Issue 49


Japan: Tidal Wave

Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in Spring this year, archaeologist Simon Kaner insists there is much to celebrate about the country’s heritage – and much to mend.


Japan: Surviving the tsunami

The deadly wave that engulfed the northeastern coastline of Japan devastated many archaeological sites and museums. Prehistoric settlers along the coast chose higher ground for their sites, perhaps passing on knowledge of the danger from earlier tsunamis from generation to generation. CWA looks at a handful of these ancient sites.

Tagajo and Sendai

At first glance Japanese castles appeared to have weathered the centuries unscathed, but looks can be deceptive. Here Stephen Turnbull contrasts Sendai Castle’s picture- book fragility with the rather tougher existence in the earlier fort of Tagajo.

The remains of Bardak Siyah Palace

Iran: Persian Splendour

Three opulent palaces sit within a stone’s throw of each other, built when Persian kings ruled the greatest empire in the world, and destroyed when Alexander the Great swept through Persia. Who made them, and why? Hassan Karimian examines the evidence.



Water is our most precious resource. Its scarcity and overabundance have determined our survival and shaped our society around the world throughout the ages. In his new book Elixir: a human history of water, Brian Fagan discusses the complex relationship between humans and water, and how the past provides valuable lessons for our future.


Iceland: Are the Lewis chessmen from Iceland?

Scandinavian and British experts meeting at an academic conference in Reykjavík have been debating the origin of the 12th-century Lewis Chessmen, a hoard of walrus ivory gaming pieces found in 1831 on Scotland’s Isle of Lewis, one of the most significant archaeological discoveries ever made in Scotland. The British Museum, which subsequently acquired 82 of […]


Jamestown: Captain Smith’s pots

A well shaft that was dug by the first English colonists at Jamestown when they arrived in May 1607 was backfilled in June 1610 because the water had become increasingly salty. The rubbish that went into the well, as part of a clean-up of the triangular fortified site ordered by the English governor, Lord De […]


Australia’s rock art threatened

Half of Australia’s rock art could disappear in the next 50 years, according to the country’s archaeologists. They have mounted 
a campaign to raise awareness of the outstanding quality of the nation’s indigenous rock art, which is now under threat. Rock art is exposed to many
 natural hazards, such as wind and rain erosion, bushfires, […]


Tayinat: Lion gate discovered in Turkey

A superbly carved and intact lion sculpture, excavated by a Canadian team in south-eastern Turkey, is reminiscent of the lions excavated by British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley in 1911 at the royal Hittite city of Carchemish. This lion was unearthed from the remains of a monumental gate complex at the entrance to the citadel of […]


The demise of Neanderthals

A paper by Paul Mellars and Jennifer French, published in Science, contributes to the widely debated question of why European Neanderthals were replaced by modern human populations from Africa between 45,000 and 35,000 years ago. Mellars and French point to a population explosion among modern humans in the Aquitaine region of south-western France, with a […]


Alaska: Oldest subarctic North American human remains found

In Alaska, the cremated remains have been found of a three- year-old child who might have been one of the earliest inhabitants of North America to arrive via the land route. University of Alaska Fairbanks archaeologist Ben Potter and four colleagues found the remains while excavating a fire pit within an ancient dwelling at the […]


Interbreeding and Immunity

A paper in Science argues that modern humans gained significant health benefits from interbreeding with Neanderthals. Scientists last year suggested that interbreeding had taken place between 90,000 and 65,000 years ago in western or central Asia, and that all of the world’s non-African populations owed up to 4 per cent of their genome to Neanderthals. […]

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