Books

Review: The Elgin Marbles

Visitors to Athens tend to spend most of their time pursuing the remains of the great Classical city. They will probably note with horror the monstrosities of the modern city and they may possibly, if they are lucky, come across the fascinating remains of medieval and early modern Athens. After the Classical era, Athens had […]

Beyond The River

To the east of the small town of Madaba in Jordan – famed for its 6th century AD Mosaic Map, the earliest known map of the Levant – is the Persian Palace of Qasr el-Mushatta. So impressive were these Persian ruins that Layard, writing in 1840, described them as ‘a marvellous example of the sumptuousness […]

Egypt: How a Lost Civilisation was Discovered

Egypt – How a lost civilisation was rediscovered. Joyce Tyldesley BBC Books, £17.99 In 1400 BC, the three pyramids at Giza, were already 1000 years old. Long abandoned by their priests, they lay open, stripped of their precious contents. The once-mighty sphinx already lay buried to its neck in sand. Fashions had changed and the […]

Review: The Tomb of Agamemnon

In the 1870s, the German grocer Heinrich Schliemann decided to devote the wealth he had accumulated in grocery to go and dig up first Troy and then Mycenae. In Mycenae he struck gold – literally. In 1876, just inside the Lion Gate, he excavated a circle of stone slabs which contained five shaft graves and […]

Review: The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization

‘Some of the recent literature on the Germanic settlements reads like an account of a tea party at the Roman vicarage. A shy newcomer to the village, who is a useful prospect for the cricket team, is invited in. There is a brief moment of awkwardness while the host finds an empty chair and pours […]

Review: The Maya

This is the seventh edition of Coe’s Maya, a readable and enjoyable richly illustrated introduction to the New World civilisation. Here, the Yale Professor of Anthropology presents an updated text that offers new evidence, gleaned over the past decade, since, as Coe points out ‘hardly a week goes by without the announcement of a new […]

Review: The Artifice of Beauty

From the cover stares a glamorous European face with incongruous Egyptian make-up. But let us not judge a book by its cover. Or maybe, in this case, we should, since this book is all about looks and the way we humans have primped, pampered, and perfumed ourselves over the millennia. And the frontispiece is fairly […]

In Search of the Red Slave

In 1703, Robert Drury, aged 16, was shipwrecked on the south coast of Madagascar. For the next 13 years he was a slave on the island, a ‘red’ slave because the people of Madagascar saw the skin colour that today we call ‘white’ as being ‘red’. Eventually he was able to escape and hitched a […]

Persian Fire

A global superpower attacks a small ‘rogue state’. The superpower – arrogant, self-righteous, supremely confident – swaggers in. It is bound to win. It always does. Its military doctrine is based on ‘overwhelming force and mastery of data’. But – incredibly, against the odds, against reason – the ‘terrorists’ fight back. And the resistance, bitter […]

First Farmers

Professor of Archaeology at the Australian National University, Peter Bellwood, has written a book that is both important and stimulating. He brings together a wide range of disparate data to examine the origins of agriculture and why different societies took up farming. This is a huge project – as he acknowledges in his opening line: […]

Review: The Lost Tomb

One cannot leave the story of KV5 without looking at some of the literature it has produced. First and foremost is Kent Weeks’ own account of the discovery of the tomb. The Lost Tomb is one of the best archaeological books I have ever read. I bought it to read during our trip to Egypt […]

Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon is situated in what must be one of the most unpropitious landscapes in the world. Lying in the American South West, inland from California, in the corner where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona all meet, it is near-desert, a harsh and capricious arid landscape, subject to the vagaries of the climate. Yet […]

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