Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The world's first artificial eye

Reconstruction of the Face of a 5000-year old Woman in iran

The face of a 5000 year old Iranian woman has been recently reconstructed with the latest scientific archaeology methods of by Iranian researchers (see Persian-languiage article sourced from Tabnak News-see also English-language posting in Afarensis: Anthropology, Evolution & Science) .

Reconstruction of 5000 year-old woman found at the “Burnt City”. Her face was reconstructed with the latest technology available to anthropologists, paleontologists and forensic experts. She is believed to have been of the ancient city’s upper crust and served as a priestess during her lifetime. The lady is also notable due to the artificial eye that was discovered, still  lodged in the eye socket of her skull after thousands of years.
Maryam Tabeshian of the Cultural Heritage News Agency of Iran (December 10, 2006 had previously noted of researchers having excavated a 4,800-5000 year-old artificial eye along with a skeleton and other findings from the Burnt City (located near the city of Zahedan in Iran’s Seistan-Baluchistan province in the southeast of Iran).

Skeleton of a young woman from the Burnt City. Note artificial eye in the eye socket of the skull.
The site of the Burnt City has also yielded numerous interesting finds including an ancient measuring rulerbackgammon game pieces and an animation device.  Researchers have ascertained that the artifical eye belonged to a woman aged 25-30 who hailed from a higher echolon of the local society at the Burnt City.
Ancient dices discovered at the Burnt-City. At present experts are (a) attempting to determine why the game was played with sixty pieces and (b) working to decode the rules of the game. Iranians call Backgammon “Takht-e Nard”.
Interestingly, the woman’s gravesite has also yielded vessels of clay, a leather bag, a mirror of bronze and various other ornaments. Professor Michael Harris, a specialist in the field of optometry at the University of California at Berkeley, has stated that:
It’s unlikely such attention and effort would have been paid to a commoner…She may have been a member of a royal family or an otherwise wealthy individual.”
Prosthetics were of course known in the ancient era with references made to an artificial eye of gold in Hebrew texts (Yer. Ned. 41c; comp. Yer. Sanh. 13c). The prosthetic found in Iran however is different in that it is evidence of the oldest attempt at making this as “realistic” as possible. Professor Mansur Sayyed-Sajadi, who supervised the excavation, has stated:
At first glance, it seems natural tar mixed with animal fat has been used in making [the eye]…whoever made the eye likely used a fine golden wire, thinner than half a millimeter, to draw even the most delicate eye capillaries…”

A curious feature of the “eye” are parallel lines that have been drawn around the pupil to form a diamond shape.
Two holes at the sides of the “eye” helped hold it in iplace.  The eye socket of the woman however appears to have developed an abscess as a result fo constant contact with the prosthetic.

Further tests are being conducted in iran to determine the exact chemical composition of the prosthetic.

This article is been queted from Dr. Kaveh Farrokh site

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Safavid Zar-baft Fabrics

Being worldwide known, made world’s kings desirous to have a piece of Zar-baft (Brocade) as a gift from Shah Abbas the Great.

These artistic method of fabric weaving has a length of 2500 years old or even more. Some traces are recorded from Achaemenid, succeeded by Sassanid, early Islamic dynasties who flourished this art-industry and Ilkhanid dynasty the period of Marco Polo and the Silk Road. 

these two photos are remnants of Sassanids fabrics, discovered in Egypt. watch the horse and phoenix patterns.

We can’t talk about Safavid techniques, style and variety without considering the Timurid era who revived the Iranian arts. Many textile workshops established in Samarqand. It’s said that Tamerlane brought many of weavers from Damascus to Samarqand.
Although having a wide variety, we can categorize the Safavid Zar-bafts into 3major artistic school.
1. Tabriz School: established on the basis of Behzad style and Herat school of Persian painting. Most of these artisans were painters actually. Two cities of Yazd and Kashan are more famous in this knitting style which is recognizing by its patterns of man in ceremony, battle, hunting and especially the scene of the prisoner and guard.
2. Isfahan School: in fact it’s the last school of Iranian miniature, founded by Reza Abbasi and followed by his students. Setting up the Isfahan Art Center besides of Shah Abbas the great supportive decisions resulted in close relation among different craftsmen. Many painters weaved fabrics.
3. Yazd school: the last but not least school which is founded by Qias-odin Ali Naqshbandi in central city of Yazd. The indicator of this method is slender altar and floral patterns.
 a piece of cloth, weaved by Qias-odin Ali Naqshbandi which is in Washington museum, now.

Besides of these different schools, there are two types of Zar-bafts generally:
  • Darayee-baaft: refers to those ones that are heavy and ponderous. Their sinew is consisted of Golabatoon (Braid) fiber (1). 
  • Atlas-baaft: the second type which is tender, delicate and light whose woofs is silk. 
Take a look on the remnants of these masterpieces:

photos of a Zari-bafi workshop in Isfahan by Hamid Reza Nikoo Maram

(1): Golabatoon (Braid) is silk or linen fiber wrapped in gold or silver. Iranians practice it by pulling a metal wire in order to make a half millimeter wire for spiraling it around the string.
According to Hans. E. Wolf, using the animal intestines fiber in Rome, the Leader and paper fiber in China were the other methods of preparation of Golabatoon.
machine of Golabatoon making

This article is derived from the Persian Article of "Zar-baft weaving style under Safavids" by "Zohre Rouh-Far".

