Posts Tagged With: burial chamber

Stunning treasures – and macabre slaughter – in Siberia’s Valley of the Kings


By Olga Gertcyk
11 February 2016

Pictured: the gleaming riches no-one was meant to see belonging to an ancient nomad potentate, and his queen…or was she his concubine?

In all, some 9,300 decorative gold pieces were found here, not including the ‘uncountable golden beads’. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

The royal tomb known as Arzhan 2 in the modern-day Republic of Tuva – to many, the most mysterious region in all Russia – is some 2,600 years old but its valuables match any trove from any era anywhere in the world.

Here inside a mound 80 metres wide was buried a warrior tsar with a sway that plainly reached over a vast territory of mountains and steppes, and whose magnificent possessions indicated close contacts with other civilisations.

Forget the notion of barbaric Siberian nomadic tribes in this epoch: well, don’t quite forget. These ancient warriors used the skulls of their vanquished foes as drinking cups, according to no less an authority than Greek historian Herodotus.

And this queen or concubine was almost certainly sacrificed to that she could be buried beside the dead ruler. And yet, as the pictures show, their exceptional artwork predates the influence of the Greeks, and displays a high degree of sophistication.

Arzhan 2 excavations site


Arzhan 2 excavations site


Arzhan 2 modern look

Unknown warrior was found literally covered in gold alongside with his woman. Pictures: Konstantin Chugunov, Anatoli Nagler and Hermann Parzinger; Vera Salnitskaya

The unknown monarch – a Siberian Tutankhamun – was entombed in this ancient necropolis with 14 horses, a defining symbol of wealth in these Scythian times; each animal was from a different herd.

Alongside him lay the woman in his life, his queen or, as is suspected, his favourite concubine, but in any event a woman held in great esteem who was ethnically distinct from this monarch’s retinue also buried alongside him which included 33 others, including five children. She was in all likelihood not alone in being sacrificed  to accompany him to the afterlife…

The most breathtaking aspect of this Tuvan find are the contents of the burial chamber of this royal couple – pictured here – located by archeologists some two or three metres beneath the surface.

In all, some 9,300 decorative gold pieces were found here, not including the ‘uncountable golden beads’. Put in another way, there was more than 20 kilograms of gold, including earrings, pendants and beads, adorning the bodies of the royal couple all made in what is known as Animal Art style.

King's golden necklace


King's golden necklace


Gorit - Quiver

The ancient ruler was buried with a heavy necklace made of pure gold and gold quiver with fish scale decoration. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Ancient robbers had sought to raid vast burial mound, just as they had successfully looted the neighbouring Arzhan 1 site, which was perhaps 150 years older. It could be that specially built ‘decoy’ graves threw these ancient looters’ off the scent.

Here in Arzhan 2, thieves had left a trail which archeologists unearthed but fortunately the raiders gave up shortly before reaching these treasures, which are made from iron, turquoise, amber and wood as well as gold.

So valuable are they that it is rumoured these wondrous objects – now held mainly in local capital Kyzyl but also in St Petersburg – cannot be exhibited abroad because of the cost of insurance.

The find has been described by Dr Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage Museum as ‘an encyclopedia of Scythian Animal Art because you have all the animals which roamed the region, such as panther, lions, camels, deer…’ It includes ‘many great works of art – figures of animals, necklaces, pins with animals carved into a golden surface’, he told The New York Times.

‘This is the original Scythian style, from the Altai region, which eventually came to the Black Sea region and finally in contact with ancient Greece. And it resembles almost an Art Nouveau style.’

Reconstruction of clothes

The reconstruction of the costumes made by the experts from Hermitage Museum. Picture: Hermitage Museum

Covered with two layers of larch logs, the royal burial chamber was carefully constructed like a blockhouse and stood inside a second, outer burial chamber of the same construction.

The four walls were presumably adorned by some kind of curtain. Long wooden sticks were found along the walls, which could have been used like curtain rails. The curtains themselves, as well as any other textile remains, were not preserved. On a carefully made boarded wooden floor – likely softened by felt – were the bodies of this sovereign and his companion.

