Friday, August 25, 2017

The Prehistoric Plague House

Skeletal Remains Discovered – Northeast China

Unearthing had been done in the ruin site of a tiny wooden house in northeast China wherein the archaeologist came across the skeletal remains of almost 100 bodies which seemed crammed up. They have been attempting to put them together to know what could have actually taken place at the ruin site.

Anthropologist were of the belief that a prehistoric disaster could have probably killed hundreds of people around 5,000 years ago and had compelled the village to stuff the house full of the dead rather than to bury them.

At some point of time, the house had been set on fire or possibly caught fire as verified by the state of the ruins. It was observed that some of the skulls and limb bones seemed to be charred as well as deformed. It was presumed that the fire had been the cause of the collapse of the wooden roof and damaged the bodies that were there.

 At least 97 bodies had been unearthed from the pile that had been left there which ranged in the age group of 19 and 35 years according to reports. Several of the skeletons had been discovered in a disorderly manner in the ruin site of a crypt-type house dubbed F40, which was a small structure of only 210 square feet by way of size.

According to archaeologist in a published study in the journal Chinese Archaeology had reported that the site in northeast China known as `Hamin Mangha’ dates 5,000 year back and is the biggest as well as the best preserved prehistoric settlement located till date in northeast China.

Plague House

Archaeological Discoveries

Besides the bodies, the researcher also discovered over 100 pieces of pottery, jade works, stone implements together with artifacts of bone, shell and horn at the ruin site. There were three tombs there as well as ten ash pits together with a ditch or moat that had been surrounding the area.

Other important archaeological discoveries comprised of the Niuheliang Goddess Temple which seemed to be the most mysterious site of the ancient Hongsham 5,000 years ago wherein beautiful relics of unknown deities as well as bigger than life statues were found. Moreover, the ruin site of the ancient tombs from the Qijia Culture in northwest China dating 4,000 years back has also shown evidences of human sacrifice.

The site `Hamin Mangha’ dates back to an era where writing had not been utilised and the locals lived in comparatively small settlements, growing crops and hunting for their food. The village comprised of the remains of grinding instruments, arrows and spearheads, besides pottery which gives some insight on their way of living.

 The researchers in one field season between April and November 2011 had discovered the foundations of 29 houses which seemed simple one-room structures comprising of a hearth and doorway.

Insight – Catastrophic Events/Mass Disasters

These discoveries at Hamin Mangha provided the researchers with the understanding of the prehistoric people of northern China and how they managed with catastrophic events and mass disasters.

The images taken by the archaeologist at the ruin site express the prehistoric scene better than words. The archaeologist had stated that the bones in the northwest were relatively complete while those in the east often have only skulls with limb bones scarcely remaining. He added that in the south, limb bones were discovered in a mess, forming two or three layers’.

The remains were never buried and had been left behind for the archaeologist to find out some 5,000 years thereafter. A team of anthropologists at Jilin University in China has been researching on the prehistoric remains in an attempting of determining what had occurred to these people at that point of time.

The team had published a second study in Chinese, in the Jilin University Journal, Social Sciences edition on their discoveries.

The Jilin team had detected that the people in that house had died owing to prehistoric disaster resulting in dead bodies being stuffed in the house. The dead resulted quicker than they could be buried at the ruin site.

Outbreak of Acute Infectious Disease

Team leaders Ya Wei Zhou and Hong Zhu had mentioned in the study that the human bone accumulation in F40 had been formed due to ancient human putting remains in the house successively and stacked centrally.

 No remains of older adults besides individuals between the age of 19 and 35 were found. The researchers had observed that the age of the victims that were discovered at Hamin Mangha seemed to be the same that had been found in another prehistoric mass burial that had been earlier unearthed in present day Miaozigou in northeast China.

Zhou and Zhu had also mentioned that this similarity of the ruin site could indicate the cause of the Hamin Mangha site had been identical to that of the Miaozigou sites which means that they both could probably relate to an outbreak of an acute infectious disease. Had it been a disease, it killed people of all age group giving no time for survivors to bury the deceased in a proper manner.

The excavation had been conducted by researchers from the Inner Mongolian Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the Research Centre for Chinese Frontier Archaeology of Jilin University.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Dona Juliana Dias da Costa :A Love Affair That Saved Portuguese from Mughals

Love Affair Between Portuguese Woman & Mughal Prince

This is an unusual love affair between a Portuguese woman and a Indian Mughal prince which describes the intensity of her love that the Portuguese woman by the name Dona Juliana Dias Da Costa had over Shah Alam, the son of Aurangzeb. It is said that she not only assisted in safeguarding the Christian in then Mughal-ruled India but was also responsible in spreading the faith in Portuguese India.

