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The new Peru Show at the British Museum is a Triumph. But…

November 13th, 2021 No comments

A big new show about Peru has just opened at the British Museum to showcase the almost four millennia of Peruvian civilisation that preceded the destructive arrival of the Spanish.

It’s the first at the museum since almost the Second World War, so quite a moment to have a look at the Incas and their predecessors.

I’m pleased to report that thanks to energetic and intelligent curatorship from Jago Cooper (known to TV audiences for his work on presenting Latin American archaeology) and Cecilia Pardo, this is a triumphant success.

That said, the curators have their work cut out. Although using some of the central main space in the British Museum, it’s a smaller show than others have been, so needs to be concentrated.

And I know only too well from my Cochineal Red book – being sold alongside the exhibition –  the challenges already involved in trying to present the huge span of Peruvian prehistory to an audience who may be unfamiliar with the route map of the rise and fall of its civilisations. Read more…

Neanderthal and Proud

April 28th, 2021 No comments

A little while ago my brother decided to get a DNA test. So far, so good and why not. He discovered, and decided to share with his siblings, without necessarily asking us if we wanted him to, that we were all descended from a mix of the usual British suspects – a bit of Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Celt – and were predisposed to standard diseases and health risks.

But he kept one surprise back to the end. We had double the normal amount of Neanderthal in our genes.

For those who haven’t been keeping up, it’s now well established that we all have a small quantity of Neanderthal genes. This is the result of contact that occurred largely in the Middle East and  Europe when homo sapiens arrived to find Neanderthals already there, sometime before 40,000 BC.  And given that’s a fair while ago, there must been a great deal of what scientists genteelly call ‘interbreeding’ for even some of that still to survive diluted today. Read more…