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Archaeologists Open Ancient Child’s Coffin for First Time

Archaeologists Open Ancient Child’s Coffin for First Time



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Last month we reported on the rare discovery of a Roman coffin belonging to a child in a field in Leicestershire, England. However, archaeologists could not open it until conditions were right out of fear that the contents would rapidly deteriorate. Scientists were also not very hopeful about finding any remains inside the coffin as an examination through an endoscope only revealed layers of silt. But the important moment came this week and researchers were pleasantly surprised with what they found .

Unlike most coffins from the Roman era, which were made of wood, this coffin was made of lead, suggesting that the child came from a powerful and wealthy family. This fact aided in its preservation as a wooden coffin would have deteriorated long ago.

Stuart Palmer, from Archaeology Warwickshire, had said it was unlikely any human remains would still exist inside the coffin. “We may find some bone fragments, but there’s no guarantee they will be recognisable,” he added.

However, after painstakingly sifting through the layers of silt inside the coffin, archaeologists were please to find fragments of bone, which will be analysed, and a black jet bead, which may have belonged to the child.

“To be present at its discovery and now seeing its secrets being revealed is amazing. The experts doing the work say they have never worked on a child’s lead coffin from Roman times,” said amateur treasure-hunter Chris Wright, who was one of the people who found it. Stuart Palmer added that there may only be a handful of lead-lined Roman coffins in the country.

A full analysis is about to be undertaken, including an examination of the soil looking for seeds, pollen and any more bone fragments which may have survived. A full report on the findings will be reported in around a month.

"It's important because it's a rare opportunity to look at the burial customs, the environment and the type of clothing,” said Palmer. “We hope it will shed much needed light on a remote period of our past."


    Egyptian archaeologists uncovers 4,000-year-old manuscript inside newly discovered coffin in Saqqara

    CAIRO – 14 October 2020: Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered a 4,000-year-old manuscript inside a newly discovered coffin in the Saqqara region. It could be the oldest of its kind, providing an interesting insight into the mind of the ancient civilization.

    In early October 2020, Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced the largest discovery in 2020, which was the discovery of 59 ancient coffins in the Saqqara region. 

    Upon opening a decorated sarcophagus, the team uncovered the remains of a mummy wrapped in a cloth with brightly colored hieroglyphic inscriptions.

    According to the Express website, this discovery gives a unique vision of the ancient Egyptians, who were obsessed with the afterlife. Egyptian religious doctrines presented three ideologies about what happened after death: belief in the underworld, eternal life and rebirth of the soul. 

    The site states that the discovered book is an introduction to the Egyptian funerary texts known as the "Book of the Dead." It is a 4,000-year-old version of this text, making it the oldest copy ever found.

    "The ancient Egyptians were obsessed with life in all its forms death was for them a new life," said Rita Lucarelli, Associate Professor of Egyptology at the University of California, in 2019. 

    The text was found inside the coffin of a mummy, and unlike bound books in the modern era, the ancient text was drawn across the interior of the sarcophagus itself. Experts said that the inscriptions clearly refer to the book and that other artifacts in the tomb date back to the reign of Pharaoh Mentuhotep II.

    Harko Williams, an Egyptologist at the University of Leuven in Belgium, said that the sarcophagus texts aim to place the deceased in the realm of the gods.


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    Mystery box found in Tutankhamun's cursed tomb opened for first time on camera

    A mysterious box found in the cursed tomb of King Tutankhamun has been opened for the first time on camera.

    The exquisite chest belonged to the ancient Egyptian pharaoh&aposs wife, who was also his half-sister, in the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile.

    The site, containing 63 tombs, was not excavated until 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter, under Lord Carnarvon, and the linen closet is believed to be King Tut&aposs wife&aposs only artefact that still exists.

    Archaeologists are preparing thousands of treasures, including this 3,500-year-old chest, for an exhibition in Cairo Museum.

    Read More
    Related Articles

    Historian Bethany Hughes is seen suggesting opening the chest on her Channel 5 show, &aposEgypt&aposs Greatest Treasures&apos.

    She asks archaeologist Dr Essa Zidan: "I think it looks like a linen chest, could we open it?

    "This is a box that has never been filmed before or opened and the doctor just offered to open it for us."

    Dr Zidan agreed and brought in the team to reveal the secrets inside the brown and white coloured chest. Unfortunately, the chest was empty.

