Sunday, 30 June 2013

Kazakhstan to Rebury Ancient Warlord, Fearing ‘Curse’

Jewelry found in the burial mound of the first “Golden Man” in 1970
14:28 28/06/2013
Source: Ria Novosti
Tags: Altai PrincessGolden ManKazakhstan
MOSCOW, June 28 (RIA Novosti) – Ever heard about the curse of the pharaohs? Well, how about the curse of a 2,500-year-old chief of a nomadic Scythian tribe that brings about floods, droughts, livestock decimation and high atmospheric pressure?
Though the curse of the pharaohs has repeatedly been debunked as myth, the Scythian curse is very real, say locals in a remote area of eastern Kazakhstan where the chieftain’s remains were discovered – and where they will be reinterred this weekend to appease his spirit, to the chagrin of archeologists.
In 2003, an archeological expedition dug up a burial mound in the Shiliktinskaya Valley to find a Golden Man – a presumed leader of the Saka tribe, a branch of the Scythian nomads that populated Central Asia and southern Siberia in the 1st millennium BC.
The pagan Saka fought the ancient Persians and Indians, and grew rich through trading across the great steppes of Central Asia. Some of their wealth ended up in the tombs of their chieftains, who were buried wearing jewelry and gold-plated armor – like the man in the Shiliktinskaya mound, the third such find in Kazakhstan since 1970.
© RIA Novosti. Dmitriy Korobeinikov
But not all Golden Men are equally lucky. While one found in 1970 went on to become Kazakhstan’s unofficial symbol, the chieftain from the Shiliktinskaya Valley has been blamed for climate change and other problems.
Since the mound was excavated, the area around it has been hit by several floods, a drought, a mass loss of livestock and an increase in births of children with learning disabilities, locals said, Kazakh television KTK reported.
“[Since the excavation], we have had snowfall and storms in winter. The weather has turned upside down ecologically. We have got [high atmospheric] pressure now,” local woman Aiduriya Kumpisova told KTK.
“The elders blame it on the excavation,” agreed Aidyn Egubayev, who has spent five years campaigning for the reburial of the Golden Man, said Friday.
Scholars dismissed the rumors, pointing to global climate change as the reason for the area’s problems, KTK said.
But archeologists had to concede to reinter the Golden Man at the request of the Kazakh Culture Ministry and after “unrest” among locals, the channel said. He will be returned to the mound on Sunday.
This is not the first time Kazakhstan has given in to the demands of the supernatural: Last year, residents in the town of Karabulak sacrificed a white camel to stop a “suicide epidemic” allegedly instigated by the devil.
Russia’s republic of Altai campaigned for two decades for the return of the Siberian Ice Maiden (also known as the Altai Princess), a 2,500-year-old mummy found in Siberia in 1993. Locals claimed the removal of the mummy had brought various calamities upon the republic, and managed to have the Siberian Ice Maiden returned to a local museum, though not her burial mound.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Cambodia's vast lost city

Cambodia's vast lost city: world's greatest pre-industrial site unearthed

A ground-breaking archaeological discovery in Cambodia has revealed a colossal 700-year old urban landscape connecting ancient cities and temples to Angkor Wat. Lara Dunston joins the excavation team for the first site visit by a British newspaper
Pre Rup temple at Angkor, CambodiaView larger picture
Pre Rup temple at Angkor, Cambodia. Photograph: Terence Carter. Click on the magnifying glass icon to see a larger version of this image

