In February 1221, the Mongols unleashed one of the most devastating attacks on the medieval world. Led by Genghis Khan’s son, Tolui, they sacked the great Silk Route city of Merv, in modern-day Turkmenistan, laying waste to anything they could not carry away, and slaughtering tens of thousands. As one contemporary author put it, this was a ‘great disaster, the like of which neither day or night had brought forth before’. Yet in wiping Merv from history, its attackers unwittingly preserved it for archaeology. Site-director Tim Williams takes us deep into the once-mighty site to tell its story and reveal the latest discoveries.
Egypt’s Amarna is a city that was also unwittingly preserved, almost as a ‘time capsule’. Founded in the 1340s BC in honour of the sun god by the ‘heretic’ king Akhenaten (husband of Nefertiti and possible father of Tutankhamen), it was promptly abandoned shortly after his death, and is today the best survival of an ancient Egyptian settlement. But what was life like for Akhenaten’s people? With two non-elite cemeteries under excavation, the results are often shocking.
Thereafter, archaeological treasures tumble forth in our feature on the Maya. It is 50 years since the great Maya scholar Michael Coe released his now-classic introduction to this culture. In the intervening time, huge advances have been made including the cracking of their code, and the scanning of vast areas, as David Miles explores.
From the heat of Mesoamerica, we plunge into the Arctic. As global temperatures and sea levels rise, its previously deep-frozen archaeology is under threat. The race is on to record and save its melting history, as David Millar explains.
Our last feature concerns an almost invisible sort of archaeology. Turn to p.44 to read about the conclusion of the CWA-backed Great Arab Revolt Project. Finally, the travel section takes us to the Mediterranean delights of Malta, Gozo, and Sicily. Good reading!
IN THIS ISSUE
EGYPT: Akhenaten’s people Excavating the lost cemeteries of Amarna
MESOAMERICA: The Maya All the greatest archaeological discoveries explored
ALASKA, CANADA & GREENLAND: Arctic archaeology The race to preserve its heritage
World’s oldest polished axe
Neolithic massacre uncovered
Scanning Europe’s highest art
Chinese beer bombshell
Monumental find from Petra
The war in Yemen and the destruction of its heritage
Considering drones and DNA
GOZO From Malta, Nadia Durrani catches the ferry to glorious Gozo
SICILY Sharon Sharpe concludes our Mediterranean jaunt on Persephone’s island
Brian Fagan considers Samuel J Redman’s Bone Rooms
plus reviews of:
The Course of Landscape Architecture by Christophe Girot
The Archaeology of Urbanism in Ancient Egypt by Nadine Moeller
The Archaeology of Prehistoric Arabia by Peter Magee
Ancient Civilizations (4th edition) by Chris Scarre and Brian M Fagan
Walking, moving, fighting – plus Hannibal in motion
Neil Faulkner slices through time in Pittsburgh
The Lion of Knidos in the British Museum’s Great Court