Dona Juliana Dias da Costa was considered to be a woman of Portuguese origin from Kochi in the court of Aurangzeb the Mughal Empire in Hindustan. She became Harem-Queen to the Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah I the son of Aurangzeb who became the monarch in 1707.

 Her family had fled the Dutch conquest of Portuguese Kochi while she herself ended in the court of the Mughal at Delhi serving the family of the prince Shah Alam. She continued to be there till the prince did not find favour with his father and escorted him into exile. She was then rewarded when Shah became the Emperor – Bahadur I after the death of his father and her influence became boundless in the court in spite of being a Catholic in a Muslim state.

Assisted Italian Jesuit Missionary

  It is said that she had galloped on a war elephant with Bahadur Shah during his fights in order to defend his authority and after his death she continued to be greatly considered but with less influence. While Bahadur Shah I had been alive, she was frequently sought out by European powers such as the Dutch, Portuguese, the British and the representatives of the Pope during her period of strongest power.

She was of great help to the Society of Jesus inclusive of assisting the Italian Jesuit missionary Ippolito Desideri in his mission in evangelising Tibet. In appreciation of her various contributions together with services to the Jesuits, she had been recognized as a Patroness of the Society.

Tiwari and Chauhan had come across the diplomatic role of this Portuguese Catholic woman in the 80s, who had spent four years to write disputably the most inclusive documentation of Mughal, Portuguese, British, Dutch and French interaction in India. They have related the Portuguese method for survival with the Mughals with the help of the love affair story between Juliana and Shah.

Proficiency of Skills – Diplomat Par Excellence

From the moment they had a well-known settlement in Hugli through the favour of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, the Portuguese were comfortable being there till they annoyed his son with their misbehaviours which resulted in sacking the settlement in 1632. As a consequence, 4,000 Christians had been taken captives in dreadful conditions to Agra.

As per the book, the parents of Juliana were among the prisoners and Juliana was born in Agra around 1645 wherein her mother by that time had been attached to one of the ladies in the harem of Shah Jahan. After the death of her parents Juliana had been brought up in Delhi by Father Antonio de Magalhanes. According to the authors, Tiwari and Chauhan due to the upbringing under the Jesuit Fathers, together with the years she had spent in Goa, provided her with the proficiency of skills which made her a diplomat par excellence.

She had skills in expertise in languages, international exposure to the happenings all over the world, inclusive of the knowledge of international trade and merchandise, knowledge of medicine as well as surgery since the Fathers had Portuguese doctors from Goa, in their company. Besides that she had all the royal manners and customs which assisted her in gaining great experience

At 17 - Youngest Tutor to Muazzam/Shah Alam

Though Juliana was married, she became a widow at a young age and in 1681-82 paved her way for access to the Mughal court with the help of Father Magalhanes. Tiwari had mentioned that the Aurangzeb had entrusted the education of Prince Muazzam – later Shah Alam, which was his second son, to Juliana.

She had been 17 and his youngest tutor. Muazzam was 18 and was filled with sorrow for the merciless imprisonment of his grandfather Shah Jahan and with this began their lifelong love affair. The book had also provided the Portuguese letters which had been written by the viceroy in Goa to the Portuguese King expressing him of the favour Juliana tends to hold in the Mughal courts.

 Juliana stated that the book moved wherever Shah Alam had been posted by Aurangzeb inclusive to Goa in order to end the threat posed by Sambhaji the Maratha leader. Later on when Shah Alam had been suspected of treason by Aurangzeb and imprisoned, it is said that Juliana had risked her life in making his seven years of imprisonment, comfortable by sneaking in items of luxury to him. Her faithfulness rewarded her when Shah Alam eventually ascended to the throne after the death of his father Aurangzeb.

Worthy Benefactress of the College/Mission of Agra

The book also explains the role of Juliana in assisting Shah Alam in winning the battle to the throne against his own brother. It is said that Juliana got Shah Alam to organize the Portuguese gunners in his artillery and that proved to be a fruitful move.

The book also mentions of her correspondence with the viceroy of Portuguese in Goa as her power rose in the Mughal court under Emperor Shah Alam - `What becomes more than clear from the exchange of these letters to and from Juliana is not only the higher position attained by her at the Mughal court after the release of prince Shah Alam but her continued devotion in making favours to the cause of Christianity from the Mughal territories also’.

In addition to her diplomatic services the book has also recorded the financial help provided by Juliana to the Portuguese. It states that it was around 1707 that she had said to have given the province of Goa a great fortune valued to 40 to 150 contos. When she died in 1734, the Goa Personnel report of 1735 addressed her as the `Worthy Benefactress of the College and Mission of Agra’ in a most strange statement.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Derinkuyu: The Tumultuous History of Turkey’s Underground City

Derinkuyu – Excavated Underground City

One of the deepest excavated underground city, in the Cappadocia in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey is Derinkuyu which is said to be an amazing natural wonder having remarkable fairy chimneys together with battered caverns. Cappadocia is considered to be a wonderful geological scene.