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Lost Civilization in Persian Gulf

Lost Civilization May Have Existed Beneath the Persian Gulf

By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor
posted: 09 December 2010 01:01 pm ET
This map reveals the Arabian Peninsula with regions that were exposed as sea levels fell, and so became environmental refuges, possibly for some of the earliest humans out of Africa. Credit: Current Anthropology.

Veiled beneath the Persian Gulf, a once-fertile landmass may have supported some of the earliest humans outside Africa some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago, a new review of research suggests.
At its peak, the floodplain now below the Gulf would have been about the size of Great Britain, and then shrank as water began to flood the area. Then, about 8,000 years ago, the land would have been swallowed up by the Indian Ocean, the review scientist said.
The study, which is detailed in the December issue of the journal Current Anthropology, has broad implications for aspects of human history. For instance, scientists have debated over when early modern humans exited Africa, with dates as early as 125,000 years ago and as recent as 60,000 years ago (the more recent date is the currently accepted paradigm), according to study researcher Jeffrey Rose, an archaeologist at the University of Birmingham in the U.K.
"I think Jeff's theory is bold and imaginative, and hopefully will shake things up," Robert Carter of Oxford Brookes University in the U.K. told LiveScience. "It would completely rewrite our understanding of the out-of-Africa migration. It is far from proven, but Jeff and others will be developing research programs to test the theory."
Viktor Cerny of the Archaeogenetics Laboratory, the Institute of Archaeology, in Prague, called Rose's finding an "excellent theory," in an e-mail to LiveScience, though he also points out the need for more research to confirm it.
The findings have sparked discussion among researchers, including Carter and Cerny, who were allowed to provide comments within the research paper, about who exactly the humans were who occupied the Gulf basin.
"Given the presence of Neanderthal communities in the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates River, as well as in the eastern Mediterranean region, this may very well have been the contact zone between moderns and Neanderthals," Rose told LiveScience. In fact, recent evidence from the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome suggests interbreeding, meaning we are part caveman.
Watery refuge
The Gulf Oasis would have been a shallow inland basin exposed from about 75,000 years ago until 8,000 years ago, forming the southern tip of the Fertile Crescent, according to historical sea-level records.
And it would have been an ideal refuge from the harsh deserts surrounding it, with fresh water supplied by the Tigris, Euphrates, Karun and Wadi Baton Rivers, as well as by upwelling springs, Rose said. And during the last ice age when conditions were at their driest, this basin would've been at its largest.
In fact, in recent years, archaeologists have turned up evidence of a wave of human settlements along the shores of the Gulf dating to about 7,500 years ago.
"Where before there had been but a handful of scattered hunting camps, suddenly, over 60 new archaeological sites appear virtually overnight," Rose said. "These settlements boast well-built, permanent stone houses, long-distance trade networks, elaborately decorated pottery, domesticated animals, and even evidence for one of the oldest boats in the world."
Rather than quickly evolving settlements, Rose thinks precursor populations did exist but have remained hidden beneath the Gulf. [History's Most Overlooked Mysteries]
"Perhaps it is no coincidence that the founding of such remarkably well developed communities along the shoreline corresponds with the flooding of the Persian Gulf basin around 8,000 years ago," Rose said. "These new colonists may have come from the heart of the Gulf, displaced by rising water levels that plunged the once fertile landscape beneath the waters of the Indian Ocean."
Ironclad case?
The most definitive evidence of these human camps in the Gulf comes from a new archaeological site called Jebel Faya 1 within the Gulf basin that was discovered four years ago. There, Hans-Peter Uerpmann of the University of Tubingen in Germany found three different Paleolithic settlements occurring from about 125,000 to 25,000 years ago. That and other archaeological sites, Rose said, indicate "that early human groups were living around the Gulf basin throughout the Late Pleistocene."
To make an ironclad case for such human occupation during the Paleolithic, or early Stone Age, of the now-submerged landmass, Rose said scientists would need to find any evidence of stone tools scattered under the Gulf. "As for the Neolithic, it would be wonderful to find some evidence for human-built structures," dated to that time period in the Gulf, Rose said.
Carter said in order to make for a solid case, "we would need to find a submerged site, and excavate it underwater. This would likely only happen as the culmination of years of survey in carefully selected areas."
Cerny said a sealed-tight case could be made with "some fossils of the anatomically modern humans some 100,000 years old found in South Arabia."
And there's a hint of mythology here, too, Rose pointed out. "Nearly every civilization living in southern Mesopotamia has told some form of the flood myth. While the names might change, the content and structure are consistent from 2,500 B.C. to the Genesis account to the Qur'anic version," Rose said.
Perhaps evidence beneath the Gulf? "If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands," said Rose, quoting Douglas Adams.