The skulls had dislocated from the bodies because they had probably been placed on a kind of pillow, now decayed. The ancient ruler was buried with a heavy necklace made of pure gold and decorated all over with the carvings of animals.

His outer clothes, probably a kind of kaftan, had been decorated with thousands of small panther figures, each 2-to-3 centimetres in length, attached in vertical rows, also forming motifs such as wings on his back.

Queen's necklace


Queen's cup


Queen's cup

A gold pectoral in Animal Style decoration, golden earring with turquoise and a miniature gold cup. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

On his boots, maybe originally of felt or leather, thousands of mini-beads – in diameter only about 1 millimetre – had been stitched; on the upper part they ended in golden turndowns. Alongside and under the skull were gold plaques with animal-shaped inlays: four winged horses and one deer originally attached to the headgear.

The total weight of his jewellery – including minute glass beads on his trousers – was 2 kilograms. The man’s weaponry consisted of an iron dagger, poorly preserved, on his right hip. This was connected to the belt by a strap, and both had been decorated with numerous golden adornments.

Beside the dagger was a miniature gold cup. On the left side of the deceased was a gold quiver with fish scale decoration. The wooden arrow shafts were painted in black and red. His arrow heads were made of iron, but also showed the remains of golden encrustation. The golden adornment on the belt – used for carrying his quiver into the afterlife – was extremely rich.

Below the quiver lay the wooden bow itself, studded with pieces of golden decoration. Between the quiver and the north-eastern wall of the burial chamber were two picks, one of iron with golden encrustation. To the left of the man’s head lay a bronze mirror.

Abudance


Close view

His outer clothes, probably a kind of kaftan, had been decorated with thousands of small panther figures, each 2-to-3 centimetres in length. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

A second, slightly larger bronze mirror was located to the left of the woman’s head, a little bigger and with a gold handle. Below the woman’s head were three gold plaques in the shape of animals – two horses and a mystical winged creature – associated with the woman’s headdress.

Beside her head was a pair of gold pins, decorated with carvings in Animal Art style. The decoration of the woman’s dress corresponded to the man’s kaftan: thousands of golden panthers form different motifs, again, notably, wings on her back. Around her breasts, archeologists found golden earrings and many small beads of gold, amber, garnet, malachite and other precious materials.

Near her feet were thousands of mini-beads made of gold, which must have been fixed onto felt or leather boots which had been inlaid with golden ribbons and granulation.

On her right hip hung an iron knife, poorly preserved but with numerous excellent gold belt adornments. Her wrists were adorned with gold bracelets. Here, too, lay two bronze kettles, seen as exceptionally valuable for these times.

In the western corner of the burial chamber were three large amber beads, a wooden cup with a golden handle, a gold comb with wooden teeth, and a heap of various seeds. Within the heap of seeds was a gold pectoral in Animal Style decoration and a small bronze cup, still inside a small leather bag.

Tiny details


Tiny details


Tiny details

‘It’s hard to imagine that these fine pieces were made by nomads living in tents.’ Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

In other burials, which surrounded the prominent couple,  bronze knives, an axe-type weapon, known as a Raven’s beak, arrowheads, bronze mirrors, belts, and much jewellery – beads made of glass, stone, amber, and golden earrings – were found. So too were fragments of  cloth – felt, fur, and fabric.

Here too were discovered bridle sets made of bronze, mane ornaments and tail decorations cut from gold sheet.

What can we discern of the personal stories behind these ancient royals and their entourage found in Uyuk hollow, northern Tuva, and excavated by a joint Russian-German team between 2001 and 2004?

Professor Konstantin Chugunov, highly respected senior researcher at the world famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, who headed the project, said DNA analysis of the group indicated those buried here were from the Iranian ethno-linguistic group.

According to the analysis of strontium isotopes in the bones, all those buried were locals except for one person – the ‘queen’, and it gives reason to think about  dynastic marriage,’ he said.