 It is scattered with extensive concealed dwelling as well as secret tunnel passages which several people had utilised it for shelter across the centuries. Derinkuyu is quite well-known and there are hundreds of these homes in the region. At a distance of over 250 feet having a capacity of up to 20,000 people this multi-levelled city included everything which a complete population would require to survive a history, damaged with invasions.

Volcanic eruptions had emitted layer after layer of ash, known as tuff or tufa, many million years ago. Over a period of time, the tuff got cemented into a soft, easily carvable though comparatively stable rock. The inhabitants of ancient Anatolia realized that they could carve out their home right in the hillsides and underground. Derinkuyu is said to be one of the several rock-cut dwellings in the region and is the deepest one till date. This underground dwelling had been discovered in 1963 during the renovation of a surface home.


An Astonishing Discovery

An underground room leading to a concealed passageway had opened up when a wall had caved in. On exploring the passageway, the workers had realized that it seemed to lead further into a deep maze and it became an astonishing discovery.

The researchers observed kitchens, bedroom, food storage room, bathrooms, oil and wine presses, wells, weapons, storage, areas, schools, churches, tombs as well as domestic animal stables within the massive eighteen levels of the city. Moreover there were also rooms of different sizes for various needs. Small spaces were said to be rock-cut tombs while the large one provided the perfect rooms for community meetings and schools. It was obvious that the people had intended to be totally self-sufficient.

There was provision of over fifty ventilation shafts which brought in air from above while thousands of smaller ducts distributed the air throughout the full city. Some of the archaeologists are of the belief that an 8 kilometre long passageway connects Derinkuyu to another remarkable underground city in Kaymakli which indicated that there could have been some degree of cooperation between the different civilizations of the Cappadocia region.

Houses were Underground

It is uncertain as to the age and who had built Derinkuyu but it is known that the Hittites had dominated the Anatolia region from 1600 BCE to around 1200 BCE. After this period, the Hittite Empire had contracted into smaller groups probably owing to various invasions and wars.

Consequently, the Phrygians wandered to the area from the Balkans. Hence if the Hittites had built the dwelling as some of the scholars believe, it could have been well before 1200 BCE. Other experts speculate that the Phrygians had built the underground city that could have taken place between 1200 BCE and 800 BCE.

Thereafter, Persians, Macedonians, Greeks, Armenians, Syrians together with several other groups had been in Cappadocia. The earliest acknowledged mention in writing of underground cities in the kingdom of Cappadocia had been from Xenophon, a Greek historian-soldier in 370 BCE. Xenophon had spent time and had traveled throughout the region and in his work he had mentioned that `the houses here were underground with a mouth like that of a well though spacious below and while entrances were tunnelled down for the beasts of burden, the human inhabitants descended by a ladder. In the houses were goats, sheep, cattle, fowls and their young and all the animals were reared and took their fodder there in the houses’.

History Full of Wars & Instability

The history of Derinkuyu as well as Anatolia is said to be full of wars and instability. Some of the former known residents of the Cappadocian region, namely the Hattians, and later on the Hittites had recognized the area as a valuable trade zone thorough early relationship with their Assyrian fellow citizen. Several tribe and thereafter large governments had motivated to control Anatolia for ages owing to its location that has served as a main trade bub between Asia and Europe.

 It was for these reasons, which the areas in Anatolia had been historically extremely volatile and had been invaded and captured often by various groups. The Roman had captured the lands of Cappadocia in 17 CE and had made it a Roman province under Emperor Tiberius and during the early days of Christianity, the Christian colonies had occupied Cappadocia.

They utilised the underground cities as a means of safety from Roman persecutions. The city of Derinkuyu had been planned with safety perceptions which illustrated that the underground dwellings were intended as refuges. The doors comprised of roll-able disc-shaped stone having a small hole towards the centre which covered entrances and passaged during raids.

Safety an Important Factor

Some speculate that the hole enabled soldiers to shoot arrows out or probably a strong beam through the hole enabled users to open and close the door with ease. It could also have served as one of the first `peepholes’. Since the doors only seemed to open and close from the inside, the inhabitants in the complex had total control. It had been quite easy to defend the village through a small opening against a large opening wherein anyone could walk in easily.

Each level seemed to link to the next level through a hallway having same stone door. Besides this, narrow passages compelled people to go through a single file and this again made it much easier to defend against incoming soldiers. The underground city also had a water containment system which took safety as an important factor. It seemed that one of the main ventilation shafts also served as a huge well.

But the wells in the city did not connect together nor did they all go to the surface. This safeguarded the inhabitants from invaders who would think of poisoning the entire water system from the outside. Cappadocia and Derinkuyu are said to be unbelievable histories together with amazing ancient dwellings that tend to go deep underground.