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World-renowned Ring of Brodgar stone circle vandalised in Orkney

Press Association


© Getty The Ring of Brodgar originally comprised 60 stones, of which 36 survive.

A world-renowned stone circle in Orkney, which is more than 4,000 years old, has been vandalised.

Damage to the Ring of Brodgar includes graffiti that has been engraved into one of the stones at the Neolithic site near Stenness. It is believed to have been caused sometime between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning.

Insp David Hall from Police Scotland said: “The stones at the Ring of Brodgar are priceless historical artefacts and the damage caused cannot simply be estimated in monetary terms.

“For someone to damage them in this way is a particularly mindless act. I would urge anyone who has visited the area over the last weekend to think back and if they believe they may have seen something suspicious, even if it didn’t seem of much note at the time, to let us know.

“We would also urge the public to continue to be vigilant at this site and report anything which could be of interest to police immediately.”


© Getty The ancient standing stones of the Ring of Brodgar

The ring originally comprised 60 stones, of which 36 survive.

It is within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney Unesco world heritage site, which also includes a large chambered tomb called Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness and the Skara Brae settlement.

The ring was built around 2,500-2,000BC and covers an area of almost 8,500 sq metres (91,500 sq ft).

It is the third largest stone circle in the British Isles, behind Avebury and Stanton Drew, and the largest in Scotland.


© Getty

One of the stones had previously been vandalised, carrying a Norse runic inscription, while at least one other has been struck by lightning.

Celebrated visitors include Sir Walter Scott, who in 1814 wrote of the ring and the Stones of Stenness that “Stonehenge excels these monuments, but I fancy they are otherwise unparalleled in Britain”.


© Getty

Historic Environment Scotland notes suggestions that the sites and monuments in the surrounding area were used for astrological observations from the ring, but it is difficult to find conclusive evidence.

A spokeswoman for the public body said: “We were recently made aware of an incident of vandalism to the Ring of Brodgar. We would ask the public to be aware that causing reckless or deliberate damage to a scheduled monument is a criminal offence, and ask that anyone witnessing such acts report them to Police Scotland.”




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Absolute wankers. Like the arseholes who starting taking momentos and leaving their names etched on ruins when Derwent Water dried up last summer revealing the submerged village. Why can't people leave things alone?

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Notre-Dame de Paris


Notre-Dame de Paris (/ˌnɒtrə ˈdɑːm, ˌnoʊtrə ˈdeɪm, ˌnoʊtrə ˈdɑːm/ French: [nɔtʁə dam də paʁi; meaning "Our Lady of Paris"), often referred to simply as Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, France.The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Its innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress, its enormous and colourful rose windows, and the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration set it apart from the earlier Romanesque style

The cathedral was begun in 1160 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and was largely complete by 1260, though it was modified frequently in the ensuing centuries. In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration during the French Revolution; much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. In 1804, the cathedral was the site of the Coronation of Napoleon I as Emperor of France and witnessed the baptism of Henri, Count of Chambord in 1821 and the funerals of several presidents of the Third French Republic.

Popular interest in the cathedral blossomed soon after the publication, in 1831, of Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. This led to a major restoration project between 1844 and 1864, supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who added the cathedral's iconic spire. The liberation of Paris was celebrated within Notre-Dame in 1944 with the singing of the Magnificat. Beginning in 1963, the façade of the cathedral was cleaned of centuries of soot and grime, returning it to its original colour.[which?] Another cleaning and restoration project was carried out between 1991 and 2000.

The cathedral is one of the most widely recognized symbols of the city of Paris and the French nation. As the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris, Notre-Dame contains the cathedral of the Archbishop of Paris (Michel Aupetit). 12 million people visit Notre-Dame annually, making it the most visited monument in Paris.

While undergoing renovation and restoration, the cathedral caught fire on 15 April 2019 and sustained significant damage, including the destruction of the spire and two-thirds of the roof.] French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Notre-Dame will be rebuilt, stating "It's part of the fate, the destiny of France, and our common project over the coming years. And I am committed to it.



It is believed that before the period of Christianity in France, a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter stood on the site of Notre-Dame. Evidence for this is the Pillar of the Boatmen, discovered in 1710. This building was replaced with an Early Christian basilica. It is unknown whether this church, dedicated to Saint Stephen, was constructed in the late 4th century and remodelled later, or if it was built in the 7th century from an older church, possibly the cathedral of Childebert The basilica, later cathedral, of Saint-Étienne [fr] was situated about 40 metres (130 ft) west of Notre-Dame's location and was wider and lower and roughly half its size. For its time, it was very large—70 metres (230 ft) long—and separated into nave and four aisles by marble columns, then decorated with mosaics.

A baptistery, the Church of John the Baptist [fr], built before 452, was located on the north side of the church of Saint-Étienne until the work of Jacques-Germain Soufflot in the 18th century. Four churches succeeded the Roman temple before Notre-Dame. The first was the 4th-century basilica of Saint-Etienne, then the Merovingian renovation of that church which was, in turn, remodeled in 857 under the Carolingians into a cathedral. The last church before the cathedral of Notre-Dame was a Romanesque remodelling of the prior structures that, although enlarged and remodelled, was found to be unfit for the growing population of Paris.

In 1160, the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, decided to build a new and much larger church. He summarily demolished the Romanesque cathedral and chose to recycle its materials. Sully decided that the new church should be built in the new Gothic style, as by then a number of large Gothic cathedrals had already been raised elsewhere in France.




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Ancient 3,000-year-old tablet suggests Biblical king was real: Archaeologists find name of King Balak who persecuted Jews after they escaped from Egypt on 9th century BC stone


Video by FOX News

King Balak, a biblical King of the ancient Hebrews, may have been a historical figure, say researchers studying a 2,800-year-old inscribed stone.

According to the story, which is in the Old Testament, Balak made many attempts to curse and persecute the Jews.

The ancient tablet, called the Mesha Steele, describes various conflicts and conquests that happened during the 9th century.

Although parts of the inscription are badly cracked and eroded, line 31, previously thought to refer to 'House of David', may actually be describing King Balak.

The team, from Tel Aviv University, think they've spotted three consonants, the first of which is the Hebrew letter 'beth,' which sounds like 'B.' 

The team can't be sure, but the team think it's 'very likely' the inscription on the 31st line, the bottom of the Stele, refers to King Balak. 

The new analysis of the stone suggests that Balak, a key character in a biblical parable in the book of Numbers, may be mentioned as a rival to Mesha.  


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited King Balak, a biblical King of the ancient Hebrews, may have actually been a historical figure, say researchers studying a 2,800-year-old inscribed stone. The tablet, called the Mesha Steele, describes various conflicts and conquests that happened during the 9th century

'We are dealing with a name that has three characters, starting with a B. We know from the bible that Balak was the king of Moab and that he ruled from a location in southern Moab—as described in the Stele,' Israel Finkelstein from Tel Aviv University, told NewsWeek. 

But he admitted that he can't be certain: 'At the end of the day, the reconstruction of the name 'Balak' is circumstantial,' he said.

The authors studied new high-resolution photographs of the tablet and of the stele itself. 

The new analysis suggests that Balak, a Moabite ruler who is a key character in a biblical parable in the book of Numbers (chapters 22-24), may be mentioned in the stele as a rival to Mesha for supremacy over Moab.

In the story, he asks the prophet Balaam to curse the people of Israel. 

The seat of the king referred to in Line 31 was at Horonaim, a place mentioned four times in the Bible in relation to the Moabite territory south of the Arnon River. 

'Thus, Balak may be a historical personality like Balaam, who, before the discovery of the Deir Alla inscription, was considered to be an 'invented' figure,' the authors wrote. 


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The team, from Tel Aviv University, think they've spotted three consonants, the first of which is the Hebrew letter 'beth,' which sounds like 'B.' The team can't be sure, but Finkelstein think it's 'very likely' the inscription on the 31st line refers to King Balak. Here, line 31

Outside of the Bible, and now, the stele, historians haven't found any other mentions of Balak. 

