A 1,700-year-old African skeleton discovered in a Roman cemetery in Stratford earlier this year could provide information about the DNA history and ethnic origin of modern Britons, according to experts. The male skeleton is thought to be that of Warwickshire’s earliest known African and, although his cause of death is unknown, experts have identified that he suffered from both arthritis and dental issues. Studies of the skeleton have revealed that people of African descent lived in Warwickshire earlier than was originally believed, will now be analysed to ascertain his place of birth and other information, such as diet.
Documents revealing Britain’s involvement in Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s have been released, just days before a High Court case against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The case is brought by four Kenyan claimants for alleged ‘personal injuries caused by repeated assaults perpetrated by employees and agents of the British Colonial Administration in Kenya when they were detained’. The 1,500 files released are currently held by the National Archives but were released following the Kenyans’ claims that they were tortured between 1952 and 1960.
Archaeologists believe they have found the oldest known tomb of an ancient Mayan ruler following the discovery of a skeleton and incense burner engraved with the image of the ‘Jester god’, a symbol of royalty among the Mayans. The incense burner and other ceramic vessels, jars and plates discovered in the tomb, which lies beneath a home in Holmul, north-eastern Guatemala, are thought to date back to 350BC, which, if correct, would make it the oldest known burial of a Mayan ruler.
The remains of Lisa Gherardini, the Italian noblewoman thought by some to have been the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa, are to be exhumed later this month. Art historian Silvano Vinceti believes that analysis of the remains will help determine whether Gherardini was in fact the artist’s model and hopes to use extracted DNA to reconstruct her face. Vinceti believes that Gherardini may have been an early model for the painting, but has stated that the face of a young male apprentice might also have influenced da Vinci’s final masterpiece.
Experts have claimed that a 300-year gap in British history between around 800 BC and 500 BC, when the use of bronze was in decline and iron was not yet widely used, could be explained by an economic downturn. Some historians have suggested climatic change, environmental destruction or internal revolution by the peasants as possible explanations, but no one can say for sure why attitudes to bronze changed, or what caused its decline.
Cases recorded in the Assize of Nuisance, have revealed that our medieval forebears were also inclined to report fly-tipping and other problems, just as we are today. The 700-year-old document contains a list of grievances made in London between 1301 and 1431, and includes complaints about noise, anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping. One case features a woman, Alice Wade, who built a wooden pipe connecting her toilet to a rainwater gutter that flushed a nearby public latrine, as a way of getting rid of her waste. Her neighbours, however, were not best pleased with the situation and complained to city officials that they were being “greatly inconvenienced by the stench” as well as the regular blocking of the pipe; Alice was given 40 days in which to get rid of the pipe.
Details of the 1911 census in Scotland are being made available for the first time, on a pay-per-view basis. Released by the Registrar General for Scotland, the census reveals life for Scotland’s 4.75 million citizens during an era of mass migration and urban overcrowding. It also shows that the top five occupations for men at the time were iron and other metal manufacture, followed by agriculture, coal mining, building and commerce.
A cobbled street thought to date back to between 1740 and 1780 has been unearthed in Sunderland and is thought by archaeologists to have been tailor-made made for horses to walk on. The dig forms part of the Sunderland Heritage Quarter’s efforts to use local history to boost the area’s regeneration.
Eighteen X-rays of royal teeth have been withdrawn from auction by request of the Royal Household. The X-rays include images of Elizabeth II’s teeth, along with those of her mother and father and were taken between 1942 and 1946. According to the editor-in-chief of the British Dental Journal, King George VI’s X-rays indicate that he “had good teeth for a man of his age. There is some evidence of bone loss, which may be due to gum disease, possibly linked to smoking, as he was known to be a heavy smoker.”