Features

Our features are the high points of each issue: always intelligently written by experts and beautifully illustrated

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Rare child burial in Indonesia

A sub-adult burial dating to the early-mid Holocene, c.8000 BP, has been found in Makpan Cave on Alor Island, south-eastern Indonesia. To date, only a few complete pre-Neolithic burials have been found in Island South-east Asia, despite the region’s vast size.

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A feline find

A geoglyph has been discovered on a hillside in the Nazca desert of Peru during the emergency project ‘Cleaning, Conservation and Restoration of the Geoglyphs of the Mirador Natural, Nazca’. Researchers were modifying a viewpoint in January 2020 when they observed lines that did not appear to be natural on a nearby. After securing drone images and processing these photos, they were able to identify a feline figure, which was cleaned and conserved at the end of the project in November.

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An unexpected tomb

Discovering a previously unsuspected Roman cemetery would normally rank as the archaeological highlight of a building project. Recent work on Corsica, though, revealed an even greater surprise.

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The late Roman villa of Caddeddi

Sicily was famed in antiquity for its agricultural prosperity. An eloquent witness of its late Roman wealth is provided by the great villa near Piazza Armerina, a UNESCO World Heritage site, but the villa, built c.AD 320/330, is not unique in Sicily. Tucked away in the south-east corner of the island in the province of Syracuse, 5km south of the wonderful baroque town of Noto, is another rich Roman villa. It is not as large, but it was also constructed in the 4th century and also boasts fine mosaics. The site is little known, however, and barely gets any visitors at all.

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Review: The Dancing Satyr of Mazara del Vallo

The modern town of Mazara del Vallo lies on the south-western coast of Sicily. Created as a Phoenician outpost, it became a border post lying between the Phoenician and Carthaginian entrepôt at Motya/Marsala and the westernmost Greek colony at Selinunte. The medieval Arab conquerors appreciated its proximity to North Africa, and thus it became a major political and cultural centre as well as a working harbour. Its historic centre contains a number of typical Arab-Norman Sicilian treasures.

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Ship shape: Viking burial found

A Viking ship burial has been discovered at the site of Gjellestad in south-eastern Norway. It was first identified during a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey, and is now being excavated by the Museum of Cultural History, Oslo.

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Travel: Digging in Permafrost

It was a typical summer day: birds, boats, sea, and ice. The difference was, the birds were Arctic geese, the boats were converted canoes, the sea was −10°C, and the ice was the size of a large car, rather than bobbing in a refreshing drink. I was standing on the northern coast of the small island of Uglit, where I camped for five weeks last summer while excavating ancient Arctic houses.

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Richard Hodges: The Death of Pan

The Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha was obsessed with defending his ‘paradise on earth’. He feared invasion by NATO troops using a combination of amphibious landings and parachutists. As a result, he covered the country with thousands of mushroom-like bunkers, concealed trenches, and anti-aircraft guns. From the sea to the mountains, Albania became a fortress. This extraordinary martial investment had one unexpected outcome. During construction of an anti-aircraft installation close to Fshati i Vjetër, ‘The Old Village’ high on Mount Mile, overlooking Butrint, ancient Buthrotum, and the Straits of Corfu, an exquisite bronze statuette of the god, Pan, came to light in 1981.

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Review: Egyptologists’ Notebooks

Anyone visiting Egypt today must wonder how it struck travellers before our current understanding of its archaeological sites. Egyptologist Chris Naunton, former director of the historically influential Egypt Exploration Society, answers, while introducing his new book Egyptologists’ Notebooks, that ‘nowhere are its natural beauty and man-made wonders captured better than in the private scribblings and sketches of the travellers who first set out to explore it’.

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Special Report: AI and ancient languages

A new tool, launched this year on the anniversary of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, offers a novel high-tech way to examine ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Fabricius is an open-source program designed by Google Arts & Culture, the Australian Center for Egyptology at Macquarie University, Ubisoft, and Psycle Interactive, in collaboration with Egyptologists from around the world. The digital tool uses Google Cloud’s automated machine learning (AutoML) technology, AutoML Vision, to create a machine-learning model that is able to make sense of what a hieroglyph is.

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Uncovering Kalkriese

Since its discovery by the British officer Tony Clunn in the late 1980s, the German site of Kalkriese in Lower Saxony, north of Osnabrück, has been considered the scene of the AD 9 Varus Disaster, so impressively described by ancient authors such as Tacitus and Cassius Dio.

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Review: Silk Roads

This edited volume is the product of an innovative project, culminating in a multiple-day workshop of the same name as this publication, organised by Silk Roads Winston-Salem (SRWS), a group from Wake Forest University that brought together scholars across multiple disciplines to discuss the Silk Roads and their impact on local and global conceptions.

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