The mysterious images on the Nasca plateau, Peru, have captured countless imaginations. But where did this tradition of planting pictures in the earth come from? A curious congregation of figures and beasts, clustered around the nearby city of Palpa, seems to have been crafted before their famous neighbours. As new survey reveals further examples of this artistry, we look at what the Palpa figures and Nasca lines can tell us about the ideas behind these grand designs.

Survey has also been springing surprises in Turkey’s Göksu valley. Plans to install a dam there sparked a project to investigate the archaeology of a natural and fertile highway connecting Anatolia to the Mediterranean, which attracted successive empires. The results have been eye-opening, with surprises including a temple still standing 3m high.

A temple recently discovered at Girsu, Iraq, was anything but unexpected. Archaeologists have long been mesmerised by the thought of finding this celebrated edifice, which was devoted to a heroic Sumerian god, and described in rapturous terms by surviving ancient texts. Known as House Fifty, excavations within its walls are shedding light on religious activities, and allowing a new generation of Iraqi archaeologists to hone their skills.

From House Fifty, we turn to Ship 17. This Egyptian vessel was found in the waterways of the submerged city of Thonis-Heracleion, which lay at the western mouth of the Nile. The craft plying these waters once caught the eye of Herodotus, providing a tempting opportunity to put his observations to the test.

In our travel section, Richard Hodges has been to the Caribbean, where the archaeology of 18th-century plantation owners on Providenciales testifies to the perils of seeking your fortune in paradise. Roman activity in Algeria proved more durable, and Philip Kenrick provides a taste of the stunning surviving ruins.

FEATURES

The Palpa figures
Were these images created before the Nasca lines?

Racing against time
Salvage survey in the Göksu river valley

Girsu
Home of the thunderbird

Spotlight: Ship 17
Secrets of Egyptian shipbuilding from a submerged city

NEWS

  • New hominin species discovered in the Philippines
  • No ancient anti-rust treatment for the Terracotta Army
  • Dozens of mummies unearthed at Aswan
  • Revealing Corsica’s Etruscan burials
  • Seals and sites on South Georgia
  • Sacrificing guinea pigs in Inca Peru
  • Earliest evidence for cooked starch
  • Nicopolis’ naval clues

NEWS FOCUS
New insights into prehistoric Iberia from ancient DNA

CHARLES HIGHAM
Cruising around New Zealand in Captain Cook’s wake

HORIZON
Capturing new audiences for El Jem’s Roman amphitheatre

TRAVEL

PROVIDENCIALES
Richard Hodges heads to the largest of the Turks and Caicos Islands to explore the history of this Caribbean paradise

ALGERIA
Philip Kenrick’s tour of some of Algeria’s finest Roman ruins

CULTURE

MUSEUM
Antony Gormley among the ruins of ancient Delos

REVIEWS
Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time; Troy; Art of the Ancestors; Reinventing Sustainability

SPECIAL REPORT
Andrew Selkirk on the past, present, and future of London’s Hellenic and Roman Library

CHRIS CATLING
Contemplating universal human values and the origins of religion

FORUM
Letters, crossword, cartoon

THINKING ALOUD
Dealing with the decline of Roman urbanism

OBJECT LESSON
A sandstone sphinx from Serabit el-Khadim

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