World news in brief – giant jars found in India, discoveries at Notre-Dame

Giant sandstone jars found in India

IMAGE: Tilok Thakuria, Uttam Bathari, and Nicholas Skopal, Asian Archaeology.

Surveys in Assam, north-east India – led by Tilok Thakuria from North-Eastern Hill University and Uttam Bathari from Gauhati University – have found four previously unknown giant sandstone jar sites in the region, shedding new light on the area’s megalithic landscape. The new discoveries have increased the number of recorded sites to 11, containing almost 800 jars in total. The 1m- to 3m-tall jars, which possibly date to the early Iron Age (c.400 BC), are mostly plain and bulbous in shape with conical bottoms, though some are decorated with patterns and human and animal figures.

Similar items have been found in Laos, where they are associated with later human burials, and in Indonesia. No human remains have been linked to the jars found in Assam or Indonesia, though, and their function – possibly related to mortuary practices – remains uncertain.

The research was published in the journal Asian Archaeology (

New discoveries at Notre-Dame de Paris

Archaeologists from Inrap have unearthed burials, sculptures, and masonry from various periods inside Notre-Dame de Paris during excavations carried out as part of restoration work following a fire at the cathedral in 2019.

Brightly coloured fragments of a lost 13th-century rood screen, which was largely destroyed in the 18th century, were found buried beneath the cathedral’s floor, and the archaeologists also uncovered several plaster sarcophagi and graves cut into the ground, which are thought to date to between the 14th and 18th centuries.

One human-shaped lead sarcophagus was investigated with an endoscopic camera, which revealed organic material indicating that the human remains inside were in a good state of preservation. The individual’s identity is currently unknown, but they are believed to be an important person who may have died in the 14th century. Excavations are now complete, but analysis of of the findings continues.

‘Machu Picchu’ – what’s in a name?

The Inca site of Machu Picchu in Peru may originally have been known by a different name, according to a new study by Donato Amado Gonzales from the Ministry of Culture of Peru and Brian S Bauer from the University of Illinois Chicago (published in Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of the Institute of Andean Studies,

The ancient city was referred to as ‘Machu Picchu’ (the name of the highest mountain near the ruins) after Hiram Bingham brought the site to the world’s attention in 1911. Investigation of Bingham’s field notes and older maps and atlases, however, has revealed that the city may have been known to the Inca as ‘Huayna Picchu’, after the rocky summit closest to the site, or even just ‘Picchu’. Spanish records from the 16th and 17th centuries indicate the former, with one 1588 account stating that local indigenous people were considering returning to reoccupy the site they called ‘Huayna Picchu’.