When People Lived at Petra

It seems no work of Man’s creative hand, By labor wrought as wavering fancy planned; But from the rock as if by magic grown, Eternal, silent, beautiful, alone! Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine, Where erst Athena her rites divine; Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane, That crowns the hill and consecrates […]

Were living Children Sacrificed to the Gods? No
The Tophet was the final resting place for the still-born and for children who died in early infancy. By M’hamed Hassine Fantar

Were it not for a few classical accounts, scholars would probably not attribute the burials in the Carthage Tophet to child sacrifice. Some of the more sensational stories, such as those related by the first-century B.C. historian Diodorus Siculus, have been picked up in modern times and passed off as the entire truth. In […]

When Crusader Kings Ruled Jerusalem

It was one of the most romantic, chaotic, cruel, passionate, bizarre and dramatic episodes in history. In the 12th and 13th centuries A.D., a continual stream of European armies, mustered mostly in present-day France and Germany, marched out to destroy the infidel. Crusaders attacked non-Christians in northern and eastern Europe; they conducted bloody pogroms […]

Join Up Now!

It’s 102 degrees under the hot Mediterranean sun. Your neck aches and your back feels like it’s breaking as you squat, knee deep in dirt, in a narrow rocky ditch. For the hundredth time, you find yourself wondering why you decided against a vacation in the south of France. Then, suddenly, your hand brushes up against a buried fragment of pottery. For an instant, the pain recedes and your heart races: You are holding a piece of ancient history in the palm of your hand…

The Yarwhosians?
You may not have heard of them, but the civilized Neolithic Yarmukians created some of the world’s earliest clay sculptures. By Yosef Garfinkel, Michele Miller

Prepare to fall in love—with our friends the Yarmukians. Since they lived almost 8,000 years ago, about 3,000 years before people began communicating in writing, you can’t ask them who they were. And even if you could, it’s doubtful you would understand their answer; we don’t even know what language they spoke. But […]

Salt from the Garamantes

It is safe to say that few, if any, readers of Archaeology Odyssey have heard of the Garamantes. For about a thousand years, from about 500 B.C. to 600 A.D., however, they lived in the southwestern part of what is now Libya; then they disappeared from history—not long before the Arab-Islamic invasion. The area […]

Were living Children Sacrificed to the Gods? Yes
The thousands of individual burials, the several mass burials and the animal burials all demonstrate that these were sacrificial offerings to the gods. By Lawrence E. Stager, Joseph A. Greene

The evidence that Phoenicians ritually sacrificed their children comes from four sources. Classical authors and biblical prophets charge the Phoenicians with the practice. Stelae associated with burial urns found at Carthage bear decorations alluding to sacrifice and inscriptions expressing vows to Phoenician deities. Urns buried beneath these stelae contain remains of children (and sometimes […]

Making the Desert Bloom
The Garamantian capital and its underground water system By David Mattingly

The Garamantes are not just a vanished civilization; they are a much maligned, misunderstood African people. Ancient writers from the time of Herodotus (fifth century B.C.) through the Roman period depicted the Garamantes as barbarians who menaced the Mediterranean world from desert strongholds. The first-century A.D. Roman historian Tacitus, for instance, described them as […]

No Guts, No Glory
Inside the Roman arena By Donald G. Kyle

When we confront the strange allure, or even at times the banality, of violence, the road often leads back to Rome. For centuries, blood sports and other deadly spectacles were central to the social life and public space of the Roman world.1 Rome’s violent public entertainments included gladiatorial combats (spectacula gladiatorum), animal hunts […]

“My Life’s Shattered Work!”
The strange ordeal of Hermann Hilprecht By Bruce Kuklick

European archaeologists were digging in the ancient Near East before the age of Napoleon. Americans, by contrast, were latecomers. The United States did not launch its first formal archaeological expedition in the Near East until the late 1880s, when an odd collection of scholars, soldiers of fortune, educational bureaucrats and financiers organized an excavation […]

“Carthage Must be Destroyed”
But must it be forgotten? By David Soren

Turn on the Discovery Channel or the History Channel and chances are you’ll see programs about the wonderful accomplishments of the ancient Greeks and Romans. But what about that other great, contemporaneous, central Mediterranean 018power: the nearly forgotten city-state of Carthage? Most of us recall that the Carthaginian king Hannibal (c. 247–182 B.C.), […]

