The King Must Die

A little over two weeks ago, on the evening of August 10th, a young Irish heavy-equipment operator spotted what he thought was an old leather car seat jutting out of the drained fields of Cashel Bog. Jason Phelan was nearing the end of a long day on a harvester, a giant machine that slices peat […]

Why Don’t We Know More about Our Ancient Past?

Today, I’ll wrestle with a question that Ann posed during our birthday celebration: People have been living and building things in North America for tens of thousands of years, the same tens of thousands that they’ve been in India, China, Egypt, Mesoamerica, Europe; so why do we know comparatively so little about North American paleolithics? […]

The Inca Empire’s Afghanistan

Pambamarca isn’t a household name, not like Machu Picchu. Few backpackers trek its steep slopes each year seeking out the elusive Inca past. There is no sleek Vistadome train, no fleet of gleaming Mercedes-Benz buses whisking crowds to the ruins, no luxury lodge at the top. But Pambamarca bristles with the ruins of Inca ambitions. […]

Indiana Jones and the Neanderthal’s Tooth

Most archaeologists I know have a soft spot for Indiana Jones. They might not admit it. They might grimace at the famous bullwhip and guffaw at all the suspension-bridge antics over crocodile-infested waters. But despite that, or perhaps because of it, Indiana Jones often captures something from a defining moment in their lives. It reminds […]

A Dictator’s Rule

Three weeks ago, a BBC journalist experienced first hand the random brutality of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s security forces. Chris Cobb-Smith and two colleagues were heading to the town of Zawiya to cover the conflict, when security forces arrested them at a checkpoint and hustled them off to a makeshift prison. There guards repeatedly beat […]

What’s in a Footprint?

I love unguarded moments, those brief seconds when someone on stage or in front of a camera finally gives way to nervousness and says or does something completely unplanned and unrehearsed, something that just spills out like a stream overtaking its banks. For a moment, we see something that we weren’t meant to, something revealing, […]

Google Earth and Guantánamo Bay

At first glance, the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay doesn’t seem like much of a subject for archaeologists. The controversial camp, built to detain suspected terrorists after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, seems far too new, far too contemporary for archaeological research. And if that weren’t reason enough to steer clear, Gitmo remains […]

Oh no! Not another Iraq

For the last five or six days, I’ve been searching the web for good, reliable news about what is happening to Egypt’s antiquities as the turmoil deepens in Cairo. Are Egyptian artifacts safe in the country’s many museums, protected by soldiers perched on tanks or by human chains of young Egyptians? Or are gangs of […]