Friday 17th December 2010
As 2010 creeps slowly to a close, we cast our minds back over some of the best history stories to hit the headlines this year. From the discovery of a Neolithic henge at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, to the recent collapse of Pompeii's House of the Gladiators, it's been a busy year for historians and archaeologists alike. Here's our top ten stories, but what were your favourite headlines? Let us know.
Archaeologists claimed to have discovered Britain’s oldest house at a site near Scarborough in North Yorkshire. The circular structure, which measures 3.5 metres in diameter, was dated to around 8,500 BC and is thought to have been home to some of Britain's first settlers.
Researchers in Norfolk uncovered stone tools on a beach near Happisburgh, which indicate that early humans arrived in Britain nearly a million years ago – several hundred thousand years earlier than previously thought.
A team of biologists analysing ancient DNA and proteins from 14th-century plague pits concluded that the Black Death’s causative agent was the bacterium known as Yersinia pestis and that the origins of the deadly disease lay in China.
The granddaughter of Charles Lightoller, second officer of the ill-fated Titanic, claimed that the ship’s sinking in 1912 was due to confusion in steering orders, which resulted in the ship turning towards the iceberg instead of away from it. The incident was allegedly covered up in the subsequent enquiry.
A second circular monument was discovered at Stonehenge, sited about 900 metres from the existing stones – the most exciting find there for 50 years. Archaeologists believe that timber posts would have been placed in the circle of deep pits, while images show that the henge would have had two entrances.
The Battlefield Trust revealed the actual site for the battle of Bosworth – in a field a mile to the south west of the site where the current visitor centre stands. Concerns over the accuracy of the location of the battlefield were raised last year after a badge sporting the emblem of King Richard was found near a farm a mile away from the visitor centre.
Pompeii’s House of the Gladiators, formerly used by gladiators for training purposes, was found in ruins. Italian authorities claimed that the structure may have become unstable following heavy rains in the region. Two other collapses in the ancient town followed a few weeks later.
The California State Historical Resources Commission made the unusual move to protect more than 100 items left by US astronauts on the Moon, adding it to its register despite the fact that the site is not in the US, or even on Earth.
Archaeologist Yuval Peleg looked set to challenge theories as to who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered more than 60 years ago near an ancient settlement called Qumran. Peleg’s research led him to suggest that a number of Jewish groups rather than one specific unit may have actually written many of the scrolls.
A retired electrician living in southern France, who once fitted burglar alarms for Pablo Picasso, revealed that he has 271 pieces of the artist’s work, said to be worth around £50.6 million. Seventy one-year-old Pierre Le Guennec says that Picasso gave him the works as gifts.
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