Before oil and gas, the Arabian Gulf grew rich on another natural resource: pearls. From the mid 18th until the early 20th century AD the international demand for pearls was insatiable. The local economy boomed. However, almost as fast as it boomed, so it bust. The story of this heady rise and fall is illustrated at the now-abandoned city of Al Zubarah in the Gulf state of Qatar. Hidden under the sands, its ruins offer a snapshot — as if frozen in time — of this most intense period of the Gulf pearling industry. Yet while other local cities survived the economic downturn, why did this wealthy city ultimately fall?
Lascaux has long been dubbed the ‘Sistine Chapel of Prehistory’ owing to its exquisite Ice Age art (as shown on the cover). Having survived for millennia, this art is now rapidly deteriorating. How and why? International rock-art specialist Paul Bahn charts the horrors of its mismanagement.
Turning to the Travel Section, we discover a whole new and unexpected world deep beneath the sun-drenched coastal town of Syracusa in Sicily. There, Michael Metcalfe takes us to ‘the city under the city’ as he ventures down through the Syracusa’s subterranean catacombs.
Other highlights include features on Belize, Butrint, and a travel focus on Arles, where David Miles comes face to face with a once-sunken Caesar.
The pearl divers of qatar: How major new excavations at the Qatari city of Al Zubarah are shining new light on the Arabian Gulf’s pearl trade.
Lascaux in crisis: Mould, decay and mismanagement: the extraordinary Ice Age art at Lascaux is rapidly degrading. Paul Bahn traces the sorry story of this Lascaux fiasco.
Hot archaeology: An ancient Maya sweatbath in western Belize is providing surprising new insights on Maya ritual activity.
A year at butrint: Richard Hodges hunts for 1st century BC millionaire and friend of Cicero, Titus Pomponius Atticus.
Travel to the ‘city under the city’ to explore the
vast underground catacombs at Siracusa, eastern Sicily.
David Miles visits the new exhibition at Arles, featuring Caesar’s head and an array of other finds dredged from ‘la plus
grande poubelle’ — or the RhÃ´ne at Arles.
BOOKS: Colonial Encounters in Ancient Iberia ed. Michael Dietler and Carolina Lopez-Ruiz; Roman Iberia by Benedict Lowe; Indo-Roman Trade by Roberta Tomber.
The vindolanda tablets Spotlight on the Roman tablets found just south of Hadrian’s Wall.