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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

1 min
artemis, apollo, and friends

While investigating the remains of Greek-era buildings beneath the Roman theater in the ancient city of Myra in the region of Lycia, on Turkey’s southwestern coast, archaeologists unearthed 40 intact terracotta statuettes, along with fragments of perhaps 50 more. The sculptures, which date to the second and first centuries B.C., depict Greek deities, animals, and men, women, and children performing daily activities such as riding horses and carrying water. Among the discoveries are rare statuettes of Leto and her divine children: Artemis, patron goddess of Myra, and Apollo, who was Lycia’s patron deity. Many of the sculptures still have traces of pink, blue, and red paint. “It was the biggest surprise to find such a rich and diverse collection of figurines,” says archaeologist Nevzat Çevik of Akdeniz University. He notes…

1 min
a welsh ancestor

The arc of standing stones in western Wales known as Waun Mawn is fairly run-down, which is to be expected of a monument that is more than 5,000 years old. Weather and time, however, are not entirely to blame, according to Mike Parker Pearson of University College London. He believes that the builders of Stonehenge helped themselves to Waun Mawn’s bluestones as building materials for their own monument on England’s Salisbury Plain, some 180 miles to the southeast. Excavations by Parker Pearson’s team have demonstrated that Waun Mawn was once a complete circle of stones. The excavators found a pit at the site that still bore the imprint of a missing stone’s pentagonal base. Its dimensions matched those of one of Stonehenge’s bluestones. Parker Pearson suggests that two of Waun…

1 min
swan songs

From 1881 to 1890, in locations including modern Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, a number of very similar bronze bird figurines dating to the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages (ca. 1300–500 B.C.) were unearthed. For more than a century, it remained unclear how these artifacts were used, but their similarity was seen as evidence of shared cultural practices and beliefs across a large swath of Europe at this time. Now, a team studying a recently discovered bronze waterbird, perhaps a swan, from the site of Liptovský Hrádok in northern Slovakia, has determined that the artifact, and likely the other similar examples as well, was originally attached to a small chariot, filled with animal fat or vegetable oil and used as a lamp during burial rituals and ceremonial…

1 min
beast masters

Murals unearthed in a tomb in northwestern China’s Shaanxi Province portray two hardworking professionals struggling to control animals. Dating to the early Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618–907), the murals depict the men with features and clothes typical of the Sogdians, an Iranian people from Central Asia, many of whom lived in China. (See “A Silk Road Renaissance,” July/August 2020.) In one mural, a Sogdian merchant confronts a camel laden with goods as it throws its head back. In another scene, a Sogdian groom attempts to tame a wild horse as two greyhounds, a breed still popular in the area today, look on. “These murals show vivid facial expressions and gestures of both people and animals,” says archaeologist Ming Li of the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology in Xi’an. Li’s team found the murals…

1 min
after the fall

It has long been thought that when Roman rule of Britain ended in the early fifth century A.D., the population retreated to the countryside to eke out a living through subsistence farming. But new dating of a mosaic at Chedworth Roman Villa in Gloucestershire suggests that at least some continued to appreciate the finer things. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal and bone found in a trench dug to build one of the walls of the room where the mosaic was laid down shows that the fancy flooring was crafted in the mid-fifth century A.D. “It’s really exciting to imagine that these people carried on a Romanized way of life and that crafts like mosaic making survived,” says National Trust archaeologist Martin Papworth.…

14 min
ancient tax time

ONE OF THE MOST VIVID GLIMPSES into the mind of an ancient ruler was unearthed in 1928, at the royal cemetery of Ur, in modern-day Iraq. The so-called Standard of Ur, dating to around 2500 B.C., is a foot-and-a-half-long trapezoidal wooden box decorated with mosaics made of lapis lazuli, shell, and red limestone that depict a flourishing Mesopotamian city-state. On one side of the box, average citizens dutifully line up to offer produce, sheep, and other livestock as taxes to the king, who is shown with his retinue feasting on the revenues. On the opposite side, the king’s army, funded by tax levies, is seen smiting Ur’s enemies. Both scenes illustrate a king’s-eye view of a highly idealized government functioning with great efficiency thanks to what has become a universal…