Weapon


Arrow heads

Weapon: an iron dagger and iron arrowheads with golden encrustation. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Totally 35 people – 16 men, 13 women, five children along with bones which cannot be identified by gender, were buried here, as were 14 horses.

The ‘king’ was between 40 and 50 years old and analysis of his remains revealed that he died of prostate cancer. ‘This is the earliest documentation of the disease,’ said Michael Schultz, a paleopathologist at the University of Gottingen. It is believed that in the last years of his life, this potentate could not have walked.

His female partner, accorded pride of place alongside him, was around 30 years old. Who was she?

We don’t know if the woman was a queen or a concubine,’ said Professor Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, and a joint leader of the excavations, ‘but since their ornaments were similar, both must have had high status.’

No cause of death can be detected for her, leading to a theory that she could have been poisoned or strangled, to be buried beside her liege, and to travel with him into the next world: willingly or not, she was a human sacrifice, according to this version.

‘Maybe she was poisoned,’ said Chugunov, ‘or maybe she chose to die to be with her husband.’ We may never know how she died, by natural causes around the same time as her master or in more sinister fashion, but others in the tsar’s entourage certainly had gruesome demises.

Animals


Animals


Fish


Animals

Early Scythians were people who knew good artwork when they saw it, and used contacts to obtain, or commission, jewellery and decorations. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

The scene archeologists uncovered here appears to match with remarkable accuracy a description by Herodotus of the macabre Scythian burial rite.

‘Based on accompanying burials, we also found evidence of phenomena described by Herodotus when the living would follow the deceased,’ Parzinger has explained. ‘Herodotus wrote that when a military leader died, his close circle – wife (or concubine), bodyguards, advisers, servants – were killed. As they were the property of the leader, they had to follow him to the tomb. And we identified particular evidence of their murder.’

Herodotus, who lived later, from 484 BC to 425 BC, wrote: ‘The body of the king is laid in the grave, stretched upon a mattress. Spears are fixed in the ground on either side of the corpse and beams stretched above it to form a roof.

‘In the open space around the body of the king they bury one of his concubines, first killing her by strangling, and also his cup-bearer, his cook, his groom, his lackey, his messenger, some of his horses… and some golden cups, for they use neither silver nor brass.’

It is believed that when the king died, he was mummified and his body travelled for 40 days across all his lands. And all expressed their sorrow. Then at some sacred place a burial mound was constructed and his entire entourage were slaughtered and buried there.

Bowl


Bowl

Cups: wooden cup with a golden handle and small golden cup. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Herodotus did not describe how the ruler’s entourage were killed. While the queen or concubine shows no sign of a violent death – the assumption is that she was poisoned – one woman’s skull in Arzhan 2 was pierced four times with a war pick.

A man’s skull still retains the splinters from a wooden club used to kill him. In some cases archaeologists see evidence of blows to the head with kind of poleaxe: in other case, they suppose strangulation or poison.

Separately, on these human remains was found evidence of ‘battlefield surgery’ conducted on these warriors during earlier conflicts. Next to the burial mound, to the north, was found a separate burial where ‘chipped’ human and horse bones were mixed.

A ‘guess’ is that this fits another Herodotus description of the burial mound being guarded by dead horses pulling wagons with their wheels removed on which were placed dead horsemen.

The Greek historian described 50 young men, who were set around the mound. Those, who made the burial, went away and the mound remained. The corpses of the horses and riders were pecked by birds, eaten by animals, and all this decayed.

'Chinese' style


'Chinese' style


'Chinese' style

Decorations on the akinak – or short sword – show similarities to patterns used in Eastern Zhou (Eastern China). Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

More can be understood about these nomads from the riches lying beside this noble couple, although these ancient people left no written records, and hardly any sign of settlements that – some archeologists suspect – must have existed.

A royal burial such as this gives the ‘quintessence of information’ because the achievements of the culture at the time were laid to rest with the dead king, it has been said. As Parzinger has said: ‘It’s hard to imagine that these fine pieces were made by nomads living in tents.’ Chugunov concurs: ‘In Arzhan 2, the gold jewellery was clearly not made by nomadic artists.’

