This week: Mithras

There are some things we can say with certainty about the Roman god Mithras. We know, for instance, that this wonderfully enigmatic deity flourished between the 1st and 4th centuries AD, but was inspired by the much more ancient Indo-Iranian god Mithra. We know that his cult was popular among…

This week: Japanese stone circles

A fascinating exhibition opening at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre this autumn shines new light on a remarkable group of ancient stone circles. Spread across 17 sites, and mostly dating from c.2500 to 300 BC, these extraordinary monuments served for centuries as the focus for ceremonies associated with solar alignments and…

Japan Quiz

Dated c.14,000–300 BC, which is the earliest major culture of prehistoric Japan?…

This week: submarines

Underwater warfare came of age on 15 September 1914, when Germany’s U-21 became the first submarine to sink a ship with a self-propelled torpedo. The U-boat’s devastating surprise attack, off the Firth of Forth, sank the British cruiser HMS Pathfinder in just six minutes, with the loss of all but…

Submarines Quiz

Which historical figure is said to have observed undersea life from a submersible glass sphere in 332BC?…

This week: the Spanish Armada

With 130 ships, 2,431 guns, and 30,000 men, Philip II’s invasion force was, according to one English admiral, ‘the greatest and strongest combination that was ever gathered in all Christendom’. If it had been successful, the history of the past five centuries would look very different: with England a possession…

This week: Child’s play!

It was, according to the ship's captain, a 'once in a 100-year phenomenon'. On 13 February 1997, the 944ft-long cargo vessel Tokio Express was en route from Rotterdam to New York when it was hit by a freak wave about 20 miles off Land’s End, causing it to tilt so…

Toys & Games Quiz

First discovered in Iraq, and dating to the third millennium BC, the Royal Game of Ur is a precursor to which modern board game?…

This week: Ancient Egypt

This year sees the marking of two significant anniversaries: the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by the British archaeologist Howard Carter, in excavations funded by Lord Carnarvon; and the bicentenary of the use of the Rosetta Stone by the French philologist Jean-François Champollion to decipher Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.…

China Quiz

Which legendary leader established the Xia dynasty in c.2070 BC, inaugurating dynastic rule in China?…

This week: China’s lost kingdoms

It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that Chinese culture began with the Qin – the regional powerbrokers who in the 3rd-century BC conquered their warring rivals to become the country’s first imperial dynasty, thereby ushering in a system that lasted until the 1911 Revolution, more than…

This week: Remarkable stones

According to the 12th-century cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth, the famous stones that make up the Stonehenge monument were erected originally in Ireland, before being moved to their current, more familiar home on Salisbury Plain. Geoffrey’s claim may seem fanciful, but almost a thousand years later, we can see that he…

Remarkable Stones Quiz

The historic boundary-marker known as the London Stone, indicating the downstream limits of the City's jurisdiction, is located at which point on the Thames Estuary?…

This week: Augmented reality

Throughout history, writers and artists have used their imaginations to tell stories from former times. From The Iliad to A Tale of Two Cities, and from The Last Supper to the Sistine ceiling, the results have inspired countless millions down the centuries, opening a window that can never be shut.…

This week: Ancient alcohol

History, as we know, has been driven by the complicated love affair between humans and booze. Writing in the fourth-century BC, the Greek philosopher Plato summed it up for many, when he observed: ‘He was a wise man who invented beer.’ Nearly 3,000 years on, scientists now believe this ancient…

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