Archeology and History of the Silk Road

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Saturday, 31 May 2014

Hidden Paintings Revealed at Ancient Temple of Angkor Wat


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Unique Silk Cloth Found in Emperor Henry VII's Coffin

The emperor’s bones were wrapped in a silk cloth on which lay a crown, a scepter and an orb, all made in gilded silver.

The most unexpected find was a large, magnificent silk cloth.


Once unwrapped, the cloth turned to be quite large -- more than 10 feet long and 4 feet wide. The exquisitely woven cloth features horizontal bands of around 4 inches showing alternating colors, a reddish nut-brown (originally red) and blue.



“The lions, the most characteristic emblem of sovereignty, as well as other decorations symbolizing power, indicate a clear link to the emperor. What makes this cloth unique is its size, the very high level of craftsmanship and its amazing preservation,” Moira Brunori, at the Center for Textile Restoration in Pisa, told Discovery News.



“We do not know if the cloth belonged to Henry .... or was specially made for the burial in Pisa Cathedral two years after the emperor’s death. Perhaps the inscription, once decoded, will provide some clues,” Brunori said.

Unique Silk Cloth Found in

Emperor Henry VII's Coffin 

// 

A unique silk cloth has been found in the tomb of German king and Holy Roman emperor Henry VII of Luxembourg (1275-1313), among bones and what remains of his boiled head, Italian researchers announced this week.
Resting in Pisa Cathedral, the remains of Henry VII were exhumed last fall with the aim of getting more insights into the emperor’s physical features and cause of death.
The research is still ongoing, but the opening of the sarcophagus has already revealed a medieval treasure trove.
The man who financed the search for King Tut's tomb had his own buried treasures.
DCI

Photos: Artifacts Revealed in Tomb of King Henry VII

"Along with the emperor's mortal remains, the coffin contained a crown, a scepter and an orb, all made in gilded silver. But the most unexpected find was a large, magnificent silk cloth," Moira Brunori, at the Center for Textile Restoration in Pisa, told Discovery News. "It's extremely well preserved." Brunori said.
As the researchers opened the coffin for the third time since Henry VII's death in 1313 -- previous investigations were carried in 1727 and in 1921 -- they found the emperor's bones wrapped in the silk cloth. The crown, scepter and orb were laid on top of the cloth.
The three objects were commonly associated with the emperor. Indeed a set of contemporary miniatures often show Henry VII wearing them during his journey through Italy.

Royal Pain: 6 Strange Ailments Of Famous Rulers

Celebrated as the "alto Arrigo" (high Henry) in Dante's Divine Comedy, Henry is best remembered for his struggle to reestablish imperial control over the city-states of 14th-­century Italy.
He was crowned King of Germany in 1308 and two years later he descended into Italy with the aim of pacifying destructive disputes between Guelf (pro-papal) and Ghibelline (pro-imperial) factions. His goal was to be crowned emperor and restore the glory of the Holy Roman Empire.
After meeting strong opposition among anti-imperialist Guelf lords, Henry entered Rome by force, and was indeed crowned Holy Roman Emperor on June 29, 1312.
"He who came to reform Italy before she was ready for it," as Dante described Henry VII, died just a year after his coronation, having failed to defeat opposition by a secular Avignon papacy, city-states and lay kingdoms.

Photos: Royals Lost and Never Found

Henry died prematurely at Buonconvento, near Siena, on Aug. 24, 1313. Rumors of him being poisoned began to spread.
The emperor's body was hastily buried; two years later he was reburied in the Cathedral of Pisa.
"Not having enough time to treat the corpse for transportation, the emperor's followers burned his body, detached the head and boiled it. His bones were kept in wine to better preserve them," Brunori said.
Indeed researchers found in the coffin ashes and bones showing signs of burning.
Anthropological examination has revealed the skeleton belonged to a 40-year-old male who was 5 feet, 5 inches tall -- and who was used to kneeling in prayer.
Analysis has so far revealed a high concentration of arsenic in the bones, which could support the poisoning theory, although many drugs at that time were arsenic based.
The man who financed the search for King Tut's tomb had his own buried treasures.
DCI
Not much evidence has emerged about Henry's demise by malaria, which has long been considered by many scholars a likely cause of death.

