Current World Archaeology

Cover Story

The Antikythera Mechanism: an ancient Greek machine rewriting the history of technology A seemingly unassuming lump of corroded bronze has confounded investigators for more than a century, ever since it proved to contain precision gearwheels that simply should not have existed in the ancient Greek world. A new study, using cutting-edge techniques,…

Features

A legionary fortress at Valkenburg: discovering a springboard for the conquest of Britannia? Fresh excavations at Valkenburg are shedding surprising new light on a seemingly well-known site. Wouter Vos, Edwin Blom, Brecht Cornelisse, Jasper De Bruin, Jeroen Loopik, Arjan Ruiter, Adrie Tol, and…
Nero: monster or maligned? It would be fair to say that Nero’s reputation survives him. But could it be that this notorious imperial bad boy has been unfairly condemned by history? While the charge…
Cloggs Cave: a temporary hunting camp or secluded retreat and source of magical supplies? How do we interpret archaeological sites? Excavations conducted 50 years ago at Cloggs Cave, in south-eastern Australia, revealed what seemed to be a temporary hunting camp. Fresh research, though, points…

News

An expectant mummy Tests indicate that the woman was between 20 and 30 years old and was 26-28 weeks pregnant at the time of death.
Life and death in a Cypriot Bronze Age society Excavations in the Bronze Age cemetery at Hala Sultan Tekke, Cyprus, are shedding light on trade networks and complex burial practices, as Peter M Fischer and Teresa Bürge explain.
Prehistoric structures in Saudi Arabia At the excavated mustatil, archaeologists uncovered an assemblage of cattle horns and skull fragments interpreted as an offering, perhaps related to a ‘cattle cult’, further supporting the ‘ritual’ interpretation of…
Early human activity at Wonderwerk Cave The site, which was first excavated in the 1940s, has a unique stratigraphic record containing evidence of human activity from the Early Stone Age to the present day.
Venetian beads found in arctic Alaska Eight of the ten beads were found at Punyik Point, a site in the Brooks Range, located on ancient trade routes from the Bering Strait to the Arctic Ocean.
Dating the Plain of Jars It is evident that the sites were reused over time, well into the historic period, and had retained some kind of ritual significance when the later burials took place in…

Views

Nero: monster or maligned? Feature, Museum, What's on It would be fair to say that Nero’s reputation survives him. But could it be that this notorious imperial bad boy has been unfairly condemned by history? While the charge…
Forum: comments and conundrums Letters Your observations, your objections, and your opinions.
Gold spiral ring Objects This ring is a significant discovery because it represents the earliest gold object from a clear and well-dated context discovered in this region so far.
Prehistoric currencies, conflict, and climate change Comment In a warning of what might occur again in the future, a paper in the journal Nature blames climate change for interpersonal violence among Nile Valley dwellers in the Late…
The return of nature Comment Medieval people had a rather gloomy outlook: life was hard, the main thing was to avoid disaster, the future would probably be worse than the past.
Epic Iran Museum, What's on Current World Archaeology's Amy Brunskill visits a new exhibition at the V&A presenting 5,000 years of art and design in Iran.
Buried Roman baths The Picture Desk It was abandoned in Late Antiquity, around the 5th century AD.
Fashioning the Viking Age Ideas, Museum The designs of these outfits are based on two high-status graves, which contained some of the best-preserved Viking Age textiles in Denmark: a male burial from Bjerringhøj, dated to AD…
The Lost City of Norchia Places, Travel Upper Palaeolithic flints, Eneolithic tombs, and remains of a Bronze Age semicircular hut, as well as a tomb with a Villanovan shield, show that the place evolved over time, before…
Tea with the junta Comment For some unaccountable reason, perhaps a case of mistaken identity, Polly and I were ushered into a private room to sit down to afternoon tea with the junta.

Reviews

Nero: monster or maligned? It would be fair to say that Nero’s reputation survives him. But could it be that this notorious imperial bad boy has been unfairly condemned by history? While the charge…
The Maltese Archipelago at the Dawn of History This, the third volume to tackle the legacy data from Malta (Tanasi et al. 2011; 2015), effectively lays the groundwork from which to launch renewed archaeological investigations. Its reinterpretation of…
Growing up in the Ice Age Growing Up in the Ice Age represents both the first book-length work on the lives of children throughout the Plio-Pleistocene, and a superlative example of how the study of children…
Pre and Protohistoric Stone Architectures: comparisons of the social and technical contexts associated to their building Generically, monuments are organised using four recognised architectural elements: the mound, the entrance or façade, the passage, and the chamber.  I suppose a fifth element could be landscape. These clear…
Epic Iran Current World Archaeology's Amy Brunskill visits a new exhibition at the V&A presenting 5,000 years of art and design in Iran.
Fashioning the Viking Age The designs of these outfits are based on two high-status graves, which contained some of the best-preserved Viking Age textiles in Denmark: a male burial from Bjerringhøj, dated to AD…
A History of World Egyptology The Rosetta Stone that proved key to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, discovered by a French military engineer in 1799 (now in the British Museum), and the gold mask of…
The Lost City of Norchia Upper Palaeolithic flints, Eneolithic tombs, and remains of a Bronze Age semicircular hut, as well as a tomb with a Villanovan shield, show that the place evolved over time, before…

From the editor

Encounters with advanced technologies from ancient civilisations are usually the stuff of adventure fiction rather than archaeological research. When the chance discovery in 1900 of a shipwreck loaded with Greek treasures brought a real-life example of the genre, the technology in question was initially viewed as a nondescript lump of metal. But then that lump split apart to reveal gears that simply should not have existed in ancient Greece. Painstaking work has now revealed the internal workings of a mechanical computer, constructed with a level of sophistication that is startling to behold.

Recent work at Valkenburg, in the Netherlands, has also produced a surprise. Archaeologists seeking to understand some enigmatic ditches appear to have unearthed a massive Roman military base. Rethinking older finds in the light of fresh discoveries points to an installation designed to hold a legion, while the dates would fit with the fortification acting as a springboard for the emperor Claudius’ invasion of Britain.

Taking a new look at earlier work has paid dividends, too, at Cloggs Cave in Australia. Pioneering digging there half a century ago revealed traces of what appeared to be a temporary hunting camp. More recent excavations, in partnership with the GunaiKurnai Traditional Owners of the land and informed by their oral traditions, are casting the cave in a very different light, as a secluded retreat and place of magical supplies.

The Roman emperor Nero is undergoing reassessment as well: in a British Museum exhibition. Gone is the mass-murdering monster who infamously fiddled while Rome burned, to be replaced by a more nuanced figure whose reputation was dragged through the mud by hostile ancient historians. We examine the truth behind one of the most notorious leaders in history.

Finally, our travel section sees Richard Hodges journeying to the Etruscan site of Norchia. There, visitors exploring its canyons and tree-clad slopes can still imagine the sensation of stumbling across a lost city.