The Holiest Ground in the World
How the crusaders transformed Jerusalem’s Temple Mount By Warren T. Woodfin

After defeating the army of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem at the Horns of Hattin, west of the sea of Galilee, in 1187, the Egyptian sultan Saladin marched unopposed into Jerusalem. European Crusaders, mostly from the region of present-day France, had occupied the ancient city for almost a century, following 450 years of Arab […]

Sacred Sex in the Hittite Temple of Yazilikaya

Cut into rocky pinnacles just two miles northeast of Bogûazko¬y, Turkey (the site of the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusha), are some dramatic, if puzzling, rock reliefs. These carvings at Yazilikaya (see plan and photo of sanctuary at Yazilikaya), which in Turkish means “inscribed rock,”1 wind around two natural galleries and present what is […]

Emissaries of the golden age By Zahi Hawass

We all know about mummies. According to ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, the heart/soul of the deceased is placed on a scale and weighed against the feather worn by Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. If the scale tips one way or the other, a huge animal will devour the deceased. But if the […]

Colossal Enigmas
The ancient stone temples of Baalbek By Arthur Segal

It is unlikely that any archaeological work will be undertaken at Baalbek in the near future. This imposing site lies about 50 miles east-northeast of Beirut (ancient Berytus), between the Lebanon and anti-Lebanon mountains in the Beqa Valley, today home to 30,000 Syrian troops that represent Syrian control of its neighbor. There is […]

Hero, king, god and striving man By Tzvi Abusch

“See the tablet-box of cedar, Release its clasps of bronze! Lift the lid of its secret, Pick up the tablet of lapis lazuli and read out the Travails of Gilgamesh, all that he went through.” (SB Tablet I, 24–28) No figure is more familiar—or more fascinating—in ancient Near Eastern mythology than the hero called […]

After the Flood!
The drowning of an ancient Roman city By Jessica A. Meyerson

It was called one of the biggest archaeological finds in years: In late November 1999 Turkish and French archaeologists began excavating the ancient Roman city of Zeugma in southeastern Turkey. Within weeks, they’d unearthed two large villas containing over a dozen exquisite ancient Roman mosaics. Preliminary surveys revealed that hundreds of other villas lay […]

The Roman Amphora
Learning from storage jars By Elizabeth Lyding Will

I have spent the better part of my professional life studying the lowly Roman amphora—a two-handled clay jar used by the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans to ship goods. What would Harvard professor Charles Eliot Norton, who founded the Archaeological Institute of America in 1879, have thought about my archaeological tastes? Norton wanted […]

Beirut Museum Survives
Like the stone monuments it displays, the venerable archaeological museum stands the tests of time By Molly Dewsnap Meinhardt

Now, if a king among kings, or a governor among governors or a commander of an army should come up against Byblos and uncover this coffin, may the scepter of his rule be torn away, may the throne of his kingdom be overturned, and may peace flee from Byblos!” This warning, inscribed more than […]

Eternal Architecture
In ancient Rome, Vitruvius kept alive the classical ideal By Thomas Gordon Smith

Around 25 B.C. the Roman architect Vitruvius wrote this dedication to the emperor Augustus: I have drawn up definite rules so that by observing them you might understand what previous works were like and what future works will be like … In the following volumes I have disclosed all the principles of the discipline.1 […]

Polyglot Antioch
Will archaeologists ever find the city described in the literary sources? By Florent Heintz

Antioch-on-the-Orontes was one of the four great cities of the Greco-Roman-Byzantine world. Although almost unknown today, it once rivaled Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople. Ancient writers described it as a breathtakingly beautiful city with grand civic buildings, baths, houses, temples, synagogues, churches and colonnaded streets—all bordered by the Orontes River and surrounded by mountains. According […]

A new traveling exhibition of 5,000 years of Georgian art is already ancient history By Jack Meinhardt

Look at this crucifix,” said Gary Vikan, the director of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore. He pushed a book across the table and pointed to a photograph of a silver sculpture of Jesus nailed to the cross. The statuette was made in tenth-century A.D. Georgia, on the east coast of the Black […]

