A tophet means a sacred precinct outside a city used for burials of sacrifices. In English it also means hell. Which is fitting, because recent evidence from Carthage's tophets contained tiny cremated human bones packed into urns and buried underneath tombstones with inscriptions that gave thanks to the gods. A recent study found that these burials were evidence that Carthage practiced infant sacrifice. As evidence, the researchers cited the inscriptions on the tombstones, which recorded that the gods had “heard my voice and blessed me." Some urns contained animal remains which have definitely been sacrificed and were buried in the exact same way as the children. Finally, the discovered skeletons were far too few to represent all the stillbirths and infant deaths that would occur in a city the size of Carthage 2,000 years ago. The evidence points towards elite Carthaginians engaging in child sacrifice to give thanks for blessings they have received from the gods.
Roman historian Diodorus claimed that in the city of Carthage there was a bronze statue of Cronus with his hands extended, palm up. All babies placed within would roll down into a pit of fire. The historian even made mention of rich families who bought poor children and raised them specifically for sacrifice. Romans and Greeks dismissed Diodorus' claims as anti-Carthaginian propaganda. But modern archaeology may have vindicated him -- though frankly this is something that he probably would have been happy to be wrong about.
Two gilded silver dragon figurines featuring detailed horns, eyes, teeth, and feathers have been discovered in a Xiongnu elite tomb in north-central Mongolia. The dragons bear obvious characteristics of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 9 CE). They are evidence of the cultural exchange and interaction between the prairie in the north and central China, as well as the high status of the Xiongu buried in the tomb. Of course, the silver dragons were not the only rich items they were buried with: a trove of gold, silver, bronze, jade and wood artifacts have also been found.
Where the local word for “China” comes from, the world over. Large view
The Terracotta Army's well-preserved bronze weapons had led some to speculate that artisans during the Qin Dynasty developed anti-rust treatments in the mid-200s BCE. This theory was boosted by the finding of trace amounts of chromium on the surfaces of bronze weapons excavated in Xi'an, China -- the same area where the army was buried. Today, chromium conversion coating is a preservation methods that involves dipping a metal into a solution containing chromium salts, which gives the metal a protective layer of chromium oxide. Maybe the Qin Dynasty's artisans had discovered something similar?
Recently a group of researchers, from UCL and the Terracotta Army Museum, decided to run a study and check the theory. They analyzed 464 bronze weapons and fragments, as well as lacquer and soil samples. They had hypothesized that if chromium conversion coating was not used on the weapons, the chromium traces on the weapons might come from the soil they were buried in, or perhaps from chromium in the pigments decorating the warriors. The study's findings were not what they hypothesized. The terracotta warriors themselves, and organic materials including wooden quivers, scabbards, and shafts, were coated in a lacquer which contained chromium. Bronze weapons were not.
To double-check their findings, replica bronzes were weathered in an environmental chamber. Those buried in Xi'an soil did much better than the bronzes buried in British soil. The experiment indicated that it was Xi'an soil's moderately alkaline pH, its very small particle size, and the tin content of the bronze weapons which helped to preserve them. In other words, the traces of chromium found were incidental and not the reason the weapons were so well-preserved.
Carthage was initially founded by Phoenicians from the city-state of Tyre in the 800s BCE. They named it Qart-hadasht, which simply means “new town.” Situated in today's Tunisia, the settlement was one of many Tyrian colonies dotted around the Mediterranean basin, which brought new materials and goods back to Phoenicia and strengthened and expanded Phoenicia's trading network. Eventually the new town gained its independence around 650 BCE, and became a prosperous trade-based city-state with colonies of its own.
This Scythian woman's boot was saved by being frozen in a Siberian barrow tomb, preserved by the cold where no decomposition could occur. Even the woman's fine felt socks were saved inside the shoes!
Athletes in ancient Greece smeared olive oil on their bodies before a competition. The oil made their skin more supple and made them appear, as classical writers described, "like gleaming statues of the gods."
A bronze ring artifact from Japan has been identified as a weight for measuring commodities. The ring was found a while ago, in 1999, at the bottom of a dry riverbed which flowed during the late Yayoi Pottery Culture period (300 BCE - 300 CE). The artifact is estimated to date to the second half of the 100s CE. The ring measures 12.7 centimeters (5 inches) across, is 0.7 cm (0.27 in) thick and weighs 89.30 grams (3.14 oz).
What makes the find special is that weight rings have previously been found only in China and Korea, as burial accessories. It has been known that Japan during this period had connections with China, as other Chinese-made artifacts from the the Early Han Dynasty (202 BCE - 8 CE) have been found in Japanese tombs. This ring weight suggests that Chinese trading practices, such as a semi-standardized weight system, were also making their way to Japan.
A wealthy individual living in the Chinese city of Luoyang during the Western Han Dynasty (202 BCE to 8 CE) was buried with an assortment of fine bronze, jade, and ceramic objects. Among their burial goods was a jar containing a yellow liquid which smelled alcoholic. Amazingly, it had survived over 2,000 years without seeping away.
Although initially thought to be rice wine, a chemical analysis has revealed the liquid to be a mixture of potassium nitrate and alunite. These minerals are the main ingredients of the legendary “elixir of immortality” mentioned in ancient Chinese texts. Given that it was found as part of a burial, the elixir did not work.
Still, this is a major find. It is the first hard evidence that one of the various “immortality medicines” written about in ancient Chinese texts were actually made. And perhaps drunk, too.