In their paper, the authors write: 'The new photographs of the Mesha Stele indicate that the reading, House of David—accepted by many scholars for more than two decades—is no longer an option.'

If the research is right, it completely changes previous research of the local ruling forces of the time. 

'The reading 'Balak' instead of 'House of David' dismisses the possibility that Judah ruled over Moab. And it makes Balak a historical figure,' Mr Finkelstein said.

The Mesha Stele itself is a 3-foot-tall (1 meter) black basalt stone that dates to the second half of the ninth century BC.

The relic, which is on display at the Louvre in Paris, was discovered 150 years ago in the ruins of the biblical town of Dibon in Moab (present-day Jordan).

After westerners were made aware of it, several people tried to buy it from the Bedouins, who owned the stone. 


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The team can't be sure, but they think it's 'very likely' the inscription on the 31st line refers to King Balak. The new analysis of the stone suggests that Balak, a key character in a biblical parable in the book of Numbers, may be mentioned as a rival to Mesha

But negotiations soured between the Bedouins and the prospective buyers, Prussia (North Germany), France and England because of political affiliations with an Ottoman official, whom the Bedouins disliked. 

So, the Bedouins smashed the Mesha Stele into pieces by heating it up and pouring cold water on it. 

Parts of the ancient stone are still missing. 

Since then, archaeologists have tried to reassemble the smashed tablet by connecting the broken pieces.

It has proven to be a treasure trove of information on the history of ancient Israel, as well as a constant source of fuel for the debate over the accuracy of the Bible. 

In the text, dated to the second half of the 9th century B.C.E., the Moabite King Mesha boasts of defeating the northern Kingdom of Israel and its deity. 

The study was published in Tel Aviv: The Journal of the Institute of Archaeology.


Balak was a king of Moab who appears in the Old Testament in Numbers 22-24. 

 His story is in the context of the time of the Israelites' journey to the Promised Land. 

Moab, the land that Balak ruled, lay on the east side of the Dead Sea.

As the Israelites travelled to Canaan, their reputation preceded them, and the Moabites were well aware of the miracles that had accompanied Israel's exodus from Egypt. 

The inhabitants of the cities in Israel's path knew God was on the Israelites' side.

King Balak had witnessed the Israelites' destruction of the Amorites, and the entire region of Moab grew afraid as the Israelites approached.

When the Israelites encamped in territory that had once been Moab's, the king decided it was time to act. Balak and the elders of Moab colluded with the neighbouring Midianites to summon a prophet named Balaam.

Balaam eventually set out to meet Balak, and during his journey, the famous incident of the talking donkey occurred—God's message to Balaam that he should not curse the Israelites.

When Balaam stood before Balak, the king likely believed he had won and that the Israelites would soon be cursed. But instead of cursing the Israelites, Balaam blessed them three times. Balak's 'anger burned against Balaam' and he sent Balaam away without a reward.

Balak's plot to curse Israel through a hired prophet failed, but that was not the end of Moabite opposition.


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For some tourists, the goal of travel is to stand in the place where historical events took place: to follow in the footsteps of Jesus; follow the trade and pilgrimage routes of the Mayans, or stand on the field at Gettysburg. It’s an attempt to reach across time and grab a hold of the past but, in most cases, we are speaking in generalities. 

The via dolorosa—the pilgrimage route that Jesus took to Calvary and his death—is slightly wrong. And while you can go to Gettysburg you can’t necessarily pinpoint the exact spot where President Lincoln delivered his famous address (even though we do know the approximate place).

Now there’s a new exception to this rule: excavations at Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”) in Istanbul, the largest Christian cathedral built in the ancient world, have revealed a number of new and exciting discoveries. Among them is a disk identifying the exact spot at which the emperor Justinian I would have stood. 

He’s not as famous as Caesar or Augustus but Justinian I was the most influential and important Byzantine emperor. When Justinian came to power Vandals, Huns and Franks had conquered much of the western Roman empire. Justinian would then spend over two decades driving these “barbarians” from Italy and North Africa and restoring order to the Roman empire. 

His most important contribution, however, was his Corpus Iuris Civilis, or the Code of Justinian. It wasn’t the first Roman legal code, but it did reform and incorporate earlier material. 

His legal code remained the foundation of the Byzantine legal system for nine-hundred years and its influence is felt even to this day. Over two centuries ago the historian Edward Gibbon could write of him that while “the vain titles of the victories of Justinian are crumbled into dust… the name of the legislator is inscribed on a fair and lasting monument.”

The Cathedral itself has a lengthy and violent history. Construction on the current structures began in 537 CE. It was built on the site of an earlier church, known as the “Great Church,” which was burned down during rioting in the early fifth century. A second church, ordered by the emperor Theodosius II, was also almost entirely destroyed during the Nika Revolt (532 CE), an uprising that burned nearly half the city and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

To replace it, Justinian decided to build a third larger and more inspiring church; one that would dwarf its predecessors. Even at the time, it was recognized as a structure of great architectural significance. And it became the site of important imperial rituals, including coronations. In the medieval period, the Cathedral was, according to the Byzantine era historian Niketas Choniates, sacked by Crusaders at the behest of the Doge of Venice during the Fourth Crusade. It was then pillaged again in 1453 after Mehmet II captured Constantinople.

When Mehmet II entered the Cathedral after the three days of brutally violent looting and pillaging, he commanded that it be converted into a mosque. Over the following centuries, a number of Sultans contributed to the maintenance and improvement of the building, then, in 1935, the building was converted into a museum.

Now researchers are discovering that the Byzantine structure was larger and more elaborate than previously believed. A team of archaeologists led by Ken Dark, an archaeologist at the University of Reading and Jan Kostenec, a founding member and director of the Czech Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology, worked at the site from 2004-2018. Many of their discoveries were made during an official restoration. When museum officials removed recently added plaster, Dark and Kostenec found mosaics, frescos, tiles, and graffiti from the ancient and medieval periods.

In their recently published book Hagia Sophia: An Archaeological Reexamination of the Cathedral of Byzantine Constantinople Dark and Kostenec announced that they have discovered what is likely to be the baptistery, which was previously believed to be lost. Some 1400 years ago this structure would have hosted the baptism of the children of the emperor and initiated the offspring of elite society into the church. In addition, they discovered what may have been an ancient library underneath a large hall. The size of the potential library means that it would have been able to house thousands of scrolls, only adding to its importance as a site of learning and intellectual inquiry in the late antique world.

It was in another building, known as the northeast vestibule, that archaeologists discovered and identified a disc-shaped spot made out of a porphyry rock as the place where the emperor would have stood. The disk forms part of the original sixth-century floor of the church constructed by Justinian. Ken Dark told Live Science “As such, it is probably the only place where it is possible to identify anywhere the precise spot on which the most famous  Byzantine emperor stood.”

If you want to follow in the footsteps of one of history’s greatest legislators you may have to act soon: Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum is currently under threat. In 2018 and again last month President Erdoğan indicated that he intends to convert the museum back into a mosque. 


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Last American slave ship is discovered in Alabama

Joel K. Bourne, Jr.

The schooner Clotilda—the last known ship to bring enslaved Africans to America’s shores—has been discovered in a remote arm of Alabama’s Mobile River following an intensive yearlong search by marine archaeologists.

"Descendants of the Clotilda survivors have dreamed of this discovery for generations," says Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, executive director of the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) and the State Historic Preservation Officer. "We’re thrilled to announce that their dream has finally come true."

The captives who arrived aboard Clotilda were the last of an estimated 389,000 Africans delivered into bondage in mainland America from the early 1600s to 1860. Thousands of vessels were involved in the transatlantic trade, but very few slave wrecks have ever been found.


A mural of the Clotilda adorns a concrete embankment in Africatown, a community near Mobile founded by Africans illegally transported to Alabama aboard the slave ship. Some of their descendants still live in the neighborhood.

"The discovery of the Clotilda sheds new light on a lost chapter of American history," says Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, which supported the search. "This finding is also a critical piece of the story of Africatown, which was built by the resilient descendants of America’s last slave ship."

