The most recent issue of Ancient Warfare magazine (X.6) contains an article on the battle of Chang-Ping in the Warring States period where allegedly several hundred thousand conscripts lost their lives. In western Eurasia, the first reliable evidence that anyone brought a hundred thousand or more combatants to a battle appears around the time of the Napoleonic Wars. (I could talk about what counts as reliable evidence, but suffice it to say that this is an empirical question and that numbers in stories about armies long ago and far away do not count). Occasionally one hears higher figures from India or China. Does any of my gentle readers know if those sizes are based on any real evidence, or just the usual choice between the various numbers given in stories about the battle?
A village in France has preserved the bedroom of a young officer who died in the First World War
Wardle, Higham, and Kromer, Dating the End of the Greek Bronze Age DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106672
Events in the eastern Mediterranean in the second millennium BCE are usually assigned dates in our calendar on the basis of Egyptian and Mesopotamian king lists. Quite a few scholars are suspicious of the most popular system and some of them propose adjustments of 50, 100, or even 250 years. (Some king lists double-count periods where a king reigned together with his heir, and some invent ancestors or treat dynasties which existed at the same time in different regions as reigning one after another to imply that their ancestors always had a large, powerful kingdom; periods when there was no powerful central authority producing documents dated according to a single system also cause problems). The best solution would be to link kings from the lists to timbers whose rings can be put into a continuous sequence of tree rings from the Bronze Age to the present (dendrochronology), but for obvious reasons large timbers rarely survive from the region. Attempts to assign absolute dates on the basis of radiocarbon dating are fraught with problems, but the authors of this paper think that they have overcome them for one site in the Aegean. I will be very interested to see what specialists in Aegean archaeology and carbon dating have to say about their work. Further Reading: Jona Lendering, Mesopotamian Chronology, Aegean Dendrochronology Project, and for real nerds Regine Pruzsinszky, Mesopotamian Chronology of the 2nd Millennium B.C. Verlag für österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Wien 2009.
Novelist Christian Cameron has written a thoughtful essay on the value of recreating ancient experiences to understand the past
The team excavating the Antikythera Shipwreck with new equipment has a blog
Anthony Sattin reviews a book on the North Sea heritage of modern Europe. To his last rhetorical question I would answer “clearly both, and more besides.”
Many shields in the ancient world were made from basketwork, from bundles of reeds, or from sticks thrust through sheets of hide. A group in Germany has constructed a woven rattan shield based on 19th century Chinese examples here (thanks to Ben Judkins of Chinese Martial Arts Studies http://chinesemartialstudies.com/2014/11/03/through-a-lens-darkly-28-teng-pai-woven-shields-lances-and-william-mesny/
A very good armourer remarks on how much one can learn by studying photos of armour here