Giant Penguin: This Ancient Bird Was As Tall As a Refrigerator

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Giant Penguin: This Ancient Bird Was As Tall As a Refrigerator

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Giant Penguin: This Ancient Bird Was As Tall As a Refrigerator

The giant penguin Kumimanu biceae was likely as tall as a human.

Credit: G. Mayr/Senckenberg Research Institute

The fossils of a refrigerator-size penguin were so gargantuan that the scientists who discovered them initially thought they belonged to a giant turtle. The ancient behemoth is now considered the second-largest penguin on record.

The newfound penguin species would have stood nearly 6 feet tall (1.8 meters) and weighed about 220 lbs. (100 kilograms) during its heyday tens of millions of years ago.

The bird’s gigantism indicates that “a very large size seems to have developed early on in penguin evolution, soon after these birds lost their flight capabilities,” said study co-lead researcher Gerald Mayr, a curator of ornithology at the Senckenberg Research Institute, in Germany. [In Photos: The Amazing Penguins of Antarctica]

At first, the researchers thought the penguin fossils belonged to a turtle, said study co-lead researcher Alan Tennyson, a vertebrate curator at the Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa Tongarewa), who discovered the fossil with paleontologist Paul Scofield on a beach in New Zealand’s Otago province in 2004.

But shortly after a fossil technician began preparing the specimen in 2015, he found a part of the shoulder blade, known as the coracoid, which revealed that the fossils came from a penguin, Tennyson told Live Science.

The rectangles over this <i>Kumimanu biceae</i> fossil emphasize the humerus and a bone from the shoulder girdle (coracoid), which are shown separated from the original bone cluster.

The rectangles over this Kumimanu biceae fossil emphasize the humerus and a bone from the shoulder girdle (coracoid), which are shown separated from the original bone cluster.

Credit: G. Mayr/Senckenberg Research Institute

Further analysis dated the penguin to between 55 million and 59 million years ago, meaning that it lived a mere 7 million to 11 million years after an asteroid slammed into Earth and killed the nonavian dinosaurs, Mayr said.

The researchers named the late-Paleocene penguin Kumimanu biceae. Its genus name, Kumimanu, was inspired by the Maori indigenous culture of New Zealand. In the Maori culture, “kumi” is a mythological monster, and “manu” is the Maori word for “bird.” The species name, biceae, honors Tennyson’s mother, Beatrice “Bice” A. Tennyson, who encouraged him to pursue his interest in natural history.

K. biceae didn’t look much like modern penguins. Although researchers could not find its skull, they “know from similarly aged fossils that the earliest penguins had much longer beaks, which they probably used to spear fishes, than their modern relatives [do],” Mayr told Live Science. Like its modern cousins, however, K. biceae would have already developed typical penguin feathers, waddled with an upright stance and sported flipper-like wings that helped it swim, he added.

Researchers have discovered other ancient penguin fossils in New Zealand, including those of Waimanu manneringi, which lived about 61 million years ago. However, the largest penguin on record isPalaeeudyptes klekowskii, which lived about 37 million years ago in Antarctica. P. klekowskii stood about 6.5 feet (2 m) tall and weighed a whopping 250 lbs. (115 kg), according to a 2014 study in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol (Palevol Reports).

The upper arm bone, known as the humerus (top) and a bone from the shoulder girdle (coracoid, bottom) of the Paleocene giant penguin <i>Kumimanu biceae</i>, compared with the corresponding bones of one of the largest fossil penguins known to date, <i>Pachydyptes ponderosus</i> (from the Eocene epoch in New Zealand), and those of a modern emperor penguin (<i>Aptenodytes forsteri</i>).

The upper arm bone, known as the humerus (top) and a bone from the shoulder girdle (coracoid, bottom) of the Paleocene giant penguin Kumimanu biceae, compared with the corresponding bones of one of the largest fossil penguins known to date, Pachydyptes ponderosus (from the Eocene epoch in New Zealand), and those of a modern emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri).

Credit: G. Mayr/Senckenberg Research Institute

Given that the Antarctic penguin was larger than K. biceae, it’s likely that “giant size evolved more than once in penguin evolution,” Mayr said.

