Traditionally, the Assyrians have had a bad press. They appear in the Bible as wicked oppressors with romantic names such as Ashurnasirpal and Tiglath-pileser – but what is the reality behind the Biblical rhetoric? In 1989 the Assyrians came dramatically alive when the burials of three queens were discovered at Nimrud, concealed under the floor in the harem. Sadly, since then Iraq has been through troubled times, and the finds have been concealed in bank vaults. Recently, however, the excavators came to the British Museum for a conference, and the sheer quantity of gold and jewellery that they had discovered was revealed. Here we present a reassessment and indeed a rehabilitation of the Assyrians, a cultured and cultivated people who dominated northern Mesopotamia in the first half of the first millennium BC.
Then from Iraq to Japan. One of the strangest and most enigmatic prehistoric cultures is the Jomon Culture in Japan. It begins very early, way back in the last Ice Age, but it goes on and on, and it is not until around 800 BC, that is 12,000 years later, that it finally gives way to Iron Age agriculture. The best known feature of the Jomon is their exotic cord-marked pottery in a fantastic variety of shapes. Their lifestyle also fascinates. They never became farmers, but remained throughout as highly sophisticated hunters and gatherers, living in large villages, and building ritual monuments that look suspiciously like henges.
We then move to the Mediterranean. Greece, and Athens in particular, is usually associated with art and high culture, but it was also the world’s first monetary economy: where did the money come from? The answer was that they mined it, in the silver mines at Laurion. Neil Faulkner has been talking to Thilo Rehren, the Professor of Archaeological Materials and Technology at University College London, who elucidates the mysteries of how to wash away the impurities from the crude ore, and leave behind the silver that made Athens so rich and prosperous.
What was life like in Eastern Europe under the Communists and how did it change with the break-up of the Russian Empire? Richard Hodges has been interviewing Muzafer Korkuti, the Director of Albania’s Institute of Archaeology, and finds out how he set out as a bright young archaeologist, was trained in Leningrad and then in China, of his disillusion as the Empire cracked and now his new life leading the vibrant archaeological scene in Albania.
Archaeology is flourishing in the oil rich states of the Arabian Gulf. Nadia Durrani has been out to look at archaeology in the United Arab Emirates, and here she tells us what she has discovered.
With News, Book Reviews and Readers’ Letters, as well as a postcard from Richard Hodges in Florence, there is a lot to read in this latest issue of Current World Archaeology.