Reading My Way Through Roman Britain, Part 3

September 15, 2015

British journalist Charlotte Higgins (It’s All Greek To Me) was always fascinated by the classical world, but that fascination didn’t extend to Roman Britain. She thought of Britain as an unglamorous outpost on the edge of the Roman Empire–an opinion shared by most Romans of the time-. A visit to Hadrian’s Wall changed her mind. […]

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Reading My Way Through Roman Britain, Part 2

September 11, 2015

Guy de la Bédoyère’s The Real Lives Of Roman Britain: A History of Roman Britain Through The Lives of Those Who Were There is not a narrative history of Roman Britain. (De la Bédoyère has already written several versions of that narrative.) It is instead an attempt to look at the 360 years of Roman […]

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Reading My Way Through Roman Britain, Part 1

September 8, 2015

Thanks to the luck of the book-review draw, I recently ended up reading two books on Roman Britain back-to-back.* The two books are very different. Guy de la Bédoyère’s The Real Lives of Roman Britain is an attempt to look at the period of Roman occupation in terms of individual human experience–a frustrating endeavor because […]

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Road Trip Through History: 871 +/-2

August 21, 2015

In 2001, an Icelandic construction crew was excavating a basement for a new hotel in the historic district of Reykjavik when they made a major archaeological discovery which included not only the oldest relics of human habitation in the area, which date from before the “official” settlement day of 871CE, plus or minus a year […]

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From the Archives: Easter Island: Not So Mysterious After All

June 30, 2015

One of the other places I hang out on the internet is Shelf Awareness for Readers–a very cool review publication that reaches the e-inboxes of avid readers twice a week.* I review new history books, with an occasional excursion into cookbooks or misc. reference works. Some of those reviews find their way here. Some of […]

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The Nile

June 22, 2014

In The Nile:A Journey Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present, popular Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson leads the reader on a historical travelogue that moves from Aswan, home of the river’s First Cataract, to Cairo’s Gezira Island, from Paleolithic rock drawings to the Arab Spring. The voyage that shapes The Nile is not simply metaphorical. Wilkinson floats […]

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History on Display: Scenes from the Stone Age

June 11, 2013

I don’t get to Chicago’s Field Museum as often as I would like. I notice a special exhibition that looks interesting: Cleopatra, the royal courts of India, pirates. I look at how long it’s running and think, “Oh, I have plenty of time.” Then I put my head down and forget about it until it’s […]

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The Riddle of the Labyrinth

June 6, 2013

In The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest To Crack An Ancient Code, Margalit Fox adds a new layer to the story of how the ancient script known as Linear B was deciphered. In 1900, archaeologist Arthur Evans uncovered a cache of clay tablets in an unknown script on Crete. For fifty years, scholars across […]

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Prehistoric Redheads

May 14, 2013

Like every other redhead I know, I have a mental list of notable gingers from history:  Richard the Lion-Hearted, Christopher Columbus, Elizabeth I, Thomas Jefferson, Lucille Ball…*  It’s a natural defense against phrases like “red-headed stepchild” and that popular playground taunt, “I’d rather be dead than red on the head.” ** Not speaking for anyone […]

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Learning to Read Egypt: Hieroglyphics and the Rosetta Stone

April 4, 2013

As I believe I mentioned recently, European scholars at the time of the Renaissance rediscovered ancient Egypt in the writings of classical Greece.* Like the ancient Greeks before them, they believed Egypt was the source of art, religion, and science: a land of mystery and arcane knowledge. The belief in Egypt as a land of […]

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