The Guatemalan rainforest has kept its secrets well. Maya monuments like the world-famous pyramids at Tikal may seem hard to miss, but until recently surveying the dense jungle posed a formidable challenge. Now extensive aerial survey using lasers to strip away the foliage virtually has revealed just how much escaped detection. Tikal has gained two more pyramid mounds, while the sophistication of Maya civilisation has been laid bare as never before. New highways, settlements, and fortifications are revealing a more organised, populous, and bellicose group of rival cities than was previously suspected. Archaeologists are already testing what these discoveries reveal about Maya state power.
Herculaneum harbours a secret, too, that is not readily visible to visitors: its sewer. In recent years, this has proved key to conservation efforts by providing a way to drain off surface water and protect the archaeological site. Reactivating the sewer also provided an opportunity to study an aspect of the past that is all-too-often overlooked: the humble toilet. Herculaneum contained both multi- and single-seat latrines, which seem to have served everyone from slaves to visiting VIPs. Thanks to its sewer, the town achieved a level of hygiene that would not be equalled until the 20th century.
At Sandby borg, Sweden, archaeologists chanced upon a far-more-macabre surprise within a 5th-century ringfort. Excavations following the discovery of jewellery caches revealed that this was the site of a massacre, where some of the dead still lay as they had fallen, over 1,500 years earlier. While the inhabitants’ world came to an abrupt, violent end, their story may have endured for centuries, bringing visitors to the site.
In our travel section, Richard Hodges recalls a visit that Mortimer Wheeler made to the ancient Turkish city of Knidos. Meanwhile, George Nash has been walking the streets of Shivta, Israel, to discover the fading grandeur of a once-thriving Byzantine city.
Mapping the Maya
The lost wonders of a jungle civilisation
Herculaneum’s Roman toilets
The past and present of an ancient sewer system
The Sandby borg massacre
Life and death in a 5th-century ringfort
- Bronze Age palace emerges from the waters
- New room found in Nero’s Domus Aurea
- The Denisovan high life
- Excavating Laos’ megalithic jars
- Plotting Rome’s rise and fall at Portus
- Pre-Inca burials at Pachacamac
- Woodstock revisited
- Rock art goes online
Investigating the Neanderthals
Uncovering prehistoric burials in Thailand
Gifts to the gods in pre-Inca Lake Titicaca
Richard Hodges recalls Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s visit to the ancient Greek city of Knidos
The Acropolis Museum in Athens turns ten
The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Childhood; The Viking Way; Encounters, Excavations and Argosies; Exploring Celtic Origins; The Great Pyramid: Operations Manual
Map-reading for archaeologists
Dilemmas in interpreting ancient DNA
Letters, crossword, cartoon
The importance of on-site interpretations
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