Archaeology


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Moai at Ahu Tongariki on Easter Island, believed to have been carved by the island's Rapa Nui Polynesian inhabitants between 1600 and 1730. Photo by Stefan Boness/Panos

Essay/
The ancient world
Do civilisations collapse?

The idea that the Maya or Easter Islanders experienced an apocalyptic end makes for good television but bad archaeology

Guy D Middleton

An exhibit depicts the life of a Neanderthal family in the new Neanderthal Museum in the northern town of Krapina, Croatia. 25 February 2010. Photo by Nikola Solic/Reuters

Essay/
Human evolution
The Neanderthal renaissance

Handprints on a cave wall, crumbs from a meal: the new science of Neanderthals radically recasts the meaning of humanity

Rebecca Wragg Sykes

A selection of medieval compass drawn designs from Belaugh church in Norfolk. All images courtesy NSMGS

Essay/
Archaeology
Medieval graffiti

Graffiti on the walls of Europe’s old churches reveals the real Middle Ages – a world far removed from knights and damsels

Matthew Champion

Cave art from Sulawesi in Indonesia is now thought to be the oldest in the world. Photo courtesy Maxime Aubert/Indonesian Heritage Department

Essay/
Human evolution
In to Asia

New evidence about the ancient humans who occupied Asia is cascading in: the story of our species needs rewriting again

Christopher Bae

'When interstellar archaeologists tilt their telescopes to the sky, they are gazing into the deep history of the cosmos, but to find a civilization more advanced than ours, they have to tilt their imaginations into the future'. Photo courtesy W. M. Keck Observatory, Hawaii

Essay/
Astronomy
Distant ruins

Scientists used to scan the skies for messages from alien civilisations. Now they go looking for their ruins

Paul Gilster

Aerial view of Masada showing the Roman ramp. Photo by HG/Magnum

Essay/
The ancient world
The Masada mystery

Have archaeologists proven the ancient tale of mass suicide in the Judaean desert or twisted science for political end?

Eric H Cline

A clay impression of a cylinder seal from Nippur, Iraq. Akkadian civilisation, 2330-2150 BCE. Photo By DEA/De Agostini/Getty

Essay/
The ancient world
The deep roots of writing

Was writing invented for accounting and administration or did it evolve from religious movements, sorcery and dreams?

Michael Erard

Scientists unveil a 1.8 million-year-old 'Dmanisi' skull discovered in the Dmanisi caves in modern-day Georgia. Photo by Valerie Kuypers/AFP/Getty Images

Essay/
Human evolution
Did Homo erectus speak?

Early hominins who sailed across oceans left indirect evidence that they might have been the first to use language

Daniel Everett

Photo © The Trustees of the British Museum

Essay/
Anthropology
Magic bowls of antiquity

Ancient Babylonia’s magic bowls offer a glimpse into the society of the Talmud, and today’s shadowy antiquities market

Samuel Thrope

European tourists having a picnic in a temple in Egypt, 1898. Photo by LL/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

Essay/
Global history
Who really owns the past?

Cultural heritage is an ideal imposed from above. It’s time to listen to what communities value about their own histories

Michael Press

Archaelogical excavations in the downtown area of Beirut have unearthed Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader and Ottoman remains. September 2010. Photo by Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty

Essay/
Knowledge
Rock of ages

Archaeologists used to be obsessed with religion. Now they can’t be bothered with it. Is the field worse off?

Rose Eveleth

Detail from The Piltdown Gang by John Cooke, 1915. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Essay/
History
What lies beneath

From Piltdown to Mormon seer stones, prehistory has always beckoned the trickster, since bad science makes for good stories

Ted Scheinman