Qasr Bshir invites questions, as well as awe. Deep in the Jordanian desert, away from any permanent water source, the ruins of this Roman fort stand sentinel over an empty landscape. But why garrison such an inhospitable spot? Is it simply an expression of Roman military inflexibility in the face of common sense? Careful study suggests the army knew exactly what it was doing , while it s remote setting has also left the fort remarkably well preserved. Even so, the passing centuries are taking their toll. In our cover feature, we look at what this fort tells us, and how it can be conserved. When it comes to the labyrinth in Crete, the problem has always been finding something to satisfy curious visitors. Once, a stone quarry sated their interest, but in more recent times it has been assumed that any kernel of truth behind the Minotaur’s mythical lair is to be found in the maze-like palace of Knossos. Now a new exhibition is examining where myth ends and reality begins.
A rich mythology is hinted at, too, by remarkable rock art in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. There, images of ploughs harnessed to mismatched pairs of animals, beasts combining elements of different animals, and enigmatic solar beings hint at a wealth of meanings behind the images. But why was this art being created so high up in the mountains?
Images – albeit rather more recent ones – are also helping to tell the story of ancient Palmyra in Syria. A remarkable archive, which was assembled by the scholar Harald Ingholt, provides a wealth of material about the site. Delving into these records sheds new light on what was found and how it was studied.
In our travel section, Richard Hodges traverses the scene of Caesar’s siege at Alésia and weighs it s legacies. Meanwhile, David Breeze is our guide to the military bases and town of Aquincum, in Hungary.