On Thursday 19 September 1991, two hikers made an alarming discovery high in the Alps. Travelling off the beaten track, they saw a human corpse in a gulley, and imagined they had stumbled across an ill-fated mountaineer. Instead, this was just the latest twist in an extraordinary murder mystery. Investigators soon realised that the victim had met his fate in prehistory. Now, over three decades on, our cover piece reveals how the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology is showcasing the vivid light shed on Copper Age life thanks to the study of this man and his possessions.
Another remarkable hilltop discovery was made at Timpone della Motta, in Italy. An ancient sanctuary there has yielded the remains of temples, and a revealing array of offerings to the gods. Ongoing work is showing how such objects could travel long distances before entering the earth, while the wider site has much to tell us about about encounters between Greek incomers and locals.
Distant influences are also under the spotlight in the case of the ‘Qurna Queen’. This astonishing intact burial of a woman and child was found in 1908 in Luxor, but fresh research is revealing an important new dimension. Strong Nubian elements are raising questions about how much influence the Kingdom of Kerma wielded over its northern neighbour.
Survey at Qarn bint Sa’ud, in the United Arab Emirates, is also occasioning an opportunity to build on existing knowledge – in this case, of rock art. Fresh details from the current work are laying bare how humans responded to climatic shifts that periodically made the region rather less hospitable.
Finally, 2022 is the 200th anniversary of hieroglyphs being deciphered. To mark this momentous anniversary, the British Museum is holding an exhibition examining how the code was cracked and what it revealed. We learn how thousands of years of history were triumphantly unlocked.