It's 7am at Angkor Wat and there's not a tourist in sight. It's blissfully quiet, the first clear June morning after two days of torrential rains. The only souls around are a small group of Buddhist pilgrims, lighting incense at the rear of the spectacular Khmer temple. The bleary-eyed early-risers, who woke in darkness to board tour buses to Angkor archaeological park for sunrise photo ops, have already trundled back to their breakfast buffets.
I'm not here for sightseeing, however, I'm heading further into the forest surrounding the stupendous temple complex with Australian archaeologist Dr Damian Evans to meet the archaeologists from Cambodia, the Philippines and the USA, who are working on new excavations.
The release this month by the US National Academy of Sciences of a report on the results of a high-tech survey of Khmer Empire sites, undertaken in April 2012, has rocked the archaeological world and captured travellers' imaginations.
A monumental, sophisticated, densely populated urban landscape, which dates back more than 700 years, has been identified. It includes and connects Angkor cities such as Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Bayon, with the rarely visited medieval city ruins of Phnom Kulen, Beng Mealea and Koh Ker, over 100km away.
Srah Damrie, Siem Reap archaeology, Mount Kulen Srah Damrie, Siem Reap archaeology, Mount Kulen. Photograph: /Terence Carter
Evans was one of the report authors and the lead archaeologist and director of the project, which only became known outside local and archaeological circles with the release of the report this month.
As we make our way through dense vegetation, he explains how eight key archaeological groups, including the Cambodian government's Apsara Authority, which manages archaeological sites, collaborated on the project. It began with the survey using an airborne laser scanning instrument called Lidar, strapped to a helicopter, to search for ruins and other structures (the size of the area covered by the helicopter doing the survey was 320 sq km). Developed in the 1990s, it's only recently that the technology has matured to the level where it can penetrate dense vegetation and provide extremely detailed models of the forest floor.
"For archaeologists, these lumps and bumps that we see in the forest, each has a meaning," Evans explains, pointing out gentle mounds. "These are all the traces of the civilisation of the city associated with Angkor Wat, made of wood and thatch, that has disappeared. It's these contours that remain inscribed into the forest landscape we study."
Smoke wafts from the fires lit to keep mosquitoes at bay. Dotted between the mounds are several rectangular holes in the ground where Dr Miriam Stark from the University of Hawaii and her team are at work.
"We're really interested in understanding residence patterns, where and how people lived and who they were," Stark explains excitedly, showing me X-ray-like images of the area we're in. "Before, it took more than three intensive weeks of [preparation] before we knew where to dig. Now, with Lidar, it's as if you just peel a layer off and it's there!" With clipboards and pens in hand, the team records a wealth of discoveries, such as shards of Ming Dynasty ceramics.
Ta Prohm Temple, Siem ReapTa Prohm Temple, Siem Reap. Photograph: Terence Cartere
Scholars have based their idea of all medieval cities around the world on European cities, explains Professor Roland Fletcher, director of the Greater Angkor Project. But now, it seems there was a colossal low-density urban sprawl here, a conurbation of different places with massive working citadels with enormous infrastructure. Remote temples cities like Koh Ker, 120km from Siem Reap, and Beng Mealea, 52km away, once thought of as isolated, would have been large outlying service centres for Angkor within a huge hinterland.
"This is a highly managed system, the most extensive pre-industrial city in the world," he says, though referring to its complexity rather than its size. "The Lidar results show there were three cities [here] at the end of the 9th century – the largest was on top of Mount Kulen, creating an [equivalent to] industrial 19th-century Britain."
