Stories tagged Archaeology

What Caused The Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse?

“Fire of Troy” by Kerstiaen de Keuninck (1560-1632 AD). Oil on panel, last third of the 16th century CE (?). H. 58.3 cm (23 in), W. 84.8 cm (33 in). Public domain.

The decline of the Late Bronze Age civilizations of the Mediterranean and Near East has puzzled historians and archaeologists for centuries. While many have ascribed the collapse of several civilizations to the enigmatic Sea Peoples, Professor Eric H. Cline, former Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at George Washington University, presents a more complicated and nuanced scenario in his new book, 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed.

Professor Eric H. Cline speaks to Ancient History Encyclopedia’s James Blake Wiener about his new title and the circumstances that lead to the collapse of the cosmopolitan world of the Late Bronze Age in this interview.

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Easter Island Statues, History and Art at Manchester Museum

Easter Island or “Rapa Nui” is among the most remote islands in the world, located some 3541 kilometers (2,200 miles) off the coast of Chile in the Pacific Ocean. Famous for its mysterious yet iconic statues (moai), Easter Island is currently the subject of a new exhibition at Manchester Museum in Manchester, UK: Making Monuments on Rapa Nui: The Statues from Easter Island. This show explores the incredible artistic, cultural, and religious traditions of the Rapanui people.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener speaks to Mr. Bryan Sitch, Deputy Head of Collections at Manchester Museum, about the engineering and construction of the moai, their purpose in the lives of the islanders, and the intrepid explorers who sought to understand them.

Moai against a setting sun on Easter Island, Chile. Adam Stanford @Aerial-Cam for RNLOC. (Courtesy of Manchester Museum.)

Moai against a setting sun on Easter Island, Chile. Adam Stanford @Aerial-Cam for RNLOC. (Courtesy of Manchester Museum.)

JW: Mr. Bryan Sitch, welcome to Ancient History Encyclopedia! This is the first interview we have ever conducted with Manchester Museum, as well as the first to encompass the perennially intriguing topic of the moai statues.

Why has Manchester Museum chosen to create an exhibition encompassing Rapanui and their moai? One cannot deny that there is considerable public interest in these monolithic statues.

BS: Thank you for inviting me, James. Manchester Museum’s temporary exhibition Making Monuments on Rapa Nui: The Statues from Easter Island is the happy convergence of an offer to lend statue from Easter Island, “Moai Hava,” as part of the British Museum’s National Programs, and the fact that Professor Colin Richards of the University of Manchester’s Department of Archaeology has been carrying out excavations on Rapa Nui. Richards is one of the co-investigators on an AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funded program of fieldwork involving the University College London, University of Manchester, Bournemouth University and Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), University of Highlands and Islands, as well as Rapanui and Chilean archaeologists.

Manchester Museum regularly works with academics across the campus on temporary exhibition projects, the intention being to bring the results of their research to a wider audience here in the museum. In this way the museum is able to draw upon the most recent research in support of its temporary exhibitions, which implement the two principal strands of the organization’s mission: to promote understanding between cultures and to develop a sustainable world. The Making Monuments exhibition is the latest such “academic-led” project with which I, as Curator of Archaeology and Deputy Head of Collections, have been involved.

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Treasures Of The Lost Dhow

One of the most important discoveries in marine archaeological history occurred in 1998, just off Indonesia’s Belitung Island in the western Java Sea: A 1,200-year-old Arabian dhow with an astounding cargo of gold, silver, ceramic artifacts, coins, and tangible personal effects. The ship’s hold contained some 57,000 pieces in total and yet no human remains. The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route, now on show at the newly opened Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, explores the movement of cross-cultural exchange, trade, and technology between the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258 CE) and Tang dynasty China (618-907 CE) through the prism of an ancient shipwreck.2.0_exhibitions_theLostDhow_1246x620In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Mr. John Vollmer, Guest Curator for the Aga Khan Museum’s presentation of this exhibition, about the importance of the objects in this exhibition and what the exhibition means to the recently opened museum.

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A Pilgrimage to the Sea of Galilee

For years, my travels have caused me to think about organized religion. (When I got my history degree in college, one of my favorite classes was “History of the Christian Church.”) And for years, I’ve believed that those who enjoy getting close to God should pack their spirituality along with them in their travels.

Christians from around the world come to Yardenit near the Sea of Galilee to be baptized in the River Jordan. (photo: Rick Steves)

Christians from around the world come to Yardenit near the Sea of Galilee to be baptized in the River Jordan. (photo: Rick Steves)

In Israel, religious tourism is a big part of the economy. And much of that is Christian tourism: bus tours of believers visiting sights from Jesus’ three-year ministry — places they’ve imagined since their childhood Sunday school classes. While Jerusalem is the major stop, they generally make a quick visit to Bethlehem (in the West Bank), and loop through the north to stop at several sights near the Sea of Galilee.

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Fabled Jerusalem

Before Columbus, many maps of the world showed Jerusalem as the center of the world. Jerusalem — holy, treasured, and long fought over by the three great monotheistic religions — has been destroyed and rebuilt more than a dozen times.

Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock marks the site where Jews believe Abraham was preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac and where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad journeyed to heaven. (photo: Rick Steves)

Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock marks the site where Jews believe Abraham was preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac and where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad journeyed to heaven. (photo: Rick Steves)

Its fabled walls corral a tangle of colorful, holy sites, and more than 30,000 residents — most with a deep-seated reason to live so close to their religious ground zero.