They fought and pillaged but as Dr Anatoil Nagler, from the German Archeological Institute, told National Geographic: ‘The people were excellent craftsmen. This puts the Scythian quality of life in a new light. It rejects the stereotype that Scythians were just wild horsemen and warriors, migrating and destroying other people. They had a high level of cultural development.’

Or so it seemed at the time when the discoveries were first made. Now it is seen as more likely that these early Scythians were people who knew good artwork when they saw it, and used contacts to obtain, or commission, jewellery and decorations that matched their needs and tastes. Not that anyone was meant to see these treasures encased in the burial tomb.

Golden details


Golden details


Beads


Golden beads


Golden deer

The gleaming riches no-one was meant to see. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Some probably originated on the territory of what is now present-day China; others owe their origins to the Near East, with more seemingly made by Scythians in non-nomadic settlements. Some treasures came from a distance of between 4,000 and 5,000 kilometres from this burial mound, yet at this point there were no contacts with the Ancient Greeks.

Even so, the treasures suggest the lost civilisation of Scythians were culturally more advanced that was once supposed. The experts surmise that it was Scythian craftsmen who cast the daggers, arrowheads, and gold plaques found at this site.

Decorations on the akinak – or short sword – show similarities to patterns used in Eastern Zhou (Eastern China) at around the same period. Bronze jars found in Inner Mongolia are compatible to a small bowl with horizontal a loop-like handle from the main burial in Arzhan 2.

The same applies to methods used in embroidery and the manufacture of earrings, the latter resembling a technique used close to the Aral Sea, some 3,600 km distant. Remains of fruit and seeds of plants found at Arzhan 2 had also come from far afield.

Categories: Ancient Treasure, Archaeology, artifacts, gold, gold chains, gold coins, gold crosses, gold ingots, hidden, Lost gold, Lost Treasure, treasure, Treasure Hunters, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nov. 4, 1922 The discovery of Tutankhamun, in color


November 1925

Tutankhamun’s burial mask.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

Jan. 4, 1924

Howard Carter, Arthur Callender and an Egyptian worker open the doors of the innermost shrine and get their first look at Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

In 1907, Egyptologist and archaeologist Howard Carter was hired by George Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon to oversee excavations in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Carter had built a reputation for scrupulously recording and preserving discoveries.

Carter searched the valley for years with little to show for it, which drew the ire of his employer. In 1922, Lord Carnarvon told Carter that he had only one more season of digging before his funding would be ended.

Revisiting a previously abandoned dig site at a group of huts, Carter started digging again, desperate for a breakthrough.

On Nov. 4, 1922, his crew discovered a step carved into the rock. By the end of the next day, a whole staircase had been uncovered. Carter wired Carnarvon, imploring him to come at once.

On Nov. 26, with Carnarvon at his side, Carter chipped open a small breach in the corner of the doorway at the end of the stairs. Holding a candle, he peered inside.

At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold — everywhere the glint of gold.

December 1922

A ceremonial bed in the shape of the Celestial Cow, surrounded by provisions and other objects in the antechamber of the tomb.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

The team had discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, the boy king who ruled Egypt from about 1332 to 1323 BC.

Though there was evidence the tomb had twice been raided by ancient grave robbers, it was still remarkably intact. The tomb was crammed with thousands of priceless artifacts, including the sarcophagus containing the king’s mummified remains.

Every object in the tomb was meticulously recorded and cataloged before being removed, a process that took nearly eight years.

These photographs documenting the discovery of the tomb have been colorized by Dynamichrome for the exhibition The Discovery of King Tut, opening in New York on Nov. 21. With precisely crafted replicas and reconstructions, the exhibit allows visitors to step into exact recreations of three burial chambers just as the discoverers saw them.

