Archaeology Odyssey’s 10 Most Endangered Sites

Any choice of the “10 Most Endangered Sites” is, at most, a kind of informed arbitrariness. Although all of the sites on our list are archaeologically important and in imminent danger, some have more value than others and some face greater threats. Our ranking takes both factors into account, as well as the collective […]

The New Trojan Wars

German scholars are locked in furious argument over a 3,000-year-old settlement. Was the mound at Hisarlik, in northwestern Anatolia, the site of a huge, prosperous, commercial city during the Late Bronze Age—even the site of Homer’s Troy? Or was it just a tiny backwater, perhaps a 017nobleman’s country estate? All Germany seems fascinated by […]

Dig & Delve

Why spend your summer vacation on your hands and knees or crawling up ladders and down into trenches when you could be lounging by the pool, sipping piña coladas? Well, many archaeology enthusiasts imagine unearthing a tarnished coin last touched by an ancient Athenian as he bought bread in the marketplace, or uncovering a […]

Cypriot Land Mines
Military, political and archaeological By Hershel Shanks

We couldn’t get to the fifth-century B.C. tomb at Pyla, said to be one of the finest of the period, because minefields were being cleared that day and the road was closed. Pyla, on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lies near the border between the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish […]

The Shaft Tombs of Abusir
Deep beneath the desert, archaeologists found the first undisturbed Egyptian tomb in half a century By Ladislav Bares

Intact tombs from ancient Egypt are extremely rare, so high are the rewards of grave-robbing. Even the most famous tomb of all—that of King Tutankhamun (1336–1327 B.C.), opened by the British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922—was robbed in antiquity. The last intact tomb was excavated in 1941 by Egyptian archaeologist Zaky Y. Saad. […]


11 High above the sprawling modern city of Amman, Jordan, sits Jebel al-Qal’a—the site of the ancient, and often sacred, Citadel of Bronze Age, Iron Age, Greco-Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic civilizations.

How Moses Shapira forged an entire civilization By Hershel Shanks

Moses Wilhelm Shapira is best known for the so-called Shapira Strips, narrow fragments of supposedly ancient parchment on which were inscribed a somewhat different version of the Ten Commandments from Deuteronomy than is known from the Bible. Said to have been found in the cliffs east of the Dead Sea, they were written in […]

Greeks vs. Hittites
Why Troy is Troy and the Trojan War is real

All Germany is transfixed by the debate over the significance of Hisarlik/Troy (see “The New Trojan Wars”). Seeking safe passage through the maze of accusations, arguments and counter-arguments, we turned to one of the world’s most eminent archaeologists, Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier—who also serves on Archaeology Odyssey’s Editorial Advisory Board. Formerly a professor of archaeology […]

“Rabbath of the Ammonites”

Rabbath Ammon it was called in ancient times, a place-name we might translate as the Ammonite Heights. During the Iron Age, it was the capital of the kingdom of Ammon, rival of the biblical Israelites. The remains of the ancient Ammonite acropolis are perched atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the bustling capital of modern […]

The Guardians of Tamassos
Rescuing Cyprus’s 2,500-year-old sphinxes and lions By Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou

On a cold and rainy morning in January 1997, I received a phone call from Orthodoxos Liasides, the foreman of a maintenance crew working on the monumental tombs of Tamassos, 15 miles southwest of Nicosia. The men were insulating the tombs from the destructive effects of dampness in the soil, and they were digging […]

Lay That Ghost
Necromancy in Ancient Greece and Rome By Daniel Ogden

Pausanias, regent of Sparta, was one of Greece’s greatest heroes. He led the Greek forces in the decisive defeat of the massive Persian invasion at Plataea in 479 B.C. It was this splendid victory that ushered in what has become known as the Classical Age of Greek culture. Had it not been for Pausanias […]

Nawamis of Sinai
Exploring 5,000-year-old desert tombs By Avner Goren

They look like flattened igloos—mysterious ancient round burial tombs, called nawamis, in southern Sinai. To Canadian archaeologist Charles Currelly, who studied them in 1904 as part of British archaeologist Flinders Petrie’s expedition to Sinai, these 6-foot-high sandstone structures resembled beehives scattered across the desert floor. 020 Their name, nawamis, means mosquito. According to […]

The Iconography of Power
Reading late Bronze Age symbols By Marian Feldman

During the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.E.), much of the eastern Mediterranean and Near East was carved up among a group of civilizations: Egyptians in the south, Babylonians and Assyrians in Mesopotamia, the Mittani in northern Syria, Hittites in Anatolia, and Mycenaeans in Greece and Crete. Many of these states had active diplomatic relations […]

Was She Really Stoned?
The oracle of Delphi By Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, John R. Hale

Archaeologists are good at recovering things left behind by the past, such as buildings, incense altars, tools and relief carvings. What they are not so good at recovering are the ideas, feelings and emotions—the innerness—of sentient ancient beings. It’s one thing to examine a temple’s holy of holies; it’s another thing to understand […]

Italy’s Top Antiquities Cops Fight Back

It’s a problem acknowledged by all. There is no room to store them—the piles of antiquities recovered in both legal and illegal excavations in Italy. There is simply too much. “We ought to dump the excess,” said Angelo Bottini, superintendent of antiquities for the region of Tuscany, at a recent conference on the […]

Warriors of Hatti
The rise and fall of the Hittites, Turkey’s splendid Bronze Age civilization By Eric H. Cline

Just who were the Hittites?

