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Giant panda found in pit sacrificed to Emperor Wen of Han



Archaeologists excavating the Waizang Pit, one of more than 110 pits surrounding the mausoleum of Emperor Wen of Han, have uncovered a giant panda sacrificed as a funerary offering.

The mausoleum of Emperor Wen of Han was first identified in 2021 in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, China.

Born Liu Heng, Emperor Wen of Han was the fifth emperor of the Western Han dynasty who ruled from 180 to his death in 157 BC. He was considered one of the most benevolent rulers in Chinese history by bringing about a period of stability and relaxed laws.

Recent excavations of the Waizang Pit have revealed the remains of a giant panda placed with its head facing the imperial mausoleum and its tail facing west. By comparing the remains with modern giant pandas, experts have determined that the specimen is part of the Qinling subspecies, characterised by a larger size and a more rounded face.

Similar to the Ancient Egyptians, the funerary customs during the Han dynasty had complex beliefs concerning the afterlife. They denoted the tomb as an “underground palace” (digong) and adorned it with objects and offerings thought to be essential for the soul’s journey after death.

According to the researchers: “Animal burial pits symbolise the underground gardens of the royal cemetery.” Other burial pits around the mausoleum also contained the remains of tigers, tapirs, Indian wild buffaloes, oryxes, serows and yaks.

The wide variety of animal sacrifice was seen as a status symbol for the Han rulers. Animal sacrifice was also found in commoners’ tombs but was limited to domesticated animals such as dogs and pigs.

The discovery is the first example of a complete panda skeleton being uncovered in an emperor’s burial site. In 1975, archaeologists found a panda skull within the tomb of Empress Dowager Bo, mother of Emperor Wen. However, the panda’s body was notably absent, presumably having been stolen.

Header Image Credit : Alamy (Under Copyright)

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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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