New research on Alfred the Great

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Republished from The Conversation


Aerial view of the Burghal Hidage site of Wallingford with the Thames in partial flood. Outline of the Saxon ramparts and ‘Alfredian’ streetplan is clear. Image courtesy of the Environmental Agency, Author provided

By Stuart Brookes

Senior Research Associate in Archaeology, UCL

The Last Kingdom – BBC’s historical drama set in the time of Alfred the Great’s war with the Vikings – has returned to our screens for a second series. While most attention will continue to focus on the fictional hero Uhtred, his story is played out against a political background where the main protagonist is the brooding and bookish mastermind Alfred the Great, vividly portrayed in the series by David Dawson.



Danish and Greek archaeologists excavate the ancient Greek harbour town Lechaion

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Republication from  the University of Copenhagen website

01 Aerial photo of the Western Mole (K. Xenikakis & S. Gesafidis)

Underwater archaeology. In Greece, underwater excavations of Lechaion, ancient Corinth’s partially submerged harbour town, reveal the infrastructure of more than a thousand years of flourishing maritime trade. Researchers from the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports and the University of Copenhagen are using cutting-edge methods to uncover the configuration and scale of the harbour.

Corinth ranked among the most economically and militarily powerful, and enduring, cities of the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods. The city had an exceptional geographical advantage in the North East corner of the Peloponnese and controlled the Isthmus that facilitated land travel between Northern and Southern Greece, and travel by sea between the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.



The Indo-European Cradle from a Linguistic and Archaeological standpoint

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Republication from the Annual Review of Linguistics


The Indo-European Homeland from Linguistic and Archaeological Perspectives

Vol. 1: 199-219 (Volume publication date January 2015)
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-linguist-030514-124812

David W. Anthony1 and Don Ringe2
1Anthropology Department, Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York
2Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Archaeological evidence and linguistic evidence converge in support of an origin of Indo-European languages on the Pontic-Caspian steppes around 4,000 years BCE. The evidence is so strong that arguments in support of other hypotheses should be reexamined.


Figure 1  Wheel terms found in Indo-European language branches. Modified with permission from Anthony (1995).



Fighting Tactics and Strategy of the Middle Byzantine Armies against Slavs & Eurasian Steppe Peoples – PART II


aaaaaaByzantine  iron  mail  cuirass  (Byzantine  Museum,  Athens,  Photo copyright: Giovanni  Dall’ Orto).


By  Periklis    Deligiannis


Continued from PART  I


The  best  time  of   the  year  to  unleash  a  campaign  against  the  steppe  peoples  was  February  or  March,  when  the    nomad  horses  were  not  in  a  good  physical  condition,  due  to  their  stress  from  the  winter  weather.
When  a  Byzantine  army  defended  the  imperial  territory  against  the  nomad  onslaught,  it  was  better  for  its  commander  to  cover  its  rear  which  could  be  rapidly  overtaken  by  galloping  enemy  horse-archers,  having  in  the  back  of  the  imperial  army  an  impassable  for  horses  geophysical  obstacle  (rugged  terrain,  river,  marshes  etc.).  During  the  battle,  the  Byzantine  frontline  should  be  consisted  of  infantry  spearmen (a  sort  of  pikemen),  who  pointed  their  spearheads  against  the  enemy  horses.  Usually  the  Byzantine  infantrymen  could  confront  the  steppe  warriors  more  effectively  than  the  imperial  cavalrymen,  so  the  Byzantine  infantry  and  cavalry  should  not  in  any  way,  be  severed  during  the  battle  against  them.  The  steppe  horse-archers  usually  feared  of  the  Middle  Byzantine  infantry  archers,  because  their  bows  had  usually  a  greater  range  of  bowshot  than  their  own  nomadic.  Both  of  them  (Byzantines  and  nomads)  used  types  of  composite  bows (mostly  of  Hunnic  design)  but  the  Middle  Byzantine  bows  were  more  effective.  The  tactics  of  the  combined  military  action  of  the  imperial  frontline  (infantry  spearmen)  with  the  archers of  the  middle  lines  of  the  Byzantine  order  of  battle  (who  hurled  bowshots  over  the  heads  of  their  fellow  spearmen),  were  almost  impossible  to  be  encountered  by  the  nomad  horse-archers.  Generally,  the  nomads  could  hardly  break  a  defensive  formation  of  this  type,  even  if  they  unleashed  against  it their  cataphracts/heavy  cavalry  (which  would  be  confronted  immediately  by  the  enemy  heavy  cavalry – Byzantine  or  any  other  imperial).
From  the  6th  century and on, the  Byzantine  Empire  had  to  deal  with  the  Slavic  invasion  of  its  territories.  The  Slavs  were  led  initially  by  Altaic (mostly  Turkic),  Sarmatian  and  other  steppe  tribes  which  had  been  imposed  to  them  as  suzerains  (sometimes  without  any  Slavic  reaction  as  it  seems,  due  to  the  military  benefits  for  the  Slavs  from  their  cooperation  in  raids  with  the  powerful  nomad  cavalry).  This  is the  reason  why  the  Byzantine  tactics  against  them,  are  dealt  in  this  essay  along  with  the  imperial  tactics  against  the  Eurasian  nomads.