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