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ARCHAEOLOGY January/February 2020

ARCHAEOLOGY magazine offers readers incisive reporting, vivid storytelling, compelling photography – and the latest news from around the globe – all devoted to exploring the world’s ancient past. Whether reporting from a dive on an Arctic shipwreck, trekking through Afghanistan, or digging just beneath Beirut, ARCHAEOLOGY’s editors and writers bring readers the science, and the magic, of archaeological discovery.

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United States
Archaeological Institute of America
6 Issues

in this issue

13 min
japan’s sacred island

THE SHEER CLIFFS OF the small island of Okinoshima rise abruptly out of the sea some 40 miles off the coast of the Japanese island of Kyushu. Okinoshima’s sole resident is a Shinto priest who serves as the caretaker of small wooden shrines built among huge boulders on its southern half. For followers of Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous religion, Okinoshima is the sacred home of a trio of goddesses who, among their many responsibilities, ensure the safety of mariners. Fishing communities on the island of Oshima and in the nearby Munakata region on Kyushu still retain beliefs associated with the goddesses that originated perhaps some 2,000 years ago. Like mariners throughout Japan, the fishermen of Oshima may utter a prayer to the deities known as the Munakata goddesses before setting out…

1 min
as told by herodotus

Their boats with which they carry cargoes are made of the acacia, of which the form is most like that of the Cyrenean lotus, and its sap is gum. From this acacia, then, they cut planks two cubits long and arrange them like bricks, building their ships in the following way: on the strong and long tenons they insert two-cubit planks. Herodotus, Histories, Book 2, Chapter 96 For the first time, researchers working in a ship graveyard in the ancient Egyptian port city of Thonis-Heracleion have identified a vessel precisely matching the firsthand description given by the fifth-century b.c. Greek historian Herodotus of a common type of Egyptian cargo ship known as a baris. “It’s a very rare case when a written source and archaeological material make such a perfect match,” says…

15 min
the sorrows of spike island

In the mid-nineteenth century, Ireland was in the midst of a crisis. The repeated failure of the potato crop had driven millions of people to the brink of starvation. This catastrophe, combined with the simmering social, religious, and political tensions associated with British rule in Ireland, forced thousands of people to flee the country each month. Many of them left from the small town of Cobh, in Cork Harbor. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as many as 2.5 million Irish men, women, and children departed from Cobh alone, more than from any other port in Ireland. Tearful families gathered on the waterfront to say their goodbyes. Many were seeing their loved ones and their homeland for the last time. As they sailed out through Cork Harbor, they passed a…

3 min
friend? roman? countryman?

A field in North Bersted, West Sussex, was crisscrossed with a multitude of trenches, but when Chichester District Council archaeologist James Kenny arrived, excavators led him directly to the corner of a large area where they were at work uncovering a burial that dated to some 2,000 years ago. “This was the first burial of an Iron Age warrior I’d seen,” he says, “but I immediately knew what it was, even though it was one of maybe a small handful ever found in this part of the country.” In the course of the months-long project, which took place just over a decade ago, a team from Thames Valley Archaeological Services discovered that the grave was laden with artifacts, including a bronze helmet, a bronze shield boss, elaborate bronze latticework sheets…

3 min
digs & discoveries

THE MAN IN PRAGUE CASTLE In the aftermath of World War I, as a result of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, several new countries were created in Central Europe. In a quest to define themselves, they sought new national stories. However, such narratives are often not new at all. Instead, they hark back to a past that is sometimes part mythology, part history—but always potent. At the heart of Czechoslovakia’s national story was a 1,000-year-old skeleton of a warrior buried with his weapons deep within the oldest part of Prague Castle. For almost a century, the shifting interpretations of this man’s identity have reflected the cataclysmic political upheavals of the twentieth century—from the Nazi occupation to the era of Soviet domination and, finally, a return to independent statehood. Recently, a team…

10 min
top 10 discoveries of 2019

OLD KINGDOM TOMB Saqqara, Egypt During investigation of the funerary complex of the 5th Dynasty pharaoh Djedkare Isesi (r. ca. 2381–2353 b.c.), a team from the Czech Institute of Egyptology discovered the painted tomb of a high-ranking Old Kingdom Egyptian dignitary. After descending a narrow subterranean tunnel that opened up into a series of rooms, members of the team, led by archaeologist Mohamed Megahed, found hieroglyphs on the walls announcing that a man named Khuwy was entombed within the chamber. The writing also enumerates Khuwy’s many titles, including “Secretary of the King,” “Companion of the Royal House,” and “Overseer of the Tenants of the Great House.” Alongside the hieroglyphs are scenes painted in colors that remain vibrant even after 4,300 years. One of the main panels depicts Khuwy himself, seated before a table…