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After more than 36 years, the secret grand jury testimony given by President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal is set to be released. Judge Royce Lamberth, who ordered the disclosure of the 297-page transcript, has stressed its significance to “[enhancing] the existing historical record”. It is thought that the documents will prove highly revealing due to the fact that President Nixon was required to give his testimony under oath. The transcript, however, will not be unsealed until the current American government has been given the chance to appeal.
A rare Jewish text dating back to the 19th century has been discovered in Salford. The 137-year-old Poona Haggadah, published for the Bene Isreal (the “Black Jews of India” – identified by their Indian appearance) and used by the community at Passover, was uncovered by historian Dr Yaakov Wise at a local garage sale. The book contains illustrations, fascinating in that the major Biblical figures, such as Moses and Abraham, look Western, while the people celebrating Passover appear very Indian. Dr Wise’s copy of the text is thought to be the only one in existence in Britain.
Three reels of footage from Alfred Hitchcock’s first film, The White Shadow, have been discovered in New Zealand. The reels were uncovered in the New Zealand Film Archive among some unidentified American nitrate prints. The chairman of the National Society of Film Critics, David Sterritt, has called the discovery “one of the most significant developments in memory” as the reels offer film experts the opportunity to study Hitchcock’s visual ideas in their early formation. Hitchcock was a pioneering English film producer and director who produced film classics such as Psycho and The Birds. He died in 1980.
Skeletons uncovered in 2004/05 by York Archaeological Trust are to go on public display in York city centre as part of the ‘Were they gladiators?’ debate. The skeletons attracted a great deal of attention last summer after new evidence highlighted possible ‘bite marks’ from large carnivorous animals, which has led some historians to suggest that the remains could be gladiators from the Roman occupation. The debate remains unresolved however. New research has both helped prove some existing theories and contributed new elements to the debate. York Archaeological Trust is now inviting the public to view the latest findings and take part in the debate themselves. The skeletons will be on display at 10 Coppergate from Saturday 30 July until 30 October 2011 as part of York Archaeological Trust’s summer exhibition.
Archaeologists in Rome have unearthed a 2000-year-old wall mosaic beneath the Trajan Baths. The mosaic, which measures some 16 metres wide and around two metres high, features a figure of the Greek god Apollo, and has been hailed an “exceptional archaeological discovery” by Umberto Broccoli, superintendent for the city’s cultural heritage. The mosaic is thought to have embellished an underground room where wealthy Romans gathered to hear music and discuss art. Archaeologists now hope that more mosaics can be uncovered; 680,000 euros have been requested in order to complete the excavation.
A rare book – thought to be the first travel narrative to have been published in South Africa – has been discovered by a Fife university expert. Written by Charles-Etienne Boniface and published in November 1829, the 127-page work is one of just seven copies known to exist. It tells the story of the Eole, a French merchant vessel which sank off the coast of Africa in April 1829 killing 12 of its crew and passengers. Dr Culpin of St Andrews University has commented that the book is historically important due to what it reveals about contemporary events in Cape Town and neighbouring settlements.
A unique map of prehistoric England is to be compiled by the Oxford University School of Archaeology. The five-year 'Portal to the Past' project will enable members of the public to learn more about their local history online. More than 3,500 years of history, from the Bronze Age (1500 BC) to Domesday Book (1086), will be available in a digital archive assembled by the European research council. Data will be drawn from English Heritage aerial photographs, county archives and the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which records the archaeological finds made by metal detectors. The ‘Portal to the Past’ website is expected to go live in 2014. It will be available through the University of Oxford School of Archaeology website at www.arch.ox.ac.uk.
The National Coal Museum is to publish stories of the “forgotten” coal pits of north Wales. It is hoped that these stories, published in Big Pit’s people’s history magazine GLO, will persuade others to share their own memories of the coal industry, which was particularly important in north Wales during the 20th century. In 1918 there were up to 1,000 men working in each of the 60 pits, across two coal fields, in Denbighshire and Flintshire. The magazine is available to download free from the National Museum of Wales’ website.
An additional 16 graves, containing skeletons possibly dating back as early as AD 500, have been uncovered in a Worcestershire village. The skeletons, found in the village of Kempsey where new flood defences are being built, join the 12 skeletons already uncovered in the village last week. Tom Vaughan from Worcestershire Archaeology Service has remarked that the discovery of the skeletons is now forcing historians to review previous understandings of the history of the area. The excavations have revealed that the graveyard boundaries of St James Church were much larger than previously thought. This supports evidence that there was a Minster church in the area during the Anglo-Saxon period. Experts hope that an analysis of the skeletons may reveal more about the people's quality of life, how they died, how old they were and if any of them were related.