Rare firsthand accounts left by the slaveholders as well as their victims offer a one-of-a-kind window into the Atlantic slave trade, says Sylviane Diouf, a noted historian of the African diaspora.

"It’s the best documented story of a slave voyage in the Western Hemisphere," says Diouf, whose 2007 book, Dreams of Africa in Alabama, chronicles the Clotilda’s saga. "The captives were sketched, interviewed, even filmed," she says, referring to some who lived into the 20th century. "The person who organized the trip talked about it. The captain of the ship wrote about it. So we have the story from several perspectives. I haven’t seen anything of that sort anywhere else."


One hundred and nine African captives survived the brutal, six-week passage from West Africa to Alabama in Clotilda’s cramped hold. Originally built to transport cargo, not people, the schooner was unique in design and dimensions—a fact that helped archaeologists identify the wreck.

It began with a bet

Clotilda’s story began when Timothy Meaher, a wealthy Mobile landowner and shipbuilder, allegedly wagered several Northern businessmen a thousand dollars that he could smuggle a cargo of Africans into Mobile Bay under the nose of federal officials.

Importing slaves into the United States had been illegal since 1808, and southern plantation owners had seen prices in the domestic slave trade skyrocket. Many, including Meaher, were advocating for reopening the trade.

Meaher chartered a sleek, swift schooner named Clotilda and enlisted its builder, Captain William Foster, to sail it to the notorious slave port of Ouidah in present-day Benin to buy captives. Foster left West Africa with 110 young men, women, and children crowded into the schooner’s hold. One girl reportedly died during the brutal six-week voyage. Purchased for $9,000 in gold, the human cargo was worth more than 20 times that amount in 1860 Alabama.

After transferring the captives to a riverboat owned by Meaher’s brother, Foster burned the slaver to the waterline to hide their crime. Clotilda kept her secrets over the decades, even as some deniers contended that the shameful episode never occurred.

After the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, the Africans longed to return to their home in West Africa. Lacking the means, they managed to buy small plots of land north of Mobile, where they formed their own tight-knit community that came to be known as Africatown. There they made new lives for themselves but never lost their African identity. Many of their descendants still live there today and grew up with stories of the famous ship that brought their ancestors to Alabama.

"If they find evidence of that ship, it's going to be big," descendant Lorna Woods predicted earlier this year. "All Mama told us would be validated. It would do us a world of good."

Mary Elliott, a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, agrees.

"There are many examples today—the Tulsa race riots of 1921, this story, even the Holocaust—where some people say it never happened. Now, because of the archaeology, the archival research, the science combined with the collective memories of the community, it can't be refuted. They are now connected to their ancestors in a tangible way, knowing this story is true." 


Maritime archaeologist James Delgado scans a section of the Mobile River during the search for Clotilda’s final resting place.

The hunt for lost history

Several attempts to locate Clotilda’s remains have been made over the years, but the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is rife with sloughs, oxbows, and bayous, as well as scores of shipwrecks from more than three centuries of maritime activity. Then in January 2018, a local journalist reported that he had discovered the remains of a large wooden ship during an abnormally low tide. The AHC, which owns all abandoned ships in Alabama’s state waters, called in the archaeology firm Search, Inc., to investigate the hulk.

The vessel in question turned out to be another ship, but the false alarm focused national attention on the long-lost slaver. The incident also prompted the AHC to fund further research in partnership with the National Geographic Society and Search, Inc.

Researchers combed through hundreds of original sources from the period and analyzed records of more than 2,000 ships that were operating in the Gulf of Mexico during the late 1850s. They discovered that Clotilda was one of only five Gulf-built schooners then insured. Registration documents provided detailed descriptions of the schooner, including its construction and dimensions.

"Clotilda was an atypical, custom-built vessel," says maritime archaeologist James Delgado of Search, Inc. "There was only one Gulf-built schooner 86 feet long with a 23-foot beam and a six-foot, 11-inch hold, and that was Clotilda."

Records also noted that the schooner was built of southern yellow pine planking over white oak frames and was outfitted with a 13-foot-long centerboard that could be raised or lowered as needed to access shallow harbors.

Based on their research of possible locations, Delgado and Alabama state archaeologist Stacye Hathorn focused on a stretch of the Mobile River that had never been dredged. Deploying divers and an array of devices—a magnetometer for detecting metal objects, a side-scan sonar for locating structures on and above the river bottom, and a sub-bottom profiler for detecting objects buried beneath the mucky riverbed—they discovered a veritable graveyard of sunken ships.

Most were easily eliminated: wrong size, metal hull, wrong type of wood. But one vessel, labeled Target 5, stood out from the rest. It "matched everything on record about Clotilda," says Delgado, including its design and dimensions, the type of wood and metal used in its construction, and evidence that it had burned.

Samples of wood recovered from Target 5 are white oak and southern yellow pine from the Gulf coast. The archaeologists also found the remains of a centerboard of the correct size.

Metal fasteners from its hull are made of hand-forged pig iron, the same type known to have been used on Clotilda. And there’s evidence that the hull was originally sheathed with copper, as was then common practice for oceangoing merchant vessels.

No nameplate or other inscribed artifacts conclusively identified the wreck, Delgado says, "but looking at the various pieces of evidence, you can reach a point beyond reasonable doubt."

A national slave ship memorial?

The wreck of Clotilda now carries the dreams of Africatown, which has suffered from declining population, poverty, and a host of environmental insults from heavy industries that surround the community. Residents hope that the wreck will generate tourism and bring businesses and employment back to their streets. Some have even suggested it be raised and put on display.

The community was recently awarded nearly $3.6 million from the BP Deepwater Horizon legal settlement to rebuild a visitor center destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. But what’s left of the burned-out wreck is in very poor condition, says Delgado. Restoring it would cost many millions of dollars.

But a national slave ship memorial—akin to the watery grave of the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor—might be an option. There visitors could reflect on the horrors of the slave trade and be reminded of Africa’s enormous contribution to the making of America.

"We are still living in the wake of slavery," says Paul Gardullo, director of the Center for the Study of Global Slavery at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and a member of the Slave Wrecks Project that was involved in the search for Clotilda. “We continue to be confronted by slavery. It keeps popping up because we haven’t dealt with this past. If we do our work right, we have an opportunity not just to reconcile, but to make some real change.”

The Alabama Historical Commission will release the official archaeology report at a community celebration in Africatown on Thursday, May 30.



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Not read whole thread so apologies if already mentioned. 

There's 2 new exhibitions at Kensington Palace open from tomorrow in honour of Queen Victoria and 200 years since she was born. One focusing on her childhood and the other focusing on her time and history with India. 

My missus loves Queen Victoria so we may go. Tickets only £17.50 for adults which is pretty decent considering you get other stuff along with access to Palace grounds etc. 

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2 minutes ago, Stan said:

Not read whole thread so apologies if already mentioned. 

There's 2 new exhibitions at Kensington Palace open from tomorrow in honour of Queen Victoria and 200 years since she was born. One focusing on her childhood and the other focusing on her time and history with India. 

My missus loves Queen Victoria so we may go. Tickets only £17.50 for adults which is pretty decent considering you get other stuff along with access to Palace grounds etc. 

No, it's not mentioned, my wife is the one for Royalty and all them things and if there is ever any show about the late Princess Diana the wife will watch it or as I said, anything to do with Royalty, if we lived down South and the wife had a chance to go she would jump at it lol. 

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@Stan you may like this.:ay:



Seven places celebrating Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday


The bicentenary of the births of both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert occur in 2019. These historic Royal events are being marked by several exhibitions and other activities as Val Baynton explains.

  1. Kensington Palace
  2. Buckingham Palace
  3. Osborne, Isle of Wight
  4. Houses of Parliament
  5. Victorian & Albert Museum
  6. Windsor Castle
  7. Frogmore House






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The man who made Einstein world-famous



It is hard to imagine a time when Albert Einstein's name was not recognised around the world.