The city is so enormous it is unlikely to ever exist as one excavated site, but tourism here is likely to increase. There's talk of a cutting-edge museum presenting the exciting new discoveries, new archaeological sites in the future, and greater interest in little-visited outlying temples already accessible to the public.
We decide to head to one of these Phnom Kulen, a site rarely visited by tourists, with just a few companies offering expeditions and treks there.
"Phnom Kulen is a sacred mountain, a holy place for Cambodians," Tat, our guide from Backyard Travel tells us en route. His ancestors called this place Mahendraparvata, or the Mountain of Indra, King of the Gods. "We call it the Mountain of the Lychees now. Look, you can see it here," he says, pointing to a long, low, flat plateau that barely rises above the palms, banana plants and rubber trees that skirt the road and hug the traditional stilted timber houses dotting the lush emerald-green countryside.
Siem Reap compositeCarvings at Ta Nei Temple, Siem Reap and at Srah Damrie, Mount Kulen. Photograph: Terence Carter
Phnom Kulen may not be the dramatic mist-shrouded peak I imagined, yet the 492m-high, 8km-wide and 32km-long mountain is visible for the whole 90-minute drive north from Siem Reap to the foothills of Mount Kulen national park. We intend to hike to the summit, and the remains of the three-tiered temple of Prasat Rong Chen that marks the site where the Khmer Empire was founded in AD 802, when a Brahmin priest declared Jayavarman II universal monarch – just two years after Charlemagne was made Holy Roman Emperor – will be nothing less than dramatic.
Mahendraparvata was never really "lost" – the mountain has long been known as the location of the sandstone quarries that built Angkor's cities, as well as the source of water for a complex system that irrigated the vast empire. When we visit, people are wading in the River of A Thousand Lingas, a section of the stream boasting stone carvings on its floor. Villagers frequently stumble across finds, recently some bronze, copper and sandstone statues of Hindu gods Vishnu, Shiva and Lakshmi. But the Lidar survey confirmed that Mahendraparvata was part of a city, and much larger than suspected – maybe as big as present-day Phnom Penh.
We leave our air-conditioned four-wheel drive behind and soon we're bouncing along muddy tracks on the back of motorbikes behind guides familiar with the landmine-riddled mountainside, that was the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge.
Workers on a dig at Angkor WatWorkers on a dig at Angkor Wat. Photograph: Terence Carter
They lead us towards the summit. It's a slow journey, over narrow, bumpy dirt trails – only the most intrepid travellers come here. We cross log bridges and ride straight through flowing streams. Scattered across the mountain are ruined, foliage-covered temples, ancient highway markers and, at Sras Damrei or Elephant Pond, massive statues of an elephant and lions. The thought that more sites like this could soon be discovered is thrilling.
Back in Siem Reap we take to the air in a helicopter to get a better idea of what this urban landscape might have looked like. Had I taken the flight two weeks' ago, I would have gasped at the magnificence of the isolated temple structures with their imposing walls and moats surrounded by forests. Now, I see patterns of bumps and lines on the vast floodplain as beautiful remnants of an immense, effervescent city that technology and archaeology are finally bringing to life.
While many believe this site will become one of Asia's greatest wonders, and tourism bodies are eager to see excavations progress quickly and more archaeological sites opened up to visitors, the extraordinary size of the area means work will be costly and take years. In the meantime, however, the intrepid can play at being Indiana Jones at undeveloped sites on Phnom Kulen, and temple cities such as Beng Mealea and Koh Ker – and let their imaginations run wild.