Climbing Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius sleeps quietly today, overlooking the brilliant blue waters of the Bay of Naples. Yet over the millennia its eruptions have again and again destroyed (and sometimes preserved) towns lying near its slopes—including the prosperous ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

“My Blood of the Covenant”
What did the apostles drink at the last supper? By Nicholas K. Rauh, Elizabeth Lyding Will

In Jerusalem around 30 C.E., an itinerant Jewish rabbi named Jesus lifted a cup of wine, passed it to his disciples and said: This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink the fruit of the vine until that day […]

Philadelphia of the Decapolis

In the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283–246 B.C.), Rabbath Ammon was renamed Philadelphia. Despite the name change, the city’s inhabitants remained largely Semitic and probably were never extensively Hellenized. When Arab Muslims conquered the region of present-day Jordan in 634, they called the city by the name local peoples used: Amman, the modern […]

Plundering Iraq
Should looted antiquities be returned to rogue states?

In this interview with Archaeology Odyssey editor Hershel Shanks, John Malcolm Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art—an expert on the looting of Iraq and author of The Final Sack of Nineveh: The Discovery, Documentation and Destruction of King Sennacherib’s Throne Room at Nineveh, Iraq (Yale, 1998)—describes the damage suffered at the Assyrian King […]

Iphigenia & Isaac
Saved at the altar By Theodore H. Feder, Hershel Shanks

Iphigenia and Isaac, an unlikely pair. Yet both were almost sacrificed—one to a Greek goddess and the other to the universal Israelite God. Both Iphigenia and Isaac were innocent of any wrongdoing. In the end, both were saved when the deity relented and an animal 052sacrifice was substituted for the human sacrifice. Of course, […]

Sea Monsters and Other Ancient Beasts
A tale from a Grecian urn By Adrienne Mayor

A strange, grim, menacing creature lurks on one of the ancient Greek vases in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The scene painted on this vase—a Corinthian black-figure krater dating to between 560 and 540 B.C.—is known to art historians as the oldest illustration of the ancient legend of the Monster of […]


Editors’ Page: Peering into the Past
A little girl and an ancient ring By Jack Meinhardt
Past Perfect: King Tut, I Presume?
While excavating in the Valley of the Kings, British archaeologist Howard Carter came face to face with Egyptian royalty
Editors’ Page: Excavating the Deep
Can the market reduce underwater looting? By Hershel Shanks
Past Perfect: On Terra Sancta
19th-century British artist David Roberts captures the rich barrenness of the Holy Land
Origins: Signs of Life
Over thousands of years, the ancient Mesopotamians developed a written script out of aningenious counting system By Denise Schmandt-Besserat
Origins: One, Two…Three
Human beings learned to count at the same time that the Mesopotamian city-states were developing. Was it just a coincidence? By Denise Schmandt-Besserat
Editors’ Page: The State of the Profession
Few bright lights at annual meeting By Hershel Shanks
Editors’ Page: Images that Offend
Between Scylla and Charybdis By Hershel Shanks
Destinations: Punic Double Take
Romantic Greek temples overlook Phoenician homes at Selinunte, Sicily By Hershel Shanks
Origins: On the Pill
Even William’s Pink Pills for Pale People and Bayer Aspirin have ancestors in the ancient world By George B. Griffenhagen
Past Perfect: In the Here and Now
The first-century A.D. poet Martial wryly—and timelessly—observes life in ancient Rome
Past Perfect: Sacred Shadows
Florence Nightingale in Egypt
Destinations: The Impregnable Rock of Van
An Urartain sanctuary in eastern Turkey By Ronan James Head
Past Perfect: The Ridiculous and the Sublime
A master of light verse and painted landscapes, Edward Lear was also a man of the world
Past Perfect: Into the Afterlife
Egyptologist George Reisner solves a Nubian mystery
Ancient Life: A Stitch in Time
Going under the knife in ancient Rome
Ancient Life: Letter Perfect
The Roman postal service
The Forum
What’s on readers’ minds? Sacrifice—from ancient Israelites to Nubian kings.
The Forum
Disease in ancient Mesopotamia—and a running debate on how to stop archaeological looting
Ancient Life: Sailing the Desert
Not the Hamill Camel
The Forum
Of Iufaa’s beaded shroud,child sacrifice and the amazing journey of a manuscript
Ancient Life: Crowning Glory
Never a bad hair day in ancient Egypt
Destinations: Sailing the Wine-dark Seas
Crete’s great Minoan civilization By Joan G. Scheuer
Ancient Life: The Dog-Demon
Rabies in Ancient Mesopotamia
The Forum
Our readers get worked up over some ancient, and sexually explicit, paintings.
The Forum
Readers take issue with just about everything—except for our ideas about protecting archaeological sites
Ancient Life: Shooting the Moon
Gaga over games in Greece and Rome
The Forum
Making the most of an obsession with the obscene