World News: Egypt, China, Eurasia

News touching on CT scans of the mummified remains of Pharaoh Seqenenre-Taa-II (c.1558-1553 BC), a mistake uncovered on 800-year-old wall paintings in a cave in China, and a new theory concerning the domestication of dogs by early humans in Eurasia.

Scanning Pharaoh Seqenenre-Taa-II

Recent computed tomography (CT) scans of the mummified remains of Pharaoh Seqenenre-Taa-II (c.1558-1553 BC) have shed light on the circumstances surrounding his death, and support theories that his conflict with the Hyksos, who controlled the northern part of Egypt, led to his execution.

The research, published in Frontiers in Medicine, revealed that the pharaoh’s head injuries were inflicted by multiple different weapons, which correlated with Hyksos weapons from this period. The absence of defensive wounds on his arms, and the shape in which these limbs were bent, indicates his wrists were bound, which could signify that he was ceremonially executed at the hands of multiple attackers. The scans also identified previously unrecognised head wounds which the embalmers had skilfully disguised.

image: Sahar N Saleem
Image: Sahar N Saleem

Mistake uncovered on 800-year-old wall paintings

Researchers have discovered a mistake made almost 800 years ago on a wall painting in a Buddhist temple in the Mogao Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Gobi Desert, China. Using non-invasive imaging techniques to analyse the Indo-Tibetan tantric Buddhist style paintings in Cave 465, researchers found that one of the Buddhist teachings, written in Sanskrit and printed in red pigment at the foot of each of the five Buddhas painted on the ceiling, was in reverse. As part of the temple consecration ritual, the text would have been printed on paper and glued to the ceiling. It appears one workman glued the paper face down, and so the letters were flipped. An analysis of the pigment and style of script concluded that the paintings in Cave 465 dated to the 12th- to 13th-century Mongol/Yuan period.

Domesticating dogs

A new study, recently published in Scientific Reports (, has posited a new theory on the domestication of dogs by early humans. It proposes that, due to the harsh climatic conditions of the late Pleistocene in sub-Arctic Eurasia, the game hunted would have been extremely lean, and so their meat would have been too protein-rich for humans to safely metabolise. The study suggests that the excess meat that could not be consumed may have been fed to canines. In this way, the competition for resources between the two species would have been diminished, and a cooperative relationship may have been fostered.

TEXT: F Chilver.