We think of chemical weapons as one of the horrifying features of modern warfare. We might assume that it all started with the First World War. But did it?
Our cover feature investigates the gruesome evidence of a stack of bodies discovered inside a siege tunnel at the ancient Syrian frontier city of Dura-Europos. How did they come to be here? Using ‘CSI’ techniques, Simon James’ stunning conclusion is that around 20 Roman soldiers were gassed to death by their Persian enemies. Turn to page 20 for the full and unexpected story of Romans versus Persians.
From the terrifying we then move to the sublime with an article on the archaeology of the beatific Caribbean island of Carriacou. The excavators describe it as an “archaeologists’ paradise”, and so it is, thanks to its rich and vibrant pre-Columbian evidence. On-going digs are revealing where the island’s erstwhile occupants lived, what they ate, how they were buried, and even something of their religious customs. So, not quite the ultimate uninhabited desert island it was believed to have been by the first Europeans.
Other highlights include Dudley Moore’s research on Captain Spratt, who, in the 1850s, solved a shaky conundrum on Crete; plus a celebration of the work of ‘archaeoartist’ Kate Whiteford whose art has drawn much inspiration from archaeology. In addition to all the regulars, we end with a Christmas holiday medley of must-read archaeological books.
Syria: Death underground: Romans versus Persians — a gruesome story of gas warfare at the ancient siege site of Dura-Europos.
Caribbean: Caribbean treasures: Digging pre-European lives on the balmy ‘desert island’ of Carriacou.
Greece: Captain Spratt’s Crete: Dudley Moore’s research on the 1850s captain who discovered how Crete had tipped and rocked over the centuries.
K whiteford: Drawing on archaeology: A celebration of the archaeology-inspired work of the innovative Scottish artist Kate Whiteford.
Italy Visiting Baia, just west of the entrance to the Underworld.
Postcard Richard Hodges writes from Philadelphia, USA.
Christmas books: Prehistory: The making of the human mind; The Assault on Liberty; An Infinity of Things; Lords of the Sea; The Old Ships of the New Gate; The Power of Dogu; Tutankhamun Uncovered; Refugees for Eternity; Les Celtes; Discovering the Heritage of Wales; Origins: The Story of the Emergence of Humans and Humanity in Africa; Paradigm Lost; From Ancient Egypt to the Fall of Rome, 50 sites that explain the Classical World.
Anyang The first Chinese civilization.