K. biceae is a “cool fossil,” said Daniel Ksepka, a curator at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, who was not involved in the research. “It’s very old; it’s almost as old as the oldest known penguins anywhere,” Ksepka told Live Science. “That shows that [penguins] got big really quickly. And it all seems to have happened in New Zealand.” [Photos of Flightless Birds: All 18 Penguin Species]

But why was New Zealand a penguin paradise? The archipelago was surrounded by fish for penguins to eat, and it originally had no native mammals (although today it’s home to many sheep, weasels and domestic pets), meaning that there were no predators to bother the penguins when they came ashore to molt their feathers and lay eggs, Ksepka said.

The study was published online today (Dec. 12) in the journal Nature Communications.

An artist's interpretation of <i>Kumimanu biceae</i>, the second-largest penguin on record.

An artist’s interpretation of Kumimanu biceae, the second-largest penguin on record.

Credit: G. Mayr/Senckenberg Research Institute

Original article on Live Science.


10 Brutal Facts About Growing Up In The Aztec Empire

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10 Brutal Facts About Growing Up In The Aztec Empire


Parents just don’t raise kids like they used to. Back in the good ol’ days, people raised their kids to be tough and didn’t balk if that meant being strict with them. If a kid had to be held over a fire, forced to carry logs until he collapsed, or sent to starve in a temple, nobody looked twice.

Of course, in those days, we had real leaders—like the king of kings, Moctezuma II, who struck fear in the hearts of his enemies for the glory of Huitzilopochtli, bird-god of war and human sacrifice.

We’ll probably never get back to North America’s real traditional values. But here’s a glimpse into what life was like when men were men, women were women, and flayed gods demanded blood.

Featured image credit:

10Newborn Babies Were Told That Life Is Pain

The Aztecs didn’t believe in lying to children—no matter how young they were. When they heard a newborn baby crying, they didn’t coo to it or try to convince it that everything was going to be fine. As far as they were concerned, that newborn baby had the right reaction to being alive—and they made sure those were the first words the baby heard.

As soon as a baby was born, an Aztec midwife would take it in her arms, cut the umbilical cord, give a prayer of thanks, and then lay down some hard truths. She’d look that newborn baby right in the eyes and, as a religious necessity, say, “Life is all affliction. Then, to really drive the point home, she’d promise the baby that he would die a horrible and violent death either in war or as a human sacrifice.

It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor—everyone got the same treatment. The children of nobility would even get regular talkings-to where they were reminded that, even if they found great success in life, it would only bring them more sadness.

9Parents Thought Children Only Grew If You Stretched Them

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Aztec parents didn’t really understand that kids grew on their own. They knew that babies got bigger over time, but they didn’t fully comprehend that this was just the way a body worked. They thought the only way to make sure that a child grew up big and tall was to stretch him out. So that’s what they did.

Parents would hold regular ceremonies called “The Stretching of People for Them to Grow. First, they’d grab their baby by the neck and dangle him in the air, thinking that gravity would make the kid taller. Then they’d pull on every part of the baby’s body—arms, legs, nose, and ears—to make sure that every part grew out evenly.

There were all kinds of rules that parents had to follow to make sure their kids didn’t stay more or less the same height. If there was an earthquake, parents had to grab their children by the necks. At mealtime, younger brothers had to let their elder brothers drink first. Every rule had to be followed or else the gods would curse your children to a lifetime of being short.

8Misbehaving Children Were Dangled Over Fires

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Aztec kids weren’t lazy. Their parents made sure of that. By the time a child was eight years old, the parents figured he was ready to take some responsibility in his life. He was expected to get up early, do what he was told, and never dawdle. And if he didn’t, his parents saw to it that he learned his lesson.

If a young Aztec child misbehaved, the parents would stab their child with the spines from a maguey cactus. If it was a small offense, the kid would get a light prick in the wrist. But if he was really bad, it could get serious. Parents would strip their kids naked, bind their arms and wrists, and cover them with maguey spines.

Once a child turned 11, the punishments became really severe. At that age, a father could hold his child over burning chili peppers in a fireplace and make him inhale the acrid smoke. They had to keep that one short, though. If the parents kept their kids there too long, it would kill them.

7Poor Children Were Forced To Lug Wood Around

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When children turned 15, they were sent off to school. In the Aztec Empire, education was compulsory for all children, no matter who they were. But Aztec kids had to do a lot more than just learn fractions.

A poor child would be sent to the telpochcalli, where he would learn a trade and be tested in the art of war. Their teachers would be watching these kids to see if they were tough enough to become soldiers—and the teachers put the kids through hell trying to find out.

