South America

1077

Book review: Reading Maya Art: A hieroglyphic guide to ancient Maya painting and sculpture

Two decades have passed since the American archaeologist and anthropologist Michael Coe published Breaking the Maya Code (1992). This told the dramatic contemporary story of how the Maya glyphs of Central America were successfully deciphered during the 1970s and 1980s – mainly by North American scholars following a pioneering suggestion in the early 1950s by […]

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu: Cradle of Gold

Exactly 100 years ago, the explorer Hiram Bingham found Machu Picchu on the eastern slopes of Peru’s soaring Andes mountains. He was not the first to see it since the Incas left centuries before: local farmers were living on the land, and the site appeared on several maps – including that published in 1910 by Inca expert Sir Clements Markham. But he was the first to bring it to the attention of the world. Historian and author Christopher Heaney recounts the events of Hiram Bingham’s expedition that reclaimed Machu Picchu from the jungle.

1032

Inca civilisation founded on llama dung

The fact that llamas defecate communally so that their dung is easily gathered underpins the cultural achievement of the Inca civilisation and leads directly to the construction of Machu Picchu, says Alex Chepstow-Lusty, a British palaeoecologist working at the French Institute of Andean Studies in Lima. Chepstow-Lusty has studied pollens and oribatid mites from the […]

1035

Machu Picchu: Artefacts Returned

The 100th anniversary of the ‘rediscovery’ of Machu Picchu in July 1911  has been marked by the return to Peru of some of the finest of the artefacts excavated from the ancient Inca ruins. They will be housed in a new museum and research centre at the University of Cusco. Dubbed the ‘Lost City of […]

1033

Amazon culture comes to Denver

Shaped from the clays of the Amazon estuary, the elaborately decorated red, white, and black ceramics of the Marajó culture are a highlight of the Marvelous Mud exhibition at the Denver Art Museum (until 18 September 2011). They are the work of an ancient Amazonian culture largely unknown to all but a handful of specialists, […]

1047

Book Review: The Statues That Walked

The enigmatic moai that brood over Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in the South Pacific are one of archaeology’s great mysteries. When Europeans arrived in 1722, an estimated 3,000 seemingly impoverished people and numerous moai dwelt on the islands. Almost immediately, the mythmaking began, of a once prosperous, statue-building society that dissolved in the face of […]

1015

Early Maya ‘Sistine Chapel’

When first discovered in 2001 by the archaeologist William Saturno of Boston University, the mural-covered room at San Bartolo, a remote and ancient Maya city site in the Guatemalan rainforest, was described as the ‘Sistine Chapel of the Maya’, because of the quality of the paintings. The publication of The Murals of San Bartolo, El […]

1029

Book Review: The Road To Ruins

The most avidly acquired antiquities of the New World during the last 50 years have been Maya relics from Mexico and Central America. Countless sculptures and artefacts unearthed at archaeological sites have gone to the museums and private collections of richer countries. At first, the traffic was slight; but in the 1960s it rose to […]

981

Ancient Maya marketplace

Archaeologists and soil scientists have come up with the novel theory that the open areas conventionally described as ‘ritual plazas’ in Mayan cities of the Classic era (AD 300 to 900) could really be outdoor markets. This idea challenges the notion that the Maya had a centralised food distribution system whereby foodstuffs were controlled by the […]

985

Brian Fagan Digs Deeper

Robots roam at Teotihuacan, Mexico Robots for exploring deep under pyramids are a new fashion in archaeology. One revealed a hidden door and a chamber in the Pyramid of Khufu at Giza in Egypt. Now, Mexico’s National Institute of Archaeology and History has unleashed a locally designed, camera-equipped remote controlled vehicle under the Temple of […]

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Inca ancestors’ stones found in Andes

A team of archaeologists, working Peruvian Andes, has hailed as ‘sensational’ the discovery of three ‘ancestor stones’ on an isolated Andean mountainside. For the Inca, such ancestor stones were more precious than gold, and imbued with supreme symbolic significance as representing deities, ancestors, and the sun. No examples of the stones were believed to have […]

1001

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu symbolises the extent, technical skill, and productivity of the Inca Empire in its heyday.

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