Animal habits

One common motif is that of a knight in armour engaging in combat with a snail. Another is that of the killer rabbit, shown wielding sword, axe, or bow and arrow as it fights against those hunting it.…

Evolution in the air: the urban conundrum

The human ape, with our big, social brain, is well suited to a life of dense social interaction. So, when faced with limited resources and growing populations, similar solutions tend to present themselves – in very different corners of the planet.…

Ancient newsreels

It portrays a ferocious Maya chief clad in a jaguar skin, with a jaguar’s head on his own, spearing an unfortunate captive. First seen by an outsider in 1946, the paintings are as close a reflection as you are likely to see of life in an elite Maya centre.…

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War Classic: The Campaigns of Napoleon

Chandler sees Napoleon as a gifted improviser whose operations were nonetheless underpinned by certain consistent principles. Amongst his key skills as a commander were a personal charisma that inspired and moulded others to his will…

Excavating Staffordshire

Staffordshire’s coverage in terms of prehistory begins intriguingly late. The one big surprise to me while researching this column was that the oldest sites featured only date to the Iron Age. If you are an archaeologist at work in the county, here is a chance to remedy this.…

Pagans and folklore

I was conscious of being several decades older than most of the other graduates, but as Rosemary Cramp said when I told her about my plans, ‘Nobody under 50 should study for a PhD because they don’t have enough experience to make an original contribution.’…

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Halet Çambel

This ruined city had richly carved monumental gateways and, even more significant, an 8th-century BC stela that, bearing the same text in both the Phoenician alphabet and Luwian hieroglyphics, gave Çambel the key to unlock the Luwian language for future scholars.…

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Excavating Worcestershire and Warwickshire

On the edge of a former prehistoric river channel, archaeologists found mammal bones, plant fossils, insect remains, and mollusc shells, along with stone tools, indicating that humans were exploiting this resource at least 500,000 years ago.…

The Congress of Roman Frontier Studies

Discussions were prematurely halted by the receipt of a coded telegram from the War Office summoning Birley home to join Military Intelligence, to which he had previously been recruited owing to his fluent German and knowledge of the Roman army.…

Rise of the elites

... you can peer down into a deep square where Bronze Age burials are left in the ground following an earlier Thai excavation. Your eyes alight on the grave of a man accompanied by a remarkable number of pottery vessels and a socketed copper-base axe.…

Unearthing, preserving, and presenting history

Raiding parties often consisted of genetically similar people, suggesting that they probably came from a single community or were members of the same family, such as the four brothers in one boat burial in Estonia who died on the same day.…

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War Classics: From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow

More than half a century after its publication, it is widely regarded as the inescapable starting point for scholars working on early 20th-century British naval history. What made Marder such an outstanding historian? Above all, it is his command of the primary sources.…

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Excavating Suffolk

The result of many years’ fieldwork by local voluntary and educational organisations came to a head there in the early 1990s, when a long-proposed bypass was constructed, destroying major elements of the Roman settlement.…

Jubilee listings and haunted homes

Woodchester Mansion is considered to be one of the UK’s most haunted buildings, and people pay large sums to spend the night in the freezing cold mansion with their ghost-detecting cameras and radar equipment.…

From scandalous sculptures to Selfridges

The objectionable trough has survived, though the figures are so eroded that you need advanced powers of imagination to see anything erotic or outrageous in these maenads – female followers of the wine god, Dionysus.…

When was Hadrian’s Wall built?

We know that Britain experienced tumultuous events during Hadrian’s reign. What we do not know is the order in which they played out. The answer may hold the key to understanding Britain’s premier Roman monument, as Matthew Symonds explains.…

Excavating Essex

One discovery in Essex above all others has regularly hit the archaeological headlines since the early 2000s – the spectacular Saxon princely burial from Prittlewell, near Southend-on-Sea. This was... one of the most exciting finds made in Britain in this period.…

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Writing archaeology

Neil went on to propose using what R G Collingwood called ‘the historical imagination’ by blending data and interpretation to ‘tell the story’. He was convinced that this ‘must be done if archaeology is to be interesting and worthwhile’.…

The Princess of Khok Phanom Di

The Princess was not buried alone. Alongside her was a grave big enough for an adult, which contained the ochre covered skeleton of a little girl aged about 18 months, covered in about 15,000 shell beads and, lo and behold, a tiny clay anvil for shaping pots.…

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