According to a recent press release (to IRNA) from Khuzestan Cultural Heritage Lovers Society, researchers have come across what seems to be a 7,000-year-old cemetery in Behbahan County, in Iran’s Khuzestan Province. The exact location of the site lies at Tel Chegah-e Sofla, with the primary discovery being made by Abbas Moghaddam, a senior archaeologist. Interestingly, the experts after some preliminary analysis, have identified two patterns of graves, with some pertaining to collective burials and a few also relating to individual burials. Furthermore, they are hoping that a more detailed assessment can shed some light into the funerary practices and even lifestyle of people who inhabited this region in the prehistoric times.
ΑΝΑΚΑΛΥΨΕΙΣ ΑΡΧΑΙΟΛΟΓΩΝ: ΝΕΚΡΟΤΑΦΕΙΟ ΣΤΗΝ ΠΕΡΣΙΑ ΚΑΙ ΚΟΚΑΛΑ ΜΑΝΤΙΚΗΣ ΣΤΗΝ ΚΙΝΑ (Μικρή συλλογή άρθρων)
Α)Researchers discover 7,000-year old cemetery in Khuzestan, Iran
Unfortunately, we do not have much information about the identities of the people who dwelt in the site around 7,000 years ago. Now in historical (or rather ‘pre-historical’) terms, there are evidences of how early agricultural communities (like Chogha Golan and Chogha Bonut) thrived in Iran, circa 10th-8th millennium BC. To that end, the famed site of Susa in Khuzestan province probably started out as a small Neolithic village by 7000 BC. And by 5th millennium BC (a period which corresponds to this cemetery), the once-tiny village had transformed and evolved into an expansive urban area that paved the way for later civilizations.
And after almost two-thousand years, Susa became the cultural center of the proto-Elamites who carved the first known organized kingdom in Iran before the arrival of Eurasian nomads. This coincided with writing systems and pottery designs that had some influences from Uruk, the largest Mesopotamian city-state of the time. However Susa (or Susiana) still maintained its independence from the political sphere of proximate Mesopotamian urban states, until the arrival of Sargon the Great who founded the Akkadian Empire in approximately 2330 BC.
There is more to this 3,000-year old ox bone than the initial impression suggests. On closer inspection one could discern a certain language inscribed on the ancient specimen. And quite fascinatingly, this language in question is written in Chinese, thus making the bone one of the oldest extant specimens in the world that showcase Chinese characters. In terms of date, this ox bone is from the antediluvian period between 1339-1112 BC, and is one of 614 Chinese-inscribed oracle bones that are in the collection of Cambridge University Library. And the nifty part is – to celebrate the university’s 600th anniversary, the above pictured specimen has become the world’s very first ‘oracle bone’ that is successfully scanned and then 3D printed.
The incredible collection of these earliest Chinese objects mostly comprise ox shoulder blades (also known as scapulae) and turtle shells. And given their ‘oracle’ credentials, the inscriptions consist of answers to the queries of divination during the period when the Shang dynasty ruled over the north-central part of China. But beyond what may seem as supernatural musings, the writings are actually pretty helpful in providing historical insights into various avenues of then-contemporary Chinese society. These avenues range from familiar scenarios of warfare, agriculture and hunting to scientific progresses like meteorology, astronomy and even medical science. One good example pertaining to scientific assessments would relate to a lunar eclipse record from the year 1192 BC, which makes it one of the earliest accounts of some astronomical situation recorded by any human civilization.
And coming to present-day technological advancements, some researchers have been able to successfully digitalize this figment of historical importance. As Charles Aylmer, Head of the Chinese Department at Cambridge University Library, made it clear –
Some of the bones have already been included in the Cambridge Digital Library but now new technology provides readers around the world an even closer look at these precious artifacts. In what is believed to be a world first, one of the bones (which features in the 600th anniversary exhibition Lines of Thought) has been digitised in 3D thanks to the work of archaeologist Professor Dominic Powlesland, one of the leading pioneers in this area.
Now just to get an idea about the sheer degree of preciseness followed by the 3D reconstruction procedure, the bone which only measures about 9 x 14 cm, incorporates a whopping 1.3 million aspects, thus allowing for accurate yet seamless navigation throughout its organic structure. In that regard, the breathtaking details of the process make sure that the viewer can discern quite a few features of this oracle bone beyond just the inscription. These details include the divination pits engraved on the backside of the bone and the scorch marks caused by the heat. These heat-fueled marks possibly ‘fooled’ the augurs and their patrons into believing their link with the supernatural world.
From the technological perspective, the 3D print was made with the help of a specialized printer that is used in the planning phase of orthopaedic surgery. And in case you are wondering, the material used for the 3D reproduction of the oracle bone comprises multiple layers of a fine powdered plaster compound (350 layers to be exact) that are tightened with cyanoacrylate – a type of superglue. Charles Aylmer further talked about the advantages that such an accurate 3D printed reproduction could bring about for future research –
The oracle bones are three-dimensional objects, and high-resolution 3D imagery reveals features which not only all previous methods of reproduction (such as drawings, rubbings and photographs) have been unable to do, but which are not even apparent from careful examination of the actual items themselves. In particular, the reverse sides of the bones, which are crucial to understanding the process of divination but have hitherto been neglected because of the difficulty of representing them adequately, can now be studied in detail thanks to this new technique. To hold a 3D print of an oracle bone is a very special experience, as it provides the same sensory impression as that obtained by the people who created them over three thousand years ago, but without the risk of harm to the priceless originals.
Source: University of Cambridge