Wooden leg from the Tarim Basin (Turfan)



La plus vieille jambe de bois

Une jambe de bois de qualité étonnante a été retrouvée dans une tombe du IIIesiècle avant notre ère, du bassin du Tarim, en Chine. Ce serait la plus ancienne prothèse de jambe fonctionnelle.
François Savatier
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Une tentative de reconstruction de l'usage de la jambe de bois retrouvée à Tourfan en Chine occidentale.
DAI/S. Lochmann
Mayke Wagner, Institut archéologique allemand (DAI)
La prothèse de jambe, façonnée dans le peuplieret la corne, comporte quatre parties.
Mayke Wagner, Institut archéologique allemand (DAI)
Carte du bassin du Tarim

Pour en savoir plus


Francois Savatier est journaliste àPour la Science.
Entouré de montagnes, le bassin du Tarim, entre Chine et Afghanistan, est l’une des régions les plus sèches du monde. Cette particularité assure une très bonne conservation des matériaux organiques. Pour preuve, Mayke Wagner, de l’Institut archéologique allemand, et ses collègues viennent de trouver dans une tombe une prothèse de jambe en bois vieille de 2 200 à 2 300 ans.
Alors qu’à l'époque, Alexandre le grand avançait en Asie centrale par l’Ouest et que l’Empire chinois des Han s'étendait depuis l’Est, des communautés agropastorales occupaient les oasis du Tarim. Celles du Nord-Ouest voisinaient avec les Xiongnus, une confédération de tribus proto turco-mongoles, qui dans les derniers siècles avant notre ère établit un empire en Transbaïkalie, en Mongolie et en Chine du Nord. Par ailleurs, dans le désert du Taklamakan, dans le Sud du bassin du Tarim, de nombreuses momies d'hommes et de femmes de type européen ont été retrouvées, tandis que des Scythes vivaient dans le massif de l'Altaï en Mongolie voisine et que des proto-Iraniens occupaient le Nord-Est du Tarim. Bref, aucune certitude n'existe sur l'appartenance ethnique des habitants du Nord-Est du bassin du Tarim dans les derniers siècles de notre ère. Les archéologues chinois, pour leur part, se refèrent à un royaume de Cheshi, cité dans les textes chinois anciens, sans qu'il soit possible d'affirmer qu'il était relié aux Xiongnus. Quoi qu'il en soit, la tombe récemment fouillée relève d'une culture agro-pastorale de l'oasis de Tourfan, dans l'actuel Turkestan chinois (Xinjiang).
La tombe fait partie d'une nécropole de 31 tombes située à 35 kilomètres à l’Est de Tourfan. Un homme y a été enterré à un mètre de profondeur avec un peu de vaisselle et deux arcs à double courbure, typiques des guerriers montés nomades d’Asie centrale (Xiongnu, Huns, etc.), redoutés de toutes les civilisations de l’Antiquité. La tombe, qui avait été bourrée de paille lors de son inhumation, fut réouverte par la suite pour y placer une femme, peut-être sa compagne. D’une taille d'au moins 1,75 mètre et de constitution robuste, l’homme semble avoir eu une vie active jusqu’à sa mort. Toutefois, il a été ateint de  la tuberculose, qui a laissé des nécroses sur ses vertèbres et ses côtes. L'individu semble avoir résisté pendant des années à la maladie. La surface de ses os nécrosés est en effet, ce qui prouve que l’infection a été stoppée des années avant sa mort. Toutefois, la maladie l’a sérieusement estropié, puisqu’elle a provoqué une ankylose osseuse de son genou gauche, c’est-à-dire une fusion complète du fémur, de la rotule, du péroné et du tibia. Résultat : sa jambe s’est retrouvée bloquée selon un angle de 135 degrés et tournée vers l’intérieur de 11 degrés. Impossible dès lors de marcher !
Heureusement, les artisans de l'oasis de Tourfan semblent avoir eu assez de savoir-faire pour l’aider. Ils ont façonné une prothèse de jambe d'une qualité étonnante : elle est comparable aux prothèses utilisées pour les mutilés de guerre après 1918 ! Longue de 89,2 centimètres, elle comporte quatre parties. D’abord, une plaque de bois (probablement en peuplier) de 52 centimètres de longueur et jusqu’à 2,5 centimètres d'épaisseur percée de 16 trous d’arrimage montait jusqu'à la taille. Elle se prolongeait par un pilon, dont l'extrémité s’enfonce dans une corne de chèvre ou de mouton destinée à assurer le contact avec le sol. Finalement, une rondelle taillée dans un sabot d’âne ou de cheval limitait l’enfoncement du pilon dans les sols meubles.
Cette prothèse de jambe se fixait à la cuisse par l’extérieur, comme l’indique l’usure de la plaque fémurale par le genou. Les deux trous supérieurs servaient probablement à fixer le haut de la prothèse à une ceinture, tandis que les six paires de trous placées de part et d’autre de la plaque acceuillaient sans doute des lacets de cuir enserrant la jambe. L’usure des trous et de la plaque indique que cette jambe de bois a été utilisée pendant des années, jusqu’à faire partie du corps de son propriétaire au point d'être placée dans sa tombe avec lui.
Les datations au carbone 14 de 10 échantillons d’os et de bois placent la vie des occupants de la tombe entre 200 et 300 avant notre ère, et l’abattage de l’arbre dans lequel fut taillée la jambe de bois vers 320. Avant la découverte de la jambe de bois de Tourfan, la plus ancienne prothèse de jambe attestée était la jambe de bois et de bronze découverte en 1885 dans la tombe d’un riche habitant de Capoue, en Italie, qui daterait de 2300 ans d'après les céramiques retrouvées dans la tombe. Mais elle n'était guère fonctionnelle. À peu près aussi ancienne, la jambe de bois de Tourfan est donc la plus ancienne prothèse de jambe fonctionnelle de l’humanité.

