Category Archives: Archaeology

Royal women revisited

ELEANOR of Aquitaine is often portrayed as one of the most powerful queens in history. Wife, mother and counsellor of kings, crusader, landowner, patron of the arts, her power eventually grew so great – at least in the eyes of one royal husband, Henry II of England – that he chose to lock her up. But what if Eleanor wasn’t exceptional? What if, in the manner and the degree to which she exerted power, she was very much in line with royal women throughout history…?

The tombs of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England at Fontevraud Abbey, France. Photo courtesy of Martin Cooper/Flickr.

This essay first appeared on Aeon on 12 July 2019. To continue reading, click here.

 

Cosy up with the Neanderthals

PUT Matt Pope in a valley apparently untouched by humans and he can tell you where Neanderthals would have built their home. “It’s about a third of the way up a slope, with a really good vista and a solid bit of rock behind,” he says. Anyone who goes camping will recognise these preferences: this is where you want to pitch your tent when you arrive in an unfamiliar place at dusk. It is also where aspirational types dream of buying a place to live. In other words, this is the spot that lures us with siren calls of “home”…

Jack Hudson

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 8 February 2019. To continue reading, click here.

Ancient cities live again

FOR more than 800 years, a minaret dominated the skyline of Mosul, Iraq. Nicknamed al-Hadba, or ‘the hunchback’, because of its 3-metre tilt, it belonged to the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, commissioned in the twelfth century. Mosque and minaret were reduced to rubble after Islamist terrorist group ISIS took the city in 2014…

This article first appeared in Nature on 26 October 2018. To continue reading, click here.

Let’s build

AT POVERTY POINT, Louisiana, a remarkable monument overlooks a bend in the Mississippi river. Built around 3500 years ago, entirely from earth, it consists of six concentric, semicircular ridges radiating out from a central “plaza”, together with five mounds. Mound A, the largest, towers 22 metres – the equivalent of a seven-storey building – over the lush floodplain. North America wouldn’t see another monument on this scale for 2000 years…

Moai, Easter Island

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 10 January 2018. To continue reading, click here.

Notes from underground

ON 3 November 1793, in the thick of The Terror, the porter of the disaffected Val-de-Grâce abbey in Paris took advantage of the general commotion to slip into a stairway that led into the network of tunnels under the capital, and set off in search of treasure…

This article first appeared in The Idler around 1 January 2018. To continue reading, subscribe here or hunt it down in WHSmiths or bookshops.