A golden treasure in Sveshtari

An all-gold treasure of the ancient Thracians was discovered inside a tomb at the site of Sveshtari, Bulgaria, archaeologists have found a treasure kept in a wooden container. The objects date back to the end of the 4th and beginning of the 3rd century BC. Among the gold artifacts brought to light in the tomb there are also rings - or pins - and small female busts, which probably adorned clothes. The objects were discovered in the largest tomb of the 150 on the site, belonging to a tribe of Thrace, the Geti.

Gold processing in Bulgaria has a long history: in 1972, a 6,000 year old necropolis near Varna was discovered by chance, rich in tombs containing the oldest funerary objects made of precious metal.

More than other objects found in the treasure, a gold ring or brooch clearly shows in its workmanship the influence of the style of the Greeks, with whom the Thracians had close business relations.

The Thracians were ruled by a warrior aristocracy with vast gold deposits at the mouth of the Danube. They established intensive trade relations with their neighbours, including the Scythians in the north and the Greeks in the south, as can be seen from their influence on the manufacture of the objects. "At the height of their civilization the Geta produced wonderful things," says excavator Diana Gergova. "From the first analysis the tomb could perhaps belong to the sovereign Cothelas (or Gudila)".

In China the oldest cheese in the world

The oldest cheese in the world was found on the neck and chest of a few mummies buried in a desert in China. Dating back to 1615 BC, the pieces of organic giollognol material provided direct evidence of the oldest method of fermentation of dairy products. The individuals were probably buried together with the cheese so that they could also taste it in the otherworldly world.

The 3,600-year-old cheese was discovered during archaeological excavations carried out between 2002 and 2004 in the Xiaohe cemetery, in the Taklamakan desert, under the guidance of Idelisi Abuduresule, of the Ürümchi Institute of Archaeology. The burial was discovered in 1934 by the Swedish archaeologist Folke Bergman, and is one of the archaeological sites scattered in the Tarim basin. The cemetery, built on a large natural dune, houses hundreds of mysterious mummies with Caucasian features, buried in wooden coffins similar to upside-down boats. From the analysis of the DNA it would be a Euro-Asian population.

The area, with its saline and ultra-arid sands, extremely hot in summer and cold in winter, has provided the perfect conditions for natural mummification. The coffins were covered with several layers of cowhide, which sealed them from air, water and sand as if they were vacuum-packed. Skin and hair, which had ended up inside the dehydrated bodies, remained almost intact, such as the wool fabrics, plant seeds, grass woven baskets and pieces of organic material around the neck and chest. No ceramic objects associated with the production or consumption of food were found.

Researchers led by Changsui Wang, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, collected 13 samples of organic yellowish material from 10 tombs and mummies, including the so-called "Beauty of Xiaohe", a mummified woman 3,800 years ago wrapped in a refined shroud and with Caucasian features such as long nose and light hair. The protein analysis carried out in Dresden showed that the organic material was not butter or milk, but a cheese produced with a kind of kefir, a beverage obtained by fermenting milk. The analysis also revealed that Xiaohe cheese had not been made with rennet, an enzyme extracted from the intestines of calves and used since ancient times for curdling.

The cheese was produced by mixing the milk with a mix of Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens and other bacteria and ferments. The technique is still used today to produce kefir cheese, similar to milk flakes, and a lactose-free kefir probiotic drink, a food with a slightly acidic taste first mentioned by Marco Polo in the 13th century. For scholars, this is the first known practice of cheese-making, which persists to this day in an almost unaltered way. The discovery shifts the mysterious history of kefir up to the second millennium BC, making it the oldest known method of dairy fermentation.

Edible by Asian inhabitants intolerant to lactose, the cheese of the mummies was very easy to make. The fermentation of kefir did not require the killing of livestock to obtain the enzyme necessary for curdling. In addition, the milk fat may have been physically removed during cheese production, just like

The Mayan sun god mask - El Zotz, Guatemala

The Temple of the Nocturnal Sun was a red blood lighthouse visible for miles, adorned with giant masks of the Mayan god of the sun as a shark, blood drinker. long lost in the jungle of Guatemala, the temple finally shows its faces to archaeologists, revealing new clues about the rival kingdoms of the Maya. Archaeologists from the University of Texas have unearthed a spectacular series of stucco masks in the Mayan city of El Zotz. Dating from 350 to 400 BC, these masks decorated a temple at the top of the El Diablo pyramid, which commemorates the founder of the city's royal dynasty. The masks are painted bright red and depict gods, including the sun god.

Unlike relatively centralized empires such as the Inca and Aztec, the Mayan civilization was a loose aggregation of city-state. "This has been a growing awareness since 1990, when it became clear that some of the few kingdoms were more important than others," said Stephen Houston, archaeologist at Brown University, who announced the discovery of the new temple.

The sides of the temple are decorated with stucco masks 1.5 meters high that show the face of the sun god changing as he crosses the sky in the course of a day.

A mask represents the shark, probably a reference to the rising Caribbean sun to the east.

The midday sun is described as being ancient with eyes crossed that have drunk blood and a final series of masks resembles local healers, who wake up from their jungle sleeps at dusk

In the Mayan culture the sun is closely associated with new beginnings and the sun god with kingship. So the presence of solar faces on a temple near a royal tomb may mean that the person buried inside was the founder of a dynasty the first king of El Zotz.

It is an example of "how the sun itself would be grafted onto the identity of the kings and the dynasties that follow them".

The scholar Simon Martin of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (who was not involved in the project) said that the masks found in the temple of El Zotz are "absolutely unique" and valuable, because they could help to verify the theories about the Mayan depictions of the sun god.

"We have images of the sun god at different stages ... but we have never found anything that puts it all together.

"We had to assemble [the sequence] from bits and pieces of information and trust only that we did not understand it well. This could be the opportunity to see the whole scene.

The temple is also wonderfully well preserved, added Martin, which makes it a "real gold mine of information.

"We have seen some places where entire buildings have been preserved," he said. "But generally what happens is that a building is destroyed and then built on it, so when you dig into a building you don't find much of their decoration.