Books

War at Troy

Recreating Homer’s Trojan War A Hollywood blockbuster starring Brad Pitt and a book by award-winning novelist Lindsay Clarke both attempt to bring Homer’s Trojan War to new popular audiences. How successful are they? The Movie The movie is visually spectacular. The computer-generated images – of the Greek fleet’s amphibious assault, of armies battling on the […]

Amelia Peabody’s Egypt

Amelia Peabody’s Egypt: a Compendium Ed. Elizabeth Peters, Constable & Robinson, £19.99 This is a book that is both charming and dangerous. Elizabeth Peters might be described as an American version of Agatha Christie, and her equivalent of Hercule Poirot is Amelia Peabody, a Victorian feminist/archaeologist/ detective, the chronicles of whose doings are extremely popular […]

Dragon Bone Hill

In 1921, the Swedish geologist Gunnar Andersson and his palaeontological assistant Otto Zdansky, an Austrian, discovered some intriguing fossil bones in a complex of Pleistocene-era caves near Peking. Dragon Bone Hill is the English translation of the local Chinese name (Longgushan) of the caves that are internationally known as Zhoukoudian. A galaxy of international scientists […]

Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt

Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt: Life in Death for Rich and Poor Wolfram Grajetzki, Gerald Duckworth & Co., £14.99 Wolfram Grajetzki’s comprehensive little book aims to document the burial customs of Ancient Egypt across five millennia. He opens with a look at the graves of the early Egyptian farmers who lived and died some seven […]

Year of the Ghost

The year of the ghost Derek A. Roe, Western Academic & Specialist Press for Beagle Books, £14.95 In 1983, Derek Roe became a ghost. Derek was at the time 46 and a rising figure in the world of Old Stone Age Archaeology at Oxford; but he was also well-known as a writer, so he was […]

Ancient Queens

Ancient Queens, Archaeological Explorations Ed. Sarah Milledge Nelson, AltaMira Press, £24.95 Do you know much about the women who ruled in antiquity? As Sarah Milledge Nelson, Professor of Archaeology at Denver points out, most of us do not …’presumably because of a cultural expectation that rulers will be men’. Nelson’s edited collection of ten papers […]

Moundbuilders

The Moundbuilders George R. Milner, Thames and Hudson, £28.00 If you go to America, and land on the East Coast, then cross over the Appalachian Mountains, you come down into the huge valley plain of the River Mississippi with its tributaries, the Ohio, the Illinois and the Tennessee rivers. This huge area, nearly 1000 miles […]

Pompeii: a novel

Pompeii has featured in fiction many times. The first-century Roman novelist Petronius set his Satyricon in the Bay of Naples, and one can imagine the grand dinner hosted by the vulgar nouveau riche freedman Trimalchio – the most famous scene in the book – taking place in a Pompeian peristyle. In 1834 Edward Bulwer-Lytton published […]

Pompeii: The Last Day

What is the best book to read for a basic introduction to Pompeii? Paul Wilkinson has just produced Pompeii: the last day (BBC Books, £16.99), written to accompany the recent TV reconstruction of the destruction of the city. The link with the TV programme is loose, and this is really just another summary of the […]

Pompeii: Public & Private Life

Paul Zanker’s Pompeii: public and private life (Harvard, £15.95) is another book in the same vein. The German author is an archaeology professor who has served as the Director of the German Archaeological Institute in Rome. Like Wallace-Hadrill, his aim is to ‘read’ material culture for encoded statements about past society. His big idea is […]

Houses & Society in Pompeii & Herculaneum

Interpreting Pompeii Many of the older studies of Pompeii seem rather dry today. Architecture, mosaics and frescoes were classified into types. Houses were distinguished according to whether limestone, volcanic tuff or concrete was used to build them. Architecture was ‘Samnite’, ‘Hellenistic’ or ‘Roman colonial’. Frescoes were grouped into four main styles. These various types were […]

Lost World of Pompeii

The crisis in Vesuvian archaeology runs deep. Pompeii is fast degrading, with walls crumbling, frescoes erased by the sun, plaster dropping off walls, and mosaics being churned up by weeds. Many of the finds from early excavations have not been catalogued, and there are great gaps in the published record. The Lost World of Pompeii […]

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