Monday, 24 July 2017

New discoveries at the Zeleniy Yar burial site (extreme north of Russia)

Cocooned in copper, best fur, fabric and birch bark, an adult and tiny baby from the 8th century

Mummified members of an unknown bygone civilisation are dug from a permafrost necropolis on the edge of the Arctic.
What's inside the cocoon? Picture: Alexander Gusev
The discoveries at the Zeleniy Yar burial site near Salekhard have the potential to shed light on the early human exploration of the extreme north of Russia.
Alexander Gusev, head of the expedition, senior researcher of the Centre for the Arctic Studies, said: 'The mummified remains were found lying next to each other, buried strictly along a North to South line, with their feet turned to river.
'The bodies were wrapped into cocoons of birch bark and thick fabric, origins of which we will know after laboratory tests. 
'The adult's cocoon was covered from head to toe with copper plates. 
'The baby's cocoon was covered with small fragments of copper cauldron.'
Experts estimate the child is no older than six months. 
Siberian mummies
A cocoon with a mummy of an adult was covered with copper plates head to toe. Picture: Alexander Gusev

The length of the adult cocoon is 170 centimetres, which means the human remains inside - it is not yet known whether they are male or female - are likely to be around 165 cm tall, a considerable height 1,300 or so years ago. 
'Once we realised that the adult's cocoon was really well-preserved, we didn't risk opening it at the site,' said anthropologist Yevgenia Svyatova from Yekaterinburg.
'We extracted it with soil to protect it as much as possible.
'We don't know the gender of the person.  The only thing we know for sure is that it was an adult.'
Experts estimate the child is no older than six months.
A cocoon with a mummy of an adult on way from Zeleniy Yar burial site. Picture: Alexander Gusev

Researchers from the Centre for Arctic Studies and Seoul National University are working on the finds. 
Siberian scientists will do tomography tests  to ascertain  the level of body preservation.
This will also highlight any burial artifacts hidden inside the cocoons. 
The archaeological complex was discovered in 1997 during the work of  Russian-American expedition for the "Living Yamal" project.
Experts estimate the child is no older than six months.

Experts estimate the child is no older than six months.

Experts estimate the child is no older than six months.

Experts estimate the child is no older than six months.
Cocoons with mummies on way from Zeleniy Yar burial site. Pictures: Alexander Gusev

Other burials on the site have included artifacts from Persia.
See our previous stories on this remarkable site 

Sasanian Persia: Between Rome and the Steppes of Eurasia

Edited by Eberhard Sauer

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Follow live British Museum Conservation 8th Century embroidery from Dunhuang cave 17

 

Banner with Sakayamuni, Tang dynastie,found by Aurel Stein (1862- 1943) in cave 17 in the Mogao caves in Dunhuang


Conserving Vulture Peak | Episode 1: Introduction


Join textile conservators Monique Pullan and Hannah Vickers as they embark on this intricate conservation journey over the course of 11 weeks.



Conserving Vulture Peak | Episode 2: Curatorial introduction


This week we join Jane Portal, Keeper of the Department of Asia at the British Museum, as she explains the history and rediscovery of the Vulture Peak embroidery – one of the most magnificent of all the compositions found in the hidden library at Dunhuang.
This embroidery dates from China’s Tang dynasty (AD 618–907). It depicts the Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak – in Buddhist tradition a favourite retreat of the Buddha and his disciples, located in what is now north-east India. 
It was discovered by archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein (1862–1943) who, while exploring the many caves at Dunhuang, discovered a walled up cave. Behind this wall was a library full of manuscripts paintings and textiles, including this astonishing embroidery.
Watch the rest of the ‘Conserving Vulture Peak’ series here: https://goo.gl/FXoBK2
The tapestry is part of a collection donated to the British Museum by the archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein (1862–1943).



Conserving Vulture Peak | Episode 3: Conservation assessment


This week Hanna and Monique discuss the specific areas that need to be addressed to conserve this delicate embroidery. 



Conserving Vulture Peak | Ep4: Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry


Scientist, Dr Diego Tamburini analyses the dyes used to colour the fibres of the Vulture Peak embroidery. 

He uses a technique known as Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry to find out what was used to colour the embroidery threads. 


to be continued......


