Sunday, 29 July 2018

Belgium: Paul Rosenberg: The Story of One Man's Life Through Art

An article that I wrote for Timeless Travels Magazine:

During the Nazi occupation of Paris in the 1940s, the Jeu de Paume museum – originally built to accommodate indoor tennis courts in the nineteenth century – temporarily became home to some of the greatest works of Modern art ever produced. Stolen from their owners – looted from vaults and seized from homes – the Nazis kept these artworks at the back of the building, gathered in a space known as the Room of the Martyrs. Designated ‘degenerate’ due to being ‘un-Germanic’ or ‘Jewish’, such works were to be sold on, exchanged for ‘Aryan’ art, or, as happened to some, burned. These Modernist masterpieces formed part of a much larger collection of stolen art at the Jeu de Paume; the majority, classified as suitably ‘Germanic’, were to be sent to Germany for display in the planned F├╝hrermuseum. Hundreds also ended up in the private collection of Hermann G├Âring, who was a frequent visitor to the collection.

You can download a pdf of the full article here: Paul Rosenberg: The Story of One Man's Life Through Art.

And if you enjoy it, please buy the Winter 2016 issue of Timeless Travels! It's full of wonderful history-themed travel pieces. You can find it at:

A History of Algeria in Seven Stops

An article I wrote for Apollo Magazine:

The Roman theatre at Djemila.
Photo: M. Gasmi CC BY-SA 2.5
In 2009, a team excavating at Algiers’ Place des Martyrs in advance of the construction of a new Metro station uncovered a huge archaeological site beneath the square. This unexpected discovery revealed evidence of many centuries of occupation – from Roman ruins and mosaics through to a 7th-century Byzantine necropolis and the remains of an Ottoman-era mosque, all at the heart of the city.

Since then, the Algerian authorities have changed their designs for the Metro station – making it much smaller, and adding an open-air museum, where visitors will be able to view the site’s remains in situ, as well as a museum building for objects that need to be moved inside. Recently, it was announced that this museum-station would be inaugurated in November, bringing the world’s attention to the archaeological discoveries beneath Place des Martyrs and to the country’s often ignored archaeological treasures as a whole.

To read the rest, follow the link: A history of Algeria in seven stops.

Can a Long-lost Egyptian Colossus Save Ancient Heliopolis?

An article I wrote for Apollo Magazine:

Earlier this month, news of the discovery of a colossal statue of an ancient Egyptian king took the world by storm. Working deep in a water-logged pit, a joint team of Egyptian and German archaeologists discovered the eight metre-high colossus broken into two large pieces: a torso and lower part of the face, with a part of the pharaoh’s false beard present, and the top of its head, wearing a crown. These pieces have now been lifted to the surface, and taken for conservation at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where they will be temporarily displayed. Afterwards, the statue will be exhibited at the Grand Egyptian Museum, currently under construction at Giza and scheduled to open in 2018. Though early reports indicated that the quartzite colossus might have been erected under the famous King Ramesses II (c. 1279–1212 BC), it has since been shown to bear the name of King Psamtik I (c. 664–610 BC) of the Late Period – an arguably equally important pharaoh, though lacking the star power of the earlier, better known ruler.

To read the rest, follow the link: Can a long-lost Egyptian colossus save ancient Heliopolis?

Did Women Control the Bloodline in Ancient Chaco Canyon?

An article that I wrote for Science Magazine:

Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon. Photo: John Wiley CC BY 3.0
Deep inside the 650-room Chaco Canyon compound in New Mexico lies the richest burial in the U.S. Southwest: the body of a 40-year-old man, surrounded by rare shells; a conch trumpet; and more than 11,000 turquoise beads and pendants. Lacking written records of his people, researchers have long puzzled over how the complex 1000-year-old Chacoan society was organized. Now, using ancient DNA from the bones of the man and 13 others buried alongside him, scientists have come to a surprising conclusion—elite status passed down the maternal line, from mothers to their sons and daughters.

Most societies in the ancient world were patrilineal—that is, leadership or status passed through the father’s line. But there are some exceptions, including matrilineal societies like the Lycians of ancient Turkey, in which elite status and kinship passed from mothers to sons and daughters. That isn’t to say that such societies were ruled by women, but it does show that women were given an important role in carrying on the family line. Scholars have long debated whether the Chacoans, who lived in multistory buildings that were long the largest in North America, had an egalitarian—or equal—society or a hierarchical society with an entrenched elite.

To read the rest, follow the link: Did women control the bloodline in ancient Chaco Canyon?

Children’s Footprints and Painted Murals Preserved at Site Linked to Biblical Exodus

An article that I wrote for The Art Newspaper:

Archaeologists working at the ancient city of Pi-Ramesses, near modern Qantir in Egypt’s Nile Delta, have discovered children’s footprints preserved in mortar and fragments of a large painted wall, both dated to roughly the era of Pharaoh Ramesses II. The city is traditionally regarded as the site of the Biblical exodus.

The team, from the Roemer- und Pelizaeus Museum Hildesheim, uncovered fragments of a large painted wall that was used to fill an ancient mortar pit. Due to the size of the motifs, the scenes may originally have decorated the entrance to a temple, a chapel, or were perhaps from a nearby palace, says the field team’s director, Henning Franzmeier.

To read the rest, follow the link: Children’s footprints and painted murals preserved at site linked to Biblical exodus.

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Egyptian Princess’s Tomb in Dahshur

An article that I wrote for The Art Newspaper...

The tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess has likely been discovered by archaeologists excavating at a pyramid in the necropolis of Dahshur, 30 kilometres south of Cairo. The team, working for Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, first found the pyramid in April. Although only the inner structure remains, some architectural material was unearthed, including one inscribed block that bears religious texts and the name of the 13th Dynasty King Ameny Qemau, who reigned around 3,800 years ago and whose pyramid tomb is also at Dahshur.

Further excavations have revealed the princess’s burial chamber. Within, the team discovered the remains of a badly preserved human-shaped sarcophagus, a wooden box that once contained canopic jars—the containers that held the mummy’s internal organs—and wrappings. The inscriptions on the box indicate that the funerary objects belonged to one of King Ameny Qemau’s daughters, making her the pyramid’s likely owner.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Human blood, organs, and a surprising virus detected in ancient pottery

My latest article for Science Magazine (the most popular news story on their website in December 2016!):

A reconstruction of Heuneburg hillfort, 
where the vessels were found
(Photo: Kenny Arne Lang Antonsen CC BY-SA 4.0)

Sometime between 600 and 450 B.C.E., a high-status individual in what is today Germany developed some disturbing symptoms: large bruises, bleeding from the nose and gums, and bloody diarrhea and urine. His fellow villagers, shocked—or perhaps intrigued—by his condition, stored his blood and organs in pottery vessels after he died, and interred them in a burial mound. Now, using a novel technique based on analyzing ancient proteins, archaeologists have reconstructed the contents of these vessels to conclude that the individual likely died from Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV), a severe tick-borne disease that still kills people across the world today.

You can read the full article here: Human blood, organs, and a surprising virus detected in ancient pottery