Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Archaeologists explore prehistoric ruins in western Tibet

A group of archaeologists are leading field explorations of prehistoric ruins in the high-altitude region of sparsely populated western Tibet.

Over 30 specialists from Tibet and other provinces are leading the field trips in Ngari Prefecture, located 4,500 meters above sea level in the west part of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The experts are from Tibet's regional cultural protection research institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Shaanxi Archaeology Institute, School of History and Culture of Sichuan University, and Northwest University.

The large-scale field explorations, the first of their kind, aim to explore the early civilizations of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, said Shaka Wandu, an assistant researcher with Tibet's regional cultural protection research institute.

Current studies in early civilizations from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, particularly the Shangshung civilizations, are mainly focused on the archives, linguistics, religious and anthropological fields, while archaeological studies are lacking, experts said.

Previous excavation efforts 

showed that Tibet had extensive exchanges with central and southern Asian regions, he said.

The ruins of Tsaparang, the ancient capital of Guge Kingdom, Ngari/Western Tibet [Credit: WikiCommons]

"We aim to expand the plateau archaeology to help us understand the early history of Tibet, particularly the Shangshung culture," he said.

"Most of us know that Tibet's main burial custom is the sky burial, but we discovered that tombs were a very common existence in ancient Tibet," said Zhang Jianlin, a professor with the Shaanxi Archaeology Institute.

In the past 20 years, dozens of tombs were found in the Ngari Prefecture. Numerous artifacts made from bronze, gold, wood and glass beads were unearthed. A gold mask from the second century and pieces of silk and tea from the third century were among the most prominent findings.

The tombs found in Ngari Prefecture date back between 1,500 BC and the fourth century AD. They were built with stones, wooden sheds and through digging pathways and caves beneath the ground, Zhang said.

Findings from the tombs carry information about the lifestyles, production habits, culture, and social exchanges in ancient Tibet.

"For example, we try to understand the burial postures for people in the coffin. By analyzing the bone structures, we try to determine whether the prehistoric residents rode horses or mainly walked and whether the artifacts and grains were locally made or imported," said Zhang.

In July last year, a tomb believed to be the earliest in western Tibet was found at the Gadpa Serrul remains, located in Zada County.

The tomb was built 3,560 and 3,000 years ago. Over 300 relics made from ceramic, stone, bone, copper, iron, wood, glass, shells and leather were found from the area. There were 100 human and animal skeletons, and archaeologists also found charcoal and seeds.

In Tibet, ancient remains are poorly conserved, and field trips are frequently hampered by harsh weather.

"It has been difficult to look for and identify a tomb area because of geological changes over the years, so it may take many years for us to complete the research into the Gadpa Serrul remains," said Shaka Wandu.

The trips are expected to last until September this year if weather permits. In the meantime, laboratory analysis of the findings is being carried out.

Source: Xinhua [August 25, 2018]

Read more at https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2018/08/archaeologists-explore-prehistoric.html#DmXjgFHbto6ydvM5.99

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Karabalgasun – Stadt der Nomaden

Karabalgasun – Stadt der Nomaden

Die archäologischen Ausgrabungen in der frühuigurischen Hauptstadt 2009–2011

  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 248 Seiten
  • Verlag: Reichert, L (19. September 2017)
  • Sprache: Deutsch
  • ISBN-10: 3954901269

