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Two pits discovered at Stonehenge could indicate that the site was used as a place of sun worship before the stones were erected more than 5,000 years ago, according to a team of archaeologists working as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. The pits, which are positioned on celestial alignment, are thought to have once contained stones, posts or fires to mark the rising and setting of the sun, and may have formed part of a processional route for ancient rituals celebrating the sun travelling across the sky at the midsummer solstice.
Four independent historians investigating the German Intelligence Service’s (BND) old links with the Nazis have discovered that the files of 250 BND employees who were in the Nazi SS or Gestapo were destroyed in 2007. The BND have said that the destroyed files make up two per cent of the archive currently under investigation and claim the files were not deemed to be worth keeping. It is estimated that one in 10 BND recruits had previously served in Hitler's SS. The historians involved have not alleged a deliberate cover-up but have urged the BND not to destroy any more files.
A new website of around four million pages of historical newspapers, featuring more than 200 newspaper titles from virtually every part of the UK and Ireland, has been launched by the British Library, with online publisher brightsolid. The newspapers, which mainly date from the 19th century, but which include runs dating back to the first half of the 18th century, include fascinating stories such as bullet-stopping corsets and the art of wide-sleeved shoplifting. A team has spent a year at the British Library's newspaper library, digitising up to 8,000 pages a day. They expect to scan up to 40 million pages over the next 10 years. To browse the archive, visit www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
Look out for a future slideshow of images from the British Library online newspaper archive at www.historyextra.com
A single bedsheet cover and pillowcase believed to have belonged to Adolf Hitler have sold for £2,000 at auction in Bristol. The monogrammed linen, which features a Third Reich eagle, swastika and the initials AH, is thought to have been taken from Hitler’s home by a member of staff and was bought by an unnamed bidder.
Combined visitor rates to government-sponsored museums have more than doubled over the past decade, according to figures. The Labour government abolished admission fees to England's national museums in December 2011 – 18 million people visited the 13 attractions in 2010–11, compared with seven million in 2000–01. The total visitor numbers to Department for Culture, Media and Sport-sponsored museums for 2010–11 was 43.8m, with the National Maritime Museum reporting visitor increases of 200 per cent, the Natural History Museum increases of nearly 190 per cent and the Victoria & Albert Museum increases of around 180 per cent.
Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, has died at the age of 85. Alliluyeva, also known as Lana Peters, defected from the Soviet Union in 1967, a move motivated by the Soviet authorities' poor treatment of an Indian communist whom she had a relationship with. Peters later denounced communism and her father, whom she referred to as “a moral and spiritual monster”.
Researchers claim they have ‘recreated’ a Stradivarius violin using X-ray scanners, and then used the data to build "nearly exact copies". The 307-year-old instrument, known as ‘Betts’, was borrowed from the US Library of Congress and more than 1,000 CAT scan images of the violin were taken. The scans allowed the team to determine the density of the woods that made up the Stradivarius and the data was then used to carve the replica's back and front plates, neck and the scroll carving at the neck’s end. Radiologist Steven Sirr first had the idea of using a CAT scanner to take images of violins in 1988 and has been scanning musical instruments ever since.
The restored tomb of Oscar Wilde has been unveiled in Paris, complete with a glass barrier to make the monument kiss-proof. Restoration work on the gravestone was carried out after lipstick marks left by tourists began eating away at the stone. A glass barrier now prevents further damage, although tourists are now leaving their lipstick marks on a nearby tree.