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Earliest dated saddle in China for horse-riding identified from burial



Archaeologists excavating a tomb at the Yanghai cemetery in the Turfan Basin, located in the eastern end of the Tian Shan mountains in the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, China, have found a well-preserved soft leather saddle associated with the Subeixi Culture.

The emergence of the saddle brought about a significant enhancement to horseback riding, leading to a revolutionary impact on warfare and facilitating swift long-distance travel throughout Eurasia.

The tomb contains the burial of an adult female in a flexed position, who was buried with a hide coat, leather boots, a pottery cup, a braided woollen band, remains of woollen fabric, and the leather saddle that was placed at her buttocks.

According to the excavation report, the saddle is formed of two oval shaped cushion pads made of cow hide and is filled with a mixture of deer and camel hair. The upper side of the saddle is made up of five pieces of hide sewn together with fine running stitches using sinew thread that forms the seat and the front supports.

Based on the tomb construction and burial items, the Turfan Administration of Cultural Relics dates the burial to between the 7th and 4th century BC.

A recent carbon dating analysis, the results of which are published in the journal Science Direct, has dated the saddle to a range of 727–396 BC with a 95.4% probability. This supports the assigned typologically age previously suggested and is oldest saddle datedin China.

According to the study authors: “The saddle and other equestrian paraphernalia in the Yanghai grave assemblages further illuminate the role of horsemanship in sedentary communities in eastern Central Asia during the first half of the first millennium BC”.

Science Direct

Header Image Credit : P. Wertmann; M. Yibulayinmu

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Maya tomb with funerary offerings found during hotel construction




A tomb with funerary offerings has been uncovered during the construction of the Tren Maya Hotel, in Palenque, Mexico.

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) conducted rescue excavations following the discovery, revealing skeletal remains associated with the Maya city of Palenque.

Palenque, also known as Lakamha in the Itza Language (meaning “Flat-Place-River”), is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

The city dates from 226 BC to AD 799, with most of the major construction works representing a rebuilding effort in response to attacks by the city of Calakmul and its client states in AD 599 and AD 611.

The population declined during the 8th century AD, instead becoming an agricultural population that led to the abandonment of the city zone. By 1520 following the Spanish conquest, contemporary Spanish accounts record the entire region being sparsely populated.

Excavations uncovered a stone lined funerary space sealed with limestone slabs, in which the researchers found the remains of a high-status individual who likely lived in the periphery of Palenque in a small settlement.

The burial is located at a depth of four metres, and also contained ceramic vessels and beads deposited as funerary offerings.

“The individual was placed face up with his legs extended and his head facing north,” said Diego Prieto Hernández from INAH.

The discovery was announced in a press conference reporting on the progress of the Program for the Improvement of Archaeological Zones (Promeza) in Palenque, Moral-Reforma and El Tigre, the three heritage sites that are served within Section 1 of the Mayan Train Project.


Header Image Credit : INAH

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Archaeologists unearth possible birthplace of King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle




Archaeologists from the Dyfed Archaeological Trust may have discovered the possible birthplace of King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Pembroke Castle was founded during the 11th century by Roger de Montgomerie, the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury.

In 1452, Jasper Tudor was presented both the castle and the earldom by his half-brother, King Henry VI. In 1457, Henry VII was born at the castle, the only child of Lady Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond.

Following Edward IV’s ascension to the throne in 1471, Henry VII endured 14 years of exile in Brittany. He eventually claimed the throne after his forces, with backing from France, Scotland, and Wales, emerged victorious over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, marking the climax of the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VII’s reign is credited with many administrative, economic, and tax reforms, having ruled for nearly 24 years until his death in 1509 at the age of 52. Henry VII was succeed by his second son, Henry, Duke of York, who ascended to the crown as Henry VIII.

Historians have long assumed that a 13th century tower on the outer ward (known today as Henry VII Tower) was the birth place of Henry VII. However, a recent study by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust has uncovered evidence of a late-medieval winged hall-house, broadly dating to the 15th century.

The walls of the structure extend to around 25 metres, with comparisons being drawn to medieval buildings found in England and East Wales, such as Penallt Mansion in Kidwelly. Historically, Pembroke Castle was situated in the English-speaking portion of Pembrokeshire, often referred to as “Little England beyond Wales.”

Speaking to the Western Telegraph, Neil Ludlow, a consultant to Pembroke Castle, said: “All our indications are pointing to a late-medieval building which was clearly of high status within Pembrokeshire, and it looks as if it was at least two-storeys, which possibly makes it a better candidate for the birthplace of a king rather that the tower that currently bears his name.”

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