The Inga Stone

THE INGÁ STONE

Located in Brazil. It is over 6,000 years old and has hundreds of strange symbols.

The archaeological site of the Ingá Stone, also known in the Tupi-Guarani language as the Itacoatiara do Ingá and Pedra do Ingá in Portuguese, is near the town of Ingá in northeast Brazil. The meaning of the carvings remain uncertain, but may allude to astronomy, animals and fruits.

The site was one of the first monuments of protected rock art in Brazil, exceptionally recognised for its artistic and historical importance. The Ingá Stone site consists of multiple basalt stones covered with glyphs. The main outcrop, featuring the three main rock art panels, forms a wall 24 metres long and 3.5 metres high at its highest point.

The engravings are generally non-figurative, and created using a technique of pecking at the stone and then polishing the grooves. Some of the figures also retain traces of pigment, suggesting they may have been coloured.

The first reports of rock art in the state of Paraíba were made by European settlers in the 16th century. The rock art at Ingá are the most representative group of a particular type of engraving tradition in Brazil.

Austrian-born Ludwig Schwennhagen, studied Brazilian history in the early twentieth century and found strong connections in appearance from the Inga symbols to not only the Phoenicians but also the demotic writings (linked more closely to business or literary document-style writings) of the ancient Egyptians. Further groups found a remarkable similarity of the carvings of Inga to the aboriginal artwork found on Easter Island.

Venus Figurines

Figurines of women carved or sculpted from stone, ivory, or clay are a type of Paleolithic art found widely across Europe. These figurines share many striking similarities. While details such as facial features and feet are largely ignored, feminine sexual characteristics (breasts, belly, hips, thighs, and vulva) are often exaggerated. The focus on features related to sexuality and fertility, and the round body shapes depicted (during the Ice Age fat would have been a precious commodity) suggest that the figurines may have played a symbolic role as a charm relating to childbirth or, more generally, fertility.

Some researchers believe that the figures represent a “mother goddess,” but there is no real evidence for such an interpretation. Others have focused instead on the fact that the figurines demonstrate widely shared cultural ideas and symbols. These would have been crucial to social interactions and exchanges of resources, information, and potential marriage partners in the Ice Age world.

Mijikenda Tribes and the Vigango Statues

During the 1980s, Coastal Kenya experienced the largest heist of ancestral artifacts in history. Over 300 wooden Vigango statues were taken from the sacred grounds of several Mijikenda tribes. These 4-foot wooden statues were stolen and sold to western tourists and international art collectors. Since then, the Vigango statues have been discovered in private art collections and museums throughout Europe and the United States.

A majority of those Vigango pieces in circulation were sold by art dealer Ernie Wolfe III, who was accused by the New York Times in 2006 of being a prime suspect to the sale of stolen Vigango statues. Although hundreds of the statues which he sold remained in circulation, Wolfe III mentioned making efforts to stop further sales of newer Vigango statues. Much work has been made by American anthropologists Linda Giles, Monica Udvardy, and John B. Mitsanze to repatriate the looted statues back to Kenya.

The Mijikenda culture consists of nine tribes related to the Bantu ethnic groups of Kenya. Other Kenyans have derogatorily referred to the Mijikenda people either as the ‘Nyika’ or ‘Nika,’ meaning ‘bush people.’ This prejudice may be why their sacred statues may have been targets for looting, along with the pressures of crushing poverty. There are over 30 sacred Kaya forests that are used for prayer by the Mijikenda.

Vigango statues are created from the wood these sacred forests provide. The wood is resistant to termites and very dense. The statues stand 4 feet (1.22 meters) tall and have unique carved triangle etchings that symbolize abstract forms of identity that once bestowed the deceased Mijikenda elder they represent.

The purpose of the Vigango’s creation is to incarnate the spirits of dead male Gohu elders who held significant respect and immense responsibility within the Mijikenda tribal community. It is the secretive Gohu society of men who are responsible for the construction of Vigango statues.

It is customary for a family to commission a member of the Gohu to create a Vigango statue of their respected male elder a week after death. The sculptures appear two dimensional in their depiction of revered elders of significance, but in their simplicity, a plethora of complex identities are shaped with each individual Vigango statue. This ritual is often followed by a festive meal and a family gathering.

These statues also act as liaisons of communication for living community members to ask advice from wise elder spirit ancestors. The Vigango statues were said to aid in advice regarding plague, famine, and drought. Because of their essential role in the Mijikenda tribal community, Gohu are usually placed in the center of their town or near the current chief’s homestead. However, it is believed that Vigango’s advice can only be heard by those related to the people who have passed.

Ernie Wolfe III mentioned that the statues are sometimes left behind when a village relocates to another fertile region. Once the village has settled, it is up to the tribe to erect smaller statues carrying no carvings, known as Vibaos, to take the place, power, and spiritual connectivity that make the abandoned Vigango statues powerless. If this ritual is not performed, the spirits of the elders, along with their enchanted magic, remain alone and isolated in the region no longer inhabited by their people.

