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Jiroft

Even though Subhash Kak et al wrote a book asserting that India is the Cradle of Civilization, still Mesopotamia is though to be the one. Now some new discoveries in Iran may change all that.

Archaeological excavations in the lower layers of a cemetery in Jiroft have revealed that its history goes back to the fouth millennium B.C, much before Mesopotamia. Some inscriptions were also found which proves that the writing language of Jiroft was older than that of Mesopotamia.

As the author of a three-volume history of Mesopotamia and a leading Iranian authority on the third millennium BC, Madjidzadeh has long hypothesized that Jiroft is the legendary land of Aratta, a “lost” Bronze Age kingdom of renown. It’s a quest that he began as a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, when in 1976 he published an article proposing that Aratta, which reputedly exported its magnificent crafts to Mesopotamia, was located somewhere in southeastern Iran.

According to texts dating from around 2100 BC, Aratta was a gaily decorated capital with a citadel whose battlements were fashioned of green lapis lazuli and its lofty towers of bright red brick. Aratta’s artistic production was so highly regarded that about 2500 BC the Sumerian king Enmerkar sent a message to the ruler of Aratta requesting that artisans and architects be dispatched to his capital, Uruk, to build a temple to honor Inanna, the goddess of fertility and war.

Yet even if Jiroft turns out not to be Aratta, it is nevertheless a pivotal clue to a better understanding of the era when writing first flourished and traders carried spices and grain, gold, lapis lazuli and ideas from the Nile to the Indus. Although not on a par with the more influential civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus Valley, “Jiroft is obviously a very important archeological complex,” says Holly Pittman, an art historian at the University of Pennsylvania who is one of a growing number of non-Iranian scholars who are being allowed into the country.[What was Jiroft]

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Travel along a path taken by a historical figure is always exciting and many books have been written about those trips. For example Walking the Bible is a journey from Egypt to Jerusalem along the path followed by Moses. Chasing Che is a motorcycle trip along the route that Che Guevera took.

Last year some researchers attempted a bronze age trade route from Sur in Oman to Mandvi in Gujarat in a bronze age boat.

Recently there was a new book, Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud by Shuyun Sun which follows the path taken by Huen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim who toured India during in the 7th century.

Now four Buddhist selected from Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao are planning to retrace the steps of Huen Tsang.

The group will carry valuable gifts for Nalanda, including a Liuzu altar sutra embroidered on silk, a Sakyamuni statue and a copy of an ancient Chinese book, “records of the western regions of the tang dynasty” by Xuanzang`s disciple Bian Ji.

“The embroidered Liuzu altar sutra is the most valuable gift as it is the only sutra originated in China,” said shi Zhongyao, secretary-general of the trip organizing committee. “Others were all translated from Sanskrit,” he added.

In the late autumn of 628, monk Xuan Zang started his journey to South Asia. He walked 25,000 kms and spent 19 years [Retracing Zang`s journey to India]

Unlike Huen Tsang, these folks don’t plan to walk all that 25,000 on foot since they don’t have time for it. Still it would be an interesting journey and I hope someone makes a documentary on it, similar to the Walking the Bible series on PBS.

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Usually archaeologists find artifcats like terracota idols, amphorae or the first labelled portaiture of Emperor Asoka. They also find old temples, forts, boats, and sometimes even skeletons. But it is only once in a blue moon that they find an entire state and this is what happened in China.

The existence of this 3000 year old state, Peng, was never recorded in any historical documents, but only in some inscriptions in bronzeware excavated from two Western Zhou Dynasty tombs

Li Boqian, director of the archaeological research center of the prestigious Beijing University, said at an archaeological forum recently in Beijing that the discovery of the Western Zhou graves in Hengshui is the most important archaeological discovery since the excavation of the graves of the Marquis of Jin, another state of the Western Zhou Dynasty, in Quwo County of Shanxi Province.

The newly found ancient state will help archaeologists and historians better understand the history of the Western Zhou Dynasty and its jurisdiction, Li said.

More than 80 tombs have been excavated at the site in Hengshui, with the tombs of Pengbo and his wife the largest ones. The couple were buried side by side with lots of funeral objects such as bronze ware, carriages and jade, said Song Jianzhong, deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology of Shanxi Province.

One of the most important findings in the graves is the remains of a pall covering the coffins. The remains of the pall, already blended with earth after several thousand years, are still a vivid red color. Phoenix patterns can be seen on the pall, said Song.[3,000-year-old ancient state found in Shanxi]

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Mayan Murals dated 100 B.C, San Bartolo, Guatemala

New archaeological evidence is shifting the timeline of Mayan history. In 2005, archaeologists revealed the final section of the earliest known Mayan mural in the city of San Bartolo in Guatemala. This mural shown above tells the story of creation and the mythology of kinships. This mural has been dated to 100 B.C and thus establishing that Mayans used art and writing centuries earlier than believed.

