Pazyryk burials

The Pazyryk burials are a number of Scythian Iron Age tombs found in the Pazyryk Valley and the Ukok plateau in the Altai Mountains, south of the modern city of Novosibirsk, Russia. Numerous comparable burials have been found in neighboring western Mongolia; the tombs are Scythian-type kurgans, barrow-like tomb mounds containing wooden chambers covered over by large cairns of boulders and stones, dated to the 4th–3rd centuries BCE. The spectacular burials at Pazyryk are responsible for the introduction of the term kurgan, a Russian word of Turkic origin, into general usage to describe these tombs; the region of the Pazyryk kurgans is considered the type site of the wider Pazyryk culture. The site is included in the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site; the bearers of the Pazyryk culture were horse-riding pastoral nomads of the steppe, some may have accumulated great wealth through horse trading with merchants in Persia and China. This wealth is evident in the wide array of finds from the Pazyryk tombs, which include many rare examples of organic objects such as felt hangings, Chinese silk, the earliest known pile carpet, horses decked out in elaborate trappings, wooden furniture and other household goods.

These finds were preserved when water seeped into the tombs in antiquity and froze, encasing the burial goods in ice, which remained frozen in the permafrost until the time of their excavation. Because of a freak climatic freeze, some of the Altai-Sayan burials, notably those of the 5th century BCE at Pazyryk and neighbouring sites, such as Katanda and Tuekt, were isolated from external climatic variations by a protective layer of ice that conserved the organic substances buried in them. Certain geometric designs and sun symbols, such as the circle and rosette, recur at Pazyryk but are outnumbered by animal motifs; such Scythian features as zoomorphic junctures, i.e. the addition of a part of one animal to the body of another, are rarer in the Altaic region than in southern Russia. The stag and its relatives, figure as prominently in Altai-Sayan as in Scythian art."At Pazyryk too are found bearded mascarons of well-defined Greco-Roman origin, which were doubtless inspired by the Hellenistic kingdoms of the Cimmerian Bosporus."

The first tomb at Pazyryk, barrow 1, was excavated by the archaeologist M. P. Gryaznov in 1929. While many of the tombs had been looted in earlier times, the excavators unearthed buried horses, with them immaculately preserved cloth saddles and woven rugs including the world's oldest pile carpet, a 3-metre-high four-wheel funeral chariot from the 5th century BC and other splendid objects that had escaped the ravages of time; these finds are now exhibited at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. Cranial measurements from the Pazyryk burials performed in the 1960s suggested that the interred were of European ancestry with some admixture of Northeast Asian ancestry. Rudenko's most striking discovery was the body of a tattooed Pazyryk chief: a thick-set, powerfully built man who had died when he was about 50. Parts of the body had deteriorated, but much of the tattooing was still visible. Subsequent investigation using reflected infrared photography revealed that all five bodies discovered in the Pazyryk kurgans were tattooed.

No instruments designed for tattooing were found, but the Pazyryks had fine needles with which they did miniature embroidery, these were used for tattooing. The chief was elaborately decorated with an interlocking series of striking designs representing a variety of fantastic beasts; the best preserved tattoos were images of a donkey, a mountain ram, two stylized deer with long antlers and an imaginary carnivore on the right arm. Two monsters resembling griffins decorate the chest, on the left arm are three obliterated images which seem to represent two deer and a mountain goat. On the front of the right leg a fish extends from the foot to the knee. A monster crawls over the right foot, on the inside of the shin is a series of four running rams which touch each other to form a single design; the left leg bears tattoos, but these designs could not be distinguished. In addition, the chief's back is tattooed with a series of small circles in line with the vertebral column; this tattooing was done for therapeutic reasons.

