Strange Relics: stories of archaeology and the supernatural, 1895-1954

Review by CH

Ancient remains and ghostly narratives often coincide in the popular imagination, providing fruitful inspiration for chilling tales. This anthology of 12 short stories has been curated by archaeological historian Amara Thornton, of the University of London, and Classical archaeologist Katy Soar, from the University of Winchester. They begin with an insightful introduction placing the stories within their historical context – from 19th-century tourism to wartime preoccupations and the evolution of archaeology itself – as well as explaining the collection’s aims. Its contents cover a period of almost 150 years, and include writings by such well-known authors as M R James, James Buchan, and Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as promoting female voices. All combine archaeology and the supernatural, while spanning a broad range of themes from ancient Egypt and the Neolithic to the Roman and medieval periods. I will not offer any spoilers as to the paths these tales take, but my review copy was an absorbing and unsettling read even on a sunny spring evening – it will doubtlessly be even more eerily effective following its wider release in the autumn. (Pre-orders are available from

Strange Relics: stories of archaeology and the supernatural, 1895-1954, Amara Thornton and Katy Soar (eds), Handheld Press, £12.99, ISBN 978-19122766581.