Boys in the telpochcalli would have to go into the forest and gather firewood—partly because they needed it and partly just to see how tough they were. Every time a boy went out, he’d be required to carry one more log than he had the previous time. Each day, they’d pile more and more wood on him until he literally collapsed.

If the boy broke down after the first few trips, he’d probably end up being nothing more than a peasant. But if a boy could carry more than his own weight, his teachers would take notice. This was a future warrior. From then on, instead of wood, he would carry weapons to the battlefields.

6Noble Children Were Starved And Tortured

Noble children—and a few poor children nominated by the priests—would be sent to the calmecac, a school run by the Aztec head priest. The kids would be trained as novice priests and prepared to become the most important men in the empire. They would become holy men, military leaders, and government officials. All of this sounds great on paper, but in practice, it was a living hell.

Students in the calmecac were expected to learn sacrifice and self-denial. They would rise before dawn and sweep the temple. Then, when the work was done, they would start fasting. They were taught to be “fond of empty-guttedness,” so they were actively starved at every opportunity.

They would paint their entire bodies black, and that paint was almost the only thing on their bodies. They were barely allowed to wear any clothes because the priests thought that the kids would learn to be penitent if they were freezing to death. If anyone complained, the priest would beat him.

Spanish missionaries called the calmecac “a house of weeping, tears, and sorrows,” and the Aztecs didn’t totally disagree. Before a child was sent there, his parents would tell him to forget what it was like to live in the comfort and love of home. “It is ended,” the child was told. “Thou goest knowing it.”

5Boys Who Hadn’t Captured Anyone Were Publicly Shamed

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A boy couldn’t become a man until he’d captured an enemy in battle. Until then, he was a disgraceful little boy and the Aztecs made sure everyone knew it.

When a child turned 10 years old, his parents would shave all the hair on his head except for one tuft. From then on, that child was forbidden from cutting off the tuft until the day he defeated an enemy in battle and returned the captive to the empire, often to be used a human sacrifice. Until then, the child had a growing tuft of hair to show the world his shame.

The strong boys who could carry enough lumber to get sent to the battlefield would try to get involved as soon as they could. It was fairly common for a young boy who was only supposed to be carrying supplies to rush into the heat of battle and try to participate. More often than not, those boys ended up dead. But if they survived, they’d come home as heroes.

Boys who didn’t have the level of courage that straddles the line of insanity were stuck with their long tufts of hair. In that case, just going outside was torture. Girls would crowd around them and taunt them. “It is a stinking tuft of hair!” the girls would yell. “Art thou not just a woman like me?

4Lazy Children Were Burned With Firebrands

Being punished by your parents was bad enough. But once a child started going to school, it got really harsh. Boys in the telpochcalli who didn’t do their best weren’t just held over a fire. They were put right into it.

If a young boy got caught doing nothing or being careless with his work, he would get the firebrand. His teacher would grab him by that shameful tuft of hair and drag him into a public place. It was brutal and humiliating—but even more so in their culture. Normally, being grabbed by the tuft meant that you’d been captured in war and were going to be sacrificed to the gods.

These kids weren’t killed, but they definitely didn’t get off easy. Their masters would cut off every hair on their heads, leaving only the tuft of shame and then would singe the boys’ heads with a firebrand. The Aztecs called it “being old-ladied.” Nobody knows exactly how it got that name, but it makes one thing clear: If an Aztec child was old-ladied, nobody felt sorry for him

3Mandatory Late-Night Dance Parties

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Whether rich or poor, every Aztec child had to go to the cuicacalli. It was basically an all-night dance party—and in Aztec culture, getting down was mandatory.

This was the only place that Aztec boys and girls were allowed to be together. In school, they were separated. But when night fell, they were sent out to temples to party. There, the boys and girls would learn to sing sacred songs, dance ritual dances, and hear the stories of the gods and men.

For the adults, this was a way to teach the new generation their culture. The kids learned about religion and philosophy through the lyrics of the songs, and they were introduced to the rituals they would have to follow for the rest of their lives.

To the kids, this was mostly just a way to meet the opposite sex. Boys would try to show off their burgeoning muscles to impress the girls, while girls would whisper little flirtations to try to impress the boys.

It was their only real chance to get together, and they took it. When the party ended and everyone was sent home, it wasn’t uncommon for some young couples to sneak off into the night and break a few rules together.