Mit der Monographie wird erstmals eine wissenschaftliche Arbeit zur Geschichte der uigurischen Hauptstadt im heutigen Orchontal/Mongolei vorgelegt und liefert damit einen grundlegenden Baustein in der alttürkisch-uigurischen Siedlungsarchäologie. 
Das Phänomen der Urbanisierung nomadischer Kulturen hat in der eurasischen Steppenarchäologie bisher eine nur untergeordnete Rolle gespielt. Die sehr dünn besiedelte Steppe wurde aufgrund ihrer Weite und der daraus resultierenden Probleme in der Logistik und Durchführung größerer Grabungen nur wenig archäologisch erforscht. Die Ausgrabungsergebnisse des DAI bilden eine wesentliche Grundlage für eine zusammenfassende kritische Analyse und Synopsis der bis dato veröffentlichten Forschungen zur spätnomadischen Siedlungs- und Stadtgeschichte Zentralasiens unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Mongolei, Südsibiriens und Burjatiens. In der vorliegenden Monographie sind nun die aus den ersten Ausgrabungen von 2009 bis 2011 ergrabenen Baubefunde erstmals in wissenschaftlicher Form ausgewertet und veröffentlicht worden sowie mit umfangreichem Kartenmaterial und Plänen illustriert.
Der erste Teil ist ausschließlich der frühuigurischen Hauptstadt Karabalgasun gewidmet. Neben der Forschungsgeschichte wird eine umfangreiche Analyse des Stadtplans von Karabalgasun vorgenommen. Der Schwerpunkt des ersten Teils liegt in der analytisch-diskursiven Darstellung der Baubefunde sowie den stadtgeschichtlich relevanten Stratigraphien aus den untersuchten Komplexen HB1 (manichäischer Sakaralbezirk) und HB2 (sogenannter Palast- oder Tempelbezirk). Hierbei konnten auch Altbefunde früherer Expeditionen berücksichtigt werden und beispielsweise die „vergessenen“ Ausgrabungen des russischen Archäologen Maskov im Rahmen der polnischen Kotwicz-Expedition von 1912 wiederentdeckt und nachvollziehbar verortet werden.
Aus den in der Monographie dargestellten Ergebnissen ist besonders die Betonung sogdischer Einflüsse hervorzuheben, die bisher immer gegenüber den scheinbar übermächtigen chinesischen Einflüssen in den Hintergrund geraten waren oder schlichtweg ignoriert wurden. Die deutlich mittelasiatisch-sogdischen Züge einzelner Baustrukturen stehen für eine überwiegend sogdisch geprägte Bauidee, während deren Ausführung und Bautechnik durchaus chinesischer Tradition entspricht.
In einem zweiten Teil wird Karabalgasun als urbanes Zentrum in den Kontext weiterer mutmaßlicher Siedlungen dieses Charakters gesetzt und der Fokus über das Orchontal hinaus gelegt. Karabalgasun wird als Gründungsstadt und Zentralort in den größeren Zusammenhang von Stadt und Siedlung im Rahmen spätnomadischer Herrschaftsbildungen eingebracht. Dadurch wird auch die Stadt als ein essentieller Baustein nomadischer Staatsbildung gewürdigt. Hierbei zeigt sich die Einzigartigkeit des uigurischen Urbanisierungsprozesses, resultierend aus verschiedenen Faktoren, die im ersten Teil der Monographie herausgearbeitet wurden. 

Afghanistan: A History from 1260 to the Present Day

Afghanistan: A History from 1260 to the Present Day

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books (12 Nov. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1789140102

Located at the intersection of Asia and the Middle East, Afghanistan has been strategically important for thousands of years. Its ancient trade routes and strategic position between India, Inner Asia, China, Persia and beyond has meant the region has been subject to frequent invasions. Modern Afghanistan is a culturally and ethnically diverse country, but one divided by conflict, political instability and by mass displacements of its people. Jonathan L. Lee places the current conflict in Afghanistan in its historical context and challenges many of the West's preconceived ideas about the country. Lee chronicles the region's monarchic rules and the Durrani dynasty, focusing on the reigns of each ruler and their efforts to balance tribal, ethnic, regional and religious factions, moving on to the struggle for social and constitutional reform and the rise of Islamic and Communist factions. He offers new cultural and political insights from Persian histories, the memoirs of Afghan government officials, British government and India Office archives, recently released cia reports and WikiLeaks documents. Lee also sheds new light on the country's foreign relations, its internal power struggles and the impact of foreign military interventions such as the `War on Terror'.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The Mongols in Iran

The Mongols in Iran: Qutb Al-Din Shirazi's Akhbar-i Moghulan

by George Lane

  • Hardcover: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (1 May 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1138500526

The polymath, Qutb al-Dīn Shīrāzī, operated at the heart of the Ilkhanate state (1258–1335) from its inception under Hulegu. He worked alongside the scientist and political adviser, Nasir al-Dīn Ṭūsī, who had the ear of the Ilkhans and all their chief ministers. 
The Mongols in Iran provides an annotated, paraphrased translation of a thirteenth-century historical chronicle penned, though not necessarily authored, by Quṭb al-Dīn Shīrāzī. This chronicle, a patchwork of anecdotes, detailed accounts, diary entries and observations, comprises the notes and drafts of a larger, unknown, and probably lost historical work. It is specific, factual, and devoid of the rhetorical hyperbole and verbal arabesques so beloved of other writers of the period. It outlines the early years of the Chinggisid empire, recounts the rule of Hulegu Khan and his son Abaqa, and finally, details the travails and ultimate demise and death of Abaqa’s brother and would be successor, Ahmad Tegudar. Shirazi paints the Mongol khans in a positive light and opens his chronicle with a portrait of Chinggis Khan in almost hallowed terms. 
Throwing new light on well-known personalities and events from the early Ilkhanate, this book will appeal to anyone studying the Mongol Empire, Medieaval History, and Persian Literature.

