This week: Castles

The most expensive secular building of its day, Dover Castle was described by the 13th-century chronicler Matthew Paris as 'the key of England'. But though its imposing fortifications tower over the shortest sea crossing between Britain and the European mainland, it wasn't built in response to any threat of imminent…

This week: Feasts

Britain pulled out the red carpet last weekend, as world leaders arrived in Cornwall for this year's G7 summit. It wasn't the first time in history that power and pleasure have been so mixed, however. Indeed, last week's gathering would have seemed strangely familar to the 6,000 Englishmen and women…

This week: Nero

He was enthroned as Roman emperor at just 16. But history has not been kind to Nero's reputation. According to the surviving sources, he was a matricide and a multiple wife-murderer, and he also stands accused of various other horrific crimes and misdemeanours. So does Nero's name really deserve to…

This week: archaeology in peril

The news this week that the University of Sheffield is to press ahead with plans to close its school of archaeology has sent a shiver through the heritage world. It is a ‘devastating’ blow, said the Council of British Archaeology. Mary Beard, the eminent historian, called it ‘worrying in the…

This week: Hoards

No one knows for certain why Viking Age people chose to bury their most treasured possessions underground. According to one 13th-century source, the influential Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson, they did it because Odin – the Norse god who oversees Valhalla – had decreed that a man will have the use…

This week: Hawaii and Polynesia

It is a matter of debate as to whether Captain James Cook was really the first European adventurer to set eyes on the Hawaiian archipelago. According to some historians, the 1778 arrival of the British seafarer's ship, HMS Resolution, in the waters of the North Pacific island chain may have…

This week: Operation Barbarossa

Eighty years ago next month, on 22 June 1941, Adolf Hitler unleashed the largest military invasion force in history, when he ordered almost 3,700,000 Axis troops with 3,000 tanks, 7,000 guns and 2,300 aircraft to advance into the Soviet Union along a front that extended from the Baltic to the…

This week: Hadrian’s Wall

When construction began in AD 122, Hadrian's Wall marked the furthermost limit of the Roman Empire. Stretching 73 miles from the North Sea to the Solway Firth, it divided conquered territory to the south from that occupied by unbeaten tribes to the north. Almost 2,000 years on, the Wall remains…

This week: Time Team

Of all the many side-effects of the coronavirus, perhaps the least expected (though most welcome) was a sudden revival of interest in a plucky little archaeology-based television series which last graced our screens way back in 2013. During the lockdown, however, it was reported that millions of people in more…

This week: Ancient Iran

Epic Iran is the appropriately grand title of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s ambitious new exhibition, which explores 5,000 years of Iranian history through 350 objects that represent the country’s art and culture – taking us from the beginnings of civilisation, via the ancient palaces of Persepolis, right up to…

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