NEWS: Pelvic Bone In Storage May Be King Alfred The Great's

As for the silk cloth, it is unclear how it ended up in the coffin.
"In 1921, it was described as a piece of cloth with little value," Brunori said. "Instead it's a unique example of the noble production of silk textiles dating back to the beginning of the 14th century."
More than 10 feet long and 4 feet wide, the exquisitely woven cloth features horizontal bands of around 4 inches showing alternating colors, a reddish nut-brown (originally red) and blue.
"The blue bands are embroidered in gold and silver with pairs of lions facing each other, while an elaborated monochromatic tone-on-tone decoration, currently indecipherable, is visible on the reddish bands," Brunori said.
A crimson strip edged with yellow, placed at the top of the piece of fabric, bears traces of an inscription. Other unique features are the finished edge along the length of the fabric -- to keep it from unraveling -- and the checked bands at the shorter ends marking the beginning and end of the piece.

PHOTOS: Historic Mysteries Solved CSI-Style

"The chequered starting and finishing borders are typical of this period," leading textile expert Lisa Monnas told Discovery News.
"For textile historians, it is exciting to see a complete loom width of silk fabric from this date, and, if it has both starting and finishing borders, a complete piece. It would be even more exciting if the inscription could be deciphered," she added.
According to Brunori, the lions, the most characteristic emblem of sovereignty, as well as other decorations symbolizing power, indicate a clear link to the emperor.

VIDEO: Decapitated Gladiators Found In England?

"What makes this cloth unique is its size, the very high level of craftsmanship and its amazing preservation," Brunori said.
According to Gale Owen-Crocker, professor of Anglo-Saxon Culture at the University of Manchester and an expert on medieval clothing and textiles, such silks were treasured possessions of the rich and royal.
"Expensive silks have been found in medieval royal and ecclesiastical graves. St. Cuthbert, the seventh-century English ascetic and bishop had several precious silk cloths added to his tomb over a period of centuries," Owen-Crocker told Discovery News.
She noted that the body of King Cnut IV of Denmark, murdered in 1086, was relocated in 1100, when his shrine was constructed as a bed, with a yellow silk quilt on which the body was laid, and a silk pillow.
"The fascinating thing to me is the way they gave such precious things to the grave. Even though as Christians they believed in the eternal life of the spirit, not the body, they still treated the body with the utmost luxury," Owen-Crocker said.


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Liaoning museum hosts Hongshan culture exhibit

For the video about this subject, please click HERE
Liaoning Province in the northeast, was home to the advanced Hongshan culture, whose achievements lie buried under the soil across countless sites. Over the past several decades, archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of priceless artifacts, which are being displayed at the Liaoning Provincial Museum in Shenyang.
Nearly 600 pieces showcasing more than 6 decades of hard work.
The relics were unearthed at the Niuheliang ruins, a major neolithic site that displays the essence of Hongshan culture. Niuheliang was home to many temples and burial sites, flourishing as far back as 5,000 years ago.
Organized into six categories, the exhibition starts from the Palaeolithic period all the way to the Qing dynasty, spanning tens of thousands of years.
After an archaeological team was set up here in 1954, the province carried out dozens of digs and hundreds of projects aimed at preserving historic sites. Eight projects were honored with being the "Top Yearly National Archaeological Finds".
Experts believe Liaoning Province has many vital findings that signify the origin, unification and development of Chinese civilization.