2Boys Who Had Premarital Sex Were Publicly Beaten

Sneaking off with a sweetheart wasn’t always a great idea. Abstinence was a big deal for the Aztecs. Fathers would sit down with their sons and encourage them to stay pure until their wedding nights, promising that they’d have more vigor if they abstained. And if a boy didn’t take his father’s advice, he’d find out just how seriously his people took saving themselves for marriage.

If a boy was caught with a prostitute or in the bed of a woman, he would be tortured for it. Sometimes, that meant having pine needles stuck in every inch of his body. But sometimes, it was a lot worse than that.

In one case, a man who was caught sleeping with a young girl was stripped of all possessions, had his hair cut, and was dragged into the courtyard. There, they beat him with a pine stick and burned his body with the firebrand until—to quote the original description—“his body was smoking.”

“With this, they cast him forth,” an eyewitness wrote. “He just slowly crept away; he was going from one side to the other; he just went confused. [ . . . ] He withdrew forever; nevermore was he to sing and dance with the others.

1Noble Children Were Ordered To Cut Themselves

The noble children didn’t get off any easier. The children in the calmecacwere beaten just like the poor kids. But for them, it didn’t stop there. They were required to hurt themselves, too.

Noble children were required to perform “autosacrifice” regularly. If they’d done something wrong, for example, they would be expected to wander out in the middle of the forest and stab themselves with maguey spines.

Even if a child never did anything wrong, though, he still had to hurt himself. A child could never move past the rank of “novice priest” until he started walking around with his own blood smeared on his ear.

Every night at midnight, the boys of the calmecac would be awakened and forced to go to the midnight prayer. There, they either stabbed themselves in the shinbones with maguey spines or, if it was a special occasion, cut open their arms and rammed reeds into the wounds.

The bloody reeds and maguey spines would be sacrificed to the god of the Sun. But not all sacrifices were equal. Whoever could spill the most blood was considered the greatest and most penitent. And that was a great honor. If he was really penitent, he might even become head priest one day—and then that lucky boy would get to do this every day for the rest of his life.

8,000-Year-Old Jars Are the Earliest Evidence of Winemaking

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8,000-Year-Old Jars Are the Earliest Evidence of Winemaking

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8,000-Year-Old Jars Are the Earliest Evidence of Winemaking

An 8,000-year-old Neolithic jaw, known as a qvevri — a vessel used for fermentation — found in the Republic of Georgia.

Credit: Judyta Olszewski

This remarkable find deserves a toast: People were fermenting grapes into wine about 8,000 years ago in what is now the Republic of Georgia, say scientists who found what’s now considered the oldest known winemaking site on record.

Archaeologists found ceramic jars that showed evidence of winemaking during an excavation of two Neolithic sites called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, which are in the South Caucasus, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital.

Previously, the oldest evidence of winemaking was found in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, and dated to between 5500 B.C. and 5000 B.C. The new discovery, dated to 6000 B.C., shows that people were enjoying the alcoholic drink a good 600 to 1,000 years longer than formerly thought, the researchers said. [Raise Your Glass: 10 Intoxicating Beer Facts]

During the excavation in Georgia, researchers uncovered fragments of ceramic jars. While analyzing the chemical residue on shards from eight large jars, the scientists found tartaric acid, a fingerprint compound of grapes and wine.

“We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine,” study co-researcher Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Archaeology Centre at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.

Researchers analyzed the residues on the base of this Neolithic jar.

Researchers analyzed the residues on the base of this Neolithic jar.

Credit: Judyta Olszewski

During the Neolithic period, people began settling into permanent villages, farming crops, domesticating animals, making polished stone tools and developing crafts, such as pottery and woven goods. These new technologies likely helped ancient people with winemaking, the researchers said.

“Pottery, which was ideal for processing, serving and storing fermented beverages, was invented in this period together with many advances in art, technology and cuisine,” Batiuk said.

Moreover, there are more than 10,000 varieties of table and wine grapes worldwide, and “Georgia is home to over 500 varieties for wine alone, suggesting that grapes have been domesticated and cross-breeding in the region for a very long time,” Batiuk said.

A number of analyses — including archaeological, chemical, botanical, climatic and radiocarbon — indicate that the Eurasian grape known as Vitis vinifera was abundant at the two Neolithic sites. This grape likely had ideal growing conditions in these Neolithic villages, which had conditions close to those of the modern wine-producing regions of Italy and France, the researchers said.