    Bethany said: "You can smell the wood and the resin, it&aposs empty but you can smell the history coming out of it.

    "It still is the most remarkable thing and it&aposs tantalising us with its secrets."


    • Archaeologists discovered 13 earlier this month and have since found 14 more
    • The ancient wooden sarcophagi have been buried for around 2,500 years
    • The discovery was made at the ancient Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo

    Published: 20:10 BST, 20 September 2020 | Updated: 23:50 BST, 20 September 2020

    27 sarcophagi that were buried 2,500 years ago have been discovered in Egypt in what is believed to be the largest find of its kind.

    Archaeologists working at the ancient Saqqara necropolis near Cairo uncovered the incredible collection.

    Initially only 13 sarcophagi were found earlier this month, but further efforts have uncovered an extra 14, the BBC reports.

    27 sarcophagi that were buried 2,500 years ago have been discovered in the ancient Saqqara necropolis near Cairo. Pictured: Egypt's Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri inspects one of the coffins

    The sarcophagi have been buried underground for 2,500 years. 13 were initially found earlier this month before a further 14 were uncovered

    It is believed the archaeological haul of 27 sarcophagi is the largest of its kind ever

    In a statement on Saturday, Egypt's Antiquity Ministry said: 'Initial studies indicate that these coffins are completely closed and haven't been opened since they were buried.'

    The find is believed to be the largest of its kind ever and the ministry's statement said that they hoped to reveal 'more secrets' about the discovery soon.

    Alongside the wooden sarcophagi, smaller statues and artefacts were also discovered by the archaeological team.

    Although having been discovered earlier, the ministry delayed announcing the news until Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani could visit the dig site himself to inspect the sarcophagi.


    Mystery box from Tutankhamun’s ‘cursed tomb’ opened for first time ever on camera

    A MYSTERIOUS box found in the tomb of the Ancient Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun has been opened for the first time on camera.

    The 3,500-year-old artefact is believed to have been a linen chest used by Tut's wife – who was also his half-sister – to store her lavish outfits.

    It's the only artefact of hers that exists, and was found in the 1920s within Tut's treasure-laden tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings.

    The box is now being prepped for an exhibition at a Cairo Museum, and historian Bettany Hughes got an unexpected peak inside during the filming of her Channel 5 show "Egypt’s Greatest Treasures".

    Like many of Tut's treasures, the meticulously painted crate was excavated by British archaeologist Howard Carter after he famously discovered King Tut's tomb in 1922.

    "One of the items in Howard Carter’s original photographs was this enigmatic box," Hughes said during the August broadcast of the documentary.

    "But we now know this treasure didn’t belong to the pharaoh. We know that this belonged to Tutankhamun’s wife."

    Tutankhamun, Ancient Egypt's "boy king" who took the throne aged just nine, married his half-sister Ankhesenamun shortly after he became Pharaoh in 1332 BC.

    While the young couple had no surviving children, it is known they had two daughters, both likely to have been stillborn.

    In Egypt's Greatest Treasure, Hughes, fascinated by Ankhesenamun's antique chest, asked museum curator Dr Essa Zidan if they could open it.

    To her surprise, he said yes, giving her what she claimed was a world-first look inside the ancient trunk.

    "This is a box that has never been filmed before or opened and the doctor just offered to open it for us," Hughes said.

    "I think it looks like a linen chest."

    Unfortunately, the chest was empty, but Hughes said she could "smell the history" coming out of it.

    Who was King Tutankhamun?

    Here's everything you need to know.

    • King Tutankhamun is the most famous of Egypt's ancient pharaohs
    • He ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago from 1332 to 1323 BC
    • Tut is known as the "boy king" as he was just 10 years old when he took the throne
    • When he became the king he married his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten. They had two daughters together but both were stillborn.
    • Tut died aged just 19 under mysterious circumstances
    • Some believe that King Tut was assassinated but most believe that his death was an accident
    • The pharaoh is also famous for the suposed curse that haunts his tomb
    • After the tomb's discovery in 1922, archaeologists, and even their family members, died from horrible illnesses or in strange accidents – and some say the deaths weren't a coincidence

    “Sadly, the box is empty. But, you can smell the wood and the resin," said the Ancient Egypt buff.

    "It’s empty, but you can smell the history coming out of it.

    "It still is the most remarkable thing and it’s tantalising us with its secrets."

