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Tantra: an archaeology of enlightenment

Tantra’s appeal has proven remarkably broad. What began on the margins of Indian society went on to command the patronage of royalty and transform Hinduism and Buddhism as it spread across Asia. Along the way, it created a rich archaeological legacy, capable of provoking radically different reactions from its audiences,…

Cedrocucho: a pre-Inca tropical rainforest site?

The Incas had an eye for exotic rainforest produce, but many questions remain about how and when such goods were exploited by peoples living in the Peruvian highlands. Now a major archaeological complex, discovered during deforestation, promises to shed new light on the subject. Lidio M Valdez ponders who was…

War, plague, and pollution from a European ice core

For millennia, fresh ice forming on a European glacier marked the passing years like tree rings. But over time these layers became compressed, preventing individual years within the depths of the ice from being examined individually. A new technology is now unlocking this remarkable repository of information, as…

Pachacamac: pilgrimages and power in ancient Peru

Excavations at Pachacamac in Peru have revealed evidence for large-scale pilgrimages at the time of the Incas. Ongoing research is exploring the pilgrims’ motivations and the ceremonies performed by them. Project director Peter Eeckhout describes the discoveries made by his team and how they illuminate our understanding of the biggest…

Pasargadae: seeking the origins of a garden palace

On the plain of Pasargadae, Cyrus the Great founded a spectacular garden palace. Nothing like it had ever been seen in the region before, raising questions about where the idea came from, how the garden was maintained, and even where the inhabitants lived. Recently, an Iranian-French team under Rémy Boucharlat…

Mapping the Maya: the lost wonders of a jungle civilisation

The deeds of royal dynasties presiding over Maya city-states in northern Guatemala can still be followed on ornate inscriptions raised in their name. But just how large were their dominions? Recent survey work has revealed that the Maya were far more populous and sophisticated than previously suspected. Tom Garrison…

Tutankhamun: a teenager’s journey to the afterlife

As the centenary of Howard Carter’s discovery looms, the largest collection of Tutankhamun’s grave goods ever to leave Egypt has embarked on a world tour. The objects, ranging from glittering treasures to everyday essentials, were assembled to ease the youthful pharaoh’s passage into the next world. For all their beauty,…

Object Lesson – ‘Ahu ‘ula

What is it? This glorious 18th-century Hawaiian cloak, measuring 175cm in length and c.223cm in width, is made of olona¯ fibre and black rooster feathers, with a border of yellow feathers from the now-extinct ‘o‘o (a honeyeater) and red ones from the ‘i‘wi (a honeycreeper) arranged into triangles. High-status feathered…

Ship 17: a wreck in the Nile

The emporium of Thonis-Heracleion lay at the westernmost entrance to the Nile. When this city sank into the Mediterranean, it created an extraordinary underwater repository of ancient activity, complete with ports and canals crammed with traces of ancient craft. Alexander Belov told Matthew Symonds what the first ship from the…

The Road to Palmyra

Halfway between the Mediterranean and the River Euphrates, the Efqu spring offered refreshing respite for ancient traders crossing the dusty Syrian desert. The city of Palmyra flourished at the oasis, its merchants amassing their wealth through trade networks that brought silk from China, spices from India, pearls from Arabia, ivory…

The Phaistos Disc

This enigmatic fired-clay disc, dating to around 1700-1600 BC, was discovered in the palace of Phaistos on the Greek island of Crete.…

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Göbekli Tepe: a new World Heritage Site

In the last decade, Göbekli Tepe has gradually moved into the focus of public interest, as seen in the increasing numbers of visitors, a trend that broke off in 2015 following the spread of conflict to nearby parts of northern Syria.…

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