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500-year-old medicine container has been revealed to contain herbal mixtures



A study of a cattle-horn used a medicine container, has been revealed to contain herbal mixtures used by the Khoi or San people 500 years ago.

The container was discovered in the La vie D’Antan rock shelter, located in the Langkloof mountains of South Africa. The rock shelter contains up to 30 paintings in varying shades of red and yellow ochre-based paint across the width of the overhang, depicting human figures with hunting equipment, animals such as antelope, as well as human handprints.

Cattle-horns have been traditionally used as medicine containers throughout the continent of Africa, although in South Africa, tortoise shell and ostrich eggshell are generally more common.

The La vie D’Antan cattle-horn is capped with a rawhide lid and was wrapped in a bundle of Boophane disticha leaves and grass, secured with a twisted plant fibre rope.

A chemical analysis of micro-residues taken from dry scrapings of the horn contents was conducted by using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The results of the study revealed that the horn contained plant-based medicinal compounds, of which mono-methyl inositol and lupeol are the most prevalent.

Mono-methyl inositol occurs in several traditional medicinal plants found throughout the Langkloof mountains, including Sutherlandia frutescens, Cyclopia intermedia, Lotonius laxa and Clitoria ternatea. Sutherlandia frutescens has strong antioxidant properties and was used by the Khoi people for washing wounds and treating fevers and eye infections.

Lupeol also occurs in several medicinal plants found in South Africa, including Ficus cordata, Asteracantha longifolia and several different Euphorbia species. Lupeol is known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and has more recently been used in cancer treatments and antimalarial research owing to its antioxidant properties.

“Radiocarbon dating of a sample of the leather-capped horn places it in use between 1461–1630. To the best of our knowledge, the horn container from La vie D’Antan is the oldest medicine container yet found in southern Africa,” said Justin Bradfield, from the University of Johannesburg’s Palaeo-Research Institute.

“Although we were unable to verify the contemporaneity of the horn and its contents, we consider it unlikely that the horn would have been handed down for more than two or three generations (or 40–60 years). The parcel seems to have been deliberately placed in the rock shelter with the intention of leaving it there for some time,” added Bradfield.

Header Image : CC BY 4.0

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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New chambers discovered in Ancient Egyptian pyramid of Sahura




An Egyptian-German archaeological mission has discovered several new chambers in the pyramid of Sahura, located in the Abu Sir Pyramid Field south of Giza.

Sahura, meaning “He who is close to Re”, was a pharaoh of Ancient Egypt and the second ruler of the Fifth Dynasty (2465 BC to 2325 BC). Sahure’s reign is seen as one of economic and cultural prosperity, opening new trading links to the land of Punt and expanding the flow of goods from the Levantine coast.

Choosing not to follow the tradition of being buried in the royal necropolises of Saqqara and Giza, Sahura instead chose for his pyramid to be constructed at Abusir. Although smaller in size than the pyramids of his predecessors, Sahura’s pyramid complex was decorated with over 10,000 m2 of finely carved reliefs, some of which are considered “unparalleled in Egyptian art.”

The interior chambers of the pyramid were extensively damaged by grave robbers during antiquity, making it impossible to precisely reconstruct the substructure plan.

Image Credit : Mohamed Khaled

A restoration project led by Egyptologist Dr. Mohamed Ismail Khaled of the Department of Egyptology at Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU) has discovered a series of storage chambers and passageways. The northern and southern parts of these chambers are badly damaged, however, remnants of the original walls and parts of the floor can still be seen.

Using 3D laser scanning with a ZEB Horizon portable LiDAR scanner, the team conducted detailed surveys to map the extensive external areas and the narrow corridors and chambers inside.

According to the researchers: “Careful documentation of the floor plan and dimensions of each storage chamber has greatly enhanced our understanding of the pyramid’s interior. During restoration, a balance between preservation and presentation was pursued to ensure the structural integrity of the chambers while making them accessible for future study and potentially the public.”

During the restoration work, the project was also able to uncover the floor plan of the antechamber which had deteriorated over time. Consequently, the destroyed walls were replaced with new retaining walls. The eastern wall of the antechamber was badly damaged, and only the northeast corner and about 30 centimetres of the eastern wall were still visible.

University of Würzburg

Header Image – Pyramid of Sahura – Public Domain

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Archaeologists identify runesmith who carved the Jelling Stone runes




Archaeologists using 3D scans have identified who carved the Jelling Stone runes, located in the town of Jelling, Denmark.

The first of the two Jelling stones was erected by King Gorm the Old in honour of his wife Thyra. Following this, a second stone was raised by King Gorm’s son, Harald Bluetooth, to commemorate his parents and to mark his victorious rule over Denmark and Norway, as well as his role in converting the Danish people to Christianity.

Researchers from the National Museum in Copenhagen have conducted 3D scans to analyse the carving tracks of the runes. Similar to handwriting, the carving techniques are relatively unique to each runesmith, as each stonemason holds the chisel at a certain angle and strikes with a certain force with the hammer.

By studying the angle of the chisel grooves and the distance between them, comparisons can be made with other rune stones, such as the Laeborg Runestone which stands approximately 30 kilometres southwest of Jelling

The analysis has revealed that the Laeborg Runestone has the same carving technique, which also has the inscription: “Ravnunge-Tue carved these runes after Thyra, his queen”.

Queen Thyra is mentioned in the two Jelling stones as the mother of Harald Bluetooth, wife of Gorm the Elder and “penitent of Denmark”, but Thyra’s name is also mentioned in two other runestones, that of Læborg, carved by Ravnunge-Tue in honor of Thyra, his queen, and that of Bække 1, which bears the inscription “Ravnunge-Tue and Fundin and Gnyple, the three made the stop of Thyra.”

For many years, researchers have debated whether Læborgstenen’s Queen Thyra is the same as the Thyra mentioned on the stones from Jelling.

According to the researchers: “The discovery in itself is interesting because it can link another person to the Jelling dynasty, but it is especially interesting because the realization brings with it another startling revelation, explains Lisbeth Imer, runologist and senior researcher at the National Museum.”

“It is an absolutely incredible discovery that we now know the name of the rune maker behind the Jelling stone, but what makes the discovery even wilder is that we know Ravnunge-Tue’s boss. It is Queen Thyra from Jelling, i.e. Harald Blåtand’s mother, there can no longer be much doubt about that, and that puts the discovery in a completely different light,” says Lisbeth Imer.

National Museum in Copenhagen

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

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