Urgent conservation work is needed to save a series of caves in northwest China containing ancient murals by Buddhist monks, which are threatened with destruction from the forces of nature.
The network of 236 sandstone caves extend over an area of two to three kilometres in the vast, sparsely-populated autonomous Xinjiang region of China, along the ancient Silk Road. The caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks and used as temples between the third and the eighth centuries, and are lined with murals providing a rich picture of early Buddhist culture.
The caves, known locally as Kezer, are prone to deterioration, particularly from moisture, because of their geological composition, which includes many soluble salts. Read more.
There are more than 100 caves and rock sites in Tennessee that reveal forms of prehistoric art, and University of Tennessee archaeologist Jan Simek says he plans to find many others.
“There is a lot more out there to discover,” Simek said after presenting his team’s recent findings at the 2014 Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology meeting at Ellington Agricultural Center.
Simek, a distinguished professor of science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and a team of archaeologists in recent years have made several new cave and rock art discoveries in the Cumberland Plateau, the Smoky Mountains and the river valley in East Tennessee. Some pictographs are underground and others in the open air, many dating back 6,000 years. Read more.
Ancient Maya believed that the rain god Chaak resided in caves and natural wells called cenotes. Maya farmers today in Mexico’s parched Yucatán still appeal to Chaak for the gift of rain. Meanwhile cenotes are giving archaeologists new insights into the sacred landscapes of the ancestral Maya.
On the edge of a small cornfield near the ruined Maya city of Chichén Itzá, in the sparse shade of a tropical tree, a voice ricochets wildly up the mouth of a well. “¡Lo vi! ¡Lo vi!” the shout proclaims. “I saw it, I saw it!” “¡Sí, es verdad! Yes, it’s true!”
Leaning over the mouth of the well, underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda needs to make sure that this is what he has been longing to hear for so many months. “What is true, Arturo?” And his fellow archaeologist Arturo Montero, floating down at the bottom of the well, yells up again, “The zenith light! It really works! Get down here!” Then he whoops ecstatically. Read more.
In remote caves of the Pyrenees, lie precious remnants of the Ice Age undisturbed: foot and hand prints of prehistoric hunters. The tracks have remained untouched for millennia and are in excellent condition. Dr. Tilman Lenssen-Erz of the Forschungsstelle Afrika (Research Centre Africa) at the University of Cologne and Dr. Andreas Pastoors from the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann are going on expedition to encode the secrets of the trails. Their idea: to involve the best trackers in the world in the project in order to learn even more about the tracks. San hunters from Namibia, also known as Bushmen, will be investigating the tracks. The scientific expedition will span two continents and seven weeks.
From the 9th until the end of June, the expedition will go to Namibia in order to prepare the San for the task in hand. The hunters are excellent trackers who can read details that evade others from trails. “The San are amongst the last known ‘trained’ hunters and gatherers of southern Africa,” explains Tilman Lenssen-Erz. Read more.
CARAJÁS NATIONAL FOREST, Brazil — Archaeologists must climb tiers of orchid-encrusted rain forest, where jaguars roam and anacondas slither, to arrive at one of the Amazon’s most stunning sights: a series of caves and rock shelters guarding the secrets of human beings who lived here more than 8,000 years ago.
Almost anywhere else, these caves would be preserved as an invaluable source of knowledge into prehistoric human history. But not in this remote corner of the Amazon, where Vale, the Brazilian mining giant, is pushing forward with the expansion of one of the world’s largest iron-ore mining complexes, a project that will destroy dozens of the caves treasured by scholars. Read more.
MEXICO CITY.- Underwater archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta), recently explored three spaces, all abundant with Mayan culture materials: two semidry caves in Campeche and a cenote [A water-filled limestone sink hole] in Yucatan. The cenote stands out since it contains particularly stylish ceramic that is calculated to have been elaborated about 2,300 years ago. This is unique in its type since it’s the only one that has been found in a cenote.
To Helena Barba Meinecke, responsible for all the underwater archaeology of the Yucatan peninsula, the detailed registry of the caves and the cenote, as well as the archaeological elements found in them, confirm the speculation that these places were used for rituals in the pre Hispanic era.
The distinct characteristics of the pieces, located in the cenote San Miguel, make them stand out among the other discoveries. Access to this 20 meter (65.61 feet) deep body of water, is through the town well by rappel. Read more.
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is dotted with thousands of caves that once housed prehistoric people and later became sacred to the Mayans. German archaeologists and filmmakers are currently involved in a project to explore with modern imaging technology and make a 3-D film of this underwater labyrinth.
There are dead Mayans and the bones of people from the Stone Age in Mexico’s flooded caves. Now the underwater labyrinth is being explored with the help of modern imaging technology. Archaeologists are developing computer models of relics, and a film documents the caves in 3-D for the first time.
A person died here hundreds of years ago. His body fell into the flooded cave and sank into the water. His flesh gradually separated from his bones. Today, he stares at divers out of empty eye sockets. His skull seems to be pushing its way out of the soil, as if he were trying to rise from the dead, to rise up from the sand, shake the tiresome sediment from his bones and escape from the silent darkness. Read more.
On the banks of the Rio Grande, limestone caves containing rock art overlook the river. However, this unique record that was painted by people linked to the Huichol Indians of Western Mexico and is up to 4000 years old, is now under threat.
The artwork is now suffering from both insect damage and vandalism and is also being affected by a higher than normal humidity caused by the damming of the river below.
Doctor Carolyn Boyd of the Texas State University is at the forefront of the drive to protect and record the unique rock art and has been carrying out extensive research into the paintings as well as raising awareness of issues and running educational field-schools.
One such site, Panther Cave, in Seminole Canyon, is one of several hundred such cave locations in the Lower Pecos region with ancient paintings and rock carvings now recognized worldwide as archaeological treasures. Read more.