    The box will be part of a new permanent exhibit at the Grand Egyptian Museum near Cairo.

    The museum has been under construction for 15 years and will open in 2020 near the Pyramids of Giza.

    Tutankhamun, a pharaoh of the 18th Egyptian dynasty, ruled Egypt from 1332 to 1323 B.C.

    He is most famous for his age – experts believe the boy was nine when he took the reigns of the world's most powerful empire.

    His death aged just 19 has puzzled experts for decades. Some believe he died of a broken leg or other accident, while others suspect he was assassinated.

    The news follows the dramatic opening last year of a mysterious 2,000-year-old sarcophagus hidden inside a buried tomb in Egypt.

    The coffin's discovery in July 2018 caused a stir in the archaeology community after worried onlookers warned over an ancient curse.

    Despite concerns over a jinx, archaeologists broke open the sinister stone coffin and live-streamed the operation for the world to see.

    While they didn't find any banshees or demons inside, they did discover three decomposed mummies submerged in rancid sewer water.

    This computer illustration shows the layout of King Tut's tomb. Suspected hidden chambers that may contain other members of his family are shown as faded boxes


    A 2,600-year-old Celtic Princess discovered in Germany

    The princess had remained in her final resting place since about 609 BC. German experts began to dig out the 80 tons of clay covering the grave to remove it to bring to their offices where it could be examined.

    Experts believe that the manner that she was buried, with expensive jewels, shows that she was of high social rank. The brooches found are particularly beautiful with Celtic designs in gold and amber. According to BBC reports the remains of a child were also found in the grave. The child is presumed to be the princess'.

    The entire grave and the surrounding clay were unearthed, put onto a truck and transported to the office of archaeological service of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, in Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart. The grave, encased in concrete, ended its journey in the back garden of the offices protected by a tent.

    Read more

    They then used X-rays to examine the find. On the scene, from the top of the hole they had dug, archaeologists found bones and jewels but now modern resources will allow them a more in-depth and delicate examination of the grave.

    Those working on the grave believe that the remains belong to a Celtic princess and their child, a prince or princess. However, this matter is a point of dispute among archaeologists.

    Dr. Dirk Krausse, who led the dig, said "It is the oldest princely female grave yet from the Celtic world…It is the only example of an early Celtic princely grave with a wooden chamber."

    Love Irish history? Share your favorite stories with other history buffs in the IrishCentral History Facebook group.

    The grave was preserved in the water-logged soil. It is so intact that they have been able to put an exact date on the woman's death. The oak they found on the floor of the chamber was felled 2,620 years ago. Assuming they were cut down specifically to build the chamber, the princess died in 609 BC. Also surprisingly the grave had not been robbed over the last 2,600 years.

    Working from above the grave, in the tent, Nicole Ebenger-Rest, did much of the excavation. She uncovered the teeth of the Celtic princess as well as specks of cloth, food or other organic matter which may reveal a great deal about the Celts way of life.

    She said it's difficult to relate to and fathom the fact that this woman lived 26 centuries ago. She said "It is a skeleton but it's still a human being so you have a natural respect…It's a natural respect between two people."

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    HOLY LAND'S ANCIENT ART AT THE MET

    BENEATH the calm surface of ''Treasures of the Holy Land: Ancient Art From the Israel Museum'' lies a complex, if not stormy, show. It is thoughtful and sometimes inspired in its consideration and installation of objects from a very special part of the world, where religion is like oxygen and archeology is a way of life. But its desire to avoid controversy creates an atmosphere in which the intensity and passion of the Holy Land struggle to breathe.

    With all that the exhibition has to offer, and it is extremely informative, it is also evasive. Originally scheduled for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then canceled in 1984 in a decision museum officials now regret, the show in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall of the Metropolitan through Jan. 4 is cautious and restrained. It wants facts and nothing but the facts. The problem is that those facts drive home that controversy has been endemic to the Holy Land and the lifeblood of the art produced there.

    The strength of the show is not esthetic. While this is not an exhibition of objects that will thunder into the imagination with the impact of Assyrian horses or Egyptian kings, it nevertheless contains numerous objects with the capacity to bring distant times and places to life. Using strange, and in many cases recently discovered, archeological material, ''Treasures of the Holy Land'' is first and foremost an archeological survey of a part of the world the size of New Jersey that may mean more, to more people, than any other.