In the Wake of the Mongols

In the Wake of the Mongols: 

The Making of a New Social Order in North China, 1200-1600 

Hardcover – 30 Nov 2018

  • Hardcover: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Asia Center 
  • (30 Nov. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674987152

The Mongol conquest of north China between 1211 and 1234 inflicted terrible wartime destruction, wiping out more than one-third of the population and dismantling the existing social order. In the Wake of the Mongols recounts the riveting story of how northern Chinese men and women adapted to these trying circumstances and interacted with their alien Mongol conquerors to create a drastically new social order. To construct this story, the book uses a previously unknown source of inscriptions recorded on stone tablets. Jinping Wang explores a north China where Mongol patrons, Daoist priests, Buddhist monks, and sometimes single women-rather than Confucian gentry-exercised power and shaped events, a portrait that upends the conventional view of imperial Chinese society. Setting the stage by portraying the late Jin and closing by tracing the Mongol period's legacy during the Ming dynasty, she delineates the changing social dynamics over four centuries in the northern province of Shanxi, still a poorly understood region.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Well-preserved 2,000-year-old burial of a woman wearing silk clothing

2,000 year old mummified ‘sleeping beauty’ dressed in silk emerges from Siberian reservoir

By The Siberian Times reporter
22 June 2018
The ancient woman was buried wearing a silk skirt with a funeral meal. Picture: Marina Kilunovskaya
After a fall in the water level, the well-preserved mummy was found this week on the shore of a giant reservoir on the Yenisei River upstream of the vast Sayano-Shushenskaya dam, which powers the largest power plant in Russia and ninth biggest hydroelectric plant in the world.
The ancient woman was buried wearing a silk skirt with a funeral meal - and she took a pouch of pine nuts with her to the afterlife. 
In her birch bark make-up box, she had a Chinese mirror.
Near her remains - accidentally mummified - was a Hun-style vase. 

Lower part of the body

 Lower part of the body

Lower part of the body
‘The lower part of the body was especially well preserved.' Pictures: Marina Kilunovskaya
A team of archeologists from St Petersburg’s Institute of History of Material Culture (Russian Academy of Sciences) working on the shoreline in Tyva Republic spotted a rectangle-shaped stone construction which looked like a burial. 
'The mummy was in quite a good condition, with soft tissues, skin, clothing and belongings intact,’ said a scientist. 
Natalya Solovieva, the institute's deputy director, said: 'On the mummy are what we believe to be silk clothes, a beaded belt with a jet buckle, apparently with a pattern. 
Archeologist Dr Marina Kilunovskaya said: 'During excavations, the mummy of a young woman was found on the shore of the reservoir.
‘The lower part of the body was especially well preserved ... 
‘This is not a classic mummy - in this case, the burial was tightly closed with a stone lid, enabling a process of natural mummification.’

‘This is not a classic mummy - in this case, the burial was tightly closed with a stone lid, enabling a process of natural mummification.’ Pictures: Channel 5
She was buried around 1,900 to 2,000 years ago, scientists believe ahead of exhaustive tests. 
Astonishingly, the remains were preserved even though they have been underwater for periods since the dam became operational between 1978-85. 
Dr Solovieva said: ‘Near the head was found a round wooden box covered with birch-bark in which lay a Chinese mirror in a felt case.’
Near the young woman were two vessels, one a Hun-type vase. 
Terezin area

Seasonal water retreat
Sayano-Shushensk water reservoir. The shoreline of the reservoir when the water retreats.
‘There was a funeral meal in the vessels, and on her chest a pouch with pine nuts.' 
Restoration experts have started working on the mummy. 
Analysis of the find is expected to yield a wealth of information on her life and times. 
Scientists received a grant from the Russian Geographical society to rescue the unique archeological finds in flooded areas.   

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Wakhan Quadrangle: Exploration and Espionage During and After the Great Game

by Hermann Kreutzmann

  • Hardcover: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Harrassowitz (26 May 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3447108126

