Books

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 […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt

Every time an archaeologist looks at non-√©lite everyday data, this is heralded as something special, unusual, praise-worthy, and in the case of Meskell’s book, is described as ‘pathbreaking’. In fact, increasing numbers of researchers are looking at the regular every-day lives of the ancients. In the Ancient Egyptian arena, this is helped by the wealth […]

Review: The Colosseum

In a medieval, and indeed modern Rome, one building above all dominates the city: the Colosseum. Erected on a swamp in the centre of the city on the ruins of the gardens of Nero’s ill-fated Golden House, it is simply so big that despite all the demolition and its use throughout the Middle Ages as […]

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Review: The Human Past

The Human Past is the latest blockbuster from Thames and Hudson. After the huge success of the Renfrew/Bahn Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice, Colin Ridler, the quiet mastermind behind the archaeology section at T&H, was faced with the problem of what to do next. The answer was a history of the world, a follow up […]

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 […]