But even after he finished his theory of relativity in 1915, he was nearly unknown outside Germany - until British astronomer, Arthur Stanley Eddington became involved.

Einstein's ideas were trapped by the blockades of the Great War, and even more by the vicious nationalism that made "enemy" science unwelcome in the UK.

But Einstein, a socialist, and Eddington, a Quaker, both believed that science should transcend the divisions of the war.

It was their partnership that allowed relativity to leap the trenches and make Einstein one of the most famous people on the globe.

Einstein and Eddington did not meet during the war or even send direct messages. Instead, a mutual friend in the neutral Netherlands decided to spread the new theory of relativity to Britain.

Einstein was very, very lucky that it was Eddington, the Plumian Professor at Cambridge and officer of the Royal Astronomical Society, who received that letter.

Not only did he understand the theory's complicated mathematics, as a pacifist he was one of the few British scientists willing to even think about German science.

He dedicated himself to championing Einstein to both revolutionise the foundations of science and restore internationalism to scientists themselves.

Einstein was the perfect symbol for this - a brilliant, peaceful German who refuted every wartime stereotype while challenging the deepest truths of Newton himself.

Desperate fight to test Einstein's theory

So, as Einstein was trapped in Berlin, starving behind the blockade and living under government surveillance for his political views, Eddington tried to convince a hostile English-speaking world that an enemy scientist was worthy of their attention.

He wrote the first books on relativity, gave popular lectures on Einstein, and became one of the great science communicators of the 20th Century.

His books stayed on the bestseller lists for decades, he was a constant presence on BBC radio and was eventually knighted for this work.


It was hard to convince the UK to care about space-time and gravity as the U-boats were sinking food transports, and thousands of young lives were lost for meagre gains in Flanders, Belgium.

Just Einstein's ideas were not enough. Relativity is strange, with twins ageing differently and planets trapped by warped space.

Eddington needed a definitive demonstration that relativity was true and Einstein was right and that only his international approach could revolutionise science.

His best option was to test a bizarre prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity.

When light passed near a massive body like the Sun, Einstein said, gravity would bend the rays ever so slightly.

This meant the image of a distant star would be shifted a small amount - the star would seem to be in the wrong place.

Einstein predicted a specific number for that shift (1.7 arc-seconds, or about 1/60 millimetre on a photograph). An astronomer would find this challenging to measure, but it could be done.

Unfortunately, it is normally impossible to see stars during daytime, so one would have to wait until a total solar eclipse to make the observation.

Total eclipses are rare, short, and often located in inconvenient places requiring extensive travel for European astronomers. Einstein had been trying for years to have this prediction tested, with no success.

Eddington, though, thought he might be able to make it happen at an upcoming eclipse in May 1919, visible in the southern hemisphere.

Even with the U-boat threat, no country was better positioned than Britain to undertake an expedition to test Einstein's prediction.



Eddington needed a great deal of support for this.

Fortunately, he was close friends with Frank W Dyson, the Astronomer Royal. Dyson secured funding, although even with the money the war made it difficult to procure needed equipment.

Even worse, it was possible that Eddington would not be able to go on the expedition - because he might be in prison.

As a Quaker, Eddington was a conscientious objector to the war and refused to participate in conscription. Many other Quakers ended up jailed or performing hard labour.

After many failed appeals it seemed that Eddington would be arrested, but at the last moment, he received an exemption (no doubt engineered by his politically savvy friend the astronomer royal).

Amazingly, it was given on the condition that he carry out the expedition to test Einstein's theory.

'Greatest moment in life'

The armistice in November 1918 meant that the expedition could go ahead.

Eddington wanted to make sure the results of the expedition, whatever they were, brought Einstein to the attention of the world.

So he and Dyson started a public relations campaign to get both the scientific community and ordinary people excited for the results.

The newspapers were primed and ready to report on what Eddington presented as an epic battle between Britain's own Newton and the upstart Einstein.

Einstein, seriously ill from wartime starvation and trying to navigate revolution-torn Berlin, knew little of this.

Instead, Eddington and his colleagues had to test Einstein's prediction almost completely on their own.

Two teams were sent to observe the eclipse: one to Brazil, and one - led by Eddington - to the island of Principe in West Africa.



On 29 May 1919 - 100 years ago - those astronomers watched the darkened sky for six minutes to catch the smallest change in the stars to reveal the greatest change in our understanding of the universe.

Nearly ruined by weather, equipment malfunctions, and steamship strikes, the expeditions brought back photographs that hopefully showed stars displaced by the Sun's gravity.

After months of intense measurement and mathematics, Eddington had a positive result.

He called this the greatest moment of his life: "I knew that Einstein's theory had stood the test and the new outlook of scientific thought must prevail."

He presented the results to a room at the Royal Society packed with scientists and reporters eager to hear who had triumphed, Einstein or Newton (even as the portrait of Newton gazed over the proceedings).

The announcement created an enormous stir. The president of the Royal Society declared this "one of the highest achievements in human thought".

The Times headline the next day read "Revolution in Science".

Eddington had planned the event perfectly. Einstein, virtually overnight, went from an obscure academic to a sage everyone wanted to know more about.

And Eddington gave the public what they wanted. As the chief apostle of relativity in the Anglophone world, he was the one every newspaper and magazine went to.

His lectures had to turn away hundreds of people. Those who made it in not only learned about the strange physics of relativity but also about Einstein as the symbol of international science, able to rise above the hatred and chaos of war.

Einstein himself could barely rise from his sickbed. He heard about the results from a telegram via the Netherlands.

He was delighted that his theory had been verified even as he was baffled by the media firestorm that suddenly enveloped his life.

Never again would he be able to venture through his front door without being accosted by reporters.

Without Eddington, relativity would have gone unproven, and Einstein would have never become the icon of genius.

Eddington was Einstein's most essential ally, though they did not meet until years after the war's end.

Their collaboration was crucial not only to the birth of modern physics but to the survival of science as an international community through the darkest days of World War One.

Matthew Stanley is the author of Einstein's War: How Relativity Conquered Nationalism and Shook the World


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Khufu ship: Five things you didn’t know about Egyptian Pharaoh’s vessel buried with him

Tim Wyatt


The discovery of the Khufu ship – an ancient Egyptian pharaoh’s barge buried inside his funeral pyramid – in 1954 is being celebrated by a Google Doodle today.

It is 65 years to the day since archaeologists stumbled across the vessel inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The wooden ship is 4,600 years old and was reportedly so well-designed it could still sail if launched back onto the Nile today.

Although the exact purpose of the boat remains a mystery, historians believe it was placed inside the pyramid for the pharaoh Khufu, who is buried there.

It is sometimes known as a “solar barge” because it is thought it was included inside Khufu’s burial chamber to allow him to sail across the heavens after death with the sun god Ra.

It was discovered on 26 May 1954 by archaeologist Kamal el-Mallakh, when he dug under a stone wall on the south side of the Great Pyramid.

He then unearthed a row of stone blocks covering a pit in the ground, which held a series of carefully piled cedarwood planks, ropes and other parts needed to reconstruct the ship.

However, it was not known how ancient Egyptians had constructed their vessels, forcing restoration experts to learn from scratch about shipbuilding.

Over a decade later, experts had managed to put together the 1,224 individual pieces into the 44-metre long boat.

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It can now be seen inside the specially-built Giza Solar Boat Museum, just outside the pyramid. A second dissembled ship was also discovered inside the pyramid and reconstruction began in 2011.

Khufu, known to the Greek world as Cheops, was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty and ruled more than 2,500 years before Jesus was born. Apart from commissioning the Great Pyramid of Giza, little else is known about his reign.


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The king behind Machu Picchu built his legacy in stone

Eleanor Cummins


Popular Science’s new series, The Builders, takes you behind the construction tape to reveal the individuals responsible for history’s greatest architectural works.

Glance at an Incan brick, and you’ll notice there’s very little that’s conventionally bricklike about it. There are no right angles, with no proper corners. And it’s not a rectangle at all, but a trapezoid: one side wider and squatter than the other. Look at another. Then another. Then another. No two are exactly the same, each a polygonal version of the unique rock it started as.