It’s no surprise that once ancient farmers domesticated the grape, wine culture followed, Batiuk added. These ancient societies were awash in wine, which permeated nearly every aspect of life, including medical treatments, special celebrations and everyday meals.

“As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopeias, cuisines, economics and society throughout the ancient Near East,” Batiuk said.

A view of the excavations at Gadachrili Gora in Georgia, taken by a drone.

A view of the excavations at Gadachrili Gora in Georgia, taken by a drone.

Credit: Stephen Batiuk

Viniculture is complex; it includes domestication, propagation, selection of desirable traits, wine presses, suitable containers and proper closures (such as modern-day corks), the researchers wrote in the study, which was published online today (Nov. 13) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And now, people living in the South Caucasus have reason to be proud of the history within their region.

“The Eurasian grapevine that now accounts for 99.9 percent of wine made in the world today has its roots in Caucasia,” Batiuk said.

Original article on Live Science.

4,000-Year-Old Prenup Mentions Infertility, Surrogacy and Divorce

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4,000-Year-Old Prenup Mentions Infertility, Surrogacy and Divorce

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4,000-Year-Old Prenup Mentions Infertility, Surrogacy and Divorce

The 4,000-year-old Assyrian marriage contract.

Credit: Turp, AB. et al. Gynecological Endocrinology, 2017

Kim Kardashian made headlines recently for using a surrogate to carry her unborn child, but the practice of surrogacy — albeit in a different form — is much, much older, dating back at least 4,000 years, a new study finds.

Surrogacy in modern times often refers to the practice of a fertilized embryo from a couple being implanted and carried to term in another woman’s womb. But, thousands of years ago, it took a different form.

Researchers discovered the ancient evidence of surrogacy while studying an Assyrian clay tablet that contains the oldest known marriage contract with language on infertility and surrogacy. The contract details how a man named Laqipum and his bride, Hatala, will move forward with surrogacy if they don’t have a child within two years. [13 Facts on the History of Marriage]

“There are many different ways to solve infertility problems — like surrogacy, as mentioned even 4,000 years ago in this Assyrian clay tablet,” the researchers wrote in the study.

The tablet, as translated from cuneiform, says that if Hatala is unable to have a child, she will buy a slave woman, known as a hierodule, to sleep with her husband.

Here is the translation:

“Laqipum has married Hatala, daughter of Enishru. In the country [Central Anatolia], Laqipum may not marry another [woman], [but] in the city [of Ashur] he may marry a hierodule. If, within two years, she [Hatala] does not provide him with offspring, she herself will purchase a slave woman, and later, after she will have produced a child by him, he may then dispose of her by sale where-so-ever he pleases.”

Note that the marriage contract assumes that any potential infertility stems from Hatala, the woman, rather than her husband. Granted, there wasn’t an advanced scientific understanding of infertility in 2000 B.C. But now, it’s well known that men can experience infertility problems, too, including from low sperm count and chronic health issues, such as obesity, Live Science previously reported.

Despite this ancient misconception, the marriage contract shows that “the concept of infertility is not just a disease of our age,” but rather one of the ages, the researchers wrote in the study. Infertility and surrogacy are also mentioned in the Old Testament, including when Sarah was unable to have children in her old age, prompting her to ask Abraham to sleep with Hagar, an Egyptian slave.

“Since Hagar agreed to give birth to a baby on behalf of Sarah, we can define Hagar as a surrogate mother,” Liubov Ben-Nun, a professor emeritus at the Joyce and Irving Goldman Medical School of Ben-Gurion University, in Israel, told The Times of Israel.

The marriage contract also details stipulations in the event of divorce, in case things didn’t work out for Laqipum and Hatala.

“Should Laqipum choose to divorce her, he must pay [her] five minas of silver – and should Hatala choose to divorce him, she must pay [him] five minas of silver,” according to a translation of the contract. (A mina is a unit of weight used for currency purposes.)

Researchers found the Assyrian tablet in modern-day Turkey at Kültepe-Kanesh, an archaeological site on the World Heritage list kept by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Archaeologists have found more than 23,500 clay tablets and envelopes, known as the Cappadocian tablets, to date. This particular tablet is on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, in Turkey.

The study was published online Oct. 26 in the journal Gynecological Endocrinology.

Original article on Live Science.

