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From the Trenches

Far From Home

By ROGER ATWOOD

Friday, June 08, 2018

Trenches Peru Chinese Worker BurialChinese laborers were brought to Peru in the mid-1800s to harvest cotton and sugar after slavery was abolished in 1854. Some later returned home—but many more stayed. Evidence is now coming to light that hints at the character of their lives in their new homeland.

 

Peruvian archaeologists have excavated the bodies of three workers buried with an array of Chinese artifacts. Wrapped in blankets and resting on the earth or interred in simple wooden coffins, all three were found while gas lines were being laid in Lima’s Carabayllo district. The bodies were well preserved, indicating they were mummified either artificially before burial or naturally by the arid climate. One man was buried naked, his clothing folded on his torso, with an opium pipe and tarot cards. Two others were dressed in tunics, typical of Chinese laborers of the time, and sandals. One had a straw hat. “They wanted to leave with objects that accompanied them in life,” says archaeologist Cecilia Camargo. They also likely wished to maintain their native traditions.

 

Trenches Peru Chinese Worker Burial IIIn what appears to be a larger burial discovered at the summit of an Inca-era burial mound in Lima’s Santa Anita district, archaeologist Roxana Gómez of the Ministry of Culture excavated the remains of 30 Chinese immigrants between 2015 and 2017. Chinese people were excluded from Catholic cemeteries, accounting for their burial in a pre-Hispanic site, she says. The deceased probably worked at nearby farms as indentured laborers.

 

Trenches Peru Inscribed Tablets

Samurai Nest Egg

By ERIC A. POWELL

Friday, June 08, 2018

Trenches Japan Ceramic Jar Coin Jar Wooden Tablet TriptychIn a town just north of Tokyo, a ceramic jar filled with thousands of bronze coins has been unearthed at the site of a fifteenth-century samurai’s residence. According to archaeologist Yoshiyuki Takise of the Saitama Cultural Deposits Research Corporation, the coins, which were cast in China, may have been an offering to the deity of the earth, or may simply have been buried for safekeeping. Markings on a wooden tablet found on the rim of the jar indicate it could contain as many as 260,000 coins, a number that Takise says far exceeds what one would expect to find in circulation in what was then a rural area. 

Nazi Sub Discovered

By JASON URBANUS

Friday, June 08, 2018

Trenches Denmark U 3523 SinkingResearchers from Denmark’s Sea War Museum Jutland used multi-beam echo sounding to locate the wreck of infamous Nazi submarine U-3523 in 400 feet of water, 10 miles north of Skagen in the Skagerrak strait. The technologically advanced U-boat had the potential to revolutionize naval warfare because it could sail for prolonged distances without needing to resurface, but it was sunk by a British aircraft on May 6, 1945. “It was a surprise to find the submarine there, since we believed it was at least 10 miles to the east,” says Gert Normann Andersen, museum director. “But on the scan we recognized the silhouette and were sure it was U-3523.” After WWII’s conclusion, rumors circulated that the submarine may have been fleeing while carrying high-ranking Nazi officials and a cargo of Nazi gold. Since the wreck is being treated as a war grave and will not be disturbed, who or what U-3523 was actually transporting will remain a mystery.

Divine Invitation

By DANIEL WEISS

Friday, June 08, 2018

Trenches Egypt Lisht PapyrusA large papyrus sheet discovered in 1934 has been translated for the first time. It was found at the pyramid of Senusret I at Lisht in Lower Egypt by a team sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The text is written in Coptic, an Egyptian language that adapts the Greek alphabet, and dates to the fifth or sixth century A.D., when Christianity was widespread in Egypt. According to Michael Zellmann-Rohrer of the University of Oxford, who translated the text, it consists of a prayer, some of which would have been inscribed on a physical object to make what is known as a textual amulet. This is a well-known practice in the Egyptian tradition, but somewhat more unusual in a Christian context.

 

The text quotes at length from a prayer by Seth, a son of Adam and Eve, which is believed to have caused a theophany, or an appearance of God. “The user wants, if not a theophany, then at least the full attention of the divinity,” says Zellmann-Rohrer, “so the best way to achieve that will be to repeat the prayer that Seth is supposed to have used.” Another notable feature of the text is that it refers to an angelic power several times as “the one who presides over the Mountain of the Murderer.” Zellmann-Rohrer says this is likely to be a reference to an alternate version of the story of Abraham and Isaac from the Book of Genesis in which Abraham goes ahead with the sacrifice of his son rather than being stopped by God at the last minute.

Pompeii Revisited

By JASON URBANUS

Friday, June 08, 2018

Trenches Pompeii Amphoras Loom Weights Fresco FragmentsTo celebrate the 270th anniversary of Pompeii’s discovery, authorities have revealed the latest finds unearthed in the famous ancient Roman city. The current excavations, which are part of the largest exploration of new material since World War II, took place in a 1,200-square-yard strip along the northern border of the site, where the unexcavated and excavated parts of the city abut. Although there is a moratorium on any digging in roughly one-third of the site that remains buried from the A.D. 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the current project is part of essential conservation work aimed at stabilizing high earthen sections of the unexcavated city that are susceptible to collapse.

 

Archaeologists first had to remove soil that had accumulated during nearby excavations in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To their surprise, they found a wealth of ancient material in these deposits, including fragments of frescoes, broken artifacts, and architectural decorations that had been disregarded by previous excavators. After the subsequent removal of the ashen volcanic layers, parts of an ancient street as well as several buildings and a garden were brought to light for the first time in almost 2,000 years. The entranceway to one partially excavated house exposed the remains of a well-preserved fresco that features a pair of dolphins painted on a dark red background.

 

Trenches Pompeii New Excavations

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