Carefully stacked together like a 15th-century game of Tetris, these seemingly haphazard blocks have withstood 500 years of disasters, both natural and human. The signature style of the pre-Columbian empire, these stones marked the Inca expansion some 2,500 miles down the backbone of South America. The sprawl took just a few decades, propelled by the strength of a man named Pachacuti, the ninth Sapa Inca (the indigenous Quechua term for “king”). His most impressive building project was Machu Picchu, a 200-building, a mountain-hugging summer resort for the ruler and his extended family. But this wonder of the world is just one place where Pachacuti carefully recorded his legacy—and building concepts that continue to help us create more-resilient cities—stone by stone.

Born in 1438 as Cusi Yupanqui, Pachacuti didn’t plan his rise to power. When the Chankas, an enemy ethnic group invaded, his father, then king, and his brother, the future ruler, retreated. Cusi Yupanqui had to defend the Inca’s fertile Peruvian valley alone. The puma-shaped crown city of Cusco occupied a sacred spot in between two forking rivers, and the Chankas wanted to call the prestigious place their own.

As the Chankas made their way toward the gold-plated Temple of the Sun, part fortress and part temple, Cusi Yupanqui led his men into a battle so ferocious that the stones beneath the warriors’ feet rose up to fight alongside them—or so the story goes. In the aftermath, the victorious Inca rechristened their leader Pachacuti, or “Earth-Shaker.” After his brother’s eventual murder and his father’s death, Pachacuti ascended the throne as the sole king of Cusco.

Unsatisfied with this one little valley, he set about conquering swaths of the Andes, knitting together lands in the vast quilt of the expanding Inca Empire, which at its zenith stretched from Quito, Ecuador, in the north, down a long coastal strip to Talca, Chile in the south. The Inca laid roads and raised cities among diverse natural ecosystems, from the Atacama—the only desert drier than the poles—to the rainforests of Cusco to the flood zones of Machu Picchu. Everything they built, they built to last, with the aid of Pachacuti’s soldiers, engineers, and stones.

In colonizing the land outside Cusco, Pachacuti used architecture to “mark their presence on the landscape,” says Stella Nair, an art historian at the University of California at, Los Angeles, and an expert in indigenous art and architecture in the Americas. Absent a written language, he used construction to put his stamp on every conquered village, reminding potential enemies of his power. “The [Inca] are a really small population, and within 100 years, they conquer the western rim of South America,” Nair says. “You have to convey the idea that you’re there.”


The hallmark of their stonework is the trapezoid, a form that lends the structures extraordinary strength. Without modern earthmovers to dig foundations into bedrock or advanced metallurgy to imbue strength, the Incas wisely focused on shaping their buildings to their environment, instead of taking risks on the assumption their materials would hold up against earthquakes and other disasters. Each element, from an individual block to an entire building, is bigger at the bottom than the top, which forms sturdier foundations. Most structures were single-story: The squatter the building, the more likely it was to hold up. It’s also why most builders eschewed mortar: The paste holds bricks together, but in a seismic event, a bit of glue is meaningless. These clever strategies prevented earthquake damage, a pressing concern on the Pacific’s tectonic Ring of Fire.

Inca structures were surprisingly easy to assemble. With polygonal stones, there’s no reason to strive for individually perfect cubes. “When you’re working a stone, your most fragile part is your corners,” Nair says. “If you’re trying to make a rectangular block [and you break a corner], you just ruined your block.” Instead, a head wall-maker would direct a team of masons in matching the slopes of each new stone to the one that preceded it.

The Inca way of carving stone blurs the boundary between the natural and the man-made. “When they carve a stone, they’ll leave enough of the cortex to give some sense of its original shape,” Nair says. Experts attribute this both to the culture’s reverence for the landscape, and their desire to distort time and history to make it appear the Inca had ruled for longer than they had. Today, many indigenous people continue to build in the style of their ancestors. It’s at once a homage to this great legacy and out of necessity: Many descendants—modern-day Peruvians—live in poverty and make their homes of local stone and homemade adobe (the Spanish word for “mudbrick”).

Builders in the region continue to cap their stout structures with carefully woven reed roofs, though they're considerably thinner than their ancestors. Thatching eclipsed two-thirds of each building, according to Nair. Some roofs were gabled, with opposing slopes, while others were hipped, in which all sides slope downward. Everyone was like a three-dimensional textile, secured to the building with clever knotting (the Inca did not have nails).

Designs also followed a profound philosophical or spiritual principle. Builders selected sites based on their orientation to the natural world. “The Incas paid a lot of attention to where you can see sacred features from different spots,” Nair says. Mountain peaks, rushing springs, and spiritually significant rivers were not just premium views, but elements that defined the shape of entire complexes, even entire cities.



Pachacuti chose the location for Machu Picchu, a sprawling summer resort for his family and entourage, with great intention. It rises out of the Sacred Valley, where Inca culture originated and overlooks the Urubamba River, which irrigated agricultural lands all the way to Cusco. But opting for this special location brought his builder's new challenges. In addition to regular seismic activity, a constant flow of meltwater marks the Andes mountains; it pours downhill from its glacial origins, instigating landslides along the way. Machu Picchu’s wet season lasts roughly half the year, unleashing twice the annual average rainfall of the continental United States. “It’s just horrible if you want to think about stable landscapes to build on,” Nair says. But the hallowed nature of the site, combined with the temperate relief it provided in summer, was likely enough to convince Pachacuti to invest in such a perilous project.

To cope, the Inca rigorously surveyed the potential building sites and developed tricks for stabilization. Machu Picchu’s structural stability comes from a series of 700 terraces, which still meet contemporary geotechnical standards for retaining walls. Like a set of stacked window boxes, they corralled water as it came rushing down the hills. The sturdy barriers prevented soil erosion, trapping dirt inside. The structures also provided flat arable land for growing crops, such as corn, squash, and beans—all essential for feeding the king’s 1,200-person entourage. Water still found its way into the heart of the complex, so engineers built 130 drainage holes into the walls of the royal city.

But preventing floods was only one of the architect’s goals. Residences cluster around drinking wells. At the top of the mountain, near a rushing spring, engineers dug a canal that stored freshwater, which then trickled down through the Stairway of Fountains. Pachacuti’s palace was at the topmost well and therefore received the freshest water, civil engineer Ken Wright told Nova. The municipal tap flowed down from there, always separate from the drainage system. The system could handle 25 gallons of water each minute to accommodate the spring’s peak flow—something Wright estimates the Inca likely calculated as part of a yearlong research and development phase before they began construction.

It’s that type of careful planning and rigorous technique that allowed Pachacuti and his people to thrive, wherever his empire expanded. That’s why architects, engineers, and enthusiasts still revere Inca designs to this day. We see their influence in the words we use: In 2010, meteorologists in alpine Europe named a method for measuring rainfall in mountainous areas the Integrated Nowcasting through Comprehensive Analysis or INCA.

It’s also increasingly in the way we think. As drought wrinkles many parts of the Andean desert and climate change brings still-harsher weather to the region, researchers are reexamining Inca water-storage practices for insight into how we might survive our desolate future. In contemporary Cusco, where Pachacuti’s journey began, archaeologists are helping locals restore water-retaining terraces, which remain damp deep into summer. Smaller Inca strategies work too. By reintroducing gravel into the soil, farmers can prevent landslides without inhibiting growth. And by switching to local crops, which are already adapted to the regional climate, they can ensure a better harvest than less-hardy imported varieties.

Despite their long and revered history, the indigenous people of the Andes—the direct descendants of this ancient civilization—get short shrift. They’re displaced by new airports and growing hotel chains and other hidden costs of tourism. Many live in poverty. And, Nair says, among many Westerners with cable TV and YouTube access, wild theories about Machu Picchu’s alien origins are more popular than the very real Inca men and women who built these lasting monuments to their empire’s strength. Pachacuti’s legacy may be written in stone, but conspiracies zipping around the internet threaten to erase him.




