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review 2019-12-02 06:41
Ice Maiden by Johan Reinhard
Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes - Johan Reinhard

TITLE:  Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes


AUTHOR:  Johan Reinhard




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9780792268383



"Half a millennium ago, a party of Inca priests and a young virgin climbed more than 20,000 feet to the summit of the  Andean peaks of Ampato.  At the climax of their ceremony, the girl was sacrificed and buried along with sacred offerings of textiles, food, and figurines of silver and gold; there the Inca Ice Maiden would remain undisturbed for 500 years, until Johan Reinhard found her in 1995.  It was a stunning discovery that made headlines all over the world - but it was just the beginning of this fascinating tale of adventure, high-altitude archaeology, and ground-breaking scientific accomplishment.


In his first-hand account, Reinhard, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, chronicles more than two decades of challenging research that led him on over 200 climbs of some fo the world's highest mountains, and culminated in two seasons of unprecedented finds - first the ice maiden on Ampato, and four years later on Llullaillaco, where three Inca children lay frozen in a state of near-perfect preservation.  Dead for centuries yet still alive in their startling humanity, they are mute yet eloquent witnesses to ancient Inca civilization and custom, yielding everything from statuary and ceremonial clothing to DNA samples - each a new piece in the cultural puzzle that is Reinhard's life work.


A mesmerizing blend of mountaineering adventure and archaeological quest, The Ice Maiden boasts everything from live volcanoes and deadly lightning storms to grave robbers and fierce academic rivalries that threatened Reinhard's team as they raced time and the weather to compelte their demanding task.  Every reader will feel their tense mix of excitement and anxiety, and share their exhilarioation as they unearth long-buried treasures that exceed even their most hopeful dreams.


This extraordinarily vivid eyewitness account documents two of the most important discoveries in the history of South American archaeology.  A riveting tale that takes the long forgotten and makes it unforgettable, it represents at once a momentous scientific achievement and a pricelss contribution to the cultural heritage of the Incas' descendatns in Peru and Argentina."




This book describes Johan Reinhard's personal experiences in climbing various Andes mountain peaks; leading archaeological expeditions to find Inca mummies and artifacts; all the "fun" interpersonal/ inter-university/ inter-organisational politcs that preserving and studying important archaeological artifacts entails, and the importance of these discoveries (especially when considering looters' habits of theft and dynamite usage).  Reinhard provides the reader with a  fascinating look at how the Ice Maiden (and other ice mummies) were found, the difficulties encountered on expeditions to extreme (and sometimes not so extreme) locations, as well as organising (and finding funding) for special permanent storage containers and facilities for these ice mummies. The author provides a brief description of Inca culture, with an emphasis on their high altitude (as far up the mountain as they could possible go) child sacrifices and their beliefs in Mountain gods.  I found there was a bit too much about the author and not enough about the Incas in general and the finds specifically.  However, this book was well-written with numerous black & white photographs, as well as a section of colour plates. 








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review 2019-08-16 10:43
1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed - Eric H. Cline

TITLE:   1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed


AUTHOR:  Eric H. Cline




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780691168388



"In 1177 B.C., marauding groups known only as the "Sea Peoples" invaded Egypt. The pharaoh's army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell like dominoes over the course of just a few decades. No more Minoans or Mycenaeans. No more Trojans, Hittites, or Babylonians. The thriving economy and cultures of the late second millennium B.C., which had stretched from Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia, suddenly ceased to exist, along with writing systems, technology, and monumental architecture. But the Sea Peoples alone could not have caused such widespread breakdown. How did it happen?

In this major new account of the causes of this "First Dark Ages," Eric Cline tells the gripping story of how the end was brought about by multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries.

A compelling combination of narrative and the latest scholarship, 1177 B.C. sheds new light on the complex ties that gave rise to, and ultimately destroyed, the flourishing civilizations of the Late Bronze Age--and that set the stage for the emergence of classical Greece.




This book seems to have improved on a second reading 2 years after the first.  

