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Collapse: Why do civilizations fall?
Collapse: Why do civilizations fall?Mali and Songhai
Related Web Sites 

Ancient Civilizations
A large collection of web sites relating to ancient civilizations.

Mali: Ancient Crossroads of Africa
An overview of the history, geography, and culture of this African nation, including lesson plans.

Dig Hungate
The Hungate excavation is the biggest ever archaeological dig in York city centre. The archaeologists will be uncovering 2000 years in the life of York until the end of 2011.

History Repeats Itself

Sometimes excavations not only throw light on the past, but also help illuminate the present. Consider the story of an archaeological discovery made in York, England.

Excavations in York uncovered a collection of purses from medieval times, emptied of money and other valuables. The spot where the medieval purses were found, clustered close together, was once part of the area of York called Swinegate. During the time of Chaucer, Swinegate was a maze of dark, badly lit alleys populated by thieves and prostitutes. The area remains much the same today.

What did the cluster of empty purses mean? Archaeologists found an answer in the behavior of modern-day thieves. Every Monday when the archaeologists returned to the excavation site after the weekend, they found more empty purses and wallets. These new wallets were not medieval artifacts, however; they were modern ones, apparently thrown into the alley by contemporary thieves. These purses and wallets had been stolen over the weekend, emptied of their contents, and discarded in the alley. This evidence left by modern-day criminals provided the analogy the archaeologists needed, showing how little this practice had changed since medieval times.

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