In the mean time, also pay a visit to the website of the International Dunhuang Project/ IDP


Friday, 21 July 2017

Eastern Roman gold coins found in 1,500-year-old Chinese tomb

Two Eastern Roman gold coins were found in a 1,500-year-old Chinese tomb in Xian, Shaanxi Province.Two Eastern Roman gold coins were found in a 1,500-year-old Chinese tomb in Xian, Shaanxi Province. (Photo: China News Service)
Two Eastern Roman gold coins were found in a 1,500-year-old Chinese tomb in Northwest China's Xian City, the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology (SPIA) said on Thursday.
Chinese archaeologists believe that one of the gold coins was minted during the reign of Anastasius I who was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 491 to 518.
The other gold coin however is a more rare one and bears stylistic similarities to coins minted during the reigns of both Anastasius I and Justinian I, who ruled the Byzantine Empire from 527 to 565.
The Chinese tomb also included a silver coin minted during reign of  Peroz I, who was the king of the Sasanian Empire between 459 and 484.
“The discovery of Eastern Roman gold coins and the Sasanian silver coin proves the long history of international trade on the Silk Road,” said Xu Weihong, a researcher at SPIA.
According to the inscription on the memorial tablet, the tomb belonged to Lu Chou who died in 538. Lu was a nobility in the Western Wei Dynasty (535-557).

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

China unearths millennia-old Silk Road mummy, still in "good shape"

Xinhua 30 June 2017


XINING -- The mummified remains of a middle-aged man, believed to have walked the earth about 1,700 years ago, has been unearthed on a less frequented section of the ancient Silk Road on the edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. 
The body was found at a construction site in the northwestern town of Mang'ai in Qinghai Province. It is being cared for by Haixi Prefectural Museum of Ethnology. 
"It is in good shape, perhaps the oldest and the best preserved mummy discovered on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau," said Xin Feng, director of the museum. 
The body measures 1.62 meters, and features perfectly preserved skin and hair remnants. The man was believed to be in his 40s when he died. His face looks calm and hands are crossed above the abdomen. 
Archaeologists will use DNA tests to find out the man's ethnicity and identity, said Xin Feng. The mummy was found amid dried reeds, dyed cloth mats, a horse's hoof, and sheep bones -- thought to be funeral objects for the upper class of the time. 
Mummies are usually formed in very dry environments which prevent bodies from decaying. The area where the body was found is on the northern edge of the plateau close to Taklamakan Desert. 
It was on a less traveled off-shoot route of the ancient Silk Road. Traders took this route to avoid conflict on the Hexi Corridor, a much better known thoroughfare. 
Mummified bodies have been found along the ancient Silk Road inside China as it crosses a wide stretch of arid land in present-day's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Some were Caucasian, a testimony to the ancient Silk Road's heyday as a global trade route.





Wednesday, 12 July 2017

SOAS awarded £5million gift to create world-leading Institute of Zoroastrian Studies

SOAS London   11 July 2017
SOAS University of London has secured a £5 million donation to create the world-leading SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies.
The donation will enable the creation of the SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies, a resource dedicated to enhancing the research, learning and teaching in the field of one of the world’s oldest religions. The institute will be co-chaired by Dr Sarah Stewart, Lecturer in Zoroastrianism, and Professor Almut Hintze FBA, Zartoshty Brothers Professor of Zoroastrianism. The donation will secure a long-term endowment for the Shapoorji Pallonji Lectureship in Zoroastrian Studies at SOAS in the Department of the Study of Religion, which will be held by Dr Stewart.
Three Magi in Parthian dress.
Three Magi in Parthian dress, exhibited at The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination, London 2013, Delhi 2016
SOAS has secured a commitment of £5 million over three years which will also see the creation of Shapoorji Pallonji Scholarships in Zoroastrian Studies as well as enabling a wide range of public engagement.
Baroness Valerie Amos CH, Director of SOAS, said: ‘Based in London, the home of the oldest Zoroastrian diaspora community outside India and Iran, SOAS is the perfect place to be home to an Institute of Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism has been studied at SOAS for nearly 90 years and through this donation we will be able to enhance our research and teaching in Zoroastrian studies and strengthen our relationship with the Zoroastrian Community.’
Mr Shapoor Mistry, Chairman, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, said: ‘Through the creation of the Institute, Lectureship and Scholarships, this donation will ensure that SOAS continues to develop as the world’s leading centre of Zoroastrian Studies, advancing in perpetuity the understanding and appreciation of this ancient religion and its history, culture, languages and peoples.’
Zoroastrianism has been studied at SOAS since 1929 thanks to the Parsi Community’s lectureship, which was held by Sir Harold Walter Bailey and Walter Bruno Henning. Renowned scholar Professor Mary Boyce taught Zoroastrianism from 1947 until 1982. Many other distinguished scholars of Zoroastrianism and Iranian Studies have taught at SOAS, including Professor John Hinnells, Professor A D H Bivar, Professor Philip Kreyenbroek and Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams. SOAS also produced a major international exhibition exploring the cultural history of Zoroastrianism, The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in history and imagination, which was exhibited in SOAS’s Brunei Gallery in 2013 and in the National Museum in Delhi in 2016.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Exhibited relics in Hangzhou point to rich Silk Road history

Source: Shanghai Daily  July 3, 2017

EVER since President Xi Jinping proposed the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives, also known as “One Belt, One Road,” in September 2013, China and countries along the ancient routes have launched a series of cooperative projects.
Belt and Road aims to revive the eco­nomic ties and connectivity in Eurasia. In return, many cities have held exhi­bitions that showcase the history of the Silk Road.
Hangzhou is no exception.
An exhibition that displays relics excavated along the Silk Road is un­derway at China National Silk Museum and will run until September 24. The items on display are from museums in Shaanxi, Qinghai, Gansu and Xin­jiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Kazakhstan.
In 2014, the UNESCO listed “Silk Road — the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor” as world’s heritage site. This 5,000-kilometer section stretches from Chang’an (present-day Xi’an) in Shaanxi Province to the Zhe­tysu region in Central Asia.
It took shape between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD, and remained in use until the 16th centu­ry. It linked multiple civilizations and remained a platform for exchanges in trade, religions, technology, cultures and arts.
Along the route, relics of empires and kingdoms, ancient temples, pago­das, antique buildings and tombs were discovered that reflected on the glory days of Silk Road.
Now, some of the archeological discoveries are on display at the ex­hibition, which is divided into three parts and according to different peri­ods and regions. Most of the exhibits came into being between the 5th cen­tury BC and 8th century AD.
The origin of Silk Road was Tian­shan corridor, which was a prairie road that connected Oriental country and ancient civilizations including Persia, Greek and Assyria during the 10th century and 3rd century BC.
Sarmatians were nomadic people that dominated the southern Russian grassland dating back to 2,200 years. A batch of costumes, accessories, glass vessels and other burial objects were excavated from a Sarmatian tomb in Kazakhstan. The finely weaved cos­tumes showcased the tomb owner was a woman of high social status.
The replica of Golden Warrior un­earthed from Kazakhstan’s Issyk burial mound is one of the highlights. He was dressed in an arrow-shaped headdress and chain-mail armor richly decorated with foils. His belt and weapons were of pure gold. The costume consisted of 4,000 gold ornaments in typical Sacae style. The young warrior’s ornamented funeral armor is priceless.
This section also displays antiqued wagons from ancient Rong people’s tombs in Gansu Province. During Warring States Period (475-221BC), the manufacturing level of wagons epitomized the then mechanical tech­nology. The buried wagons symbolized people’s social status.
The road began to flourish when long distance trade of high-valued products, particularly silk, tea and porcelains, began to expand between Chinese and Western empires. The second and third sections display artifacts from Qin (221-206 BC), Han (206 BC-AD 220) and Tang (AD 618-907) along the road.
Ever since Qin Dynasty came into being, the original steppe road began to be an official route linking Ori­ental China and Western countries. Starting from Xi’an, the capital of Han and Tang dynasties, the route passed westwards through the Hexi Corridor across the Qilian Mountain Range to Dunhuang, and then continued along the northern and southern flanks of Tianshan Mountain Range until reach­ing Zhetysu region of Central Asia.
The exhibition also displays a restored terracotta warrior using modern technology. Visitors can see the original appearance of the soldier through the exhibit.
Terracotta army was a form of funerary art that was buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of Qin Dynasty. The soldiers and horses were placed to protect the emperor in his afterlife.
Originally, the figures were painted with bright pigments, variously col­ored pink, red, green, blue, black, brown, white and lilac. The colorful lacquer finish and individual facial features would have given the figures a realistic feel. However, much of the color coating had flaked off or badly faded.
The Silk Road within China was mainly in Gansu Province and Xinji­ang Uygur Autonomous Region, where a large number of silk relics have been excavated.
Dunhuang of Gansu Province was an ancient transportation hub along the Silk Road. At the exhibition, a Mogao Grotto painting repaired through digital technology is characterized by diverse floral patterns in red, yellow and green.
The highlight of the section was the burial objects from Xinjiang’s Panying relic, a prosperous hub along the Silk Road that later vanished. The exhibi­tion displays delicate textile artifacts featuring exotic and central Chinese styles, which proved it was a commu­nication center of the silk route during Han and Jin (AD 265-420) dynasties.
Date: Through September 24, closed on Mondays
Address: 73-1 Yuhuangshan Rd
Admission: Free

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Unique opportunities in Vienna: Wanted 2 University Assistants in Art history of East Asia



Two full positions as University Assistant (prae doc) in in Art History of East Asia

Reference number: 7752

The Department of History of Art at the University of Vienna is the biggest Center for Research and education in the visual arts in Austria. It focuses on the visual arts in Europe, Asia, and the Islamic World. Currently there are 2000 students.

