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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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Celestial reliefs depicting the heavens uncovered in the Temple of Esna




A team of researchers from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and the Universitaet Tübingen, have uncovered a collection of ceiling reliefs during restoration works in the Temple of Esna.

The Temple of Esna, also known as the Temple of Khnum, is a temple complex dedicated to the Ancient Egyptian god, Khnum, and his consorts Menhit and Nebtu, their son, Heka, and the goddess Neith.

The temple was constructed during Ptolemaic times in the Egyptian city of Esna, which during antiquity was known as Latopolis.

During restoration and re-colouring works, the team found a representation of the heavens that depicts the signs of the zodiac, several planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, in addition to a number of stars and constellations used to measure time.

Image Credit : Ahmed Emam, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Over the centuries, the reliefs and their vibrant colours became covered by a layer of dirt and soot, preserving them for nearly 2,000 years.

Christian Leitz, Director of the Department of Egyptology at the University of Tübingen said: “Representations of the zodiac are very rare in Egyptian temples. The zodiac itself is part of Babylonian astronomy and does not appear in Egypt until Ptolemaic times.”

The archaeologists suggest that the system of zodiac signs and their related constellations didn’t appear in Egypt until they were introduced by the Greeks, which were then used to decorate private tombs and sarcophagi. The zodiac was also of great importance in astrological texts, such as horoscopes found inscribed on pottery sherds.

Image Credit : Ahmed Emam, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

“It is rare in temple decoration: Apart from Esna, there are only two completely preserved versions left, both from Dendera,” added Leitz.

The team also found images of various creatures, including a snake with a ram’s head, a bird with a crocodile’s head, the tail of a snake and four wings, and depictions of snakes and crocodiles.

University of Tübingen

Header Image Credit : Ahmed Emam, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

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Maya burial chamber containing green figurines found at Palenque




Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have discovered a burial chamber at the Maya city of Palenque.

Palenque, also known as Lakamha in the Itza Language (meaning “Flat-Place-River”) was a Maya city state located in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Much of the history of Palenque has been reconstructed from hieroglyphic inscriptions on the monuments, revealing a sequence of the ruling Palenque Dynasty from the 5th century till the 8th century AD.

Palenque is a medium-sized site, smaller than Tikal, Chichen Itza, or Copán, but it contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture, roof comb and bas-relief carvings that the Mayas produced.

Image Credit : INAH

Archaeologist from INAH have been conducting restoration works as part of the Program for the Improvement of Archaeological Zones, funded as a government led initiative by the Ministry of Culture.

During excavations of a structure designated CP3, the researchers uncovered a burial chamber containing a skeleton placed in a face-up position and orientated to the north, a typical funerary custom of the high-status inhabitants of Palenque.

Several large ceramic bowls were placed in the chamber as offerings, which according to Maya funerary beliefs would nourish the deceased both in life and death.

The remains of a woman and a skull was also found in a secondary burial deposit, in addition to green figurines made from jade that are often related to rulership and authority, wealth, water, maize, and centrality, or may represent a member of the Maya pantheon of gods.


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