Photo: Antonio Quattrone, Florence

Spilling the beans on BRONZE … coming soon to the Royal Academy

The Royal Academy is planning a spectacular and innovative new exhibition that will bring together an eclectic collection of bronze artefacts spanning the world and time. Simply called Bronze, it will display more than 150 rare and precious works of art, from the 14th century BC Trundholm Chariot of the Sun – on special loan […]


Charles Higham: Arriving in Ashwell and an African exodus

When did our ancestors leave Africa to colonise the globe? Our cottage in Ashwell looks out over the village church, which boasts the highest parish steeple in Hertfordshire. A glance over the churchyard one wet May morning revealed a van drawn up, and familiar gear being off-loaded: picks and shovels, tarpaulins and sieves. All the […]


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Rome’s decline, Celtic brawls, and China’s walls Decline and Fall Edward Gibbon wrote an epic six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776-1789, in which he blamed the Church for the end of the glory that was Rome. The impact of the teachings of the Church, he argued, was to […]


Marine Archaeology: the conundrum

By Dexter Findley The sea is our planet’s last frontier: we know less about the ocean floor than we do the surface of the Moon. Like other frontiers – the Wild West comes to mind – it is riddled with lawlessness and opportunism. It also happens to be final resting place for countless wonders of […]


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Droit du seigneur One of life’s most uncomfortable experiences is to be engaged in conversation by a family-history buff. Often these are people who have selflessly devoted their retirement years to tracing all the branches of their family tree. This rapidly becomes an all-absorbing obsession, and there is a huge international industry devoted to taking […]


Easy Money

Both Diggers on the National Geographic Channel and Spike TV’s American Digger follow the exploits of metal-detecting teams as they search for buried artefacts. Both productions depict the frequent and careless removal of antiquities, with the sole objective to collect treasure for monetary gain. Archaeologists have angrily denounced the series as a promotion of mercenary […]


Charles Higham: A prehistoric mystery

The McDonald Institute at Cambridge University has, for many years, held special symposia on topics that traditionally lie on the ‘edge of knowability’. These involve about 20 specialists, each of whom delivers a brief summary of a pre-circulated paper, before the floor is opened to discussion. I have been lucky enough to be invited to […]

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Charles Higham: The dating game and the saga of Ban Chiang

Very early in my archaeological career, I encountered an intense debate on the chronology of the earliest Neolithic in the Near East. It was rather like the race to the Pole: who had the earliest date? The English champion was the redoubtable Dame Cathleen Kenyon, her American adversary was Robert Braidwood. It was a case […]

Chris Catling On...

Chris Catling on…

The weather in Baghdad It snowed in Baghdad in AD 908, 944 and 1007. How do we know? Because historians at Spain’s University of Extremadura have been scouring ancient manuscripts for weather reports. The period from AD 816 to AD 1009 was a Golden Age for literature in the Islamic world, and scholars, historians and […]


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Lion man or woman? In August 1939, archaeologist Otto Völzing was excavating deep inside the Stadel cave in the Schwäbische Alb mountains of south-western Germany when the Second World War rudely interrupted his research. As so often happens in archaeology, his most spectacular find – a carved ivory figure – emerged on the last day. […]

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Charles Higham: notes from the field

At a barbecue last year, a former student of mine, who had joined me on my excavations for 20 years, suggested the time had come for me to give up fieldwork and leave it to younger people. I reflected on this by comparing my interests and plans with those of my contemporaries who studied archaeology […]

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