The Reception of Greek and Roman Culture in East Asia

The Reception of Greek and Roman Culture in East Asia: Texts & Artefacts, Institutions & Practices

Thursday, 4 July 2013 – Saturday, 6 July 2013, Berlin

This conference sits squarely at the crossroads of many important contemporary conversations, both scholarly and popular. Over the past decade, scholars have examined the reception of the ancient Greek and Roman cultures around the globe. This has been done by analyzing the role of ancient Mediterranean culture in a variety of cultural instances; for example post-antique texts and images, ideology and institutions, as well as rituals and practices. The research has been wide-ranging, including examinations, for instance, of Greek tragedy in 20th-century African theatre and Latin poetry in colonial Mexico. Still there has not yet been a project dedicated solely to the reception of Greece and Rome in East Asia, despite tantalizing clues concerning the wealth of material available for investigation: from the Isopo Monogatari (伊曾保物語), a 16th-century Japanese edition of Aesop’s Fables, to a theatrical season in Beijing in July 2012 directed by the famed Li Liuyi that included both Sophocles’ Antigone (安提戈涅) and the Tibetan epic King Gesar (格萨尔王).
This conference will explore the reception(s) of Greek and Roman culture in East Asia from antiquity to the present. That is, the conference seeks to explore the movement and transmission of knowledge between Western antiquity and East Asia as well as the circulation of this knowledge within East Asia. In particular, we are interested in the question of how and why ancient Greek and Roman texts, images, and material cultures and the knowledge and ideas contained within them have been adapted and refigured in East Asian texts, imagery, and cultural artefacts.
The ever-growing complexity of the relationship (economically, politically, and culturally) between East Asia and the “West” makes the study of the reception of Greco-Roman antiquity in East Asian cultures particularly relevant and timely, and most importantly not just a matter of academic interest. Since “Western” culture’s self-conception begins in Europe with ancient Greece and ancient Rome, the reception of ancient Greco-Roman cultures in East Asia provides an excellent point of reference for current intercultural and interdisciplinary dialogues in an increasingly globalizing world, particularly since the present era might be understood as a period characterized by an increase in the frequency, speed, and prevalence at which knowledge transfers between various points and people around the globe. This conference aims to explore this point of reference by bringing together an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars and practitioners (performing artists, writers, visual artists, and those working in theaters and museums) to analyze the many diverse aspects of the reception of Greek and Roman culture in East Asia.
On this webpage, you will find a wide variety of information relating to the conference, but if you still have questions, please feel free to contact us