December 1922

A gilded lion bed, clothes chest and other objects in the antechamber. The wall of the burial chamber is guarded by statues.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

c. 1923

An assortment of model boats in the treasury of the tomb.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

December 1922

A gilded lion bed and inlaid clothes chest among other objects in the antechamber.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

December 1922

Under the lion bed in the antechamber are several boxes and chests, and an ebony and ivory chair which Tutankhamun used as a child.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

c. 1923

A gilded bust of the Celestial Cow Mehet-Weret and chests sit in the treasury of the tomb.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

c. 1923

Chests inside the treasury.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

December 1922

Ornately carved alabaster vases in the antechamber.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

January 1924

In a “laboratory” set up in the tomb of Sethos II, conservators Arthur Mace and Alfred Lucas clean one of the sentinel statues from the antechamber.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

Nov. 29, 1923

Howard Carter, Arthur Callender and an Egyptian worker wrap one of the sentinel statues for transport.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

December 1923

Arthur Mace and Alfred Lucas work on a golden chariot from Tutankhamun’s tomb outside the “laboratory” in the tomb of Sethos II.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

c. 1923

A statue of Anubis on a shrine with pallbearers’ poles in the treasury of the tomb.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

Dec. 2, 1923

Carter, Callende, and two workers remove the partition wall between the antechamber and the burial chamber.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

December 1923

Inside the outermost shrine in the burial chamber, a huge linen pall with gold rosettes, reminiscent of the night sky, covers the smaller shrines within.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

Dec. 30th, 1923

Carter, Mace and an Egyptian worker carefully roll up the linen pall covering the second shrine.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

December 1923

Carter, Callender and two Egyptian workers carefully dismantle one of the golden shrines within the burial chamber.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

October 1925

Carter examines Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

October 1925

Carter and a worker examine the solid gold innermost sarcophagus.

IMAGE: HARRY BURTON (C) THE GRIFFITH INSTITUTE, OXFORD. COLORIZED BY DYNAMICHROME FOR THE EXHIBITION “THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT” IN NEW YORK.

c. 1923

Lord Carnarvon, financier of the excavation, reads on the veranda of Carter’s house near the Valley of the Kings.

Categories: Egypt, Tutankhamun, Valley of the Kings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli archaeologists say they may have found fabled tomb of biblical Maccabees…..


APTOPIX Mideast Israel Archaeology-4

Israeli archaeologists may be one step closer to solving a riddle that has vexed explorers for more than a century: the location of the fabled tomb of the biblical Maccabees.

Israel’s government Antiquities Authority said Monday that an ancient structure it began excavating this month on the side of a highway appears to match ancient descriptions of the tomb of Jewish rebels who wrested control of Judea from Seleucid rule and established a Jewish kingdom in the 2nd century B.C.

Scholars in Israel’s quarrelsome archaeological community tend to agree that the site, in an Israeli forest west of Jerusalem and a short walk from the West Bank, is a significant burial site but reserve judgment about its connection to the Maccabees. Now the Antiquities Authority, which sometimes relies on private funding to help finance digs, is soliciting donations so it can keep searching for evidence.

“We still don’t have the smoking gun,” said Amit Reem, a government archaeologist who helped lead the dig.

The Maccabees are considered heroes in both Judaism and Christianity. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates Mattathias and his five sons who revolted against Hellenic rulers who banned Jewish practices, and rededicated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The biblical Books of the Maccabees, which include a tale of Jewish martyrs dying for their faith, are a source of inspiration in some Christian traditions.

In the late 1880s, a succession of European explorers went searching for the tomb. They were drawn to a barren area near the West Bank village of Midya, a name that resembles Modiin, the ancient town where the biblical account says the Maccabee family was buried.

Arab villagers pointed one European explorer toward a hilltop dotted with rock-hewn graves known by locals as “the graves of the Jews.” Archaeologists today say these cannot be the graves of the Maccabees, but Israeli road signs still label them as such and Hanukkah ceremonies are held there to honor the ancient rebels.