The Wakhan Quadrangle became an arena of colonial competition when four powers - Afghanistan, China, Great Britain and Russia - struggled for dominance in a remote mountain region where only scattered communities lived in a challenging environment - called the "Great Game." Prior to this, various international travellers had been sent out, commissioned to record routes, military details and strategic information for the respective parties in the contest. Among the explorers were so-called indigenous intermediaries who were trained in measuring geodetic parameters and who noted down their observations about the customs, culture and economy of the people. They were expected to be knowledgeable in terms of linguistic skills and cultural practices and were less likely than their colonial masters to arouse suspicion. Munshi Abdul Rahim was an explorer who was sent to Wakhan and Badakhshan in 1879-1880 by the first British Political Agent in Gilgit. His report, reprinted in facsimile, is the centerpiece of this book. It was written during a crucial period for Wakhan that resulted in the imperial division of the formerly independent principality into two parts and the flight and migration of a large share of its inhabitants. His account is preceded by an introduction to the "Great Game" and its implications for the Central Asian interface. Munshi Abdul Rahim's narrative serves to discuss the function of providers of 'political' and 'non-political' information, i.e. the distinction between exploration and espionage from colonial times to the present day. The comments and interpretations are embedded in archival research and fieldwork done by the author over 40 years.

Das Steininschriftenprojekt Des Wolkenheimklosters Wahrend Der Liao-Dynastie (907-1125)

Das Steininschriftenprojekt Des Wolkenheimklosters Wahrend Der Liao-Dynastie (907-1125)

German) Hardcover – 4 Dec 2017

  • Hardcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: de Gruyter (4 Dec. 2017)
  • Language: German
  • ISBN-10: 3110471833

Zwischen 616 und 1180 meißelten buddhistische Mönche des rund 75 km südwestlich von Beijing gelegenen Wolkenheimklosters buddhistische Sutren in Stein, um die heiligen Schriften vor dem erwarteten Weltende zu retten. Am Ende dieses wahrscheinlich größten epigraphischen Projektes der Weltgeschichte waren rund 1.600 Texte auf 15.000 Platten mit insgesamt etwa 31 Millionen Schriftzeichen fertiggestellt. 
Die für das Steininschriftenprojekt wohl bedeutendste Phase war die Zeit der Liao-Dynastie (907-1125), als in nicht einmal 100 Jahren beinahe die Hälfte der Steinplatten, auf denen etwa ein Drittel aller Schriftzeichen eingraviert ist, angefertigt wurde. Durch eine detaillierte Analyse der Kolophone dieser Zeit werden nicht nur Arbeitsprozesse und Hintergründe des Projekts beleuchtet, die Kolophone geben auch seltene Einblicke in Politik, Gesellschaft und Buddhismus der Liao sowie in das Verhältnis zwischen den herrschenden Kitan und der Han-chinesischen Bevölkerung dieser Region. 
Das Werk, das auch aktuelle archäologische Funde aus dem Nordosten Chinas berücksichtigt, stellt eine wichtige Ergänzung zur politischen, sozialen und kulturellen Geschichte der Liao-Dynastie dar.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

More news about the Shigor Idol

This Eerie, Human-Like Figure Is Twice As Old As Egypt's Pyramids
A photo of the Shigir sculpture reconstructed by D. Lobanov in 1890-91. The figure remained displayed in this shape until 1914.
Credit: D. Lobanov; Antiquity 2018
A towering, human-like figure carved from wood and discovered in a Russian peat bog is more than twice as old as the Egyptian pyramids, scientists have found.
Gold miners discovered pieces of the elongated structure, dubbed the Shigir Idol, in 1894. But it wasn't until about 100 years later, in the late 1990s, that researchers did radiocarbon dating and found that the structure was about 9,900 years old, making it the oldest wooden monumental sculpture in the world, the researchers said.
But this dating wasn't reliable because it included only two pieces from the idol. So scientists recently did a more exhaustive analysis and discovered that the idol is much, much older than previously thought — about 11,500 years old — meaning it was constructed just after the last ice age ended. [25 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]
This date makes the Shigir Idol more than double the age of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, which was built in about 2550 B.C.
In addition to updating the sculpture's birthday, the researchers found a previously unknown face carved into it, said study co-researcher Thomas Terberger, an archaeologist at the State Agency for Heritage Service of Lower Saxony, in Hannover, Germany.
The head of the wooden Shigir sculpture (1-6) and anthropomorphic face on fragment (7-10).
The head of the wooden Shigir sculpture (1-6) and anthropomorphic face on fragment (7-10).
Credit: E.F. Tamplon; Antiquity 2018 
It's a "miracle" that the Shigir Idol survived all this time, Terberger told Live Science. Researchers began studying the larch-carved figure after it was found in the Shigir peat bog, in Russia's Middle Ural Mountains. Pieced together, the sections of the humanoid idol stood more than 17 feet (5 meters) high.
Unfortunately, some of those sections have since been lost, so the idol now stands about 11.1 feet (3.4 m) high, Terberger said. The public can see the carved anthropomorphic figure at the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum.
"When I visited the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum for the first time, I was completely surprised by seeing this large wooden sculpture on display in the exhibition," Terberger said. "If you come closer to the sculpture, you will notice that the 'body' is decorated by geometric ornamentation and a few small human faces."
A drawing of the Shigir sculpture, including (A) the position of the anthropomorphic face discovered in 2014 and (B) the position of an anthropomorphic face found in 2003.
A drawing of the Shigir sculpture, including (A) the position of the anthropomorphic face discovered in 2014 and (B) the position of an anthropomorphic face found in 2003.
Credit: Tolmachev (1914); Antiquity 2018 
Some 20 years after it was discovered, researcher Vladimir Yakovlevich Tolmachev drew illustrations of the idol, noting the structure's five faces, the researchers of the new study noted. In 2003, a sixth, animal-like face with a rectangular nose was found by study co-researcher Svetlana Savchenko, a scientist at the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum.
Just like a hidden-pictures game, the idol surprised researchers again in 2014, when Savchenko and lead study researcher Mikhail Zhilin, an archaeologist at the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow, discovered a seventh face concealed in the gnarled wood.
These facial findings show that the early hunters, gatherers and fishers of Eurasia were making what was possibly spiritual art during the early Mesolithic, the researchers said.
"Such a big sculpture was well visible for the hunter-gatherer community and might have been important to demonstrate their ancestry," Terberger said. "It is also possible that it was connected to specific myths and gods, but this is difficult to prove."
Terberger noted that many researchers studying early humans focus on the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East. But the Shigir Idol indicates that these researchers should widen their search, given the "unexpected, complex monumental wooden art objects" of the Ural Mountains, he said.
The study was published online today (April 25) in the journal Antiquity. The research was made possible by Natalia Vetrova, the director of the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum, Terberger added.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Two (very accurate) fiction books about the Mongols

