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Editor's Letter: Handle with Care

Methods for conserving artifacts long submerged in salt water have come a fair distance since the 1960s when the Civil War blockade runner Modern Greece was discovered off the North Carolina coast. At that time, a staggering quantity of artifacts was retrieved from the wreck and hurried into wet storage in people's homes to keep the finds from deteriorating. Journalist Marion Blackburn, in "A Cargo Twice Dug," tells the 50-year story of efforts to save the contents of the wreck, beginning with makeshift preservation attempts in bathtubs and sinks to full-fledged, proper conservation today.

Shanghai-based journalist Lauren Hilgers reports on a site of a very different nature in northern China's Hebei Province. "The 3,000 Buddhas" offers a window—via the largest sculpture cache yet found—into the rise of Buddhism in China, its subsequent repression, and the political infighting and warfare that plagued the independent city of Yecheng.

The archaeological work at Gorée Island just off Dakar, Senegal, is uncovering the history of a location prominent in the slave trade from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Contributing editor Roger Atwood journeyed to Gorée to bring us "Senegal's Forgotten Slaves," which reveals that class counted as much as race when it came to one's place in the "island's culture.

Ned Kelly was, simultaneously, one of Australia's most celebrated and most reviled criminals, a man who would as soon write an impromptu manifesto as stage an armed robbery. Deputy editor Samir S. Patel, in "Final Resting Place of an Outlaw," tells us the story of archaeologists' byzantine search for Kelly's remains more than a century after his capture and hanging.

Freelance correspondent Nikos Roupas, in "The Unknown Temple," outlines archaeologist Xeni Arapogianni's work on a temple built by the Spartans, likely in the sixth or fifth century B.C., possibly dedicated to a Greek god of war—but which one?

In "Burial Customs," by correspondent Matthew Brunwasser, we are offered a look at a Roman necropolis containing at least 5,000 graves and revealing many different burial styles. In sharp contrast, just at its edge, there is another sort of entombment, possibly tied to military executions, which raises new questions about instability in the third- and fourth-century eastern Roman Empire.

"From the Trenches" brings word that Neanderthals might have been artists, in "Letter from Iceland," senior editor Zach Zorich examines evidence of the ways in which Icelanders adapted to the Little Ice Age, and, of course, because Halloween is coming soon, we have a little something about vampires.

Claudia Valentino
Claudia Valentino
Editor in Chief

Features

Burial Customs
Death on the Roman Empire's eastern frontier
by Matthew Brunwasser

Final Resting Place of an Outlaw
Archaeological and forensic detective work leads to the remains of one of Australia's most celebrated and polarizing historical figures
by Samir S. Patel

The 3,000 Buddhas
The surprises of China's largest sculpture cache
by Lauren Hilgers

A Cargo Twice Dug
Fifty years after they were salvaged, the contents of a Confederate blockade runner have reemerged
by Marion Blackburn

The Unknown Temple
An archaeologist examines clues to a Greek god's identity
by Nikos Roupas

Senegal's Forgotten Slaves
The untold story of Gorée Island
by Roger Atwood

Departments

From the President
The Importance of Museums
by Elizabeth Bartman

From the Trenches

World Roundup
The Dutch East India Company's post office, coconuts in Ireland, Cambodian jar burials, dinosaur kitchen utensils, and a monsoon in the Indus Valley

Letter from Iceland
How a flexible economy saved a nation during a period of unpredictable climate

Artifact
A previously unknown ancient language is discovered on a 2,700-year-old tablet

July/August 2012 | November/December 2012

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