“There are kings, they have art, they have writing,” Saturno said. “All these things we attribute to the Classic [Maya period] are all in existence in the Preclassic. Now if we want to talk about origins, we need to be going back further in time.”

The Classic period dates from about A.D. 250 to 1000. The Preclassic period dates from about 2000 B.C. to A.D. 250.

Prior to this find, researchers believed sophisticated Maya painting and writing wasn’t firmly established until the seventh century A.D. [Oldest Known Maya Mural, Tomb Reveal Story of Ancient King]

Now the same archaeologist, WIlliam Saturno has found ten bold hieroglyphs painted on plaster and stone from the same site and radiocarbon tests prove that the writing is 100 years older than the murals. This information pushes back the date of Mayan writing to some time between 300 to 200 B.C, around the time the Mauryan empire was in the full bloom in India.

Mayan Hieroglyphs dated 300 – 200 B.C, San Bartolo, Guatemala

For example, glyph 7 is an early version of “AJAW,” a symbol ubiquitously used with kings’ names that means “lord, noble or ruler.” Glyph 2 has vague pictorial qualities and may suggest a hand holding a brush or a sharp knifelike object.

A common problem with dating Mayan writing is that it is often on stone, which scientists can’t accurately date using radiocarbon dating. Instead, they must use stylistic changes to date materials.

However, Saturno and his team found these writings in a pyramid made in part with wood, which is carbon-based and can be dated with radiocarbon techniques. [Earliest Maya Writings Found]

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Archaeology has returned to Afghanistan in a big way. First there was the announcement regarding the Bactrian Gold.. Then there was constant news about the search for a third reclining Buddha in Bamiyan by Zemaryali Tarzi based on a note written by Huen Tsang. Now a Japanese archaeologist team has found some new structures in Bamiyan.

A Buddhist residence and a religious meeting place have been discovered from under a huge amount of debris in the Bamiyan province of Afghanistan.

(…) Habibolah Takhari, Afghanistan cultural deputy in Iran, says that after one year of the Japanese archaeologists working in Bamiyan, at last two houses have been discovered near the destroyed Buddha statues. According to Takhari, archaeologists believe that these two buildings were Buddhist residences and a place for holding religious meetings.

(…) The statues were historically damaged a few times before, once early in the thirteenth century when the Bamiyan was attacked by Genghis Khan, by Orangzeb Khan in 1689, and by Abdol Rahman Khan in 1892 all of whom made a lot of efforts to damage the statues.[Buddhist Structures Dug up in Bamiyan]

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Uncanny Similarities

Many ancient civilizations have a flood story in their mythology. There is the story of Noah’s Ark in Judeo-Christian countries and Sumerians have the Epic of Gilgamesh. In Hinduism we have the story of Manu.

It is amazing that countries spread so far apart have such similar stories and it does not end there. Another similarity is in the stories of children who were floated in baskets down rivers. Yocheved put her son Moses in a small ark and placed it on the river in which the Pharaoah’s daughter bathed. In Mahabharata, Kunti did a similar thing and sent Karna floating down the river.

The book I am reading The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation has a similar story about King Nyatri Tsanpo, regarded as Tibet’s first recorded monarch. King Tsanpo was Indian by birth, descended from a Licchavi king. When he was born, he had many unusual signs in his body and hence his father put him in a casket and sent him river rafting down the Ganges. The child was rescued by a farmer, and later when he came to know his trip down the river, he was overcome with grief and fled to the Himalayas. He arrived at the Yarlung valley in Tibet and later became the King.

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Subhash Kak has a new article in Rediff which, based on the findings of an Oxford University scholar Stephen Oppenheimer, says that

Oppenheimer concludes with two extraordinary conclusions: ‘First, that the Europeans’ genetic homeland was originally in South Asia in the Pakistan/Gulf region over 50,000 years ago; and second, that the Europeans’ ancestors followed at least two widely separated routes to arrive, ultimately, in the same cold but rich garden. The earliest of these routes was the Fertile Crescent. The second early route from South Asia to Europe may have been up the Indus into Kashmir and on to Central Asia, where perhaps more than 40,000 years ago hunters first started bringing down game as large as mammoths.’

This synthesis of genetic evidence makes it possible to understand the divide between the north and the south Indian languages. It appears that the Dravidian languages are more ancient, and the Aryan languages evolved in India over thousands of years before migrations took them to central Asia and westward to Europe. The proto-Dravidian languages had also, through the ocean route, reached northeast Asia, explaining the connections between the Dravidian family and the Korean and the Japanese.

Perhaps this new understanding will encourage Indian politicians to get away from the polemics of who the original inhabitants of India are, since that should not matter one way or the other in the governance of the country. Indian politics has long been plagued by the Aryan invasion narrative, which was created by English scholars of the 19th century; it is fitting that another Englishman, Stephen Oppenheimer, should announce its demise. [The cradle that is India]

To see an animated version of human migration, visit the site of the Bradshaw Foundation. The theory that India was the cradle for all non-African people will be pretty hard to digest for many people.

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