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.
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.
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.
Now housed in the Prince’s Palace in Copenhagen, the National Museum of Denmark has one of the oldest established collections of prehistoric artefacts in the world. It dates back to King Frederik VI, who set up Den Kongelige Commission til Oldsagers Opbevaring (The Royal Commission for the Preservation of Antiquities) in 1807. One early secretary […]
Oliver Gilkes explores a recently refurbished Sicilian museum. Sicily plays host to an unprecedented variety of archaeological sites and monuments, set in an extraordinary medley of landscapes. Combine this with Sicilian panache at cookery (very different from mainland Italy) and its wines, and a visit is a must for enthusiasts of Mediterranean archaeology. Superb museums […]
In 1898, a team led by French archaeologist Victor Loret excavated the tomb of the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Thutmose III. It was given the number KV34, though it had originally been one of the first tombs to be cut into the bedrock of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings over 3,400 years ago. The tomb is […]
The enjoyment of food and drink, the essence of life, was deeply ingrained in Roman society. Beyond mere nutrition, food and wine played vital roles in people’s social lives, business lives, spiritual lives, and afterlives. We have details about Roman dishes from a range of texts, such as Petronius’ Satyricon, with its account of decadent […]
When the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud left Vienna after Germany annexed Austria in 1938, he was – unlike most other refugees – able to bring many of his possessions to his new home in north London. Freud only lived at Maresfield Gardens for a year, as he died in 1939, but it was established as […]
What is it? This mid 3rd century AD semi-cylindrical shield is known as a scutum and was used by legionary soldiers of the Roman Empire. Constructed of thin strips of wood glued together in layers to create a plywood board, the surface is covered with red-dyed hide or parchment. The round opening in the centre […]
The small size of the Cycladic island of Delos belies its significance in the ancient world, both as a major sanctuary and as a thriving port. According to myth, it was on this remote and rocky pocket of land in the Aegean that Leto, pregnant by Zeus and persecuted by his wife Hera, took refuge […]
What is it? This small Egyptian figure, carved out of red sandstone around 1800 BC, depicts a familiar mythical creature: the sphinx. It was perhaps a votive offering to the goddess Hathor; Egyptian hieroglyphs inscribed on the sphinx’s right shoulder read ‘beloved of Hathor, mistress of turquoise’. The nose is broken, the head has been […]
What is it? This ancient Mesopotamian sculpture known as the ‘ram in the thicket’ is actually a ‘goat in a tree’. The goat is rendered in impressive detail, as it reaches up to eat leaves on high branches – a common sight along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The sculpture was made […]