Contemporary Siberian tribesmen still practice tattooing of this kind to relieve back pain. The most famous undisturbed Pazyryk burial so far recovered is the Ice Maiden or "Altai Lady" found by archaeologist Natalia Polosmak in 1993 at Ukok, near the Chinese border; the find was a rare example of a single woman given a full ceremonial burial in a wooden chamber tomb in the fifth century BC, accompanied by six horses. She had been buried over 2,400 years ago in a casket fashioned from the hollowed-out trunk of a Siberian larch tree. On the outside of the casket were stylized images of deer and snow leopards carved in leather. Shortly after burial the grave had been flooded by freezing rain, the entire contents of the burial chamber had remained frozen in permafrost. Six horses wearing elaborate harnesses lay to the north of the chamber; the maiden's well-preserved body embalmed with peat and bark, was arranged to lie on her side as if asleep. She was young, her hair was shaven off but she was wearing a wig and tall hat.

The animal style tattoos were preserved on her pale skin: creatures with horns that develop into flowered forms. Her coffin was made large enough to

Lake Lisan

Lake Lisan was a prehistoric lake that existed between 70,000 and 12,000 BP in the Jordan Rift Valley in the Near East. It is sometimes referred to as a Pleistocene lake. Lisan means tongue in Arabic relating to the shape of the Lisan Peninsula where studies of the sediment formations were taken; the sediment formations left by the lake extend from Lake Tiberias in the north to a boundary ridge ca. 35 km south of the Dead Sea. The lake left behind a layer of lacustrine sediment that blankets the Jordan Valley with terraces of sediment up to 40 m thick; these sediments are called marls and are composed of layers of true loam and calcareous silt loams mixed with other chemicals and salts. At its height, the lake covered several other basins in the area with a maximum area of ca. 2000 km2, a length of 200 km and a width of no more than 17 km. The formations were named the Lisan deposits and first described by Lartet in 1869 after visiting the Dead Sea in the Spring of 1864, he noted a correlation of a wet period in the Levant with a glacial period in Europe.

It was not until geographer E. Huntindon visited in 1909 that it was realized it was measure of historical precipitation for the area; the first stratigraphic study of the sediments was carried out by Picard in 1943 who developed a chronology he called the Lisan series. It was not until studies were carried out at lake level that a more detailed chronology of the lacustrine record was developed; these studies determined the highest stand of the lake to be around 160 metres below sea level at around 24,000 to 26,000 BC. when it formed a complete lake all the way along the Jordan Valley 200 metres higher than the current level of the Dead Sea. This started to decline around 17,000 BC with the sharpest drop in level occurring through 14,000 to 13,000 BC to around 500 metres below sea level, representing the largest lake level drop in the last 70,000 years, occurring over a period of only around 1000 years; this rapid lowering created a flattened valley floor, known in modern times as the Ghor.

Tectonic factors have been suggested as a possible cause for these events and it has been argued that the level receded as far as 700 metres below sea level gradually refilled. Climatic and tectonic changes caused the level in the Jordan Valley to fluctuate into the Holocene, leaving Lake Beisan in the basin around Beit She'an still extant into the Bronze Age. Archaeological evidence supports these levels with no Kebaran sites located between 17,000 BC and 13,500 BC below a level of 203 metres below sea level. Early Natufian sites are located between 215 and 230 metres below sea level, indicating a high level and receding shoreline after this date. Bartov, Y. Lake Levels and Sequence Stratigraphy of Lake Lisan, the Late Pleistocene


Gandria is both a quarter of the city of Lugano in the Swiss canton of Ticino, a village on the northern shore of Lake Lugano, which forms the core of that quarter. Until 2004, the quarter of Gandria was an independent municipality, joining with Lugano in that year; the quarter of Gandria includes the rural slopes surrounding the village and stretching along the lakeside from the neighboring quarter of Castagnola-Cassarate to the border with Italy. It includes the slopes on the opposite, side of the lake around the small settlement of Cantine di Gandria, that are accessible only by boat or on foot; the protected center of the village of Gandria, not accessible by car, attracts visitors from all over the world. While roads now reach the outskirts of the village, many of these visitors arrive by boat services on the lake, it is possible to walk from Lugano to Gandria and back to Lugano via a footpath, now branded the Olive path, which passes plantations of olive trees and offers views of the Lake of Lugano.

The first lasting human traces on the immediate area around Gandria come from the iron-age people of the Celts. A large stone carved with mysterious signs used for Celtic religious purposes, is located within hiking distance. Many modern locations nearby have Celtic names. Gandria sits at the base of Mt. Brè; the name of the Lake of Lugano in Italian, could be derived from the Celtic word keresios, a reference to a god of fertility, always pictured with the antlers of a deer – the lake’s resemblance to the prongs of an antler can be more imagined when viewed from above. Rome conquered the region in 196 B. C. Tombs and artifacts from the neighbouring villages of Castagnola and Brè are testimonials to the Roman presence. Present-day Gandria, was not yet inhabited. “Gandrio” is first mentioned in archives from the bishop of Como in 1237. At the time, the village was located halfway up Mt. Bré – the ruins are still visible today along the trail to the Sasso della Predescia. In the 14th century, a new settlement was established along the lake in the present-day site.

The upper part of the village was abandoned due to fire due to the advantages of living near the lake. Gandria was only accessible by boat and steep trails, locals had to be self-sufficient. In addition to gardening and raising livestock, they benefited from the lake’s abundant fish; until the unusually hard winter of 1709 killed most of the olive trees, Gandria was known for its olive oil. In recent years, olive trees have been replanted and information panels posted along a scenic lakeside trail to Lugano. In 1856 silk production began in Gandria, using leaves from local mulberry trees to feed the silkworms; because of the difficult-to-control border, the area around Gandria became infamous for smuggling. Cigarettes and alcohol were profitable due to high Swiss customs duties.. The year 1935 was the beginning of a new era for Gandria, as tunnels and a new road above the lake shore connected the village to Lugano and Italy. In 2004, the municipality of Gandria merged with the city of Lugano. Since Gandria became a part of Lugano, needed infrastructure projects have been carried out, including a sewage treatment plant that went on line in August 2010.

Work to place electrical lines underground is ongoing. The Church of Saint Vigilio in Gandria was completed in 1463; the oldest part is the gray, unfinished wall facing the lake, adorned with memorials from well-known local families. The baroque facades were completed in the 1870s. Behind the altar of the church is a large oil painting by Giovanni and Giuseppe Torricelli that shows the martyrdom of Saint Vigilio, a bishop of Trento in Italy, stoned to death by pagan shepherds; the connection with Gandria comes from local artisans who worked on the construction of the cathedral in Trento, were impressed by the patron saint. The Torricelli brothers painted scenes in the house of local architect Vigilio Rabaglio, who achieved fame by designing the Bourbon royal palace in Segovia in Spain. An archeological guide to the area notes that stones with Celtic bowl-shaped indentations, carried there by villagers in past centuries, can be seen in the walls and on doorsteps around the Church of San Vigilio.

On the opposite side of the lake to Gandria village, but still within the Gandria quarter, is the Swiss Customs Museum. This was once a border post on the adjacent border with Italy, but now forms part of the Swiss National Museum; the museum covers the history of smuggling in the area, the work of customs officers to counteract it. In a modern context, it covers the work of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration and the Swiss Border Guard. Today, Gandria is a mix of modernity. Many of 200 inhabitants who live there year-round are from families that go back for many generations. Others have arrived from various cantons of Switzerland as well as countries as diverse as Colombia, Haiti, Nicaragua and the United States. Most people work in the nearby financial center of Lugano, although there is a tradition of architects, painters, ceramic makers and other artists in the village. Gandria village and its surrounding areas are connected to Lugano, to Italy, by the main road that runs along the northern shore of Lake Lugano.

This passes above the village centre, which, by virtue of its narrow streets and steep gradients, is inaccessible to vehicles. In addition to the higher level road, it is possible to walk from Gandria to Lugano and other surrounding villages via the pu