Issue 105


Travel: The Horizon of Khufu

It is not unknown for children to try to outdo their parents. When it comes to tombs, though, pharaoh Khufu must have thought he was on safe ground. Everything about the vital statistics of the funerary monument he raised at Giza in the 3rd millennium BC is awesome. It had a footprint of 5.3ha, an original height of roughly 146.6m, and contained approximately 2.3 million stone blocks. The result was the largest standing pyramid ever raised, which we know appropriately enough as the Great Pyramid.


Richard Hodges: A Museum for the Coming Ages

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology – these days the Penn Museum – was conceived in the late 19th century to bring the world and its past to Philadelphia at the zenith of the Gilded Age. Time has never stopped still here. The Museum has been through several iterations as a place to visit, but never, despite a global pandemic, looked so bright, colourful, and enriching. Whatever the world throws at it, this is the jewel in the crown of this Ivy League university.


Special Report: Europe without borders

On 10 November 2020, the exhibition Iron Age – Europe without Borders opened at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The exhibition presents approximately 1,600 objects from the 1st millennium BC from an area stretching from the Atlantic and the Urals to the Caucasus, reflecting the cultural development of this epoch in a pan-European context. The focus is on some 750 objects from the collection of the Berlin Museum of Pre- and Early History that were brought to the Soviet Union as a result of the Second World War.


Paranthropus robustus

The discovery of a two-million-year-old skull in South Africa is shedding important new light on microevolution in an early hominin species, as Jesse Martin and Angeline Leece reveal.


Review: Thebes

Thebes is the forgotten city of ancient Greece. It lies 32 miles north-west of Athens, at the heart of sleepy Boeotia, but it has now been rescued from obscurity by Paul Cartledge, former Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge. It was a city rich in Greek myth. Thebes was where Oedipus, having solved the riddle of the Sphinx (see the cover of the book, above, with Oedipus seated and the Sphinx on the pillar), went on to become king, in the course of which he killed his father and married his mother, thus providing the ideal basis for the greatest of all Greek plays, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.


Object Lesson: Statue of Ramesses VI

This granite statue depicts Pharaoh Ramesses VI, who reigned 1144-1137 BC. On the back is a hieroglyphic inscription that reads: ‘May [he]live, [the] good god, son of [the god] Amun, the protector, bull of Thebes, king of Upper and Lower Egypt, lord of the two lands, Meriamun, lord of the truth.’ It is believed that the statue originally stood around 1.8m tall, but it was broken into pieces at some point in the past, and the head, the torso, and the legs, feet, and statue base were separated.


Cooking cereals in prehistoric China

A project looking at the history of crops in prehistoric China has identified differences in regional diets and changes over time, which may be connected to varying cooking practices in these areas.


Victims of Vesuvius

The remains of two individuals who died during the eruption of Vesuvius have been found at a suburban villa near Pompeii.


Life and death in Sefidkuh

An ongoing study in the Makran Sefidkuh region of Iran is shedding light on the culture and archaeological remains of communities in the area, stretching back to prehistory.


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.


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.


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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