Ancient History et cetera

Jordan: The Wonders of Petra

Today we have another contribution from Timeless Travels Magazine in which Archaeologist Ben Churcher explores the highlights of a visit to Petra a ‘rose red city, half as old as time.’



As an archaeologist who has been privileged to travel widely, I’m often asked “what is your favourite site?” While the pyramids at Giza are awe-inspiring in their size, the ruins of Palmyra in Syria evocative in their desert location and the Lion Gate at Mycenae majestic, I always answer “Petra” as no other site in the world is quite like Petra.

As an icon for Jordanian history, this popular and much-visited site is simply stunning. No other site in the world can match the entry into Petra and nor can they compete with the sheer artistry and labour that was expended in the creation of the site’s monuments. The oft quoted description of Petra as ‘the rose-red city half as old as time’ is almost right: the site is set in a chain of rose-red (and yellow and buff) mountains, although the site, for an archaeologist, is not ‘half as old as time’.However, I won’t let dry academic niceties detract from the more romantic notions that do capture the feeling one gets when at Petra.

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New Record: 1 Million Monthly Readers

It’s an immense pleasure to tell you that we’ve just surpassed a major milestone this month: We now have over 1,000,000 monthly unique visitors on Ancient History Encyclopedia! A million! Every month. Wow… mind blowing.

This is by far the biggest success we have ever celebrated here at the AHE team in our six-year history. This makes us without a doubt the world’s #1 ancient history website: We were already ranked the world’s 11th history website overall on July’s data where we only had 675,000 unique visitors, with no website specific to ancient history in front of us. Now there’s no possible doubt that we’re the #1 for ancient history!

When I launched AHE over six years ago, I had no idea we would ever reach such heights. It was just a little side project… Now it’s a non-profit organisation with 14 amazing team members (all very dedicated volunteers), countless contributors from all over the globe, members & donors who support us financially, and partnerships with many other reputable organisations. We’ve become kind of a big deal now, and we get more traffic than all but two of the world’s top 10 museums. I’m immensely proud of the amazing team we have, and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together.

Literally millions of students, teachers, and history enthusiasts worldwide rely on us to learn about this amazing time period. Thank you all for your continued support. Whether you’re a reader, contributor, member, donor, or a part of the team: Without your help, none of this would have been possible! You all help us in our ongoing mission to publish the best ancient history information on the internet, for free.

Thank you all for making this success story happen!

Jan van der Crabben
CEO & Founder
Ancient History Encyclopedia

7 Strange Artifacts from Malta

We know many things about history, but what we don’t know outweighs what we think we know. Throughout my travels, I have come not only to embrace, but to seek out history’s mysteries. If your eyes and your mind are open you can find mysteries whenever and wherever you travel. Malta is one of those places where the mysteries are too numerous to count, and the culture is too rich to understand in just a few days. Out of the hundreds of unique sites and artifacts found throughout Malta, seven are highlighted below that pose more questions than answers.

The Sleeping Lady of Malta

The Sleeping Lady of Malta was discovered on the lower floor of the Hypogeum of Hal-Safleni.

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How Global Heritage Fund Saves Cultural Treasures

Since its founding in 2002, Global Heritage Fund has protected, preserved and sustained the most significant and endangered cultural heritage sites in the developing world. Focusing its efforts on preservation and responsible development of the most important and endangered global heritage sites, Global Heritage Fund selects projects using the strictest criteria.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Mr. Stefaan Poortman, Executive Director at Global Heritage Fund, about the importance of cultural heritage in addition to what Global Heritage Fund has done to save the world’s cultural treasures.

JW: Mr. Stefaan Poortman, welcome to AHE! Our interview comes at a time when archaeological and cultural heritage sites are in peril or destroyed in nearly every corner of the world, so I thank you so much for your willingness to speak with me.

A stone slab from the ancient city of Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. (Photo Credit: Mr. William Neuheisel.)

A stone slab from the ancient city of Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. (Photo Credit: William Neuheisel. Courtesy of GHF.)

In your words, could you tell us why cultural heritage and major archaeological sites merit protection as well as higher awareness among the public?

SP: The impact of cultural heritage on civil society is exponential, it always has been even during their glory in ancient civilizations — it’s about national pride, identity, a sign of prosperity, a source of education, inspiration for the arts. If we approach it with the same careful regard today, as a treasured and smart investment, we can leverage these sites to promote sustainability. The perspective needs to change because “ruins” are more than just reminders of a bygone era; they’re building blocks, especially in countries where protection of endangered sites yielded an impressive economic growth. Cultural heritage sites can bring economic, social, cultural and political benefits on a local, national and even regional level.

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Warriors Across the Ancient World

This post is part of a series of image posts Ancient History et cetera will be putting together each month. Today’s post concerns ancient warriors!

Ancient warfare was vastly different from how it is conducted today; the vanquished could be certain that slavery or execution awaited them. Initially, ancient armies were made up of infantry units who would engage enemy forces on the field with spears, shields, some form of body armour and a helmet. In time, armies developed to include shock troops, peltasts and include strategies like the formation known as the phalanx.

The hoplite is the Greek solider most are familiar with. His complete suit of armour was a long spear, short sword, and circular bronze shield; he was further protected, if he could afford it, by a bronze helmet, bronze breastplate, greaves for the legs and finally, ankle guards.