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Battle of Glenshiel remnants discovered after 300 years


Remnants from the Battle of Glenshiel have been uncovered by archaeologists.

The team, led by the National Trust for Scotland, have uncovered mortar shell fragments and a musket ball at the battle site near Kyle of Lochalsh.

Monday will mark the 300th anniversary of the "forgotten" battle between the Jacobites, who were supported by 300 Spanish troops, and a government army loyal to King George I.

Despite their superior numbers, the Jacobites lost.

Several large fragments of a coehorn mortar shell and a musket ball have been uncovered at the battle site, where James Francis Edward Stuart's ambitions to take the throne ended.

The battle was the first time the coehorn mortar shell was used in Britain, adding to the significance of the discovery.

Archaeologists and volunteers excavating the position once occupied by the Spanish troops also dug out a flattened musket ball.



Derek Alexander, the trust's head of archaeology, said it was the first evidence found from the battle.

He added: "We were allowed to excavate four or five objects. The first that we looked at was the musket ball.

"It had been fired from below, up at the Spanish position. It hit the bedrock, flattened and fell to the ground and lay there. It was fired 300 years ago, hit the wall and fell to the ground. Now it has been found."


Mr Alexander said such finds "are the tangible remains of historic events, which can be quite rare".

He added that the rising "fizzled out", continuing: "It's failure also meant that there was little appetite for another uprising until Bonnie Prince Charlie and the '45. It effectively put paid to Jacobite ambitions for 30 years, which is a long time."


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15th-Century Cannonballs Likely Used by Vlad the Impaler Discovered in Bulgaria


© By Anonymous, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons 15th-Century Cannonballs Likely Used by Vlad the Impaler Discovered in Bulgaria

Dracula was known for using his fangs and supernatural powers to dispatch his victims. But he apparently liked to have a few cannonballs by his side as well (just in case).

No, there’s no secret passage from Bram Stoker’s novel involving a battle where the vampire count displays his firepower. Rather, according to the website Archaeology in Bulgaria, cannonballs were recently excavated from the Bulgarian town of Svishtov, the site of a military conquest made by the Romanian prince Vlad III. Known more popularly as “Vlad the Impaler,” he likely served as the inspiration behind Stoker's bloodthirsty antagonist.

During his reign as one of most ruthless rulers in history, Vlad III frequently butted heads with the Ottoman Turks. The conflict came to a violent head in 1461, when Vlad and his army fought for control over Svishtov’s Zishtova Fortress. Now, as Gizmodo reports, archaeologists say they've uncovered a collection of centuries-old cannonballs that may have belonged to Vlad and were most likely linked to the event.

The cannonballs themselves were shot from culverins, medieval cannons that fired missiles weighing up to 16 pounds, which were relatively light compared to later models. Lead archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia said that's what makes these artefacts particularly exciting.

“We rejoice at those small cannonballs because they are from culverins," Ovcharov told Fox News. "These were the earliest cannons which were for the 15th century, up until the 16th century, [and] they weren’t in use after that.”

That battle occurred as an attempt to reclaim the region from the occupying Turks. The region was occupied as far back as the Roman Empire and was abandoned after barbarian invasions. The Zishtova Fortress was built much later, and Vlad III made it his home—after he reclaimed it from his enemies.

But just because Vlad may have had cannonballs at his disposal doesn't mean that some of the battle's victims weren't impaled.

"[We] have a letter by Vlad Dracula to the king of Hungary in which he boasted that he had taken [the fort] after a fierce battle, and that about 410 Turks were killed during the siege," Ovcharov said. "Some of them were probably impaled, in his style."


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The French Emperor’s Grande Armée, consisting of over 500,000 men, marched to Moscow in an attempt to compel Czar Alexander I of Russia to stop trading with the British and accept Napoleon’s Continental System instead. The Russian army refused to engage in battle and used scorched earth tactics, burning everything behind them as they retreated, to further draw the French forces into the country. Napoleon’s army was ill-equipped in terms of supplies and the Russian weather and nearly 300,000 French men perished in the battle that lasted six months.

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Glittering prize: After 4,000 years scientists are finally set to unlock secrets of exquisite Bronze Age dagger covered in 140,000 tiny gold shards

Simon De Bruxelles For The Mail On Sunday


© David LEFRANC/GAMMA-RAPHO Stonehenge-Great Britain Stonehenge is the largest prehistoric structure in Europe. According to the legend, this gigantic stone monument was erected as a war memorial by Merlin. -Stonehenge-GB- Stonehenge est la plus grande structure pr? historique d'Europe.Selon la l?gende, ce gigantesque monument de pierre fut ? rig? par Merlin comme m?morial de guerre. (Photo by David LEFRANC/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Glittering with dazzling detail, its secrets have remained untold for thousands of years.

But now the full story of this once exquisitely beautiful jewelled dagger – buried near Stonehenge two millennia before Christ – may, at last, be revealed.

The Bronze Age artefact called the Bush Barrow dagger after the site where it was found, was discovered in the burial mound of a chieftain 200 years ago.

A watercolour painted shortly after the discovery of the dagger in 1808 showed the handle in its golden glory.


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Mystery: The dagger with a modern reconstruction of the handle

However, the handle began to disintegrate within hours of being dug up and exposed to the air, with just the golden shards remaining.

Archaeologists have long puzzled over the intricate handiwork of the handle, which was inlaid with more than 140,000 studs of gold, individually barely visible to the naked eye, each a millimetre long and no more than a third of a millimetre in diameter.

The studs were glued into pre-drilled holes with tree resin and formed into zigzag patterns at an incredible density of 1,000 studs to a square centimetre.

Experts believe only children aged no more than ten would have been capable of such delicate handicraft. Straining to see such tiny details may have extracted a heavy price, leaving their eyesight ruined. Until now, the source of the gold has been unknown. But scientist Dr Christopher Standish, of Southampton University, is carrying out tests to find out the exact origin.

One stud will be bombarded with X-rays to analyse the minute quantity of lead impurities mixed with the gold to reveal a telltale signature specific to one location. It is possible the gold came from Cornwall, Wales, Ireland or Brittany.


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Minute gold shards: One stud will be bombarded with X-rays to analyse the minute quantity of lead impurities mixed with the gold to reveal a telltale signature specific to one location. It is possible the gold came from Cornwall, Wales, Ireland or Brittany

The dagger blade and remains of the handle are on display at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, near Stonehenge. Museum director David Dawson said: 'Our spectacular gold-studded dagger is one of the most remarkable prehistoric artefacts in the world but we have no real idea who made it, or where.

'There are other daggers with gold handles from the same period. Six were found in Britain and 22 in Brittany.

'The other British ones were pretty rubbish, while the ones from Brittany were pretty good but none of them is anything like our Bush Barrow dagger. It is likely to have come from France.'


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The dagger blade and remains of the handle are on display at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, near Stonehenge

Mr Dawson believes only someone with very severe myopia would have been able to do such intricate close-up work. He said: 'There would have been Bronze Age metal workers who were left myopic for their adult life. They would have been able to see only a few inches.

'They would have been unable to do any other work apart from the making of tiny artefacts and would have had to be supported by the community.'

The handle is estimated to have taken at least 2,500 hours to complete in six stages.


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited A painting of the dagger from 1808

First, the gold would have to be rolled into wire as thin as a human hair. One end would be flattened to form the circular head of the stud and the wire would be cut with a fine flint blade.

A tiny bronze awl would have been used to drill holes in the wooden handle, which would then have been coated with sticky resin. Only then would the studs have been placed with tiny bone tweezers.

The result of the tests will be revealed in November. 


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Plant-eating crocodiles thrived in dinosaur times

Tim Vernimmen


In children’s books and cartoons, crocodiles and their kin tend to have an impressive array of identical teeth, each shaped like a sharp, pointed weapon primed for tearing through flesh. In reality, there is often a bit more variation, says palaeontologist Keegan Melstrom of the University of Utah.