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Archaeological Visit to the Ancient Mound Bakr Awa

I was chatting with my friend Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, Director of the Sulaimaniya Museum, about archaeological excavations in Iraqi Kurdistan. By chance, he mentioned the name of the ancient site of Bakr Awa. “There is a German archaeological team there, and they have been excavating the site for a few years,” Hashim said. “How about going there and seeing them while they are working?” I replied. “ This Friday we will go,” Hashim suggested. Bingo, let’s go!

Bakr Awa is a mound southeast of the modern city of Sulaimaniya, near the city of Halabja (which was bombarded by a chemical attack by Saddam’s regime in 1988 CE), within the Sharazor plain, Iraqi Kurdistan. A German archaeological team headed by Professor Peter Miglus (of the University of Heidelberg) has been excavating the site since 2010 in cooperation with the Sulaimaniya Antiquities Directorate and the Sulaimaniya Museum. The site underwent limited excavations by Ephraim Speiser in 1927 CE. During the years 1960-1961 CE, Iraqi archaeologists (of the Directorate General of Antiquities in Baghdad, Iraq) did extensive excavations and field studies on the site. Numerous artifacts, from the Islamic period back to the late Bronze Age, have been recovered within different ancient layers/levels.

General overview of Bakr Awa. The hill (mound or Tell) is the largest one within the whole southern part of Sharazor Plain. The hill’s citadel stands for about 40 meters high in the middle of a proximately 600 x 800 meters lower city.

General overview of Bakr Awa. The hill (mound or Tell) is the largest one within the whole southern part of Sharazor Plain. The hill’s citadel stands about 40 meters high in the middle of approximately 600 x 800 meters lower city.

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The Kingdoms of Ancient Arabia

Griffon_hadhramautIn antiquity, the Greeks and Romans referred to the pre-Islamic kingdoms of ancient Arabia as “Arabia Felix” or “Arabia the Blessed,” due to their immense wealth and political power. Flourishing along caravan and maritime trade routes for over a thousand years, these kingdoms achieved impressive feats in technology, engineering, and the conservation of natural resources.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Dr. William Glanzman, one of the world’s leading experts on ancient Arabia, about the importance of these polities as well as recent archaeological discoveries in southern Arabia.

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A Closer Look at Ancient Korea

BaekjeAmbassadorFrom the first century BCE until the seventh century CE, the Korean peninsula experienced an unprecedented era of immense wealth, political power, and cultural efflorescence. Although the kingdoms of ancient Korea are not familiar to many researchers in Anglophone countries, the fields of early Korean history and archaeology are active and pertinent components of academic programs in East Asia, where it is recognized that an understanding and appreciation of the pre-historical and early historical periods are necessary for a proper grasp of Korea in an age of globalization.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Mark Byington, Founder and Project Director of the Early Korea Project at the Korea Institute, Harvard University, who has dedicated his life to the development of academic study of early Korean history and archaeology in North America.

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Petra: Wonder in the Desert

Foto_3_ed_Deir

Few places on earth have captivated humanity as much as the ethereal city of Petra, which is located in present-day Jordan. Constructed by the Nabataeans–ancient traders who dominated the export of frankincense, myrrh, balsam, and spices from Arabia to the Greco-Roman world–Petra was a beautiful desert metropolis of theaters, temples, palaces, and immense markets. ‘Rediscovered’ in 1812 by an eccentric Swiss adventurer, Johan Ludwig Burckhardt, Petra is the focus of a new show at the Antikenmuseum Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Opened last fall by HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, Petra: Wonder in the Desert. In the Footsteps of J. L. Burckhardt alias “Sheikh Ibrahim,” showcases nearly 150 artifacts, demonstrating the power, prestige, and sophistication of one of Antiquity’s most alluring cities.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia converses with Mr. Laurent Gorgerat, a Co-Curator of the exhibition, and learns how a mysterious kingdom of former nomads created a luxurious, urban oasis in an inhospitable climate.

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Roman Riches in Iron Age Denmark

otherartifacsDanish archaeologists made an unprecedented discovery in the municipality of Ishøj, located just 18 km (11 mi) outside of Copenhagen, in October 2007: an intact grave of a high-ranking man or “prince” from the Roman Iron Age (c. 1-400 CE). Hailed as one of the most important discoveries in recent memory, the grave provided a unique glimpse into the material wealth and aesthetic tastes of the ancient Danish elite. Sensational objects like gaming pieces cast in glass, gold jewelry, and an exquisite Roman wine set in bronze were among the items uncovered. All of these and more are now presented in a new exhibition, The Ishøj Prince (Danish: “Ishøjfyrstens”), at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Jan Kindberg Jacobsen, Curator of Ancient Art at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, about the importance of this discovery, and of how a Danish prince amassed the trappings of a Mediterranean magnate.

“Although richly furnished burials from the late Roman Iron Age are not an unknown phenomenon in Denmark, the one belonging to the ‘Ishøj Prince’ stands out. The grave was excavated, restored, and analyzed in accordance with today’s scientific standards. This has allowed for a very detailed reconstruction of the violent events that resulted in the death of the Ishøj Prince, providing a broad insight into the funeral rites and dedication patterns of the period.”

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