The Department of Art History is inviting applications for two full positions as University Assistant (prae doc) specialising in East Asian Art History starting 1 September 2017.

Duration of employment: 4 year/s

Extent of Employment: 30 hours/week
Job grading in accordance with collective bargaining agreement: §48 VwGr. B1 Grundstufe (praedoc) with relevant work experience determining the assignment to a particular salary grade.

Job Description:
The tasks involve support in teaching and research of the Chair in Asian Art History (Prof. Dr. Lukas Nickel), building a research library and database, participation in the preparation of conferences, participation in the administration of the institute, and independent teaching (2 hours per week per semester). The completion of a PhD thesis in the field of East Asian art history is expected.

Profile:

Master degree in Art History or East Asian Studies (or equivalent), excellent language skills in English and one East Asian language (Chinese, Japanese or Korean), experience in library maintenance, team skills
Research fields:
Main research fieldSpecial research fieldsImportance
ArtsArt historyMUST
Education:
Educational institutionEducational levelSpecial subject Importance
UniversityHumanities -MUST
Languages::
LanguageLanguage levelImportance
EnglishExcellent knowledgeMUST
Applications including a letter of motivation (German or English) should be submitted via the Job Center to the University of Vienna (http://jobcenter.univie.ac.at) no later than 26.07.2017, mentioning reference number 7752.

For further information please contact Binder, Alexandra +43-1-4277-41413.

The University pursues a non-discriminatory employment policy and values equal opportunities, as well as diversity (http://diversity.univie.ac.at/). 
The University lays special emphasis on increasing the number of women in senior and in academic positions. Given equal qualifications, preference will be given to female applicants.

Human Resources and Gender Equality of the University of Vienna
Reference number: 7752
E-Mail: jobcenter@univie.ac.at

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Zheng He’s Maritime Voyages (1405-1433) and China’s Relations with the Indian Ocean World

Edited and annotated by Ying Liu, University of Victoria, Zhongping Chen, University of Victoria, Gregory Blue, University of Victoria

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

New Discovery in Xinjiang: Sun-worshippers built this massive altar 3.000 years ago


National Geographic
In a remote corner of northwest China, a recently excavated 3,000-year-old sun altar offers clues to how the region's tribal cultures practiced religion thousands of years ago.
The ruins were discovered in 1993, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, but were not excavated until last year. Archaeologists can now confirm their initial suspicions that the site was used as a sun altar during the Bronze Age.
Nomads once dominated this grassland region, which sits in between Kazakhstan and Mongolia. While similar sun altars had been previously found in the east, the complex in Xinjiang is unique to the region.
The altar itself is comprised of three layered circles of stone. The outer diameter of the largest circle is just over 328 feet long, and archaeologists believe this suggests people and horses would have been used to haul the stones from miles away.
Archaeologists believe the find is significant because it suggests a strong cultural link between nomadic regions and ancient Chinese ruling dynasties.
"This proves that central plain culture had already long reached the foot of Mount Tianshan, in the Bayanbulak Grassland, the choke point of the Silk Road," said Liu Chuanming, one of the archaeologists studying the ruins, in CCTV video.
The Silk Road rose to prominence roughly 100 years before the first century during China's Han Dynasty, when it was established by Chinese diplomat Zhang Quian. The road, which lasted until the 15th century, famously spread trade, economy, and culture.
Sun worship was a common practice among many cultures that existed during this period.
"Since ancient times all civilizations on the continent of Eurasia used circle shapes to represent the sun. Mongolian yurts have the same structure as the altar," archaeologist Wu Xinhua commented in the video.
The video shows the inside of a traditional Mongolian yurt. Wu explained that the ceiling's three tresses represent sky, light, and sun worship.
He also noted the similarities to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, which is characterized by layered, circular floors. The Beijing temple is now regarded as belonging to the Taoist religion, however the time in which it was constructed suggests it was originally used for pre-Taoist heaven and sun worship.
Heaven worship is considered one of China's oldest forms of religion, and mounds were frequently used for elaborate ceremonies and non-human sacrifices. The exact purpose of the sun altar in Xinjiang, however, has yet to be identified. Sun worship was also common among civilizations in Africa and Indo-European regions.
Archaeologists will continue excavating the sun altar in Xinjiang in an effort to uncover more history of the ancient Silk Road.