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The fame of the Incas often eclipses other ancient societies that flourished in Peru. These dazzling groups rose and fell at various times and places, but their stories are essential for understanding the Inca Empire. Because the region was relatively isolated from outside influences, these Peruvian societies developed from unique building blocks, which display common themes that can be traced over thousands of years. We follow some of these threads, to seek out the origins of the Incas.

It is a different story in Adulis, a former port city of the Kingdom of Aksum. Excavating Christian places of worship there has revealed buildings that drew on influences and materials from overseas to both the east and west, as well as distinctive local architecture. The results shed light on the connections at work in a cosmopolitan trading hub at a crossroads between the seas.

When it comes to influences, the jungle is rarely judged to have done much for human progress ever since our distant ancestors left it in favour of the African savannah. But how accurate is this view? Examining the results of research conducted in tropical forests presents an alternative picture. Modern scientific analysis reveals that ancient groups chose to live in this environment, while aerial survey is laying bare just how much could be achieved by mastering this resource-rich environment.

In Butrint, Albania, a more old-fashioned method was employed to record examples of an extraordinary set of inscriptions discovered in the 1920s. Most of these texts are concerned with freeing slaves, but – after almost a century exposed to the elements – these documents have become less legible. Now the chance discovery of paper moulds made from some inscriptions in the 1930s offers the opportunity to check the accuracy of the original readings.

Finally, Richard Hodges profiles Tracy Roberts of LoveItaly, taking a look at her ongoing work to help conserve Italy’s heritage.

FEATURES

Peru
A journey in time

A crossroads between the seas
The origins of early Christianity in the Horn of Africa

Rethinking the jungle
The forgotten story of humanity and tropical forests

Spotlight: Butrint’s slave manumissions
Shedding new light on the UNESCO World Heritage city

NEWS

NEWS FOCUS
On the tracks of the earliest Americans

CHARLES HIGHAM
The treasures of Sanxingdui

HORIZON
Byzantine wine factory

PROFILE

TRACY ROBERTS AND LOVEITALY
Richard Hodges profiles the founder of a charity focused on preserving Italy’s past

CULTURE

MUSEUM
Gold of the Great Steppe: exploring the Iron Age Saka culture of East Kazakhstan

SPECIAL REPORT
Face to face with the Netherlands’ first Neanderthal

REVIEWS
History of the Caucasus and Ontologies of Rock Art

CHRIS CATLING
American advances

FORUM
Letters, crossword, cartoon

THINKING ALOUD
Making a difference?

OBJECT LESSON
Engraved deer bone

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