Focus on Archaeology

Stone banquette with carvings of warriors and priests — Templo Mayor Museum, Mexico City. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

There is an old adage that “all roads lead to Rome.” It’s a statement with much truth in it, since most, if not all, roads in the early centuries of the Christian era did lead to Rome, then the center of a vast, far-flung empire.

The same adage could be applied to 14th-century Tenochtitlán, then the center of the Aztec empire in Mesoamerica. All roads seemed to lead to Tenochtitlán. Or at least they did from AD 1325 to 1521.

Before then, the Aztecs...

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Blue-domed church seen on the way to Ancient Arkesini, on the island of Amorgos.

In the Cyclades, a group of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, trails are called “blue paths.” With every turn, you can expect a view of the sea. How prescient of our group of 11 walkers to have signed up to explore paths on three of these islands with an organization called The Blue Walk!

Headquartered in Orlando, Florida, The Blue Walk (phone, in the US, 551/258-3955, www.thebluewalk.com) offers small-group walking vacations in Italy, Spain and France as well as...

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Reconstructed foundations of the 3rd-century-AD Temple of Mithras in Walbrook — London, England. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

During the 1940-1941 Blitz, much of the area called The City, London’s historic center as well as its central business district, was destroyed. Years after the end of World War II, bombed-out sites were still being excavated. In 1952-1954, one of these sites, located on Walbrook between Cannon Street and Queen Victoria Street in the heart of The City, yielded a remarkable discovery buried 23 feet below the surface: the remains of a Roman temple.

On the last day of the excavation...

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The Great Bath as seen from the upper terrace, lined with statues of Roman emperors and governors. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

The Romans knew a good thing when they saw it. In this case, the good thing was the hot springs in what is now the city of Bath in southwestern England.

In the decades after the conquest of England in AD 43, following several invasions by Julius Caesar in the preceding century, the Romans turned a tribal sanctuary centered on hot springs into a thriving center that they called Aquae Sulis.

Before the Romans

Long before the arrival of the Romans, local Celtic...

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The meeting hall at Nuraghe Palmavera on the Italian island of Sardinia.

Three thousand years ago, stone towers — often surrounded by settlements enclosed within stone walls — peppered the Sardinian countryside. There were an estimated six to seven thousand of these towers constructed in the period roughly between 1600 and 550 BC, the Bronze and Iron ages in Sardinia. Perhaps many more still lie undiscovered beneath the ground or covered by earth mounds.

These stone towers are called nuraghi (singular, nuraghe), and they have become...

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The central mound, with statue-menhirs, at the megalithic site of Filitosa in Corsica, France. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

At the base of a small mound overlooking a valley in southwestern Corsica lie fragments of upright stones called menhirs (from the Brittonic words men, meaning "stone," and hir, meaning "long").

Just above them on a stone wall that was once part of a prehistoric settlement stand more menhirs. They are unique. Each has the outline of a face etched on the top part of the stone. With sightless eyes, these statue-menhirs have stood for more than 3,000 years....

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View of the Mediterranean from the terrace of our apartment “Promenade” in Nice.

The last thing I expected to find in the French Riviera city of Nice was the ruins of a 2,000-year-old Roman city. The Mediterranean, miles of beaches, the famous Promenade des Anglais adjacent to those beaches, yes. Several fabulous art museums, certainly. Cafés, bistros, restaurants, of course. But a Roman city just a few miles from Nice's alluring beachfront was a surprise.

Located in the upscale residential area of Cimiez in Nice, with villas set in lush gardens, what...

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The Grand Tomb at Hili Archaeological Park in Abu Dhabi. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

Late one February afternoon in 2018, my husband, Paul, and I arrived at Hili, an archaeological site 6 miles north of the oasis city of Al Ain in Abu Dhabi.

At first, we were confused. What we saw before us was different from most of the archaeological sites we had visited around the world, including those we had just visited a week or two before in Oman, Abu Dhabi's neighbor to the southeast.

At Hili, it is not just rock or stone remnants from the past lying on the...

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