Cline has written a well researched, interesting and serviceable literature review of the end of the Late Bronze Age, the three preceding centuries, and the multitude of causes attributed to this decline/collapse.  Cline spends a lot of text on urban archaeological findings, palatial elites and trading links, but practically ignores the role of agriculture and rural populations.  The role of climate, disease, famine and earthquakes (and anything else) is also dealt with in one chapter only.  There is nothing new in this book, but it does bring together the events of the time and various hypotheses in one book in a semi-popular style history book.  The organisation and repetitiveness of the book leaves something to be desired.  A time line would have been useful. 




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review 2018-10-02 08:06
The Indus by Andrew Robinson
The Indus: Lost Civilizations (Reaktion Books - Lost Civilizations) - Andrew Robinson

TITLE:  The Indus:  Lost Civilizations


AUTHOR:  Andrew Robinson




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9781780235028



When Alexander the Great invaded the Indus Valley in the fourth century BCE, he was completely unaware that it had once been the center of a civilization that could have challenged ancient Egypt and neighboring Mesopotamia in size and sophistication. In this accessible introduction, Andrew Robinson tells the story—so far as we know it—of this enigmatic people, who lay forgotten for around 4,000 years.


Going back to 2600 BCE, Robinson investigates a civilization that flourished over half a millennium, until 1900 BCE, when it mysteriously declined and eventually vanished. Only in the 1920s, did British and Indian archaeologists in search of Alexander stumble upon the ruins of a civilization in what is now northwest India and eastern Pakistan. Robinson surveys a network of settlements—more than 1,000—that covered over 800,000 square kilometers. He examines the technically advanced features of some of the civilization’s ancient cities, such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, where archaeologists have found finely crafted gemstone jewelry, an exquisite part-pictographic writing system (still requiring decipherment), apparently Hindu symbolism, plumbing systems that would not be bettered until the Roman empire, and street planning worthy of our modern world. He also notes what is missing: any evidence of warfare, notwithstanding an adventurous maritime trade between the Indus cities and Mesopotamia via the Persian Gulf. 


A fascinating look at a tantalizingly “lost” civilization, this book is a testament to its artistic excellence, technological progress, economic vigor, and social tolerance, not to mention the Indus legacy to modern South Asia and the wider world. “




This is a short, nicely written, but scholarly summary of what is known about the Indus Civilization, which covered a large area in present day Pakistan and India from approximately 2600 to 1900 B.C.  Robinson briefly describes the discovery of this lost civilization, the problematic archaeology of the sites, the arts, crafts, agriculture, trade, possible social structure, religion, decline and disappearance.  The Indus script is also discussed in much detail.  Since little is known about this civilization despite the artefacts, a great deal of this book is speculative, but the author differentiates with what was found in terms of archaeology and the natural environmental, and what is more probably or less likely.  The general consensus is that more archaeological finds are necessary and that the script needs to be deciphered before any more definitive information about the Lost Indus Civilization can be revealed.  I found this book interesting and to be a good introduction to the subject.  The numerous photographs, maps and other illustrations were helpful.


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review 2018-09-15 14:41
The Library of Greek Mythology by Apollodorus
The Library of Greek Mythology (Oxford World's Classics) - Robin Hard,Apollodorus

TITLE:  The Library of Greek Mythology


AUTHOR:  Apollodorus




PUBLICATION:  Oxford's World Classics


FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780199536320



"The only work of its kind to survive from classical antiquity, the Library of Apollodorus is a unique guide to Greek mythology, from the origins of the universe to the Trojan War.

Apollodorus' Library has been used as a source book by classicists from the time of its compilation in the 1st-2nd century BC to the present, influencing writers from antiquity to Robert Graves. It provides a complete history of Greek myth, telling the story of each of the great families of heroic mythology, and the various adventures associated with the main heroes and heroines, from Jason and Perseus to Heracles and Helen of Troy. As a primary source for Greek myth, as a reference work, and as an indication of how the Greeks themselves viewed their mythical traditions, the Library is indispensable to anyone who has an interest in classical mythology.

Robin Hard's accessible and fluent translation is supplemented by comprehensive notes, a map and full genealogical tables. The introduction gives a detailed account of the Library's sources and situates it within the fascinating narrative traditions of Greek mythology.