Another 19th-century explorer was drawn to a nearby Arab tomb, where he announced that he found the remains of Mattathias. Archaeologists say the small domed structure has no connection to the elder Maccabee, but a modern tombstone engraved in Hebrew marks it as his burial site. Today, candles and Jewish prayer pamphlets are strewn about.

“It was more wishful thinking than hardcore archaeological evidence,” Reem said about the European explorers’ discoveries.

It is a third spot, just a few paces away from the domed structure, that captures Israeli archaeologists’ imaginations. French scholar Charles Clermont-Ganneau first excavated it in the late 1800s and found a mosaic floor featuring a Byzantine Christian cross. The site was then abandoned. This month, Israeli archaeologists and volunteers cleared away rubble and exposed the simple mosaic cross for the first time in more than 100 years.

Reem said the cross is a clue. It appears on the floor of a burial niche at the site. It is the only Byzantine-era site where a cross decorates the floor of a burial vault, he said, indicating that it may have marked the spot of an important figure. He thinks it is likely that the Byzantines — early Christians — identified this site as the Maccabees’ tomb.

“What other important figures would be here?” Reem said, standing in the deep pit of the archaeological site.

Oren Tal, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University who was not involved with the dig, said the mosaic cross is not necessarily a significant clue. He said the burial niche may have been converted into a Byzantine chapel, where a cross would have been standard.

But he agreed with Reem about other characteristics that correspond to the biblical account and to an account by ancient historian Josephus Flavius. Both describe the Tomb of the Maccabees as a tall structure that could be seen from the Mediterranean Sea, featuring columns and seven pyramids.

Reem says four thick column bases found at the site may be indications that the structure was once 5 meters (over 15 feet) tall, and large rock slabs Clermont-Ganneau said he found — which have since gone missing from the site — could have been the bases of pyramid decorations. Before a forest was planted in the area, it had a direct line of sight to the sea.

Reem said he cannot yet date the site to earlier than the 5th century A.D. He wants to excavate more, to look for an inscription or architectural elements that could associate the structure with the time of the Maccabees.

For the past decade, he said, finding the tomb has been his personal holy grail.

“It (is) crucial for everybody … to solve once and for all this riddle,” he said.

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4,000-Year-Old Burial with Chariots Discovered in South Caucasus…..


An ancient burial containing chariots, gold artifacts and possible human sacrifices has been discovered by archaeologists in the country of Georgia, in the south Caucasus.

The burial site, which would’ve been intended for a chief, dates back over 4,000 years to a time archaeologists call the Early Bronze Age, said Zurab Makharadze, head of the Centre of Archaeology at the Georgian National Museum.

Archaeologists discoveredthe timber burial chamber within a 39-foot-high (12 meters) mound called a kurgan. When the archaeologists reached the chamber they found an assortment of treasures, including two chariots, each with four wooden wheels. [See Images of the Burial Chamber & Chariots]

The team discovered ornamented clay and wooden vessels, flint and obsidian arrowheads, leather and textile artifacts, a unique wooden armchair, carnelian and amber beads and 23 golden artifacts, including rare and artistic crafted jewelry, wrote Makharadze in the summary of a presentation he gave recently at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, held at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

“In the burial chamber were placed two four-wheeled chariots, both in good condition, [the] design of which represents fine ornamental details of various styles,” Makharadze wrote. Thechamber also contained wild fruits, he added.

While the human remains had been disturbed by a robbery, which probably occurred in ancient times, and were in a disordered position, the archaeologists found that seven people were buried in the chamber. “One of them was a chief and others should be the members of his family, sacrificed slaves or servants,” Makharadze told Live Science in an email.

A time before the horse

The burial dates back to a time before domesticated horses appeared in the area, Makharadze said. While no animals were found buried with the chariots, he said, oxen would have pulled them.

Other rich kurgan burials dating to the second half of the third millennium B.C. have also been found in the south Caucasus,said Makharadze in another paperhe presented in February at the College de France in Paris. The appearance of these rich burials appears to be connected to interactions that occurred between nomadic people from the Eurasian steppes and farming communities within and near the south Caucasus, Makharadze said.

These interactions appear to have led to some individuals, like this chief, getting elaborate burials. The newly discovered armchair symbolizes the power that individuals like the chief had. “The purpose of the wooden armchair was the indication to power, and it was put in the kurgan as a symbol of power,” Makharadze said in the email

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EXTRAORDINARY KURGAN BURIAL SHINES NEW LIGHT ON SARMATIAN LIFE…


A Sarmatian burial mound excavated this summer in Russia’s Southern Ural steppes has yielded a magnificent but unusual treasure.
The artefacts contained within the mound are helping to shed light on a little-known period of the nomadic culture that flourished on the Eurasian steppe in the 1st millennium BC.
The archaeological study of this remarkable ancient tomb, or kurgan, was carried out by the expedition of the Institute of Archaeology (Russian Academy of Sciences), led by Professor Leonid T. Yablonsky.
Under the eastern mound an undisturbed burial chamber was discovered measuring approximately 4x5m and 4m deep. At the bottom of the chamber several stratified layers of debris were excavated to reveal exceptionally rich and varied grave goods accompanying a human skeleton. The material associated with the burial seemed to belong to a woman as it contained what is regarded as representing typically female artefacts and jewellery. However, initial osteological examination of the skeletal morphology revealed the occupant of the burial to be male; though DNA-analysis is still to be carried out.
A small wicker chest that is thought to be a vanity case was found near the skull. It was filled to the brim with items including a cast silver container with a lid, a gold pectoral, a wooden box, cages, glass, silver and earthenware bathroom flasks, leather pouches, and horse teeth that contained red pigments.

Nearby lay a large silver mirror with gilded stylized animals on the handle and embossed decoration on the back with the image of an eagle in the centre, surrounded by a procession of six winged bulls.
The garments were decorated with several plaques, depicting flowers, rosettes and a panther leaping on a saiga’s (antelope) back. There were also 395 pressed pieces of gold leaf sewn onto the breeches, shirt and scarf. A fringed shawl was held together with a golden chain and the sleeves of the shirt were embellished with multicoloured beads, forming a complex geometric pattern. Two cast gold earrings decorated in places with cloisonné enamel were found in the area of the temporal bones.
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Possible Tomb of Chinese Tyrant Uncovered……


Archaeologists have found a tomb in eastern China that may be the grave of the notorious Emperor Yang of Sui, according to news reports.
With inscriptions revealing the surprising identity of the deceased, the burial chamber measures about 215 square feet (20 square meters). It was uncovered in Yangzhou, a city about 175 miles (280 kilometers) southeast of Shanghai, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported.
Shu Jiaping, who leads Yangzhou’s institute of archaeology, told Xinhua that researchers are “still not sure whether it was the emperor’s final resting place, as historical records said his tomb had been relocated several times.”
Emperor Yang, also known as Yang Guang, is remembered as a fearsome and decadent tyrant. During his rule from 606 until his death at the hands of rebels in 618, he forced millions of laborers to take part in ambitious construction projects, such as building royal palaces, completing of the Grand Canal and reconstructing of the Great Wall. Emperor Yang also launched costly military campaigns, including a failed conquest of Goguryeo, an ancient kingdom of Korea, which eventually led to the collapse of the Sui Dynasty.
Grave robbers seem to have looted the tomb in the 1,500 years since the emperor’s death, according to China Daily. However, archaeologists reportedly found some items considered telltale signs of royalty inside the tomb, including a jade belt with gold details. The tomb was exposed at a construction site last year, and it is connected to another chamber that may belong to the emperor’s wife, Xinhua reported.
Emperor Yang’s final resting place pales in comparison to those of other Chinese rulers. An army of life-size clay warriors famously guards the city-sized tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who died in 210 B.C. The main burial chamber of Qin Shi Huang has yet to be excavated, but according to legend, it has rivers of mercury and a ceiling encrusted with gems. Archaeologists recently found the emperor’s palace complex at the site near the city of Xi’an.

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