts to rewrite the model for economic change across Eurasia," said first author Robert Spengler, PhD, a paleoethnobotanist and research associate in Arts and Sciences at WUSTL. "It illustrates that nomads had diverse economic systems and were important for reshaping economic spheres more generally."
"Finding this diverse crop assemblage at Tasbas and Begash illustrates first evidence for the westward spread of East Asian and Southwest Asian crops eastward, and the surprise is that it is nomads who are the agents of change," Frachetti said.
The study is published April 2nd in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Source: Edited from a Washington University press release. 
Washington University co-authors include three anthropology graduate students: Paula Doumani, Lynne Rouse and Elissa Bullion. Doumani led the excavations at Tasbas in Kazakhstan while Rouse co-led the excavations at Ojakly in Turkmenistan.
Other co-authors are Barbara Cerasetti, of the Universita`degli Studi di Bologna, Italy, and Alexei Mar'yashev, of the Institute of Archaeology in Kazakhstan.
Funding was provided by National Science Foundation grant nos. 1010678, 0535341, 1132090 and 1036942, as well as Lambda Alpha National Honor Society, the Mary Morris-Stein Foundation, Wenner-Gren grant no. 8157, George F. Dales Foundation and International Research & Exchanges Board IARO.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A Few of Our Favourite Things: The Complete Series

FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 2014

A Few of Our Favourite Things: The Complete Series

As part of IDP's 20th anniversary celebrations we asked twenty of our friends and supporters to select their favourite item from the IDP collections. The full selection is available as an online catalogue and will be featured in the spring and autumn 2014 editions of IDP News. APinterest board featuring all twenty of the ‘favourite’ items is also available. For full details of all our anniversary events and activities please see our 20th anniversary programme page.
IDP would like to thank all of the contributors for their selections and for taking part in our 20th anniversary celebrations. Below is a full list of their posts.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Excavations in Panjakent and Hisorak


The site of Kum (to be visited on the third day)
The program includes visits to the most outstanding archaeological and architectural monuments of this ancient land of the Orient, its museums, mountain lakes and valleys where remains of ancient peoples survive, ongoing excavations and many more. The tour is authored and will be guided by Dr. Pavel Lurje (State Hermitage museum, St.-Petersburg), the leader of the Panjakent archaeological expedition and curator of the exhibition Expedition Silk Road in the Hermitage – Amsterdam.

The trip will cover both northern and southern Tajikistan with particular attention to its middle part, the Zeravshan valley which is famous for its archaeological monuments of Sogdian epoch, Panjakent in the first instance.
Costs (excluding air fare)
€ 1695 – single room
€ 1595 – double room
The Friends of the State Hermitage and Hermitage-Amsterdam get €100 discount.
The detailed plan with a handful of photos follows.
04.09. Arrival to Dushanbe early in the morning (with Turkish Airlines TK254 from Istanbul), transfer to the hotel, free time; visit to the national Museum of Antiquities, city tour, the Blue Bazaar. Overnight stay in Dushanbe.
The giant Buddha from Ajina-tepe (7th century) in the Museum of Antiquities
with the members of Panjakent archaeological team

05.09. Early breakfast, departure from the hotel to the north, via Varzob valley and Anzob pass to the valley of Yaghnob, where the dialect close to Sogdian is still in use. Overnight stay at the camping on Iskander-kul, the biggest lake in the Fan mountains.
 Mulloqodir, the Yaghnobi storyteller with his nephew at the shepherds’ campsite

 06.09. Mountain walks and swimming on Iskander-kul; departure to the Zarafshan valley. Visit of the site Kum and the castle on the Mount Mugh, where the most important Sogdian texts concerning the events of Arab conquest were found; arrival to Panjakent and overnight stay there.
The castle on mount Mugh (in the center) with Zarafshan flowing below.
07.09. Tour on the excavations in Ancient Panjakent, the most celebrated Sogdian town of 5th – 8th century CE, the bazaar and city museum. Overnight stay in Panjakent.
Satellite view of the Ancient Panjakent

08.09. Tour on the chalcolitic site of Sarazm (the nominee of the Unesco World heritage list), Sogdian town of Sanjar-shah, the classical Muslim mausoleum at Mazari Sharif, trip to the Seven lakes, rest and overnight stay at the campsite there.
One of the Seven Lakes

09.09. Departure from the Seven lakes to the Shahristan pass. Visit of Kalai Kahkaha ruins and Chilkhudzhra in Shahristan (9th century palace and castle, famous for the wall-paintings), a tour in Ura-tyube and arrival to Khujand.
Ura-tyube (Istravshan) is famous for its knifesmiths
10.09. Walks in Khujand, a trip to Isfara with its 9th-century mausoleum, evening on the Kayrak-kum lake, overnight stay in Khujand.
The citadel of Khujand about hundred years ago. Probably, it is located on the place of Alexandia Eschata,
the ultimate town erected by Alexander in 328 BCE

11.09. Flight to Dushanbe in the morning. Visits to the National Museum, Hissar fortress, Botanical garden. Overnight stay in Dushanbe
The brand-new National Museum (opened in 2013)
12.09. The trip to Khulbuk (12th century city now restored), Kulyab, Khoja-Mashad, overnight stay in the Tigrovaya Balka national park on Amu-darya.
Khoja-Mashad, the mausoleum of 10th – 11th century

13.09. Visit of the Oxus temple, the Hellenistic town and sanctuary on the confluence of Panj and Wakhsh, the town of Kurghan-tepe, Buddhist cloister of Adzhina-tepe (8th century), return to Dushanbe in the evening.
The Oxus temple (Takhti Sangin) with Oxus (Amu-darya) and Afghanistan on the background

  14.09. Dushanbe: walks in the town, bazaar, botanic farden, free time, the final dinner
The fontain in Dushanbe shaped after image of lute-player in Panjakent wall-painting

15.09. Early departure to Istanbul (fligh TK255).
The group leaving Mt. Mugh in 2013
The travel cost includes all overnight stays (3 to 4 star hotels in Dushanbe and Khujand, “Indian inn” in Panjakent, camping bungalos in other places), part of the meals (all breakfasts; lunches and dinners in remote places; final festive dinner), ground transportation in offroad vehicles with air conditioning,  flight from Khujand to Dushanbe on 11.09, all excursions and lectures, admission to the museums, English/Russian/Tajik translation. 20 % of the price beсomes a donation for archaeological investigations and conservation in Tajikistan (paid with a separate bill).
The price does not include  flights to/from Tajikistan, visa fee (25 US$), health insurance.

Contacts: (check for updates). Please send requests, questions etc.
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