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A series of ancient pits in Aberdeenshire could be the remains of the oldest calendar in existence, according to experts. The 12 pits are arranged in an arc facing the midday sun, leading to suggestions that they could represent months. It is also thought that the varying degrees of size and depth of the pits could mirror lunar waxing and waning.
Currently, a 5,000-year-old Mesopotamian calendar holds the title of world’s oldest, yet the Scottish site is almost twice as old. Vince Gaffney, who led the analysis project, said that “the research demonstrates that Stone Age society 10,000 years ago was much more sophisticated than we had previously suspected”.
The British Library is to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta by bringing together all surviving copies of the landmark document. Although copies were given to bishops throughout England only four remain, with two owned by the Library and the others held at Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral respectively. The Library has also announced a competition, to run in early 2015, offering 1,215 winning members of the public the chance to view the four copies together.
Villagers have discovered an iron helmet believed to be from the late 16th or early 17th century while taking a church’s inventory in the Oxfordshire village of Swalcliffe. The helmet is believed to be linked to the Wykeham family, and may well have belonged to one of William Wykeham’s descendants, who was both the bishop of Winchester and chancellor of England in the 1300s. Archaeologist Cathy Stoertz said it was a "fascinating part of local human history".
A 700-year-old human skeleton has been found in the river Coln by two 13-year-old boys near Fairford in Gloucestershire. Experts suspect there to be a Saxon burial ground in the area so further investigation may well yield similar finds.
Documents charting how scientists and explorers attempted to discover longitude at sea can now be explored online following the digitisation of a collection of records by Cambridge University. The Board of Longitude archive covers almost a century of history, and includes features such as logbooks from Captain Cook’s voyages of discovery. To view a gallery of images from the archive, click here.
A team of archaeologists has expressed surprise about the apparent discovery of the toes and feet of a sphinx at Tel Hazor in northern Israel. The artefacts are marked with the inscription ‘Mycerinus’, the name of the pharaoh of Egypt who oversaw the construction of at least one of the pyramids at Giza. Experts suspect the feet would have been transferred up the Mediterranean coast well after Mycerinus’s lifetime.