Against Walls (Amgalant) Paperback – 25 Apr 2018

Imaginary Kings (Amgalant) Paperback – 25 Apr 2018

Monday, 30 April 2018

Women and the Making of the Mongol Empire

 by Anne F. Broadbridge

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (31 July 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1108441009

How did women contribute to the rise of the Mongol Empire while Mongol men were conquering Eurasia? This book positions women in their rightful place in the otherwise well-known story of Chinggis Khan (commonly known as Genghis Khan) and his conquests and empire. Examining the best known women of Mongol society, such as Chinggis Khan's mother, Hö'elün, and senior wife, Börte, as well as those who were less famous but equally influential, including his daughters and his conquered wives, we see the systematic and essential participation of women in empire, politics and war. Anne F. Broadbridge also proposes a new vision of Chinggis Khan's well-known atomized army by situating his daughters and their husbands at the heart of his army reforms, looks at women's key roles in Mongol politics and succession, and charts the ways the descendants of Chinggis Khan's daughters dominated the Khanates that emerged after the breakup of the Empire in the 1260s.

Women and the Making of the Mongol Empire shall become one of the main reference books not only for the history of Mongol women, but of Mongol empire as a whole. Its analysis of the role of women, especially during the formation and the decades of the united Mongol Empire, is of special relevance for anyone interested in this period. Anne F. Broadbridge has managed to succeed in the always difficult task of combining a solid research with an accessible language that will certainly make this read appealing to scholars and students alike.
Bruno De Nicola, Goldsmiths College, University of London

A brilliant addition and timely corrective to the study of the Mongol Empire. Professor Broadbridge has produced an exciting and unique contribution to the scholarship of the Mongol Empire which will forever change our understanding of the Mongol elite.
Timothy May, University of North Georgia

This book is far more than a gendered history of the Mongol Empire. By exploring the highly complex place of women and marriage in imperial politics, it helps to make sense of the alignments within the imperial dynasty and the actions and policies of Mongol khans and princes.
Peter Jackson, Keele University

In this intelligent and original book, Anne F. Broadbridge has carried the study of women in the Mongol Empire to a new level, and has made an important contribution to our understanding of the Mongol Empire as a whole. The analysis goes well beyond the lives and activities of the most prominent Mongol women to show how dynastic marriages shaped central military institutions and brought manpower into the Mongol enterprise. In examining the family strategies of both privileged and secondary wives, Broadbridge sheds much new light on the difficult and disputed question of tribes within Mongol society, and will be a valuable resource for all future work. Finally, in her fascinating chapters on conquered women, she investigates the emotional and social lives of a group of women who have until now been largely overlooked, but nonetheless played an important part in Mongol history. This work thus offers important new insights on the formation of the Mongol Empire and its successor states.
Beatrice Manz, Tufts University, Massachusetts