Category Archives: Archaeology

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.

 

 

History lessons

ns_logo“MY NAME is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” So run the famous lines of Percy Shelley’s poem about Ramses the Great, a pharaoh who ruled Egypt’s New Kingdom in the 13th century BC, when it was the world’s most sophisticated society. But the poem’s theme is the transience of glory. It describes the ruins of a giant statue to Ramses that lie scattered in the desert: “Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away…”

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 15 October 2016. To continue reading, click here.

Seshat, ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom
Seshat, ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom

 

 

Swiss canton braces for tsunami

 

page11-nature_logoTHE land of chocolate and clocks could soon be known for something quite different: tsunamis. Authorities in Nidwalden, a canton in landlocked Switzerland, are factoring the risk of a tsunami in Lake Lucerne into their hazard plans. It is the first official acknowledgement of such a threat in Europe’s Alpine region — and comes in step with findings that the risk of tsunamis in the area, which is home to around 13 million people, is much higher than previously thought…

This article was first published in Nature on 4 September 2014. To continue reading, click here.

view-of-riggie-mountain-meadows-and-lake-lucerne

 

Wonder food

ns_logoIN April 1789, Lieutenant William Bligh set off from the Pacific island of Tahiti to sail halfway round the world to Jamaica. Twenty-three days into the voyage, his crew mutinied. They set him adrift in the Bounty’s launch, along with 18 men who were loyal to him, and dumped the ship’s cargo overboard. That cargo included 1000 breadfruit plants destined for the Jamaican sugar plantations, whose owners were clamouring for a cheap and reliable source of food for their slaves…

This article was first published in New Scientist on 28 June 2014. To continue reading, click here.