Analyzing an Ancient Indus Seal from Mohenjo-daro

Seals numbering in the thousands have been discovered in excavations of Indus cities as well as in sites in the Persian Gulf in southwest Asia. By Dr. Arathi MenonArt Historian Introduction Incised on this small stone (less than two inches across), we see a large figure seated on a dais surrounded by a horned buffalo,[…]

Ancient Diseases: Traces of Suffering in the Bones

Diseases have often influenced historical events, but they are neglected in the documentation of these events. Human remains used to be considered a nuisance in archaeological excavations. Today they are considered a valuable source of information to understand the ways of life of prehistoric populations and their conditions. A short distance from what is now[…]

The Medieval Materiality of Magic: The Ritual Lives of People and Things

Examining objects and material culture in ritual performances intended to heal, protect and transform the living and the dead. Introduction This explores the relationship between medieval magic and religion, with particular emphasis on the use of objects and material culture in rites of healing, protection and transformation. It extends the practice-based approach to consider ritual[…]

Seizure of Looted Antiquities Illuminates What Museums Want Hidden

Middlemen often photographed their wares after receiving them from the tombaroli (grave-robbers). Introduction Over 20,000 precious art objects were seized in a raid at dawn — what can this tell us about beauty, theft, and the museum? On July 4, 2018, Europol and the Italian Carabinieri’s Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage announced the[…]

What Archaeology Can Tell Us about Medieval Medical Care

They had sophisticated medical treatments at their fingertips – from preventative hygiene to prosthetics. Introduction The conventional view of medical historians is that curative treatment in medieval infirmaries was based primarily around prayer and a nourishing diet. But a new archaeological study reveals that more active therapeutic technologies were used in medieval monastic healing. In[…]

The Archaeological Record and Epidemics Since the Prehistoric World

People have lived with infectious disease throughout the millennia, with culture and biology influencing each other. Introduction The previous pandemics to which people often compare COVID-19 – the influenza pandemic of 1918, the Black Death bubonic plague (1342-1353), the Justinian plague (541-542) – don’t seem that long ago to archaeologists. We’re used to thinking about[…]

Adamgarh and Nagori: Rock Art History of Madhya Pradesh

Rock art is the primary source to study the culture, rituals, traditions, and lives of prehistoric societies. By Zenab Khan Introduction Rock art, that is paintings and carvings on natural rock formations, is one of the earliest forms of creative expression and a universal phenomenon among prehistoric societies. An instrument of communication rather than simply[…]

Prehistoric Italian Rock Drawings of Valcamonica

The first appearance of these drawings can be dated back to the age of Epipaleolithic (20000-1000 BP). Introduction The rock drawings of Valcamonica are prehistoric petroglyphs carved in the glacier-polished, grey-purple Permian sandstone of the Camonica valley that extends for 90 km in the Italian provinces of Brescia and Bergamo in Lombardy. The name of[…]

The Sanctuary at Ancient Keros: Materiality and Monumentality

A place for the perform­ance of rituals of congregation. Abstract The discovery of the early bronze age sanctuary on the Cycladic island of Keros is briefly described. Why islanders in the Aegean should establish the world’s first maritime sanctuary around 2500 bc is then considered, and other instances of early centres of congregation are briefly[…]

Tales from a Medieval Plague Pit

We can now catch tiny pieces of DNA from ancient diseases and look for clues about how their genes have changed over time. Introduction The Black Death is without a doubt one of the most famous infectious diseases in history. Sweeping across Asia and Europe during the mid-fourteenth century, it reduced European populations by as[…]

Genetics and the Archaeology of Ancient Israel

Modern DNA analyses give an indication of what might be learned from ancient studies. By Dr. Roy J. KingAssociate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, EmeritusStanford University Who were the ancient Israelites? This question has been endlessly debated but almost no attention has been paid to their biology. That is now about to change, and[…]

From Ancient Scotland to Online Auctions: A Tale of Roman Nails

Ancient iron nails would hardly be considered Art, but they could offer insights on Roman metalworking. Introduction In 1977, just three years after the newly built Getty Villa opened its doors to the public, Chicago resident Norman J. Cowan and his family visited the museum during a trip to California. The museum must have made[…]

Native American Archaeology in the Nation’s Capital

At the time Europeans first began exploring the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River region, three Native confederacies had come to power. By Cecily Hilleary During his time in the White House, Former President Gerald Ford decided to build an outdoor swimming pool. National Park Service archaeologists examined the site of the dig, which is standard[…]

What Are the Pros and Cons of Buying a Metal Detector?

