Halloween: Strange goings-on at Downie Towers

“The Britain of today,” asserted Pliny back in the first century, “performs the rites of magic in manic fashion.” Given the piles of plastic Halloween tat in the shops here, it’s hard to see that much has changed. I’m normally as cynical as Pliny about this sort of thing, but at four o’clock this morning, … Continue reading Halloween: Strange goings-on at Downie Towers

The library of illegible books

Big news in recent weeks, as Ruso and Tilla have mentioned on their Facebook page. (They must be reading my mind.) It now seems someone's found a way to read the charcoal ink on the scrolls that were burned to a crisp by Vesuvius almost 2000 years ago. There really is a chance that Herculaneum's … Continue reading The library of illegible books

Can I try that question again, please?

One of the perils of combining a haphazard approach to research with a terrible memory is that I often recall useful things that I read a long time ago, but it's impossible to quote them because I no longer know where they were. Worse, I sometimes wonder whether they really existed or whether I made … Continue reading Can I try that question again, please?

Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum

I  love the British Museum more every time I visit. Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed by the same volcano AD 79, in but in different ways, so that different kinds of things survived in the buried wreckage. Now the British Museum has cleverly put items from the two together to give a vivid picture of … Continue reading Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum