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Archaeologist discovers Saudi Arabian secrets … from his armchair

Published: February 10, 2011 at 11:50 am
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A professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia has discovered 1,977 possible archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia using Google Earth satellite maps. Among the sites believed to have been pinpointed through Google Earth are 1,082 teardrop shaped stone tombs. Few archaeologists have been granted access to Saudi Arabia for fear of focusing unwanted attention on civilisations that prospered there before the introduction of Islam to the country.


200-year-old beer to be brewed again

Beer found in a shipwreck discovered in the Baltic Sea between the coasts of Sweden and Finland and dating to between 1800 and 1830 is to be rebrewed. The five bottles of beer were discovered along with bottles of what is thought to be the world’s oldest champagne in July 2010 and the Technical Research Centre of Finland has been commissioned to identify the beer’s recipe. Professional beer-tasters have described the liquid as tasting “very old … with some burnt notes”.

New Zealand’s Pink Terraces rediscovered

New Zealand’s once famous Pink Terraces, dubbed the country’s “eighth wonder of the world” by many, have been discovered 60 metres beneath the surface of Lake Rotomahana, near Rotorua, 125 years after they were buried by the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886. The find is thought to be the bottom section of the terraces, which originally stood on the west side of the bank and once made up part of the largest silica formations in the world.

Pink Terraces, Roto Mahana, 1886, by John Philemon Backhouse. Oil on postcard. Source: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ 

Was the Mona Lisa modelled on da Vinci’s lover?

Italian art historian Silvano Vinceti has claimed that the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s enigmatic work Mona Lisa was in fact one of his male apprentices, a man named Gian Giacomo Caprotti (also known as Salai) who worked with the artist for over 20 years and was rumoured to have been da Vinci’s lover. Vinceti believes he has found striking similarities between the nose and mouth of Salai and the model in the Mona Lisa, and also claims to have identified the letter ‘S’ in the sitter’s eye.

Ancient burials found under Lichfeld Cathedral

Three ancient burials have been uncovered beneath the floor of the Chapter House at Lichfield Cathedral, a building originally built in the 1240s. Archaeologists believe the burials to have been Christian, as the bodies were aligned east-west, but think that they may have once been lay members of the cathedral community as the bodies were buried in shrouds rather than coffins. One of the bodies found was that of an infant, thought to have been buried after the cathedral was built.

£25.2 million price tag for Picasso painting

Picasso’s La Lecture has sold at auction at Sotheby’s in London for £25.2 million after just six minutes of bidding. The work depicts Picasso’s teenage mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, who was 17 when she met the 45-year-old Picasso, and inspired some of the artist’s other great works, including La Reve and Nude, Green Leaves and Bust. The painting was sold to an anonymous telephone bidder.

Bangor treasure returns home

A 700-year-old bishop’s manuscript containing blessings and text of plainchant has returned to the city of Bangor after conservation work and rebinding. A service was held at Bangor Cathedral to celebrate the return of the Bangor Pontifical and included several plainchant melodies, a form of medieval church music that involves chanting, newly transcribed from the document. A project is currently underway to digitise the document and make it available online.


Edinburgh museum to open after £46 million refit

The Victorian part of the National Museum of Scotland is to reopen in July 2011 after a three-year refit costing £46 million. According to museum officials, the original interior has been restored and storage areas turned into public space. The project has been jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Scottish government and private donations.


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