    While the show treats every object with scholarly care, it is also schematic. It uses a limited number of works, 150, many of them small-scale and functional, to document an immense span of time, more than 10,000 years. Most of the objects come from the Israel Museum, a 20-year-old institution in Jerusalem that is Israel's main archeological repository. In their introduction to a catalogue filled with indispensable documentation, Yael Israeli and Miriam Tadmor, two curators at the Israel Museum, describe the 150 works as the ''quintessence'' of their collections.

    In a region in which religion pervades every aspect of daily existence, any object is a potential discovery. The ''Model of a House'' from the early third millennium B.C. is a plain ceramic structure, 8 1/8 inches tall and 10 1/2 inches wide, with one open doorway and four walls. The house seems swollen with movement. The walls appear to be blowing back and forth, and the entire structure seems to reverberate with the breath of life.

    The ''Shrine of the Stelae'' would be enough by itself to transform almost any setting into a ritual site. It dates from the middle of the second millennium and consists of 10 stone steles, one seated figure, a miniature lion gate and a stone slab lying on the ground like an altar. No stone is more than two feet tall. Except for the altar, all the objects take their place within a half-circle that echoes the crescent engraved into the priestly figure's chest. The small scale, the formal rhythms and the procession of upright slabs make this the most hypnotic work in the show. The marble ''Head of a Young

    Woman'' dates from the second century A.D., when the Holy Land was under the dominion of Rome. The eyes still bear traces of paint. While the young woman and the carving technique are Roman, the feeling for the sculptural volume of the head suggests Assyria and Egypt. The plaited hair glides back and then up, giving the frontal head an internal dynamism that seems to have been drawn from the same source as the restless energy of the ''Model of a House.''

    The exhibition has a troubled history. It was originally scheduled for 1984, then canceled by the Metropolitan because of fears aroused by a dozen objects that had been in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem - now known as the Archeological Museum in Jerusalem. East Jerusalem belonged to Jordan until the 1967 war, when Israel took it over. Israel's claim to one Jerusalem united under Israeli rule continues to be disputed by the Arabs, which led the Metropolitan to believe the exhibition would involve too great a security risk. The dozen objects are in the current show, but it would almost take a detective to find them.

    Although officially ''The Treasures of the Holy Land'' was organized jointly by the Metropolitan Museum and the Israel Museum, the distribution of responsibility is peculiar. The Metropolitan played a decisive role in the selection of the objects, and the Met designed its low-keyed installation, but in the press release the curator of the exhibition is Miriam Tadmor of the Israel Museum. Apart from a foreword, neither the Met, nor the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, nor the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the other venues for the exhibition, contributed to the catalogue.

    This is one reason why the show is so removed from issues with which many American artists and intellectuals are now concerned.

    The one contribution by someone who is not from the Israel Museum is the 'ɺrchaeologist's Introduction'' by William G. Dever of the University of Arizona. Mr. Dever indicates the speed with which archeology has evolved. More and more disciplines, including ethnography, climatology and the history of technology, are now part of archeological analysis and interpretation. Mr. Dever emphasizes the spirit of international cooperation in Israel - the ''open and progressive archaeological climate'' that he says has 'ɾncouraged the foreign schools in Jerusalem to continue their work.''

    The exhibition leaves no doubt about archeology's political and social importance. In the Holy Land, history can never be an abstraction.

    Not just the Israeli past, but also the spiritual and cultural patrimony of other nations and religions is always right there, inescapable, in the light and stone, and piled inside the earth.

    Archeology in the Holy Land could not be more loaded. It is a means of dialogue and self-exploration, but it is also inevitably a source of power.

    With all its silences, ''Treasures of the Holy Land'' has a lot to say. There are not only heads and figurines, but also ossuaries, seals, coins, jewelry, mosaics and enough epigraphic material to emphasize the role of the word. In documenting the history of the Holy Land and making us aware of all the cultures that conquered, relinquished and settled it, the show dramatizes what a melting pot this extraordinary region has been.

    The installation is basically divided into six sections. The first includes objects from the Natufian culture and focuses on the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. An 'ɺnthropomorphic Figurine'' from the sixth millennium B.C. is Brancusi-like in its purity. A ceramic ''Seated Woman,'' in which tiny stones seem to have been kneaded together like dough, is an heir to prehistoric fertility goddesses.

    In the '𧯮rsheba Venus,'' breasts are eyes, the navel is a mouth, and the work is a precursor of a key image in Surrealism.