We have all seen metal detectors being used in cartoons as children and then in movies. The allure and attraction that has become synonymous with these electromagnetic instruments are also attached to connotations of great wealth, especially after seeing our little animal cartoon friends find mountains of treasure using this device. Though, its uses extend[…]

Medieval Castles, Caves, and Rock Shelters

A medieval world where caves and underground shelters provided refuge from raiders, allowing a threatened civilization to flourish. Introduction Southwest Georgia, close to the borders with Turkey and Armenia, is dotted with the remains of ancient defences. Many of these structures – great and small, highly visible or hidden away – reflect the near-constant conflicts[…]

Ancient ‘Gum’ Reveals 5,000-Year-Old DNA

Researchers have extracted a complete ancient human genome from birch pitch, a 5,700-year-old type of ancient “chewing gum”. By Cecelie Krabbe Introduction The researchers believe it marks the first time that anyone has extracted an entire ancient human genome from anything other than human bones. “It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human[…]

Recent Archaeological Discoveries Are Helping to Refine the Human Story

20 years ago, who could predict how much more researchers would know today about the human past? Introduction In 1924, a 3-year-old child’s skull found in South Africa forever changed how people think about human origins. The Taung Child, our first encounter with an ancient group of proto-humans or hominins called australopithecines, was a turning[…]

Ancient China’s Terracotta Army Bronze Weapon Preservation

The good metal preservation probably results from the moderately alkaline pH, a very small particle size of the burial soil, and bronze composition. By Dr. Marcos Martinón-Torres, et.al.Pitt-Rivers Professor of Archaeological ScienceUniversity of Cambridge Abstract For forty years, there has been a widely held belief that over 2,000 years ago the Chinese Qin developed an[…]

Prehistoric Bones of Women in Russian Cave Links to Modern Indigenous People

The bones show interbreeding Neanderthal and Denosivan humans. This article reprinted from RFE/RL. A piece of bone from a cave in Russia has yielded what may be the biggest archaeological find of the year, media reported on August 30. The bone belonged to an ancient human who had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.[…]

Ancient Ruins: Parts of the Past as Well as the Present

A mysterious object carved on a Roman gem reminds us that the smallest things hold clues to life in classical times. Introduction Recently, a whole trove of small ancient gems and amulets was discovered in a house in Pompeii. Treasured possessions for the Greeks and the Romans, ancient gems were often carved with images from myth or[…]

Ancient Greek Scroll’s Hidden Contents Revealed through Infrared Imaging

The scroll was discovered and painstakingly unrolled in 1795. More than 200 years ago, scholars glued the remains of an ancient papyrus scroll onto cardboard to preserve it. But the scroll, a history of Plato’s Academy, also had writing on the back. Now scholars have deployed imaging technology to read what’s been concealed. This scroll[…]

Ten Hidden Ancient Treasures in Caria, Turkey

Caria was ruled by satraps who were subject to Cyrus the Great. Introduction Located at the crossroads of many ancient civilizations, Turkey is a haven for archaeology lovers. Over the centuries, a succession of empires and kingdoms – Hittite, Lydian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and, finally, Ottoman – ruled over Anatolia. The country’s unique cultural[…]

An Archaeologist Laments Ancient Losses in Syria

Armed conflict in Syria has been a disaster for the area’s cultural heritage. A displaced archaeologist describes what’s being lost. Introduction I used to be a Near Eastern archaeologist working in Syria. Nowadays, I am stuck in academic purgatory, observing from a great distance as the country burns, unable to help protect its history or[…]

The Nazca Lines of Ancient Peru: Dr. Maria Reiche and a Life’s Work

For nearly 2,000 uninterrupted years, the region’s ancient inhabitants drew thousands of large-scale zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures and lines on the arid ground. Introduction The lines and geoglyphs of Nazca are one of the most impressive-looking archaeological areas in the world and an extraordinary example of the traditional and millenary magical-religious world of the ancient Pre-Hispanic societies. They[…]

The First Americans

What we think we know about the arrival of Homo sapiens on this continent. In the 1970s, college students in archaeology such as myself learned that the first human beings to arrive in North America had come over a land bridge from Asia and Siberia approximately 13,000 to 13,500 years ago. These people, the first North Americans,[…]

What a Deer Tooth Necklace Says about Our Ice Age Ancestors

About 19,000 years ago in southwestern France at a site called Saint-Germain-La-Rivière, an adult woman dies and is prepared for burial by members of her society. Ice Age Europe, approximately 20,000-13,500 years ago; a period known as the Magdalenian. The climate is gradually ameliorating after glaciers and cold temperatures reached their height in the Last[…]