Last-Minute Gifts for Ancient History Lovers

Holiday Gifts for Ancient Historians

Shopping for that ancient history lover in your life this holiday season? Following in the footsteps of Ancient Blogger, who posted a great vlog about books to get for the antiquity-phile, here are some tidbits you can dig up for your historian pals.

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For the commuter

A board game of senet, in ebony and ivory, from the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun, discovered in the Valley of the Kings, Thebes, Egypt, North Africa, Africa
A board game of senet. Robert Harding / Getty Images

If your daily route to work or school is quite the schlep, pop in a CD of one of New York University professor Peter Meineck’s riveting talkson Greek mythology. Even if you think you already know everything about the Greeks – from Aristaeus to Zeus – Meineck reveals new and interesting points of view. He also converses with the listener, rather than lectures, in a manner that engages. An expert in ancient performance, Meineck provides invaluable insight into the way myths came to life in antiquity.

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For the gamer

Senet was the ancient Egyptian version of chess, more or less ... though its object was to get all your pieces safely off the board.  Many beautiful game boards have survived from antiquity, and it seems that individuals from all walks of life enjoyed playing senet. Give the Hasbro fan in your life a taste of old-school fun with a real-life senet set, based off of those found in ancient tombs. 

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For the numbers whiz

Doesn’t every mathematician want to declare their skills on their T-shirt? If that’s you, scoop up a “Here’s Looking at Euclid" tee, just one witty item from the Unemployed Philosophers’ Guild. Just a reminder for the non-geometry folks in the crowd - Euclid was a famous ancient geometrician who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, and wrote a lot about angles and ratios.

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For the amateur philosopher

Everyone loves Plato and his allegory of the cave – refresh your memory. Why not delve deeper into this story with a holiday gift? Bring the Greek author of the Republic to life with this clever tote.  Every student from your college common core curriculum classes will be jealous of your ancient wit.

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For the person who’s seen "300" too often

What time is it? If it’s time to rave over the ancient Greeks’ military prowess, then give your wannabe hoplite this clock, complete with an image worthy of any black- or red-figure vase. You’ll die a thousand deaths, just like one of the warriors on the wall clock, before you’re late to work again. 

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For the shovel bum-to-be

Who hasn’t heard that archaeology isn’t the most profitable field? In fact, Forbes recently named archaeology and anthropology the worst college majors. But that didn’t discourage author Marilyn A. Johnson, who dug deep into archaeologists’ lives to write the excellent Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble. Johnson explores the highs, lows, and deep pits of dirt through which archaeologists wade, all en route to painting fascinating portraits of the archaeologists she truly admires.

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For the clever quippers

Vicki León combines a sense of humor with history; she’s published a successful series of tomes about important women across the centuries, as well as titles like Working IX to V. Learn about the world of Venus in The Joy of Sexus: Lust, Love, and Longing in the Ancient World, or school yourself on ladies of the past in Uppity Women of Ancient Times. Either way, you'll be laughing all the way to the Forum.

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For the mythophile

Even if famed poet-turned-mythographer Robert Graves’ interpretation of myths (i.e., that matriarchies once ruled and worshiped a Mother Goddess) has since been debunked, his compendium of myths, aptly titled The Greek Myths, remains a classic. Complete with a gorgeous new cover and an introduction from Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan, the latest edition of The Greek Myths contains seemingly every variation of each myth and is a painstaking effort worth reading.

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For bath time

Sesame Street’s “Rubber Duckie” is a classic, but even old-school standards can use a tune-up. Take a nice soak in the bath with a gladiator duck that’s is inspired by the British Museum’s priceless Roman collection. Who wouldn’t want a such a cute – and historical! - bathtime pal?

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For the collector

Qin Shi Huangdi was the first emperor of China, but his legacy didn’t end with his death. In 1974, his tomb was excavated; it contained nearly eight thousand models of clay soldiers, many of which bear individualized faces. Dubbed the Terracotta Army, these soldiers are life-size, but you can get your own mini-men. Bring home models of the famous terracotta soldiers and show off your cultural savvy.