Preliminary Program

4 July 2013

13.00 Registration
I Opening Session
13.30 Introduction: Almut-Barbara Renger (Freie Universitaet Berlin)
13.45 Bernhard Kytzler (University of KwaZulu-Natal): Teaching Classics in China in the Late Twentieth Century
Fritz-Heiner Mutschler (Peking University): Western Classics at Chinese Universities: A Few Subjective Observations
14.30 Discussion
15.00-17.15 Plenary Session
II Classical Scholarship and Translation
15.00 Zhi Zhang (Peking University): Lukianos in China
15.30 Lihua Zhang (Peking University): The Vernacular Chinese as a Style: A Study on Zhou Zuore’s Modern Translation of Theocritus’ Idyll X
16.00 Xin Fan (Freie Universitaet Berlin): Imagining Classical Antiquity as a Global Concept?: The Debate on the Periodization in the Ancient World in Twentieth-Century China
16.30 Discussion
17.15 Coffee break
17.45-19.30 Parallel Sections
III Ancient Contact Between East and West: ChinaIV Ancient Contact Between East and West
17.45 Jingling Chen (Harvard University): Socrates Visits Beijing: Intellectual Thoughts on the Eve of 194917.45 Shuai Luo (Peking University): The Begram Treasure and the Roman Commercial Expansion
18.15 Krisztina Hoppál (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest): Chinese Perceptions of the Roman Empire: A Mysterious Country in the Westernmost Part of the World18.15 Daniel Sarefield (Fitchburg State University): “If I return to Scythia a better man than I left”: Anacharsis the Wise Barbarian
18.45 Discussion18.45 Discussion
19.30 Reception. Speech by Yan P. Lin

5 July 2013

10.00-11.15 Plenary Session
V Late Antique Asian Literature and Hellenistic Greek Sources
10.00 Andrej Petrovic (University of Durham): Alexander the Great in Malay:Romances of Alexander the Great
10.30 Discussion
11.15 Coffee break
11.45-14.00 Plenary Session
VI The Reception of Classical Languages and Legends in the History of JapanVII Greek Myth in Japanese Popular Culture
11.45 Ichiro Taida (I-Shou University in Taiwan): The Earliest History of the Reception of Classical Languages in Japan11.45 Luciana Cardi (Osaka University): The Function of Greek Myths in Contemporary Japanese Literature
12.15 Jerzy Nowak Wojciech (Adam Mickiewicz University): Jesuits’ Linguistic Efforts on Creating Catholic Vocabulary in Japan – the Case of Japanese Hidden Christians12.15 Carla Scilabra (University of Torino): Back to the Future: Reviving Classical Figures in Japanese Comics
12.45 Timon Screech (SOAS): The Legend of Zeuxis and Japanese Painting12.45 Jen Cresswell (University of Edinburgh): Greek Myth in Anime and Manga
13.15 Discussion13.15 Discussion
14.00 Lunch
15.30-17.15 Parallel Sections
VIII Greek and Roman Themes in Asian Material CultureIX Sculpture in East and West
15.30 Cynthea J. Bogel (Kyushu University): Grapes, Gods, and Men: Greco-Roman and Asian Motifs on an Eight-Century Japanese Buddha Pedestal15.30 Lukas Nickel (SOAS): China and the Hellenistic World – Sculpture as Evidence for Cross-Asian Contacts During 3rd Century BC
16.00 Chia-Lin Hsu (Academia Sinica, Taiwan): Politics, Culture and Neo-Classical Architecture in Taiwan16.00 Rui Nakamura (The Tokyo University of the Arts): The Reception of Parthenon Sculpture in Modern Japanese Art School
16.30 Discussion16.30 Discussion
17.15 Coffee break
17.45-19.15 Parallel Sections
X Translation as ReceptionXI Staging Ancient Greek Drama in East Asian Theatre
17.45 Bill M. Mak (University of Hong Kong): The Book of Four Gates 四門經 and Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos17.45 Yu Tianshu (Peking University) and Liu Haiying (China Agricultural University): On Queen Hudijin: A Medea-like Chinese Woman in Guo Moruo’s Historical Play The Peacock’s Gallbladder
18.15 Jinyu Liu (DePauw University): Translation as Reception, Reception as Argument: Western Antiquity in China in the 1920s-1930s18.15 Kuan-wu Lin (Freie Universitaet Berlin): The Revival of Greek Tragedies by Fusions with Eastern Theatre Traditions
18.45 Discussion18.45 Discussion
XII Plenary Session: Round Table & Closing Remarks
20.00 Social Dinner