All posts by Archaeology World Team

The world’s oldest rug was made in Armenia

The world’s oldest rug was made in Armenia

The area covering the Ukok plateau in Siberia is huge. The Altai Mountains and the Ob River are home to the territory of Altai Krai, which is harsh in winter.

The plateau descends into the Pazyryk Valley, which contains ancient kurgans (burial mounds) in the style of the Scythian peoples who inhabited the area in over two thousand years ago.

The area was started digging in the 1920s by archeologists and uncovered a wealth of historically important objects that offered an intriguing insight into the little known ancient Pazyryc nomadic tribes.

Image Of The Pazyryk Rug – The Oldest rug In The World

Mummies, clothes saddles, a big chariot, decorative or devotional figurines as well and cannabis seed with an inhalation tent.  

When the tombs were unearthed, it was found that they had been remarkably preserved in ice since the 5th century BCE.

The mummies that were found were so complete that they still had their tattooed flesh and hair.

Pazyryk Mummy Of The Ukok Princess the “Siberian Ice Maiden”

One of the most remarkable finds was the Pazyryk Carpet.  To our knowledge, it is the oldest piled rug still in existence and is housed at St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum.  

The museum’s website description of this ancient rug is as follows: “Its decoration is rich and varied: the central field is occupied by 24 cross-shaped figures, each of which consists of four stylized lotus buds.  

This composition is framed by a border of griffins, followed by a border of twenty-four fallow deer.

The widest border contains representations of workhorses and men.”  What the website does not mention is the ambiguity of the carpet’s origin.  

The Pazyryk Valley was located between active trade routes spanning the ancient world, with China to the east and Central Asia to the southwest.  

One of the mummies discovered–called the Siberian Ice Maiden–was clothed in a wild silk tunic that likely originated in India.  Some of the figurines were gilded, and gold is not native to the area.

The Pazyryk Carpet most likely came from Central Asia, though it is really a tossup between Persia or Armenia.  Both nations have traditions of carpet weaving spanning thousands of years, and the horses represented on the ancient carpet are nearly identical to horsemen on a frieze in the ancient Persian city of Persepolis.

The possibility that the rug was produced by the Pazyryks is extremely slim because the sophistication and elegance of the design are indicative of a settled and cosmopolitan civilization, unlike the nomadic Pazyryks.

The Oldest Carpet In The World – The Pazyryk

Based on a study of ancient artistic development, textile expert Ulrich Schurmann has reached the conclusion that the rug is of Armenian origin.  

The Persians also claim it as their own, believing that it’s an artifact from the Achaemenid Empire.

Pazyryk Valley Ancient Kurgans (burial mounds)

For now, the exact origin of the Pazyryk Carpet will remain a mystery, but its significance and beauty is forever eternal.

This rug blog about the oldest rug in the world – the Pazyryk Carpet, was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs in NYC.

Boy Found Million-Year-Old Fossil by Tripping Over It

Boy Found Million-Year-Old Fossil by Tripping Over It

For example, while walking through the New Mexican desert, something turns out to be a fossil of Stegomastodon from 1.2 million years ago, you could see some benefits.

Dr. Peter Houde with the Sparks brothers during the Stegomastodon excavation.

Jude Sparks, 9, was doing this last October when he and his parents visited the Orange Mountains.

The brother of Jude, a hunter, was not initially convinced that the finding was awesome.

“Hunter said it was just a big fat rotten cow,” Jude told KVIA TV. “I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it wasn’t usual.”

To him, the discovery looked like “fossilized wood.”

His parents agreed and contacted Peter Houde, a professor at New Mexico State University, who returned with the family to the site the next day. Sure enough, the boy had stumbled over a fossilized tusk.

It’s a big discovery — both literally and metaphorically. The ancient mammals were cousins to the wooly mammoth and modern-day elephant, so the remains are large.

They’re also rare since prehistoric bones typically disintegrate quickly after being exposed to the elements. Houde suspects the Sparks family came across the tusk just after erosion had brought it to the surface.

“This is really very unusual to find,” he told The New York Times.

With Houde’s help, the family reburied the remains and set about fundraising for a formal dig.

It took them months to organize a team and secure a permit — but in May they finally uncovered an entire skull made of fragile “egg-shell thin” pieces.

Jude Sparks

“We’re really, really grateful that they contacted us, because if they had not done that if they had tried to do it themselves, it could have just destroyed the specimen,” Houde, who hopes to display the remains at the university, said. “It really has to be done with great care and know-how.”

Oddly, this isn’t the first accidental Stegomastadon find. In 2014, a hiking bachelor party found a 3-million-year-old skull belonging to the dino in New Mexico’s Butte Lake State Park.

Humans may have hunted the Stegomastodon toward the end of its existence, though it’s likely that its mammoth competitors kicked it off the evolutionary tree.