Source: CCTV 23 May 2014

Monday, 26 May 2014

Peter Hopkirk- Foreign Devils on the Silk Road

This book is my personal favourite

The Silk Road, which linked imperial Rome and distant China, was once the greatest thoroughfare on earth. Along it travelled precious cargoes of silk, gold and ivory, as well as revolutionary new ideas. Its oasis towns blossomed into thriving centres of Buddhist art and learning. In time it began to decline. The traffic slowed, the merchants left and finally its towns vanished beneath the desert sands to be forgotten for a thousand years. But legends grew up of lost cities filled with treasures and guarded by demons. In the early years of the last century foreign explorers began to investigate these legends, and very soon an international race began for the art treasures of the Silk Road. Huge wall paintings, sculptures and priceless manuscripts were carried away, literally by the ton, and are today scattered through the museums of a dozen countries. Peter Hopkirk tells the story of the intrepid men who, at great personal risk, led these long-range archaeological raids, incurring the undying wrath of the Chinese.



Scythian burial mounds to be opened for public

Fighting to save ancestral bones: Scythian burial mounds to be opened for public

Tengri news.kz   Thursday, 27.03.2014
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Fighting to save ancestral bones: Scythian burial mounds to be opened for public
Reconstructed version of Scythian tomb. Photo © Yaroslav Radlovsky
Fighting to save ancestral bones: Scythian burial mounds to be opened for public
Scythian burial mounds. Photo © Dmitry Khegai
Scythian burial mounds will be opened for public in Issyk town located 50 km east of Almaty,Tengrinews reports citing Bekmukhanbet Nurmukhanbetov, an archeologist who once found the Golden Man.
There are more than one hundred Scythian burial mounds, and ancient cities of Rakhat and Orikti near Issyk. Most of the burial mounds have not been excavated and examined by archeologists yet.
Underground passes for tourists will be constructed during new archeological excavations and all artifacts will be left as they were in the tombs for people to see the interior of the ancient burials, the archeologist promised.
Most importantly, the Scythian burial mounds will be protected from marauders. The archeologists have a lot of work to do before the first tourists will be able to enter the sacred tombs. Volunteers are welcome to participate in excavation of the Scythian burial mounds, Nurmukhanbetov said.
Earlier, some of the burial mounds were nearly destroyed. The local administration planed to build a school right on top of the archeological site. Nurmukhanbetov was outraged with their plan. It would have been "a school standing on the bones of ancestors", he said. The passionate archeologist decided not to leave this burning issue to the local administration and wrote letters to President Nazarbayev and the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. In the end, thanks to Nurmukhanbetov's efforts the school construction site was relocated and the important Scythian burial mounds saved.
 
Reporting by Dmitry Khegai

For more information see:http://en.tengrinews.kz/science/Fighting-to-save-ancestral-bones-Scythian-burial-mounds-to-be-opened-for-public-252465/
Use of the Tengrinews English materials must be accompanied by a hyperlink to en.Tengrinews.kz

What is the Oldest Book in the World?

