Features

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Ruins on Rapa Nui

On the south coast of the Polynesian island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), a dozen or more fallen statues (moai) lie slumped across the rectangular stone platforms (ahu) on which they once proudly stood. This is the ruined ahu complex of the Akahanga, which is but one of dozens dotted around the coastline of the tiny island. Between 1,000 and 500 years ago, when the when the moai stood erect, rather than looking out to sea their gaze was cast inland. In particular, their eyes fell on a group of curious houses (haré paenga), which lay upslope and were shaped like overturned canoes.

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Tantra

Tantra’s appeal has proven remarkably broad. What began on the margins of Indian society went on to command the patronage of royalty and transform Hinduism and Buddhism as it spread across Asia. Along the way, it created a rich archaeological legacy, capable of provoking radically different reactions from its audiences, as Imma Ramos told Matthew Symonds.

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Discovering Roman mosaics

When hotel construction work unearthed extraordinary mosaics, the owners decided to create a new archaeological park. It showcases what is believed to be the largest known surviving Roman mosaic, as well as some stunning mythological scenes. Anthony Beeson puts us in the picture.

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Review: Mayflower 400: Legend & Legacy

Four hundred years ago, on 6 September 1620, the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth in the United Kingdom on a journey to the ‘New World’ that would become one of the most-famous stories in American history. To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the voyage, a new museum in Plymouth has launched a commemorative exhibition about the Mayflower, with more than 400 objects from across four nations and four centuries, setting out to tell the story of the ship and its passengers, and to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions that have surrounded it over time.

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Iron Age massacre in Iberia

The site of La Hoya in north-central Iberia was a thriving political, social, and economic centre in the Iron Age, but this success was brought to an abrupt end by a violent attack, which took place at some point between the mid 4th and late 3rd centuries BC.

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Travel: A Villa in the Country

Journeying south from the Serbian Danube presents an opportunity to revel in Roman opulence, as Oliver Gilkes reveals. The Danubian provinces of the Roman world do not get much of a look in as far as history goes. That is not to say there is no history – there is a lot – but seeking out modern accounts is not so easy.

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Richard Hodges: The Visit of the World Bank President

Italy is in lockdown as I write and it feels like Christmas Day, such is the silence. Yet the cuckoos have dodged passport control and are here to herald each day. The fields, incidentally, are now flush with spring flowers. The government decree forbids travel, so I resort to assembling reports on old excavations for a new tome and, as it takes shape, I dwell on whom to dedicate it to. Archaeology is as much about people as it is about the past. So, just as I rework interpretations about past discoveries with each new piece of evidence, so I inevitably revise my thinking about people.

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Mining for ochre in ancient Mexico

Divers exploring the now-submerged caves of Quintana Roo in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula have uncovered evidence for red ochre mining between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago, the oldest known example of the exploitation of this mineral resource in the Americas.

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Review: The Life and Death of Ancient Cities

Is it possible to write history without people? Of course, archaeology is all about history without people, but we invent the people. Is it possible to have a more ecological approach? The latest champion of this ecological approach is Greg Woolf, the Director of the Institute of Classical Studies in London, in a new book, The Life and Death of Ancient Cities, which he meaningfully subtitles A Natural History.

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Review: National Archaeological Museum, Madrid

With prehistoric painted caves, ruins of Roman cities, spectacular places of worship converted during periods of conquest and reconquest, and elaborate palaces occupied by emirs and kings, Spain offers plenty of historic sites to explore. One place where you can get a flavour of this rich heritage across the length and breadth of the country under one roof is the National Archaeological Museum, founded in Madrid in 1867.

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Aphrodite at Amantia

High on a hilltop near the village of Ploçe, Albania, lie the ruins of the ancient polis of Amantia. The city was founded in the 5th century BC and is first mentioned in ancient sources around the middle of the 4th century. It experienced an economic and cultural boom during the Hellenistic period, and from 230 BC started to mint its own coins.

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Secrets of Saqqara

Discover how a chance detail on a 19th-century map set in train a longstanding archaeological expedition at this elite necropolis, which is providing a fresh appreciation of how ancient Egyptians interacted with their past.

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