Easter Island’s unique statues are recognisable the world over. Less well known though equally fascinating, however, is a sacred cult that emerged on the island when these great moai were toppled from their platforms and abandoned by the people during a period of conflict and political upheaval. The new social order was centred on a bizarre annual practice that involved swimming to a rocky outcrop and bringing back an egg. This eccentric ritual restored stability to the isolated island community before it, too, was abandoned in the 19th century. Now, archaeological investigation combined with documentary evidence is providing us with a vivid insight into the rise of the extraordinary birdman cult.

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, seemingly indomitable in his relentless campaign to conquer Europe, suffered his first defeat on land in 1809, at Aspern in Austria. The hurried burials of the fallen men and horses are now being excavated and forensically examined to provide not only a picture of the horrors of war and its aftermath, but also a glimpse into the lives and deaths of the soldiers who perished in the battle.

Warfare in the 20th and 21st centuries presents a very different set of problems for archaeologists compared to those associated with 19th-century battlefields. Our feature on Trench Art reflects a new archaeological discipline that has evolved to address the complex and often emotive issues surrounding conflicts that have taken place within living memory, and over longer time-frames and greater areas than the battles of earlier eras.

Then we dive beneath the waters to track down the Grey Wolves of the deep, the much-feared German U-boats which terrorised Allied shipping during both World Wars.

Finally, what does God look like? Could the strange figures found on a scrap of pottery in a remote outpost in Egypt’s SinaiDesert be an early depiction of God and his missus, as the inscription with it suggests?

In this issue:

FEATURES

An archaeologist holds the cannon ball that killed this horse at the Battle of Aspern

EASTER ISLAND: Return of the Birdman
Bringing back colour to Easter Island’s sacred cult

AUSTRIA: Battle Dead of Aspern 
Discovering Napoleon’s defeated army

EYGPT: Walking with God
Interpreting divine secrets from the Sinai

CONFLICT ARCHAEOLOGY: Trench Art
The dawn of Modern Conflict archaeology

U-BOATS: Grey Wolves of the Deep
Tracking hunters and the hunted beneath the Narrow Seas

 

NEWS

Etruscan tomb discovered

  • Etruscan scented tomb
  • Ancient lifestyles co-existed
  • Gunning for Blackbeard
  • Neolithic tuberculosis
  • Boiled Bronze Age brains
  • Common ancestor
  • Solomon’s silver
  • Tutankhamun run down
  • Copper plate writing

PHOTO COMPETITION
CWA Photo of the year competition
SPECIAL REPORT
Conservation versus renovation at Bagan
CHARLES HIGHAM
The Shanghai Archaeological Forum

 

TRAVEL

MONGOLIA
Exploring the emptiness of a timeless landscape
SICILY
Richard Hodges visits the Villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina
CROATIA
Zagreb and beyond: Exploring Iron Age burial mounds on the Trail of Princes

 

CULTURE

Gold and Jade crown from Silla, Korea

MUSEUM
ManchesterMuseum: Fragmentary Ancestors from Koma Land, Ghana
EXHIBITION
Silla: Korea’s GoldenKingdom at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
ANCESTRAL JOURNEYS
Andrew Robinson dives into the ancient European gene pool
REVIEWS
The latest book releases
CHRIS CATLING
Feet, Food, and Frozen Archaeology
GREAT EXCAVATIONS
Srejović at Lepenski Vir