From: Medievalfragments

The past few days I have been preoccupied with a deceptively simple question: “What is the oldest book in the world?” Having done some looking around I can now report that while somewhere on this planet, in a vault or a cupboard, lies the oldest surviving book, it is actually impossible to say which one may be branded as such. Bear with me.
What you do when you are kept up at night with such an existentialistic query is to consult Google. However, what Google returns does not make me a happy camper. In fact, I am provided with a very broad range of possible answers. First of all, let’s remove the weed, answers that are the result of flawed reasoning. A lot of websites, for example, confuse “book” with “text”. Wiki Answers reports: “the oldest book in the world is the Bible” (here). And Ask.com: “The oldest book in the world is entitled ‘The Instructions of Shurupak’”, which dates from 3000 BCE (here). A book and a text are, of course, very different things: like a hamburger in a bun or your legs in a pair of pants, a book contains a text, but it is not its equivalent. Equally incorrect are websites whose claims are based on the premise that a book is a printed object. Thus the oldest book in the world must surely be the Gutenberg Bible (oldest printed book in the West, from c. 1455) or Buddhism’s Diamond Sutra (oldest printed book in the East, from c. 868), as in this Huffington Post article. No, it’s not.
Frontispiece of the Diamond Sutra, printed 11 May 868
1. Frontispiece of the Diamond Sutra, printed in China, 11 May 868.
More carefully phrased answers can be equally confusing, even when provided by reputable institutions. When the British Library purchased the St Cuthbert Gospel, the seventh-century copy of the Gospel of St John found in St Cuthbert’s coffin when it was opened in 1104, newspapers claimed the library was in possession of “Europe’s oldest book” (see for example here and here). In its press release the British Library qualified its purchase as “the oldest European book to survive fully intact”, which is to say that it survived in its original binding (here). While this nuance is welcome, the claim feels forced – and not just because the press release atypically calls an English book “European”, no doubt to increase the impact of the purchase. The thing is, many medieval books were designed and used without a binding, which raises the question of whether the binding should even be made part and parcel of the concept “book”. Notably, if bindings are taken out of play there are other books older than the St Cuthbert Gospel, such as the sixth-century herbary right here in Leiden (Pic 2).
Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, VLQ MS 9 (Italy, 550-600)
2. Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, VLQ MS 9 (Italy, 550-600).
The issue of what precisely constitutes a “book” also lies at the heart of another prominent hit in my Google search. Stop the press, the oldest book in the world is an object that consists of six bound sheets of 24-carat gold written in a lost Etruscan language around 600 BC (check out the BBC news item here)! The sheets are “believed to be the oldest comprehensive work involving multiple pages”, according to Bulgaria’s National History Museum in Sofia, where it is kept (Pic 3). Significant is the following assessment of the museum: similar sheets are scattered throughout the world, but those are not linked together, and therefore do not represent a book. A book, the underlying premise suggests, is an object that consists of multiple leaves bound together. So far so good – we have started our initial descent towards our answer.
Old Etruscan "book", made c. 600 BC (Sofia, National History Museum).
3. Old Etruscan “book”, made c. 600 BC (Sofia, National History Museum).
Unfortunately, the shiny Etruscan object cannot be called “the oldest book in the world”. The reason is that it consists of unfolded single sheets (golden plates, actually), which are held together by two rings (as seen in Pic 3). However, the codex (the book before print and therefore the oldest type of real book in the world) is not an object that merely consists of a bunch of leaves. It is, by contrast and definition, built from double leaves: sheets that are folded into quires. Looking for the oldest book, then, we should look among objects made from bendy, foldable writing material: papyrus (made from the plant), parchment (animal skin) and paper. Of these three writing supports papyrus is the oldest. It was roughly used for four kinds of objects: i) Unfolded sheets, used for notes and documentary purposes (example); ii) Rolls, i.e. unfolded sheets that were attached at their short side (example); iii) Book-like objects made up from group of unfolded single sheets (‘singletons’) bound together; iv) Real books made from quires (“codices”).Bingo!The oldest book must be made of papyrus. Which one could it be, however? Our search is made easy by the fact that very few papyrus books of old age survive. There are some from the seventh or eight century AD (see this one, for example, or this one). The really old specimens, however, are fragments from once complete sheets (Pic 4).
Early Christian papyrus, Egypt, 2nd century AD (University of Michigan, P. Mich. inv. 6238)
4. Early Christian papyrus, Egypt, 2nd century AD (University of Michigan, P. Mich. inv. 6238)
It is their fragmentary nature that constitutes the last – killer – hurdle on our way to the finish line. From a surviving papyrus fragment we can, unfortunately, not deduce – at least as far as I can tell – if it originally belonged to an unfolded (single) leaf or a folded (double) sheet. While catalogues often tell you that a papyrus fragment was part of a codex, in other words, that it belonged to a book made from quires (here is an example), we can, in fact, not know for sure if this was the case. Unless it sports a sharp fold, the oldest book in the world will therefore remain hidden in its vault, old but deprived of its prize.
Post-scriptum (30 Dec 2013): a recent British Library blog shows what the bindings of papyrus codices looked like. Read it here.