Saturday, 18 January 2020

Mummies of Museo Leymebamba

The Leymebamba Museum in Peru was inaugurated in 2000, specifically to house 200 mummies and their burial offerings. The mummies were recovered during a 1997 excavation on the banks of Laguna de los Cóndores, a lake about 50 miles south of Chachapoyas. The mummies are from the Chachapoyas culture from about 800 AD.

Nestled into the limestone cliffs around the lake were a series of chullpas, or tombs. The stone burial structures had been untouched for 500 years, until local farmers started to rummage through the funerary site.
The Chachapoya were skilled embalmers. They treated the skin and vacated bodily cavities. Then they left much of the remaining mummification process to the cold, dry, sheltered lakeside ledges.
It’s an unnerving sight for some. A few of the mummies stare back with pained expressions, an occasional face so well-preserved that it looks like it would blink. A few bundled babies also sit on the shelves, their tiny bodies carefully wrapped in cloth.

Now in the controlled climate of the museum the mummies found a new resting place. Here they sit huddled together like a lost tribe, eternally silent.
They are exhibited in semi-darkness, at the same temperature and moisture as the mausoleum where they were deposited.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Siberia's Valley of the Kings

A vale north of Turan, Tuva has become famous for its pancake-shaped Scythian kurgany (burial mounds). Excavations in 2001 unearthed magnificent artifacts dating from 600 BC.
Arzhaan I is the largest kurgan in Tuva. A dig in the early 1970s turned up thousands of gold and silver artifacts. The valley holds an amazing 700 burial sites and eight large kurgany. In addition to 44 pounds of gold, researchers discovered items made of iron, turquoise, amber and wood.

The royal tomb Arzhan 2 was excavated in July, 2015 and is about 2,600 years old. The unknown monarch was entombed with 14 horses, a defining symbol of wealth by the Scythian.

Beside him lay his queen and 33 others lie entombed, including five children. They were all likely sacrificed to accompany him on his journey to the afterlife. The burial chamber contained some 9,300 decorative gold pieces ... more than 20 kilograms of gold.

DNA analysis indicated those buried were from the Iranian ethno-linguistic group. Analysis of strontium isotopes in the bones reveal all were locals except for the queen.

The king was about 50 years old and analysis of his remains revealed that he died of prostate cancer. This is the earliest documentation of the disease. It's thought that in the last years of his life, he would not have been able to walk.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Wulong bohaiensis - the dancing dragon

A new species of feathered dinosaur has been discovered in China. Scientists named the dinosaur Wulong bohaiensis. Wulong is Chinese for "the dancing dragon." The unique specimen is 120 million years old. The fossil preserves feathers and bones that provide new information about how dinosaurs grew and how they differed from birds.

Its bones were thin and small, and the animal was covered with feathers, including a wing-like array on both its arms and legs and two long plumes at the end of its tail.
Larger than a common crow and smaller than a raven, but with a long, bony tail which would have doubled its length, Wulong bohaiensis had a narrow face filled with sharp teeth. It is one of the earliest relatives of Velociraptor, the famous dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur that lived 75 million years ago. The specimen is thought to be a juvenile. It was found more than a decade ago in the fossil-rich Jehol Province.

The discovery is significant. Not only is it a dinosaur that is new to science, it also shows the connection between birds and dinosaurs.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Ancient Maxims of Delphi

The Delphic maxims are a set of 147 aphorisms inscribed at Delphi. Originally, they were said to have been given by the Greek god Apollo's Oracle at Delphi, Pythia, and therefore were attributed to Apollo. The apophthegmata are inscribed on a stone monument at Delphi.

Some are non-starters these days. "Rule your wife" and "Admire oracles" are ones we can live without. "Keep deeply the top secret" and "Beget from noble routes" aren't that helpful.
"Shun evil," "Exercise nobility of character," "Pray for things possible," "Look down on no one" seems like good advice.

There's a wise quartet ... "As a child be well-behaved," and "As a youth be self-disciplined," "As of middle age be just," and "As an old man be sensible." The ancient sages still provide guidance in the human effort to live wisely.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Golden Kingdoms: the Ancient Americas

Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas, was on view at the Getty Center in 2018 and traced the development of gold working and other luxury arts in the ancient Americas from about 1000 BC to the arrival of Europeans in the early 16th century. The exhibit revealed the ways ancient Americans used not only metals, but also jade, shell, and feathers.

Octopus Frontlet, 300–600, Moche culture

Ear Ornament Depicting a Warrior, 640–680, Moche culture
It was a world where feathers were more valuable than gold. The rarest feathers, including the iridescent green feathers of the quetzal, were reserved for the Aztec emperor himself.

The unprecedented exhibition featured more than 300 works from 53 lenders in 12 countries.
The MET exhibition followed a specific historical and geographical path. It traced the development of gold-working in the Americas from its origins in the Andes, to its expansion northward into Central America, and finally to Mexico, where gold-working comes into its own only after 1000 AD.
Jade plaque showing a seated king and palace attendant, 600–800 AD

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Otzi the 5,300-year-old Tyrolean Iceman Mummy

In 1991, a group of hikers were trekking in the mountains of Austria when they came across an awful sight: a frozen body was buried in the ice at their feet. That body belonged to a 5,300 year old man. Scientists have discovered some surprisingly specific facts since then.

When he was alive, he had parasites in his intestines, was lactose intolerant, and had been sick three times in the past six months.

A reconstruction of Otzi, based on forensics and 3D modeling.
He's older than the Giza pyramids and Stonehenge, Otzi the Tyrolean Iceman continues to teach us things.

The latest study of the weapons he was found with reveals that Otzi was right-handed and had recently resharpened and reshaped some of his tools before his death. Otzi was shot in the back with an arrow and became naturally preserved in the ice. Otzi, his clothing and his tools were well-preserved. The arrowhead, embedded in his left shoulder, wasn't found until 2001. He would have bled out and died shortly after because it pierced a vital artery.
With goat-leather leggings and a brown bear fur hat, Otzi must have strutted the Alps with style. Otzi the Iceman left behind his leather-heavy wardrobe and a slew of his accessories when he died in the Italian Alps.

He was found with a very valuable copper ax. It is the only one of its kind ever found. During the Copper Age, copper axes were owned by men of high rank and buried with them. Copper was extremely valuable and a symbol of high status.
Otzi’s final meal was high in fat, with traces of red deer and ibex in his stomach along with einkorn wheat. When he died his stomach was full, meaning he ate shortly before he was attacked.
The Iceman has 61 marks on his body made by fine incisions into which charcoal was rubbed. His are the oldest tattoos known.