It's a bit difficult to review such an ancient text.  It is what it is - an encylopedic summary of Greek mythology, with a lot of "so-and-so begot so-an-so" and so-and-so killed so-and-so".  Sometimes there are variations of the myths and these are included.  The Library by Apollodorus would make an informative read for anyone obsessed with Greek Mythology.


Regarding the translation and publication - the translation is easy to read, the notes usefull and the introduction interesting.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-03 16:12
A History of Disease in Ancient Times: More Lethal Than War by Philip Norrie
A History of Disease in Ancient Times: More Lethal than War - Philip Norrie

TITLE:  A History of Disease in Ancient Times: More Lethal Than War


AUTHOR:  Philip Norrie




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9783319289366



"This book shows how bubonic plague and smallpox helped end the Hittite Empire, the Bronze Age in the Near East and later the Carthaginian Empire. The book will examine all the possible infectious diseases present in ancient times and show that life was a daily struggle for survival either avoiding or fighting against these infectious disease epidemics. The book will argue that infectious disease epidemics are a critical link in the chain of causation for the demise of most civilizations in the ancient world and that ancient historians should no longer ignore them, as is currently the case."




Dr. Philip Norrie has produced a delectable book that explores the way in which infectious diseases affected the course of ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern history.  I get the impression this book is the result of the author’s doctoral thesis rewritten into a book.  A wealth of interesting and new (to me) information was provided, without personal asides or irrelevant commentary.  The author presents evidence for epidemic impacts from a variety of sources – historic, archaeologic, linguistic, medical, social, anthropological and economic.  Author makes use of the available evidence to prove his hypothesis.  Speculation is kept to a minimum and clearly explained when necessary. 


The general hypothesis is that most major changes in the Ancient world were precipitated by infectious disease epidemics.  Dr Norrie also succeeded in illustrating that disease can have a significant impact on major historic events.  The author makes use of several examples such as the end of the Hittite Empire, the end of the Near Eastern Bronze Age in c.1200 B.C., the end of Carthage; and interesting anomalies in Ancient Egypt during the reign of Amenhotep III.   The type of infectious disease causing the epidemic is also examined.  Dr Norrie shows the reader that disease, in the form of several infectious disease epidemics, fits the medical model to explain three factors about the end of the Bronze Age:  (1) the short time frame of the Catastrophe; (2) the mass migrations of the general population but also the “Sea Peoples”; and (3) the abandonment of cities during the Catastrophe.  This book offers new perspectives, possibilities and insights into the role that epidemics played in ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean history.  I find Dr Norrie’s arguments convincing and logical.


Dr Norrie is also at pains to emphasise the lack of attention that ancient historians have given to the effect of epidemics.  In the author’s own words, he hopes that,

in future, ancient historians consider the potential role of infectious disease in the histories they research and subsequently write.  If disease is not considered and is ignored, as is the current situation, then the resultant history may be incomplete and thus flawed; because you cannot administer or feed let alone defend your empire if your citizens are dying en-masse due to an infectious disease epidemic”.


This isn’t just a dry thesis on ancient epidemics, but a text full of interesting information, causes, effects, and the occassional personal history (where possible).  Who knew that Ramses V had smallpox, or there are Egyptian wall murals showing polio sufferers with leg braces?  Or that the Hittites used tularemia (rabbit fever) infected sheep as the first form of germ warfare 3200 years ago.  Or that the bubonic plague might have been carried to Egypt from India via a trade vessel? Or that Amenhotep III moved his capital from the plague infested river side to the middle of the desert?  Or that Carthage would have conquered the Mediterranean except for all the diseases that decimated the Carthagian army in Sicily. 


This book has a juicy selection of references and a variety of notes, as well as a section on the heart-rending Plague Prayers of the Hittite King Mursili II pleading with the gods to save his people from the pestilence afflicting them and ruining his kingdom. 


Dr. Norrie has published an interesting, clearly-written, perfectly understandable, concise piece of research.  I look forward to whatever he publishes on his current research topic - the role of disease in the demise of the Sumerian and Indus Valley Civilizations.


FYI (because I've never heard of it before):  Tularemia info

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