800-Year-Old Tombs Tell the Story of an Ancient Chinese Couple

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800-Year-Old Tombs Tell the Story of an Ancient Chinese Couple

Here, the rear wall of the coffin chamber in née Wu’s tomb.

Credit: Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics

Two 800-year-old tombs belonging to a man named Lord Hu Hong and his wife née Wu, who carried the title Lady of Virtue, have been discovered at a construction site in Qingyuan County, in China’s Zhejiang province.

An inscription says that Hu Hong is the “Grand Master for Thorough Counsel.” He and née Wu lived at a time when China was divided between two dynasties, with Hu Hong serving the southern Song dynasty that controlled southern China, according to the researchers who described the findings.

The lengthy inscription discussing Hu Hong’s life was found inside his tomb. A translation of the inscription states that it “has been inscribed on this stone to be treasured here, in the hope it will last as long as heaven and earth!”

Among Hu Hong’s many duties was, in 1195, becoming “Investigating Censor prosecuting the treacherous and the heretical, with awe-inspiring justice,” the inscription says. Historical records say that in 1195, the government launched a crackdown on a religious group called the Tao-hsueh, who criticized Chinese senior officials and emperors for drinking alcohol and having multiple wives and concubines according to a number of researchers who have written about this time period.

Jianming Zheng, a researcher with the Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, led the team of archaeologists who excavated the tombs. They discovered that Hu Hong’s tomb had been robbed, but née Wu’s tomb hadn’t. While inscriptions were found inside both tombs, the inscription in née Wu’s tomb is illegible, archaeologists said.

Here, the rear wall of the coffin chamber in née Wu’s tomb.

Credit: Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics

Their bodies had almost completely decayed. A large amount of mercury was found within née Wu’s tomb that “was probably used [unsuccessfully] to prevent decomposition,” the archaeologists wrote in their journal article.

Inside both tombs, the archaeologists found porcelain jars decorated with elephant designs. And inside née Wu’s tomb, they also discovered gold jewelry, gold combs, gold and silver hairpins and a crystal disc. [Photos: Terracotta Warriors Protect Secret Tomb]

Hu Hong was born in April 1147, and according to the inscription and historical records, his family was poor. His father taught Confucianism to the public, and his earlier ancestors were refugees who moved to Longquan County (which is near Qingyuan County) after much of Chinawas engulfed in civil war during the 10th century, according to the inscription.

“Hu Hong loved learning, but his family was poor and had no money to buy books. When there were book peddlers passing by, he would borrow the books, read them overnight and return them the next day,” the “Gazetteer of Chuzhou Prefecture,” which was a text published in 1486, reads in translation.

Apparently, he showed “outstanding talent” as a child in school and, in 1163, passed a competitive series of government exams to get a junior position in the government according to the inscription found in Hu Hong’s tomb. He then rose gradually through the ranks. His career got a boost in 1179, when he agreed to serve on the southern Song dynasty’s northern borders. In 1193, the government recognized him as “best county magistrate of the year,” the inscription says.

As the “investigating censor,” Hu Hong prosecuted the “treacherous and the heretical” in 1195, the inscription says. He was made a military commissioner in 1200 and was charged with defeating a group of rebels. “At the time, the Yao tribes were rebellious, and he stamped the rebels out,” the inscription says. Today, the Yao live in China and Southeast Asia.

In his final years, Hu Hong was growing critical of his own government, and retired not long after 1200. “He knew that he was beyond his prime and insisted on retiring. Had he kept being outspoken, he would have been pushed out,” the inscription says. [In Photos: 1,000-Year-Old Tomb With Colorful Murals Discovered in China]

“Although worried about current affairs and concerned with the moral decline of the time, and though he could not easily let go, he no longer had the energy to fight and serve,” the inscription says. He died in 1203, and his wife died in 1206. Their tombs were built side by side. Hu Hong and née Wu had two sons, three daughters and two granddaughters, the inscription says.

The two tombs were discovered in March 2014. An article reporting the discovery was published in Chinese, in 2015 in the journal Wenwu. Recently, the article was translated into English and published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

In Photos: Treasures From 800-Year-Old Tombs in China

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In Photos: Treasures From 800-Year-Old Tombs in China

Crystal disc

Credit: Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics

In Photos: Cremated Buddha Remains and Buddha Statues

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In Photos: Cremated Buddha Remains and Buddha Statues

Spiritual discovery

Credit: Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics