Easter Island’s unique statues are recognisable the world over. Less well known though equally fascinating, however, is a sacred cult that emerged on the island when these great moai were toppled from their platforms and abandoned by the people during a period of conflict and political upheaval. The new social order was centred on a bizarre annual practice that involved swimming to a rocky outcrop and bringing back an egg. This eccentric ritual restored stability to the isolated island community before it, too, was abandoned in the 19th century. Now, archaeological investigation combined with documentary evidence is providing us with a vivid insight into the rise of the extraordinary birdman cult.
Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, seemingly indomitable in his relentless campaign to conquer Europe, suffered his first defeat on land in 1809, at Aspern in Austria. The hurried burials of the fallen men and horses are now being excavated and forensically examined to provide not only a picture of the horrors of war and its aftermath, but also a glimpse into the lives and deaths of the soldiers who perished in the battle.
Warfare in the 20th and 21st centuries presents a very different set of problems for archaeologists compared to those associated with 19th-century battlefields. Our feature on Trench Art reflects a new archaeological discipline that has evolved to address the complex and often emotive issues surrounding conflicts that have taken place within living memory, and over longer time-frames and greater areas than the battles of earlier eras.
Then we dive beneath the waters to track down the Grey Wolves of the deep, the much-feared German U-boats which terrorised Allied shipping during both World Wars.
Finally, what does God look like? Could the strange figures found on a scrap of pottery in a remote outpost in Egypt’s SinaiDesert be an early depiction of God and his missus, as the inscription with it suggests?