The creatures remain — a bit smaller than the average African elephant — are easily identified by their broad, upward-curving tusks.

As for Jude, he isn’t really as into fossils as he was when he was “little.”

He’ll take the attention, though.

“I’m not really an expert,” the now-10-year-old told the Times. “But I know a lot about it, I guess.”

Did ancient Egyptians trade nicotine and cocaine with the New World?

Did ancient Egyptians trade nicotine and cocaine with the New World?

Imagine the perfectly mummified Egyptian princess and priestess, Henut Taui, “The Lady of the Two Lands.” She was beautiful, powerful and gently alluring.

Imagine you’re thrust back in time and immediately invited to her palace to enjoy the most luxuriating experiences of the day.

As you sit near her throne, you’re showered with new delights and substances, the likes of which you never imagined you might find in Ancient Egypt, like cocaine and tobacco…

While this fantasy defies the narrative of mainstream Egyptology, there’s evidence it actually could have happened.

That’s because Henut Taui and the controversial “cocaine mummies” revealed a vast global trade network that linked the new world with Ancient Egypt.

During a study of the mummy of an ancient elite Egyptian – nicotine, and cocaine – Dr. Svetla Balabanowa found it shocking.

Soon the question came up: What did Lady Henut Taui have access to elements from the tobacco and coca plants about 3,000 years ago?

The interesting thing is that these plants only grew in the Americas at the time – not until the 19th century, they were shipped across the Atlantic.

The confusion led researchers to wonder if the mummy was fake or the tests were contaminated. However, a thorough analysis of the results shows that they were authentic. Does this mean the ancient Egyptians had reached the Americas?

An examination in the 1970s of the mummy of Ramesses II revealed fragments of tobacco leaves in its abdomen.

Archaeological findings show that Egyptians were adept at navigating the seas. For example, Queen Hatshepsut is known to have funded an expedition to the mysterious Land of Punt around 1477 BC.

A relief depicting the journey has been found at Deir el-Bahri (in modern-day Luxor). That mural shows large ships packed with men, gold, trees, and exotic animals.

The flora and fauna shown in the artwork are thought to have existed along the coasts of African and the Arabian Peninsula. These findings show that the ancient Egyptians could complete some longer oceanic voyages.

Members of Hatshepsut’s trading expedition to the mysterious ‘Land of Punt’ from this pharaoh’s elegant mortuary temple at Deir El-Bahri.

A 2011 discovery made on the Red Sea coast, furthered the belief in the seafaring capacity of the ancient Egyptians.

An archaeologist working in a dried-up lagoon came across the ruins of an ancient harbor. Timber, rigging, reed mats, steering oars, cedar planks, and limestone anchors were all unearthed.

Original knots which were joining the main pieces of the Khufu Boat. The cedar timbers of the boat’s curved hull were lashed together with hemp rope in a technique used until recent times by traditional shipbuilders on the shores of the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean

Possible evidence of an unproven Egyptian voyage to the Americas has been found in the Marble Region of the Grand Canyon.

The Arizona Gazette reported on April 5, 1909, that two explorers funded by the Smithsonian found various Egyptian artifacts, including tablets with hieroglyphics, inside caves.

The problem is the Smithsonian has no known records of the discovery.

That find would provide strong evidence to support the belief ancient Egyptians reached the Americas – though it may also be considered inconvenient by some groups to go against the story of the ‘discovery’ of the Americas, as it could drastically alter perceptions of events and the celebration of traditions such as Columbus Day.

Egyptian tomb painting from 1450 BC. Caption: “Officer with sounding pole…is telling crew to come ahead slow. Engineers with cat-o’-nine-tails assuring proper response from engines.”

El-Kurru’s Carved Graffiti Reveal Another Side of Ancient Nubia

El-Kurru’s Carved Graffiti Reveal Another Side of Ancient Nubia

Now, northern Sudan, which has mostly desert boundaries with Egypt. Moreover, this part of the Nile Valley was once the domain of Kush, a strong African civilization. It traded in Egypt and in the Mediterranean region gold and the products of inner Africa.

For over 2000 years Kush has been the largest power in this region, reaching its greatest extent in conquering Egypt as its 25th dynasty from about 725-653 BCE. Kush was ruled from the capital of Meroe in the years 300 BCE to 300 CE.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city was built on the Nile about 100 miles north of modern-day Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

The ancient royal cemetery of El-Kurru, with the modern town of El-Kurru and the Nile in the background.

Other regions of Kush remained important, however. These included the older capital region of Napata, which centered on the “holy mountain” of Jebel Barkal and included the nearby pyramid cemetery of El-Kurru.

There were a number of temples and other sacred sites in Kush. And, as per the research in El-Kurru has documented, visitors to these sites had one particular religious ritual that may strike some as strange: they carved graffiti in important and sacred places.

