Scientists and conservators are finally able to return to what was once an Andean war zone. Tierradentro is a cluster of 162 burial chambers hewn from the peaks of four parallel mountains near the Andean town of Inza. They span a few miles of mountainous terrain, with the tomb entrances at the peaks.
These burials were created between 600 and 900 CE, before Spanish colonization, as “homes for the dead” of the ancient society’s elite class. Some are the size of a closet. Others are large, with multiple rooms. And every single burial chamber has beautiful, unique paintings. Read all about archaeologist's recent return to Tierradentro in an Atlas Obscura article
Dragon's head with a wind chime dangling from its muzzle. This bronze dragon head would have been fitted over a wooden beam at the corner of a roof, probably of a Buddhist temple or royal residence. It is one of only two known rafter filials from this period. Korea, Goryeo Dynasty, 900s CE.
Shen Kuo (1031–1095), a scientist from the Song Dynasty, noticed fossilized bamboo in a region which in his day did not have bamboo. Based on the fossil Kuo hypothesized that climate, which had been considered as static, could change.
A Fatimid Caliphate-era ewer carved from a single piece of rock crystal. The Treasure of Caliph Mostansir-Billah at Cairo, which was destroyed in 1062, was said to have contained 1,800 rock crystal vessels. But the ewer you see here is one of only seven (creatively called the Magnificent Seven) known to have survived til today. Circa 1000 - 1050 CE.
Bronze statue of Guan Yu, a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. After he died in 220 CE his deeds entered popular folklore. Guan Yu was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty (581–618 CE) and also became considered a bodhisattva. Today he is god of war, loyalty, and righteousness. This bronze statue dates to the Ming Dynasty, 1400s - 1500s CE.
A bronze buckle and metal bead found in Alaska, and dating to between 700 and 900 years ago, were smelted in East Asia out of lead, copper, and tin. Among the artifacts are a fishing lure with eyes made of iron (top), a copper fish hook (bottom right), a belt buckle (bottom, second from right) and a needle (bottom). They are evidence of cross-Pacific trade which connected the American arctic with its Asian counterpart. European contact in the area dates to only 300 years ago. The artifacts were found in the remains of a dwelling which was part of a cluster of sites inhabited by the Thule, ancestors of the modern Inuit, on Cape Espenberg in Alaska.
That sounds like one of my fun titles, but it's the painting's actual name! (Translated from Chinese, of course.) Silk leaf painting by Li Song, during the Song Dynasty in 1210 CE. The meaning of the painting is debated; it may be a Taoist commentary on death.
New analyses of human poop at Cahokia suggest reports of its abandonment before European contact have been greatly exaggerated. The once-mighty city -- largest north of the Aztecs -- did become depopulated around the mid-1300s. But by 1500 it was already resurging. And by 1650 it may have been larger than it was before its depopulation. That’s pretty remarkable. Despite massive pandemics caused by new European diseases, and at a time when other native populations in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean were in serious decline from violence and foreign diseases spread by European colonists, Cahokia not only survived but thrived.
The new story, based on the new analyses, is that the Mississippian culture did decline in the 1300s but it later repopulated and grew. Meaning that Europeans moving westward in the 1700s were not taking over “empty land” as has long been thought.
Archaeologists in Mexico City have uncovered a pre-Hispanic steambath dating back to the 1300s. Called a temazcal in the indigenous Nahuatl language, it was fueled by natural hot springs underneath the area. It included a tub (basically a pool of water) and a bench for sitting. The structure was made from blocks of adobe and stucco-coated volcanic rock known as tezontle, which formed the tub, the bench, and a domed covering.
Importantly, the discovery of this temazcal confirms the location of Temazcaltitlan, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tenochtitlán, the Mexica capital that eventually became Mexico City. There is a written account by a Nahuatl nobleman of a temazcal being built in Tenochtitlan that was built to bathe and purify a noble Mixiuhca girl named Quetzalmoyahuatzi, and how other townspeople were also welcome to partake in the steambath. This archaeological find confirms the written account. In their excavations at the site, archaeologists also found evidence of a post-colonial house that was inhabited by an indigenous family of noble descent, as well as the remnants of a tannery that was in operation during the 1700s.
Only archaeologists would get excited about finding a latrine. Underneath London's Courtauld Institute of Art at Somerset House, a medieval cesspit has been found, which was used from the 1300s to the 1500s. Up to 100 objects have been retrieved from sticky, greenish sludge in the 4 meter (15 ft) deep pit. Some items are bathroom-related, but there have also been a surprising number of ceramic finds, some not broken which makes it curious why they were thrown away (click through the image gallery to see some of the finds). The variety of finds makes archaeologists suspect the cesspit was both a bathroom and occasional trashpit of the Chester Inn, a poorly-documented residence from the 1400s which stood where Somerset House is today. It is a little ironic that the pit was found when excavating the exact spot where the Courtauld is planning to install new toilets!