One of the world’s leading battlefield archaeologists is developing a project designed to unearth whatever genuine material survives from the battle of Hastings. Led by Dr Glenn Foard from the University of Huddersfield, the plan would see a team of archaeologists machine away the top layers of soil at a substantial area of the battlefield, in order to eliminate modern artefacts. There would then be a search for genuine remains from the 1066 clash. The first stage of the project is likely to take place in spring 2015.
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Scientists create ‘1918 Spanish flu copycat’
Scientists have created a life-threatening virus that closely resembles the 1918 Spanish flu strain that killed an estimated 50m people, the Guardian reports. In an experiment labelled by opponents as “crazy”, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison used a technique called reverse genetics to build the virus from fragments of wild bird flu strains. They then mutated the virus to make it airborne to spread more easily from one animal to another. Researchers said the experiments were crucial for understanding the public health risk posed by viruses currently circulating in wild birds. The 1918 pandemic has been cited as the most devastating in recorded world history.
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Revealed: secret diary of wartime cabinet member
The diaries of cabinet member Lewis Harcourt, which reveal the behind-the-scenes discussions in the build-up to the First World War, are to be published for the first time. Scribbled on the back of Foreign Office telegrams, as well as neat pieces of paper written up after meetings, the notes taken between 1914 and 1915 reveal the inner workings of a Cabinet under pressure, as well as the snide remarks made among rivals, the Telegraph reports. The papers were stored by Harcourt’s family after his death in 1922, and have been seen only by a handful of academics. Now, nearly 100 years after they were written, they will go on show in an exhibition at the university, and in a book, From Downing Street to the Trenches, by Mike Webb.
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Hunt for author Cervantes’ remains narrows
Forensic scientists looking for the body of one of Spain’s most important literary figures, Miguel de Cervantes, say they have found five possible sites at a Madrid church. The author of Don Quixote died in 1616, and his burial was recorded at the Convent of Trinitarians in Spain’s capital, but the exact location is unknown. BBC News reports that a team of experts used infrared cameras, 3D scanners and ground-penetrating radar to pinpoint the possible burial sites at a Madrid church.
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Revealed: Jane Austen’s country life
A new book has uncovered the rural backdrop to Jane Austen’s life, letters and novels. Written by expert Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen’s Country Life reveals how being a farmer’s daughter influenced Jane’s romantic novels. In it, Le Faye illustrates how Jane spent 33 of her 41 years in the Hampshire countryside, and argues that this first-hand knowledge of country life underpins her writings, and gives the time-frame against which she constructs her plots.
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