Petra is one of the mystery cities of the ancient world. Everywhere there are tomb facades quarried into the rose-red hillsides. But how did these tombs function? The best answer appears to come from the Tomb of the Roman Soldier – which is not Roman at all, so here it is called the Tomb of the Soldier. This is one of the best preserved tombs, but one of the least visited, as it lies far from the main tourist route. Currently Stephan Schmid is excavating it on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund and others, and here he asks the big question: how did these tombs actually ‘work’?
We then follow the Romans across their Empire to Dacia, modern Romania. Here the emperor Trajan established the Roman province of Dacia, the last province to be added to the Roman Empire and one of the first to leave it. The capital of Dacia was Apulum, and here a major sanctuary of the Roman god, Pater Liber has been discovered. Not only have statues of the gods been recovered, but also two large ritual pits, where money-boxes (empty!) and other ‘ritual’ objects throw new light on religious practices in the Roman empire.
From divinity to a divine archaeologist, we report on the extraordinary career of Professor Beatrice de Cardi (pictured right with Nadia Durrani), who has just celebrated her 90th birthday. Beatrice dug with Sir Mortimer Wheeler at Maiden Castle before the War, and after the War she became the first secretary of the Council for British Archaeology. However in her spare time she carried out major research in Pakistan, Iran and the Gulf States. She was tackling a major problem: was there any connection between the ancient civilisation of Mesopotamia, and those of the Indus valley? Now an inspirational 90 year old, Beatrice recalls the trials and tribulations of a life well travelled.
Archaeology also tells more sombre stories and one of these is the story of the slaughter on the Somme in the 1914-18 war. Here Neil Faulkner reports on an excavation undertaken at Serre, the resting place of the poet Wilfred Owen. Faulkner uses Owen’s iconic poetry to flesh out the bones of three bodies exhumed from the earth of the erstwhile trenches. Two of the bodies have been identified by their paraphernalia as German. But who was the third body?
How do elections affect archaeology? An election is coming up shortly in Albania, and this has brought into stark focus a clash between archaeology and road-building. A new road to take Albanians to the sea-side threatens to pass dangerously close to the Greco-Roman town of Apollonia: who will win out in this clash? Richard Hodges sends us a postcard from Apollonia and lays out the odds.