“But that is nothing compared to the staggering diversity in the teeth of extinct crocodile-like reptiles, or Crocodyliformes,” he says. “Some of those extinct crocs had really weird teeth.”

Now, an analysis of 146 fossilized teeth belonging to 16 extinct crocodile relatives has revealed something surprising: At least three times in their history, ancient croc cousins became vegetarians.

“This shows that this was a successful dietary strategy,” says Melstrom, whose team presents the results today in the journal Current Biology. “And I think that as we find more teeth in the future, we are likely to find even more groups that independently became herbivores.”

Dedicated chomping

For their analysis, Melstrom and coauthor Randall Irmis, also of the University of Utah, adopted a method that was especially developed to compare dissimilar teeth, borrowed from earlier work by palaeontologists studying ancient mammals.

“What it comes down to is that we count how many separate surface areas there are on every tooth,” Melstrom says. “We consider them to be separate if they are tilted in a different direction.”

Based on research in mammals as well as reptiles alive today, scientists know that carnivores tend to have simple teeth with very few separate surfaces. The Komodo dragon, for instance, is a predator with teeth that look like steak knives—thin and sharp, straight and simple, with no frills. These teeth are great for catching prey and slicing it into chunks that the lizard can then swallow without chewing. At the other extreme are animals with teeth full of nooks and crannies that increase their surface area, creating more space and different tools to grind away at various hardy plant parts.

“These teeth almost invariably belong to animals that feed on plants, the leafs, branches, and stems of which often require a lot of chewing before they can be digested,” Melstrom says.

Related Slideshow: Real-life dragons- Pets that look like mythical creatures (provided by StarsInsider)



As such, the teeth of the almost entirely carnivorous crocodilians alive today are usually rather simple, Melstrom explains, but some of the extinct species had teeth with up to 20 separate surfaces. This suggests that they probably engaged in some very dedicated chomping or possibly other behaviours that allowed them to nibble away on nutritious plants that were difficult to access.

“One of the most complex teeth in the set we’ve studied are those of Simosuchus, a small crocodyliform with an almost rectangular snout, as if someone hit a crocodile in the head with a shovel,” Melstrom says. These teeth look remarkably like those of the marine iguana from the Galápagos, which grazes algae from the rocks. “Simosuchus wasn’t aquatic but probably did live near the water, so one might imagine it did something similar,” Melstrom says.

Surprisingly, Melstrom’s study has now firmly established it was not just one wayward group that went vegetarian. It turns out there were at least three independent groups sporting a variety of more complex chompers, suggesting that a move to plant-based diets happened multiple times throughout evolution.

Patrick O’Connor, a palaeontologist at Ohio University who was not involved in the study, is enthusiastic about the team’s approach.

“This method can be replicated and expanded with the discovery of new fossils, which should allow us to test different ideas for why herbivory repeatedly evolved in crocs,” he says. His colleague Diego Pol, currently at the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio in Argentina, agrees, but he also warns that scientists shouldn’t take the diets suggested by tooth complexity for granted and should look for other lines of evidence to back up their conclusions.

Select survivors

Successful as they may once have been, herbivorous crocodyliforms didn’t make it past the mass extinction event that eliminated roughly three-quarters of all species on Earth about 66 million years ago—despite the fact that the crocodilians alive today were among the very few large four-limbed animals that did survive. And no herbivorous crocs have evolved since, maybe because mammals took their place in that ecological niche.

“Becoming a herbivore always involves some kind of specialization,” says Attila Ősi, a Hungarian palaeontologist who discovered a fair number of the teeth used in the study, but who was not involved in the work. That might be a disadvantage when the plants you like disappear. Another clue may lie in the fact that not just the herbivores, but all fully terrestrial crocs have gone extinct. The two dozen species alive today inhabit lakes, rivers, and occasionally seashores, where they mostly feed on meat and fish.

Still, even modern crocs are not strict carnivores. Many species have been found to occasionally eat fruit, sometimes straight from the tree. And American alligators fed largely plant-based diets for a few months did not appear to suffer any negative health consequences. Clearly, crocodilians are more flexible than they are usually given credit for, and today’s crocs are far better adapted than the common misnomer “living fossil” might imply.

Mikael Fortelius of the University of Helsinki, Finland, did not work on this study but has used the method in mammals, and he agrees the label is often unhelpful.

“Just like many extinct crocodyliforms were not carnivores, most ancient hyaenas weren't bone crushers and most rhinos didn't have horns,” he says. “Many animals alive today may not be typical of the groups they originate from.”



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UK's biggest second world war prisoner camp unearthed in Yorkshire

Josh Halliday North of England correspondent


© Getty Images German prisoners of war clearing snow from the Whaley Bridge near Chapel-en-le-Frith, in Derbyshire in 1947.

The forgotten history of what was once Britain’s biggest prisoner of war camp has been unearthed by archaeologists in the Yorkshire countryside.

At its peak in the second world war, Lodge Moor camp near Sheffield held more than 11,000 mostly German captives.

Its extraordinary stories have been overlooked for more than 60 years as its moss-covered remains were shrouded in thick woodland.

Research by archaeology students shows the camp was used to hold the most fanatical of prisoners during the second world war, many of whom were from Germany, Italy and the Ukraine.


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Remembering when emperors planned their own extravagant fireworks displays

John F. Kelly


© Melchior Kisel, engraver. National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund/Melchior Kisel, eng... Fireworks in Vienna’s Imperial Palace gardens marked Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I’s marriage to Margarita Teresa of Spain to “represent with fire the ardent love of the wedded pair.”

No matter what is launched into the skies over Washington on this year’s Fourth of July, it is unlikely to include flying dragons. John Bate would be disappointed.

Bate was an Englishman who in 1635 published an illustrated book on how to create what he called “fireworks.” These ranged from the spinning discs of sparks known as fire wheels — “The making of fire wheels consisteth onely in the placing of Rockets,” he explained, “with the mouth of one towards the tayle of another, round about certain moveable wheels” — to flying dragons.

Flying dragons, Bate admitted, are “somewhat troublesome to compose.” The dragon itself is made “eyther of dry and light wood … or of thin whalebones covered in Muscovie glasse and painted over.” (Muscovy glass is a type of thin, translucent mica.)

Once you had fabricated your dragon, you attached a rocket to its belly and looped the contraption over a rope stretched between two buildings. Light the fuse and — voilà! — look at that dragonfly!

Bate’s book and 19 others from the 17th and 18th centuries are on display through Sept. 6 in the National Gallery of Art Library in the East Building. The free exhibit — open weekdays from 10 to 5 — is called “In the Library: Pageantry and Pyrotechnics in the European Fete Book.” Stop by if you want to ooh and ahh in refined, air-conditioned comfort.

Fete books were created to recount the lavish entertainments that marked religious festivals, coronations, state visits, military victories and other public celebrations. Some, like Bate’s, were akin to instruction manuals. Others featured etchings and engravings that sought to capture the events for anyone who might have missed them. 


© Etched by Romeyn de Hooghe, National Gallery of Art Library, Nell and Robert Weidenhammer Fund/Etche... A circa 1686 engraving shows fireworks displays in Brussels celebrating a military victory by Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. “In the Library: Pageantry and Pyrotechnics in the European Fete Book” is a new exhibit at National Gallery of Art Library.

Like fireworks, the books on display come in various sizes, from Bate’s paperback-sized guide to large atlases with fold-out illustrations. The detail is amazing. The engraving of a festival in Brussels in the 1680s commemorating the capture of Buda, Hungary, from the Turks by Leopold I, shows a tree of sparklers ablaze on the right of a town square while pyrotechnics are launched on the left. Fireworks snake into the sky — and into the sizable crowd. Etcher Romeyn de Hooghe included men trying to pat out errant sparks, and dogs and horses cowering in fear.

The challenge for the artists, in those days before cameras, was how to depict fireworks. How do you capture a colourful, fluid, three-dimensional experience in two dimensions on a static black-and-white page?