But the belief of deactivated Vigango statues being replaced by Vibao may be subject to scrutiny due to the controversy of Wolfe III’s own collection. In another account mentioned by the New York Times, the anthropologist Udvardy believes that Wolfe III had misinterpreted the situation and that Vigango are to forever remain in the land they were erected.

Whichever is the truth, the fact remains that the theft and displacement of these powerful spirit vessels result in their wrath towards whoever steals, purchases, and acquires them. To carry a Vigango statue is both a blessing and a curse. And those who are cursed suffer the most.

Sources: B. B Wagner

Galloway Hoard

“National Museums Scotland acquired the Galloway Hoard, as it came to be known, in 2017. Since then, conservators have been working to clean and restore the items, all of which spent more than 1,000 years buried in the Scottish field. This week, the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) released new images of the latest object to undergo conservation: an intricately decorated Anglo-Saxon cross.

After a millennium underground, the cross was encrusted with dirt. Wrapped in a coiled silver cord made out of wire bundled around an animal-gut core, it proved difficult to clean. Improvising, conservators turned to a carved porcupine quill—a tool “sharp enough to remove the dirt yet soft enough not to damage the metalwork,” according to a statement.”

Source: Smithsonian Magazine Online

Iron Age Burial Uncovered In West Sussex

A richly-furnished grave belonging to an Iron Age ‘warrior’ buried 2,000 years ago has been uncovered in West Sussex. Iron weapons had been placed inside the grave, including a sword in a highly-decorated scabbard and a spear. The burial was discovered during an excavation commissioned by Linden Homes, who are developing a site on the outskirts of Walberton, near Chichester, to create 175 new homes.

ASE archaeologist Jim Stevenson, who is managing the post-excavation investigations into the burial, said: “There has been much discussion generally as to who the people buried in the ‘warrior’ tradition may have been in life. Were they really warriors, or just buried with the trappings of one? The grave is dated to the late Iron Age/ early Roman period (1st century BC – AD 50). It is incredibly rare, as only a handful are known to exist in the South of England.

X-rays and initial conservation of the sword and scabbard reveal beautiful copper-alloy decoration at the scabbard mouth, which would have been highly visible when the sword was worn in life. Dotted lines on the X-ray may be the remains of a studded garment worn by the occupant when buried. This is particularly exciting for the archaeologists as evidence of clothing rarely survives.

The grave also held the remains of a wooden container, preserved as a dark stain, likely used to lower the individual into the grave. Four ceramic vessels were placed outside of this container, but still within the grave. The vessels are jars made from local clays and would usually have been used for food preparation, cooking and storage. It is likely that they were placed in the grave as containers for funerary offerings, perhaps intended to provide sustenance for the deceased in the afterlife.

Source: Archaeology News Network

Archaeological Finds 2020: The Red Lion

Archaeologists from the UCL’s Institute of Archaeology have discovered the remains of what may be the Red Lion, an early Elizabethan playhouse built around AD 1567.

The Red Lion was a purpose-built playhouse in the yard of the Red Lion, a farmhouse east of Aldgate near Mile End. This was to be the first known attempt to provide a purpose-built playhouse in London for the many Tudor age touring theatrical companies, in particular staging a young Shakespeare’s plays in the 1590s.

The Red was financed by John Brayne who also financed, with his brother-in-law James Burbage, the building of the Theatre in Shoreditch.

The only contemporary information previously known about the playhouse was from two lawsuits issued in the Records of the Court of King’s Bench in 1567, between John Brayne and the carpenters commissioned with aspects of the playhouse construction that noted “the house called the red lyon” and “farme house called and knowen by the name of the Sygne of the Redd Lyon”. Location of the Red Lion Playhouse The lawsuit details ‘scaffolds’ or galleries around the stage, suggesting they were substantial.

The second lawsuit relates to the quality of work, and crucially includes a description of the stage and dimensions: 40ft (12.2m) north to south, by 30ft (9.1m) east to west, and standing at a height of 5ft (1.5m) above the ground. While it appears to have been a commercial success, the Red Lion offered little that the prior tradition of playing in inns had not offered.

Situated in open farmland, it was too far from its audiences to be attractive for visiting in the winter. Archaeologists excavating the site discovered a rectangular timber structure, comprising 144 surviving timbers and measuring 12.27m north-south by 9.27m east-west.

Archaeological Finds 2020: 6000 ancient tombs spanning more than 2000 years discovered in Sichuan province, China

The tombs date from various dynasties and were discovered during construction works for the Sichuan Xinchuan Innovation and Technology Park.

Excavations began in 2015, but the results of the ongoing discoveries have finally been announced by the Chengdu Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

The tombs range from the Warring States Period (475 BC), the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BC), the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220), the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (AD 907–979), the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644) and the Qing Dynasty (AD 1636–1912).

Most of the tombs are carved into a small cliff face as rock pit tombs or constructed from brick and have contained tens of thousands of pieces of pottery, porcelain, copper, iron, glass, coins and stone artefacts. The team have also discovered cultural relics such as a gilt-bronze knife, Buddha statues, painted figurines and painted miniature pottery houses.