Category Archives: Archaeology

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.

Playing the long game

IN the long grass beyond the last hut, slabs of greyish-white shark meat dry on wooden racks in the sun. This village, which I’m visiting as the paying guest of an ecotourism company, lacks electricity, has a single fresh water pump and is inaccessible by road. Like many others along the west coast of Madagascar, it looks to the sea for its food, income and transport. Malagasy villages tend to specialise when it comes to marine resources, and this one’s speciality is shark…

This article first appeared in Geographical Magazine in December 2017. To read it in full you have to subscribe.

On death and glaciers

IN September 2013, I came home from the Italian Alps and asked my husband if he thought that, as a science journalist, I’d be covering the science of the First World War for the next four years. I had just attended what was surely the last funeral for unknown soldiers fallen in that war. There were two of them, and they lost their lives in a little-known episode of the conflict called the White War, in which Italians and Austro-Hungarians struggled for control of those mountains at altitudes exceeding 3,000 metres. Global warming had since shrunk the glacier in which they had been entombed, in a crevasse, and their remains had melted out the previous year…

 

This blog first appeared in Frontiers on 1 June 2017. To continue reading, click here.