Books

Looting of the Iraq Museum Baghdad

A s the recent elections have shown, there are few items more controversial than the war in Iraq. Do we see it as being an unnecessary and aggressive war? Or do we see it as a noble attempt to rid Iraq of a hated tyrant? For archaeologists, the catalyst in this debate is the looting […]

Painted Buddhas of Xinjiang

After 30 long years in negotiation with the authorities, the photographer Reza was finally granted permission to visit and photograph inside a series of caves hidden under the mountains of Xinjiang in former East Turkmenistan. The reason for his persistence is that the caves are adorned with an extraordinary bonanza of Buddhist art. Reza has […]

Horses of St Mark’s

In 1204, the Venetians, leading the Fourth Crusade, decided to postpone their attack on the infidel, and turned aside to sack the greatest city of Christendom, Constantinople. This proved extremely profitable, and among the loot that the Venetians carried home with them were four magnificent bronze horses which had stood in the Hippodrome. These they […]

Quest for the Shaman

‘This book is a quest for evidence of shamanism’ write co-authors Professors Miranda and Stephen Aldhouse-Green. And yet, before their quest even begins they have a hard time defining what they mean by ‘shamanism’. Indeed, they point out that one scholar has argued that the notion of shamanism is an entirely invented academic tradition, even […]

Ajanta Caves

This book is beautiful. Indeed, author Benoy Behl describes his work as a ‘labour of love’. With over 200 illustrations, 189 of which are in full-colour, this is the most comprehensive publication of the Buddhist art from the Ajanta caves in western India. The exquisite paintings and sculptures from the World Heritage Site caves range […]

Enemies of Rome

Many believe that Rome was glorious, and that Rome brought civilisation – law, architecture, literature, a better lifestyle – into the Barbarian darkness of the conquered people. But was this really so? Philip Matyszak presents the alternative view. His book tells the story of the growth and eventual demise of Rome from the perspective of […]

Hunnu Tombs in Mongolia

And now for the reviewers ultimate challenge: how to review a book written in two languages, neither of which the reviewer understands. One of the languages is, I think, Korean – the book certainly comes from Korea. The other language is written in Cyrillic script which looks like Russian, but having struggled with it with […]

Collapse

Collapse: how societies choose to fail or survive, by Jared Diamond (Penguin hardback, £20) is the sort of book that archaeologists should write but don’t. Jared Diamond has an interesting background. He began as a biologist and became professor of physiology at Los Angeles at a very early age. However, he is also into birds […]

Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) is often dismissed simply as an intrepid lady explorer/amateur archaeologist: ‘The Daughter of the Desert or a kind of schoolgirl’s Lawrence of Arabia’, as H V F Winstone observes in his immaculately researched biography Gertrude Bell. And yet, as Winstone demonstrates, such labels fail to do justice to her or to her […]

Petra Discovered

With Petra being the lead article in this issue it is perhaps appropriate to look at a magnificent new book on the subject – Petra Rediscovered. This is an American book produced by the Cincinnati Art Museum and edited by their curator Glenn Markoe. It is a large format gorgeously illustrated volume, but it must […]

Goddess & the Bull:Catalhoyuk

‘On a cold day in 1958’ writes Michael Balter ‘the history of archaeology, and of our understanding of our own origins, was changed forever’. It was on that day in 1958, that archaeologist James Mellaart discovered one of the world’s oldest towns, Turkey’s Çatalhöyük. And thus began an archaeological odyssey into the origins of civilisation […]