Ethiopia: When climate changes

Over the past two summers Timothy Clack and Marcus Brittain have directed the first archaeological teams in the Lower Omo Valley, a remote part of south-western Ethiopia, to research long-term human responses to environmental change. What did they find there?

Classics professor Peter van Minnen works with papyri.

Papyrus Stories

Everyday concerns in ancient Egypt still resonate today, according to the latest issue of The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, the journal of those who study texts on papyrus, mainly from ancient Egypt. New texts are continually being found, especially in museum and private collections, because antiquities dealers of the past would often […]


Journey through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead

In 1819, the English physician and polymath Thomas Young – best known to archaeologists for his work in deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs – published a pioneering article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It offered a tentative decipherment of the Rosetta Stone and outlined the scope of a new science, today known as Egyptology. Towards ancient Egyptian […]


Libya Archaeological Guides: Tripolitania

The modern country of Libya – the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – encompasses one of the richest parts of the Roman Empire, but for the past 30 years it has been off the tourist track due to political difficulties. Now it is opening up once again, but it lacks a good guide book, the […]


Egypt: Queen of the Desert

Khentkawes is hardly a household name. The historical record passes over this elusive figure without comment, while the scraps that testify to her existence could seem worthy of no more than a stale footnote in the annals of Ancient Egypt. Yet archaeology shows otherwise. It is revealing an exceptional and powerful lady who lived during […]


Tool use pushed back 1 million years

The butchered bones of cow and goat-like animals from a riverbed in Dikika, in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, show early humans were using tools 3.4m years ago – more than a million years earlier than previously thought. Until the discovery, it was believed tools were first employed by Homo habilis – hence the […]


Somaliland Archaeology in a break-away state

Somaliland is not Somalia. Somaliland is in the northern part of Somalia, occupying the area of a former British colony. After gaining independence in 1960, it joined with Somalia Italiana to create modern Somalia. But whereas Somalia is wracked with civil war and crippled by piracy, Somaliland has remained peaceful. Now it has re-asserted its […]


Death on the Nile

Ancient Egyptians believed death was survivable. Far from resting in peace, their demise catapulted them into a disorientating netherworld roamed by gods and demons. This marked the beginning of a new and dangerous journey. The ultimate goal was to enter the realm of the gods; but to reach this a spirit needed to negotiate the […]


Rosetta Stone

How did a slab of black granite become the key to deciphering hieroglyphs


When did humans reach North Africa?

Estimates for the date at which early migration out of sub-Saharan Africa occurred vary from 200,000 to 80,000 years ago, the older dates being based on estimates of the rate at which genes mutate. Hard archaeological evidence is elusive, but the excavation of what is being called ‘the deepest archaeological trench in North Africa’ has […]

Ochre production site discovered in South Africa

Among the oldest known examples of symbolic behaviour amongst humans and our close hominid relations is the use of ochre in burial rites, body ornamentation and cave art. Indeed, what is claimed to be the world’s oldest abstract art consists of a block of ochre rubbed smooth and marked with a diamond pattern, dating from […]


Eggshell unlocks ancient DNA

Until now the study of ancient DNA has been based on the challenging science of extracting genetic material from fossilised bone, but researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Oxford in the UK, Australia’s Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia, New Zealand’s Canterbury and Otago Universities, Colorado University in the USA and Copenhagen […]

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