These graffiti can still be seen today at several sacred sites in what was the kingdom of Kush – on a pyramid and in a temple at El-Kurru, at a seasonal pilgrimage center called Musawwarat es-Sufra, and in the Temple of Isis at Philae, at the border with Egypt.

A graffito of a chicken facing two leaping horses in the temple of El-Kurru.
A graffito of a chicken facing two leaping horses in the temple of El-Kurru.
One of the numerous boats on the pyramid walls, likely made by a Christian pilgrim.
One of the numerous boats on the pyramid walls, likely made by a Christian pilgrim.

The curators of an exhibition detailing the recently discovered graffiti from El-Kurru.

The exhibition is on view at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan until March 2020. It features photographs, text, and interactive media presentations that unpack the practice and its importance in Kushite society. 

A catalog written in conjunction with the exhibition presents selected examples of graffiti from the Nile valley and beyond, including the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

All accustomed to understanding ancient cultures almost entirely through the activities of the powerful elite and the art they left behind in their palaces, temples, and tombs. But that creates a distorted picture of ancient life – as distorted as such a picture would be today.

The graffiti featured in this exhibition allows a glimpse into some of the activities of non-elite people and their religious devotion to particular places. It’s a reminder that society is more than the elite and powerful.

Marking place and time

The graffiti at El-Kurru were discovered by a Kelsey Museum archaeological excavation, on a pyramid, and in an underground temple at the site.

El-Kurru was a royal cemetery for the kings of the Napatan dynasty, who ruled Egypt as the 25th dynasty. But the graffiti date to several hundred years after the kings’ rule. By this time the pyramids and funerary temple were partially abandoned, yet people were visiting the site and carving graffiti.

The funerary temple and the largest pyramid at El-Kurru.

The graffiti includes clear symbols of ancient Kush, like the ram that represented the local form of the god Amun, and a long-legged archer who symbolized Kushite prowess in archery. There are also intricate textile designs as well as animals – beautiful horses, birds, and giraffes.

The most common marks are small round holes gouged in the stone. By analogy with modern practices, these are probably areas where temple visitors scraped the wall of the holy place to collect powdered stone that they would ingest to promote fertility and healing.

Medieval building found in Llandaff under public toilets

Medieval building found in Llandaff under public toilets

Located next to Llandaff’s Old Bishop Castle in the 13th century, the site tells experts that there would have been an important person who lived there.

A public dig began in September and participants quickly discovered an unearthed fireplace, chequered floor tiles, animal bones, and old horseshoes.

About 200 schoolchildren and 35 other volunteers assisted in the search, starting with excavations around the public toilets as they were turned into a community heritage site.

Archaeologists said they think the building dates back to around 1450. The toilets were built in the 1930s in an area known as the Pound – a reference to its housing stray animals since the 17th century.

Dr. Tim Young, a lead archaeologist, said: “This was a surprise to find a high-status building.” The house, around 10m in length, could be regarded as prestigious, according to Dr. Young.

This comes as Bath stone had been used to construct the fireplace, a distinctive appearing limestone notable for its warm honey colour. The stone was not commonly used at the time, though, it can be found at Llandaff Cathedral.

Despite the researchers not currently knowing who lived at the house, they said it was likely someone of high status because of its close proximity to the Old Bishop’s Castle, with bishops at the time holding manorial rights.

Dr. Tim Young unearthed several items

Counting tokens were widespread in the medieval world through to the 1600s and were used as counters for calculations on a counting board, similar to an abacus.

They also found uses in games, similar to modern casinos, in what we would now identify as poker chips.

The medieval building will be blanketed in a protective covering to make way for the construction of a new community venue set up by Llandaff 50+, a charity promoting social inclusion of over 50s in the community.

The toilets next to the ruins of the Old Bishop’s Castle are being converted into a community centre
Two sides of a 14th Century jeton counting token found at the toilets

Several theories of who may have lived in the building have floated since its discovery. Among them, a housekeeper for the nearby Manor of Llandaff or an official of the Llandaff Cathedral.

Dr. Young said: “The site is known as the pound as it was the animal pound for Llandaff and we have evidence of that dating back to about 1607.

“It had always been assumed that the area was also the pound before that so the discovery of a medieval dwelling on the site was quite unexpected.”

Items discovered from the site will now be sent to experts at Cardiff University and other national museums for analysis. This will, hope researchers, provide more details about who may have once lived there and what their life entailed.

Although, Dr. Young admitted: “It won’t be for another six months or even a year until we could come to any sort of conclusion.”

The community dig project was granted funding by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and Cardiff YMCA Trust. In August, researchers uncovered a number of historic items of significance at a separate site in Cardiff.

Nestled in the Cardiff suburbs of Caerau and Ely, shale bracelets were found at an Iron Age hill fort.

It was thought to once be the powerhouse for the city more than 2,000 years ago, with previous excavations have uncovered evidence of houses.