The Aztecs engaged in warfare (yaoyotl) to acquire territory, resources, quash rebellions, and to collect sacrificial victims to honour their gods. Warfare was a fundamental part of Aztec culture and all males were expected to participate. Eagle knights were a special class of infantry soldier in the Aztec army and one of the two leading military orders in their society.

The Assyrian war machine was one of the most efficient military forces in the ancient world. The secret to its success was a professionally trained standing army, use of iron weapons, advanced engineering skills and most importantly a complete ruthlessness, which proclaimed the power of ancient Assyria across the Near East.

The Roman army was usually commanded by a consul. Roman commanders generally preferred an aggressive and full-frontal attack, and they had many strategies to break enemy lines such as the tortoise, the wedge, skirmishing formation, repel cavalry and the orb.

Aztec Eagle Warrior

An almost life-size Aztec Eagle Warrior, one of the elite warrior groups in the Aztec military. 13-15th century CE, from Tenochtitlan (National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City) Photo © Dennis Jarvis.

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Art and Sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Marble Head of a Companion of Odysseus

This week’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a marble head of a companion of Odysseus, copied after a famous work from the Hellenistic period.

Marble head of a companion of Odysseus from the Pantanello at Hadrian’s Villa, British Museum

This head shows the face of a man that probably belonged to a multi-figure group depicting Odysseus with his twelve companions blinding the one-eyed giant (and the most famous of the Cyclopes), Polyphemus, with a burning stake.

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Conjecture or Fact? The Two Faces of Alexander the Great

Two Faces of Alexander the Great

Two Faces of Alexander the Great. Image on the left: wikimediacommons. Image on the right: Jim Haberman

The headline “Mosaic of Alexander the Great Meeting a Jewish priest,” recently caught my attention. I have been to Greece twice, once on an archaeological excavation, and I teach ninth grade world history. This is just the kind of headline to get my students excited about ancient Greece. It reminds me of the excitement surrounding the discovery of a second Mona Lisa back in 2012. Is this an open and shut case? Could this really be another image of Alexander? So far the circumstantial evidence indicates that this newly discovered mosaic is the famous general, king and warrior. The Daily Mail describes a legend in which Alexander meets with a Jewish priest, and the new mosaic discovered in Israel could be the long-awaited confirmation of that myth.

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Ancient Mediterranean Funerary Art

This post is part of a series of image posts Ancient History et cetera will post each month. Today’, it is all about ancient funerary art!

All ancient cultures had varying and extensive beliefs about life and death. They also had elaborate burial rituals performed at death. These rituals ensured safe travel to the afterlife, so that the dead are remembered forever.

By the sixth century CE, ancient Greek concepts of the afterlife and ceremonies associated with burial were well established. They believed that when one died they went to the realm of Hades and his wife, Persephone. Greek burial rituals were usually performed by the women of the family and involved a prothesis (laying out of the body) and the ekphora (funeral procession). The most common forms of Greek funerary art are relief sculpture, statues, and tall stelai crowned by capitals, and finials.

Similarly, the Romans performed a funeral procession for their dead which would end in a columbarium. These columbarium, depending on the person’s station in life, could be quite elaborate. Roman Sarcophagi also tend to be quite beautiful and visually tell us Roman values. (Whereas, epitaphs provide literary insight into Roman values.) Roman funerary art also includes death masks, tombstones and sculptural reliefs.

In ancient Greece and Rome, the Etruscans were identified as a culture of their own. Etruscans burial practices resulted in many items of funerary art such as: sculpture, sarcophagi, decorative cinerary or burial urns and tombs.

The various Egyptian burial rites, I am sure most have heard about! Rather than go into detail about Egyptian beliefs, I think everyone can agree that their practices resulted in a mass of items which could be classified as funerary art.

Funerary urn lid of an Etruscan woman

Painted terracotta funerary urn lid of an Etruscan woman, from Chiusi, ca. 150-120 BCE (Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, Germany). Photographer: Carole Raddato

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Traveling in Israel on a Budget

Me in front of the Latin inscription dedicated to Hadrian revealed in Jerusalem on Wednesday 22nd October 2014 (1)

Carole in front of the Latin inscription dedicated to Hadrian revealed in Jerusalem. Photo © Carole Raddato

On the shores of the Mediterranean sea, Israel is a country with a rich archaeological and religious history. As a land of great significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims, it has many sacred sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque. People are also drawn to the many ancient relics and landmarks Israel has to offer.

In this interview with Ancient History Encyclopedia, Jade Koekoe speaks to Carole Raddato of Following Hadrian. Carole discusses her recent experiences in Israel and gives her advice about traveling to this magnificent country on a budget.

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The Ancient Minoans of Crete


A detail of the dolphin fresco, the Minoan palace of Knossos, Crete, (c. 1700-1450 BCE). Photograph taken by Mark Cartwright for Ancient History Encyclopedia. Uploaded by Mark Cartwright, published on 26 April 2012 under the following license: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.

The Minoan civilization flourished on the Mediterranean island of Crete during the height of the Bronze Age (c. 2000-c. 1500 BCE). By virtue of their unique art and architecture, the ancient Minoans made significant contributions to the subsequent development of Western civilization. However, we still know less about the Minoans than the civilizations of Egypt or Mesopotamia. Professor Louise Hitchcock, an archaeologist specializing in Aegean archaeology at Melbourne University, introduces us to the world of the ancient Minoans and the importance of Aegean archaeology in this exclusive interview with James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE).

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