Interviews

The Puzzling Ancient Picts of Scotland

crawstoneblogThe ancient Picts of northern and eastern Scotland were as enigmatic to their contemporaneous neighbors as they are to modern-day scholars. Nevertheless, despite the shadowy and wild stereotypes that still abound in popular imagination, recent archaeological excavations across Scotland have revealed astonishing works of art, impressive fortifications, and evidence of strong links with continental Europe.

In this exclusive interview with the Ancient History Encyclopedia, James Blake Wiener speaks to Dr. Gordon Noble, an archaeologist and professor at Aberdeen University, about these recent archaeological discoveries and how we should best understand the Picts in the history of ancient Britain.

Read more…

The Exciting World of South African Marine Archaeology

underwaterA chance opportunity took Dr. Bruno Werz to South Africa as the country’s first marine archeologist in 1988. For over twenty years now, Dr. Werz has undertaken numerous projects of immense scope, including the excavation of sub-Saharan Africa’s oldest shipwreck. He is also responsible for the discovery of the oldest human artifacts ever found beneath the ocean’s surface.

In this exclusive interview with James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia, Dr. Werz discusses his passion for marine archaeology and the activities of the African Institute for Marine and Underwater Research, Exploration and Education (AIMURE).

Read more…

Reconstructing Cuisines and Recipes from the Ancient World

chinesecookingThe reconstruction of ancient recipes challenges experimental archaeologists and chefs alike, while concurrently offering unique glimpses into the culinary tastes of diverse ethnic groups. Ms. Laura Kelley, author and founder of The Silk Road Gourmet blog, analyzes the links between recipes, civilizations, and trade across great distances and over long periods of time. As a frequent traveler, Laura first noted the commonalities between recipes and cooking methods, which in turn provided the catalyst for her research as an independent scholar.

In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Laura about her interest in cooking — past and present — as well as how she has been able to reconstruct recipes from ancient Central Asia, Mesopotamia, and Rome.

Read more…

Ancient Mesopotamia: Inventing and Reinventing Our World

B0024P 0019Three successive civilizations — Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian — flourished along the “Fertile Crescent” in ancient Mesopotamia for thousands of years. Renown for their creativity, dynamism, and complexity, these cultures also provide the earliest models of civilization in the West. This fall, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Canada is celebrating the remarkable achievements and artistic sophistication of ancient Mesopotamia in a landmark exhibition: Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World.

In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Clemens Reichel, Associate Curator at the ROM, about the importance of these civilizations, and of how we can better assess and understand their legacy in modern times.

Read more…

Meet the Tarascans: Fierce Foes of the Aztecs

TarascanincenseburnerwTlalocheaddressAt the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico (1519-1521 CE), two empires dominated the political and cultural landscape of Mesoamerica: the Aztec Empire and the relatively unknown Tarascan State. The Tarascans were the archenemies of the Aztecs, carving an empire of their own in the contemporary Mexican states of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Querétaro, Colima, and Jalisco. At the center of the Tarascan State was the splendid capital city of Tzintzuntzan–“the place of the hummingbirds”–located alongside Lake Pátzcuaro. From this religious and administrative center, the Tarascan cazonci or “king” ruled a multiethnic empire of 72,500 square kilometers (45,000 square miles), matching the Aztecs in might and power.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Claudia Espejel Carbajal — professor of History at El Colegio de Michoacán (COLMICH) — an expert on Tarascan ethnohistory and archaeology.

Read more…

Drink of the Gods: Wine in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean

AncientphoenicianportTyreA symbol of fertility, immortality, and divinity, wine was the favored drink of choice across the ancient Near East and Mediterranean. Wine is mentioned frequently in biblical scriptures, and was used for everyday purposes in cooking and medicine. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Mr. Joel Butler, co-author of Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age, about the religious, cultural, and social importance of wine across the centuries.

Read more…

Reconstructing Angkor Wat through Fiction

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShrouded in mystery and lure, the Khmer city of Angkor is one of the most mesmerizing places in the world. Founded around the year 800 CE by Jayavarman II (c. 770-850 CE), Angkor was the center of the powerful Khmer kingdom, which dominated much of what is present-day Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and Vietnam until the 15th century CE. At its height, Angkor was one of the largest and most technologically sophisticated cities in the world, crowned by a stunning architectural achievement: the temple complex of Angkor Wat.

In this feature interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Mr. John Burgess — the author of A Woman of Angkor and former Washington Post foreign correspondent — about his new novel, the intricacies of ancient Khmer court culture, and why he has spent his life exploring the ruins of Khmer civilization.

Read more…

Sublime Sicily: A Hellenic Gem in Antiquity

gm_330941EX1Sicily evokes the fiery majesty Mt. Etna, the wine-dark hues of the surrounding sea, and the delicious flavors of arancini and limoncello. Situated at a pivotal intersection between Greece, Italy, and North Africa, Sicily is not only the largest island in the Mediterranean, but the site of over 5,000 years of human history. Few are aware, however, that Sicily experienced a spectacular golden age from the fifth century to the third century BCE, while under the rule of ancient Greek émigrés. Enriched by its immense agricultural bounty, the sociocultural milieu of Hellenic and Hellenistic Sicily was diverse and innovative, rivaling the sophistication and refinement of the “mother country” during its classical apex.

Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome — an exhibition at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, California — presents the grandeur and glory of ancient Sicily or “Sikelia” in all its complexity, beauty, and ingenuity. In this exclusive interview with the Ancient History Encyclopedia, James Blake Wiener speaks to Dr. Alexandra Sofroniew, co-curator of the exhibition, about Sicily’s special role in Mediterranean antiquity.

Read more…

The Ancient Shards of Central American Art and History

CentroamericapoliticoLike the Central Valley of Mexico and the Andes of South America, Central America has been home to dynamic and sophisticated civilizations for thousands of years. A series of distinct cultures left behind remarkable ceramic objects, which attest to considerable wealth, intricate belief systems, and singular artistic achievements. Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed a bilingual (English/Español) exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington D.C. — explores seven ancient regions of Central America, encompassing modern Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Examining the vibrancy of Central America’s diverse ancestral heritage with a broad selection of objects, this exhibition also underscores the interconnectedness of Central America’s pre-Columbian peoples with their Mesoamerican, Caribbean, and South American neighbors.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Alexander V. Benitez, co-curator of the exhibition and director of the Smithsonian Latino Center sponsored Central American Ceramics Research Project (CACRP), about the exceptional artifacts featured in the exhibition.

Read more…

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.

Read more…