Realms of Silver and Gold
The art of the Thracians By Sudip Bose

Ares and Orpheus—the belligerent Greek war god and the greatest of mythical poets—might seem like polar opposites. But they have one thing in common: Their legendary birthplace was ancient Thrace. That Ares was linked to Thrace is not surprising. Homer, Herodotus and Thucydides all praised the fierce, warlike Thracians, tribes that inhabited the towering […]

The Right Kind of Multiculturalism

The field of archaeology is under a political cloud because of its allegedly racist and exploitative history. American Indians have protested the “desecration” of tribal burial grounds by archaeological digs. A longstanding argument rages about the legal ownership of antiquities acquired by museums through donation or purchase since the late 18th century. The brief […]


Editors’ Page: Contemporary Resonances
That always-controversial ancient world By Hershel Shanks
Editors’ Page: Looking Backward
What do you think of our first two years? By Hershel Shanks
Past Perfect: A Day in the Life
Who has a better eye for detail—at a murder scene or on a Mesopotamian dig—than mystery novelist Agatha Christie?
Origins: 3.14159265…
Why did the ancients invent increasingly subtle and ingenious methods to arrive at an exact value of p? Human curiosity. By Kim Jonas
Editors’ Page: The Circumference or the Center
Where to find a civilization’s heart? By Hershel Shanks
Origins: The Horoscope Casters
The ancient Mesopotamians were the first to ask, “What’s your sign?” By Alexander Jones
Past Perfect: Beneath the Pyramids
A British cartoonist spoofs his fellow travelers
Editors’ Page: AIA Does Dallas
Healthy, though spare and spiceless, fare By Hershel Shanks
Editors’ Page: Time and Change
Gilgamesh, too, must die By Hershel Shanks
Destinations: The Long Voyage Home
A Washington D.C. attorney follows in the footsteps of Odysseus By Daniel A. Rezneck
Ancient Life: Greek Fire
War engines from the otherwise otherworldly Byzantine Empire
Origins: Fixing the Millennium
Just how did we get to the year 2000 anyway? By Leonora Neville
Origins: The First Act
What do Shakespeare, Ibsen and Hollywood have in common? An irredeemable debt to ancient Greek theater. By Rush Rehm
Past Perfect: Beneath the Flooding Darkness
The twentieth-century American poet Archibald MacLeish reflects on the passing of empires.
The Forum
Our readers know a mashie (5 iron) and a spoon (3 wood) when they see them. But what about a niblick?
Past Perfect: On the Road to Paradise
A 12th-century Spanish Jew finds wisdom and mercy in Baghdad
Past Perfect: Under a Desert Sky
Rejecting a world of privilege, the Victorian heiress Gertrude Bell found bliss in Arabia’s past
Past Perfect: Into the Labyrinth
Drawing on Greek myth, Pablo Picasso explored his inner demons.
Destinations: The Gateway to Hell
Eleusis, Greece was the site of the infamous Eleusinian Mysteries
Destinations: The Oasis of Amun Siwa, Egypt
Across the Great Sand Sea lies an ancient necropolis, an oracle of the gods and a melted city.
Ancient Life: Just Swill!
Toasting the pharaohs
Destinations: The Enchanted Island
Egyptian temples, Nubian ruins, ancient Nilometers—Elephantine Island is an archaeologist’s (and a traveler’s) dream.
Destinations: City of Marble
Chimtou, Tunisia, once supplied the building blocks of ancient Rome By Hershel Shanks
The Forum
Remembering Heinrich Schliemann, marketing (some) antiquities, and rebuilding the Roman Forum.
Destinations: In Pursuit of the Elusive Bird Mosaic
On the outskirts of Jerusalem’s oldest Armenian neighborhood, you’ll find a ramshackle junkyard with a beautiful floor. By Noga Tarnopolsky
Ancient Life: Water Music
But did Rome have a national anthem?
Ancient Life: Bull Jumping
It’s taking your life in your hands
The Forum
Praise for Petra—and a few choice remarks on an ancient map and a burning issue.
Ancient Life: Ancient Egyptian dreambook
What were they thinking?
Ancient Life
Babylocentricity: An ancient map of the universe
The Forum
Our readers ask: Is America the modern Rome?
The Forum
Pimping antiquities, cracking the code, and weighing the talent.
The Forum
The vote’s now in: Up with the Garamantes (the Yarmukians, too).