In 1986, workers in Sichuan province in China were digging for clay for bricks when they stumbled onto an archaeological treasure: a major site for a Bronze Age civilization previously only guessed at. The civilization, called Sanxingdui (wikipedia), had an art style unlike any other Chinese civilization previously encountered. Archaeologists had suspected there was a major city in the area since an early jade find in 1929 and a team went to work immediately, unearthing burial pits and gorgeous artifacts. (More history of the site.) An exhibit of treasures from Sanxingdui is on display in Houston until September; a permanent display can be found at a museum dedicated to the culture in Chengdu. Meanwhile, archaeologists continue to discover more of the city (warning: autoplay video) and even the remains of some of the inhabitants.
The World’s Oldest Pornography. The Kangjiashimenji Petroglyphs in the Tien Shan Mountains: A Fertility Ritual Tableau.
Golden Buddha, Hidden Copper. "Twelve years after the Taliban blew up the world-famous Bamiyan Buddhas, a Chinese mining firm -- developing one of the world's largest copper deposits -- threatens to destroy another of Afghanistan's archeological treasures." Campaign to Save Mes Aynak.
Should-we-eat-it-filter: A 2,400-year-old vat of soup has been discovered in China. [more inside]
Tibetans May Be Fastest Evolutionary Adapters Ever. "A group of scientists in China, Denmark and the U.S. recently documented the fastest genetic change observed in humans. According to their findings, Tibetan adaption to high altitude might have taken just 3,000 years. That's a flash, in terms of evolutionary time, but it's one that's in dispute."
Fascinated by the Orient An exhibition of the letters, photographs and maps bequeathed to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences by the great explorer, archaeologist, geographer and Sanskritist Sir Marc Aurel Stein. Journeyer in the footsteps of Alexander, explorer of Central Asia and West China, surveyor of the antiquities of India and Iran; after a long life of journeying through and studying central Asia, Aurel Stein found his final rest in Kabul. He is also remembered for rediscovering the oldest dated printed book still in existence, a copy of the Diamond Sutra in the caves at Mogao. That the latter and many thousands of other manuscripts collected by Stein now reside in the British Library is of course, like his other 'treasure hunting', not without controversy.
Man from the Margin: Cao Cao and the Three Kingdoms You'll perhaps have read or watched reports that archaeologists believe they have found the tomb of Cao Cao (曹操) (of course, not everyone agrees with the identification). Warrior, strategist, statesman and poet, Cao Cao lives on in the cultural memory of China, a by-word for cunning and of course a central character in the great historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms and hence also recent John Woo blockbuster Red Cliff. To understand the man in his historical context, there's little better in English than the 1990 George Ernest Morrison Lecture in Ethnology given by now-retired Professor Rafe de Crespigny, one of the foremost Western scholars of the Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms periods of Chinese history. He makes several of his vastly erudite essays on Chinese history available at the ANU's website.
What caused the Viking Age? It has long been a source of, er, conflict among Nordic scholars. A new study ($ub-only) suggests the Viking Age was triggered by a shortage of women (lack of).
The International Dunhuang Project, developed jointly by the British Library and the National Library of China, makes thousands manuscripts and paintings from ancient caves and temples along the Silk Road viewable to the public. The artifacts were found in the Dunhuang cave in China in 1900 and dispersed to museums around the world, but now they have been brought together on the web. And if you want some appropriate music to go with it, check out Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Project.
The Mummies of the Tarim Basin were discovered fifteen years ago by Chinese archaeologists working in the salty deserts of far western China. These bodies date from between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago and have been preserved so well in the extremely dry salty conditions that some of them look like they're still alive. Even more remarkable is that their clothing is still intact including tapestries and tartans. Finally these people were six feet tall, had long noses and fair hair and there is strong evidence that they spoke a language whose closest relatives are Celtic and Latin.