Some artists rendered the fireworks as feathery plumes, others as squiggly spermatozoa. Some of the fireworks are orderly, like placid fountains. Others are wild and energetic, as in an engraving from 1742-43 of displays marking the coronation of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII. The paths of the fireworks resemble crooked lightning bolts, white against a black background, like the phosphorous glow that burns in your retinas after a camera flash.

How did yesterday’s fireworks shows compare with today’s?

“The main change is that today’s public fireworks displays are predominantly aerial, whereas in the 17th century the majority of the displays were ground-based fountains, fire wheels and other forms with limited reach,” exhibit curator Yuri Long, the gallery’s rare book librarian, wrote to me in an email. “Rockets were generally fired vertically only for the grand finale. As technology and ambition advanced, more rockets were added throughout the performance to enhance the narrative.”

That there was a narrative is the big difference. All that sound and fury signified something, telling stories that were often taken from classical mythology.

“For instance, a multistage display acting out the story of the fall of the titans, with the sun standing in for King Louis XIV and replacing Zeus’s thunderbolt,” was a symbol to the audience of the king’s military might, Long wrote.

Johann Georg II, elector of Saxony, pulled out all the stops when his three younger brothers paid a visit to him in Dresden in 1678. “A giant grotto represented the mouth of hell, and sculptures of Hercules, the three Furies, and the three-headed hound Cerberus were assembled,” writes Long in the exhibit brochure.

In his large illustration, engraver Johann Alexander Boener tried to capture the manic scene: bombs bursting in air, fire wheels spinning, infernal imps dancing around the mouth of the underworld.

The nobleman is said to have designed the fireworks display himself, fretting over every detail. Imagine that. 



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Egyptian ‘bent’ pyramid dating back 4,600 years opens to the public

Chiara Giordano


Egypt has opened King Sneferu’s 4,600-year-old “bent” pyramid to the public.

The 101m-high structure, in the Dahshur royal necropolis, just south of Cairo, is one of two built for Sneferu, the pharaoh who founded the Fourth Dynasty.

Tourists will be allowed inside the ancient structure after archaeologists found “hidden tombs” containing mummies, masks and tools.

Gallery: Ancient Egypt: blood-curdling facts (Espresso)

Gallery: Ancient Egypt: blood-curdling facts (Espresso)

1/18 SLIDES 



The pyramid’s appearance is unusual, with the first 49m, which have largely kept their smooth limestone casing, built at a steep 54-degree angle before tapering off in the top section.

People can now clamber down a narrow 79m tunnel from a raised entrance on the pyramid’s northern face to reach two chambers deep inside the ancient structure.

They will also be able to enter an adjoining 18m “side pyramid”, possibly built for Sneferu’s wife Hetepheres, opened for the first time since its excavation in 1956.

As they opened the pyramids to the public on Saturday, archaeologists showed late-period mummies, masks, tools and coffins discovered during excavations that began near the Dahshur pyramids last year.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said: “When we were taking those objects out, we found ... A very rich area of hidden tombs.”


© Getty People gather during an inaugural ceremony in front of the Bent pyramid of King Sneferu, the first pharaoh of Egypt's 4th dynasty, in the ancient royal necropolis of Dahshur on the west bank of the Nile River, south of the capital Cairo on July 13, 2019. - An Egyptian archaeological mission discovered a collection of stone, clay and wooden sarcophagi, of which some are still containing well-preserved mummies, as well as a collection of wooden funerary masks and instruments used in cutting stones. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP) (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)

The pyramid marked a key step in the evolution of pyramid construction. Its angular shape contrasts with the straight sides of Sneferu’s Red Pyramid just to the north – the first of ancient Egypt’s fully-formed pyramids and the next step towards the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Architects changed the angle when cracks started appearing in the structure, according to Mr Waziri.

Mohamed Shiha, director of the Dahshur site, said: “Sneferu lived a very long time ... the architects wanted to reach the complete shape, the pyramid shape.

“Exactly where he was buried, we are not sure of that. Maybe in this pyramid, who knows.”

Authorities are looking to promote tourism at Dahshur, located about 17 miles south of central Cairo.

The site, which lies in the open desert, attracts just a trickle of visitors and is currently free of the touts and bustle of Giza.

The promotion of Dahshur is part of a wider push to boost tourism, an important source of foreign revenue for Egypt that dipped steeply after the country’s 2011 uprising before gradually recovering.

Archaeologists also unveiled the nearby tomb of Sa Eset, a supervisor of pyramids in the Middle Kingdom, which has been closed since its excavation in 1894 and contains finely preserved hieroglyphic funerary texts.

Foreign ambassadors invited to attend the archaeological announcements were led into the tight spaces of the tomb, which is not expected to be opened to the public for another two years.



Edited by CaaC (John)
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Stonehenge ‘was built using buckets of lard’

Rob Waugh



It’s the great mystery of Stonehenge - how did ancient people carry the huge stones used to build the site from more than 100 miles away?

New research suggests that ancient people may have relied on a rather surprising kitchen ingredient... lard.

Researchers have suggested that pig fat was used to lubricate massive wooden sledges to drag the stones of Stonehenge into position, Newcastle University researchers have said.

Previously, fat residues on shards of pottery at Durrington Walls, near Stonehenge, were assumed to be related to feeding the people who came to build the monument.


But Newcastle University researchers now believe that the fragments are from dishes the size of buckets - meaning they could have been used to collect and store tallow, or animal fat.

Dr Lisa-Marie Shillito, Senior Lecturer in Landscape Archaeology, Newcastle University, said: ‘I was interested in the exceptional level of preservation and high quantities of lipids - or fatty residues - we recovered from the pottery.

‘I wanted to know more about why we see these high quantities of pig fat in pottery when the animal bones that have been excavated at the site show that many of the pigs were 'spit-roasted' rather than chopped up as you would expect if they were being cooked in the pots.’

Previous research has suggested that some of the stones, weighing up to two tonnes, were moved on sledges by up to 20 people.

Gallery: Where are Cleopatra's tomb and more of history’s greatest mysteries (Best Life)



Was the fat actually grease to allow the stones to move on huge sledges?

Dr Shillito said, ‘There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the construction of Stonehenge.

‘Until now, there has been a general assumption that the traces of animal fat absorbed by these pieces of pottery were related to the cooking and consumption of food, and this steered initial interpretations in that direction. But there may have been other things going on as well, and these residues could be tantalising evidence of the greased sledge theory.


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King Tut’s coffin will be restored for the first time since the discovery in 1922

Kassidy Vavra


King Tut’s coffin will be restored for the first time since it was discovered in 1922, the Antiques Ministry of Egypt announced.

The Antiques Ministry announced Wednesday King Tutankhamun was transported from his tomb in Luxor to the Grand Egyptian Museum for restoration.

After the restoration, the coffin will be displayed in the museum exhibition of the King Tutankhamun collection at the Grand Egyptian Museum, Dr Eltayeb Abbas, director of general archaeological affairs said in a statement from the museum. It will appear alongside other golden coffins that are currently at the Cairo Egyptian Museum in a complete collection at the official opening.

“The coffin was moved amidst security procedures and under the supervision of the conservators and archaeologists in cooperation with the Tourism and Antiquities Police,” the museum said in a statement.

King Tut, born in 1341 B.C.E., served as the pharaoh of Egypt beginning when he was just nine years old in 1332 B.C.E., according to Biography. He ruled for 10 years, until around 1323 B.C.E. when he died at the age of 19.

Related Slideshow: Cursed tombs and discoveries through the years (Provided by Photo Services)



Little was known about his life and death until 1922 when British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered his tomb in 1922. Inside the tomb was his coffin — containing his body, which had been mummified for more than 3,000 years.

Although bone fragments in his skull led scientists to initially believe King Tut had died from a blow to the head by political rivals, later investigations in 2006 including a full body scan indicated the skull damage happened after his death. Scientists later discovered he had malaria and was disabled, requiring a cane to walk. It was later suggested he died from gangrene that resulted from a broken leg, according to Biography.



Edited by CaaC (John)
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