    The next stop is the Bronze Age, with its 'ɺnthropoid Sarcophagi,'' among the many objects in the show that reveal the meticulous preparation for death that was characteristic of Middle Eastern cultures. Next is the Israelite Period or Iron Age. In this period King Solomon built the First Temple, which was destroyed in 586 or 587 B.C. by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.

    Relatively little has been found from the Persian period that followed, which is taken as a sign of the turbulence in the region after the destruction of the First Temple. Under Persian rule the Temple was rebuilt.

    After Alexander the Great conquered the Middle East in 332 B.C., the culture of the Holy Land was marked by Greece.

    The Second Temple was destroyed around A.D. 70. 'ɿirst built by Zerubbabel in 520 B.C.,'' the catalogue says, 'ɼonsecrated again by the Hasmonaeans, and lavishly reconstructed by Herod, the Temple stood in Jerusalem as a center of Jewish life and national identity. The dramatic event of its destruction never faded from the memory of the nation, and efforts to overcome this trauma would shadow the entire future history of Judaism.''

    The exhibition cointinues through the Islamic conquest in A.D. 640.

    There are three Byzantine floor mosaics. The one made for a villa includes three fish organized into the kind of insistent pattern that is familiar from Byzantine mosaics in Italy.

    The mosaic made for a church features a lion with a mane like a crown and a tail like a snake and a similar decorative flair. The largest mosaic was made for a synagogue, and it includes a Torah shrine that evoked the Temple in Jerusalem. By ending with the Dead Sea Scrolls, the exhibition calls attention both to the importance of the Bible and to the advances in knowledge that have been made possible by archeology.

    With all the exhibition has to offer, the unwillingness to speculate leaves it strangely limited. For example, Martin Weyl, the director of the Israel Museum, writes in the catalogue that when '𧾬ing the actual remains of antiquity, visitors may be startled to realize how little the objects conform to the images they have lived with since childhood.'' Although the same point is made by Mr. Dever, there is no attempt to consider this gap, or to reflect upon the role archeology has played in the 20th-century split between literal and imaginative truth, or between science and faith.

    In addition, while outlining the evolution of archeology, the catalogue does not consider what this rapid evolution means for our understanding of history. If the totality of early sites is irrecoverable, and if almost every archeological discovery is approached with more sophistication than previous discoveries, then what does the history of the Holy Land mean, and how authoritative can it be?

    Furthermore, no answers are suggested to some of the most intriguing questions raised by individual objects. Why was there so much interest in the nose? If we are presented with an object as fascinating as the fifth-century A.D. ''Plaque Against the Evil Eye,'' shouldn't there be some discussion of what the evil eye was and how this plaque actually worked?

    If the catalogue entry for the second millennium B.C. 'ɺnthropoid Sarcophagus'' tells us a man was placed in the coffin first and the woman second, shouldn't there be some discussion of the role of gender in burial customs?

    What is disconcerting is the show's apparent unawareness that what matters for an American audience is not that questions like these would be definitively answered but that they would be addressed. And if the exhibition is going to argue for caution and decorum, then we should not have to walk directly from the Dead Sea Scrolls into a Holy Land shop.

    ''Treasures of the Holy Land'' will change our sense of the past, but it could have expanded our understanding of the present as well.

    After closing at the Metropolitan, the exhibition will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (April 9 to July 5) and to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (Oct. 30, 1987, to Jan. 17, 1988). The show was made possible in part by Mr. and Mrs. Milton Petrie Frederick, Daniel and Elihu Rose Mr. and Mrs. Laurence A. Tisch an anonymous donor Mr. and Mrs. Eugene M. Grant, and Mortimer B. Zuckerman.


    Tutankhamun's sarcophagus (a box-like stone container) held not one, but three coffins to hold the body of the king.

    Two of Tutankhamun's three coffins were made of wood, covered with gold sheet. But the innermost coffin is made from thick sheets of beaten gold and worth well over £1 million.

    The coffin and the treasured collection of Tutankhamun's tomb are expected to be the centrepiece of the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which is due to open next year.

    "The coffin has suffered a lot of damage, including cracks in the golden layers of plaster and a general weakness in all golden layers," said Eissa Zidan, who is in charge of the restoration of the coffin at the museum.


    Watch the video: Ancient Egyptian tomb opened for first time in 2,500 years (August 2022).