Teeth were in the headlines this week after it was announced that Winston Churchill’s dentures, designed specifically to preserve his lisp, are to be sold at auction. The teeth, which were frequently thrown across the room by the man himself, have been valued at around £5,000 but it is thought they may sell for up to ten times their estimated price.
Elsewhere, Canadian archaeologists have discovered a British ship abandoned in the arctic over 150 years ago. The HMS Investigator was found under 25 feet of icy water, sitting perfectly upright on the sea floor. The ship was abandoned while on a mission to find the missing Franklin expedition, and had left Britain in 1848. Also found were the graves of three sailors who had died of scurvy.
Another shipwreck hit the history headlines this week, after news that a team of scientists is to launch an expedition to the wreck Titanic in order to create a detailed three-dimensional map to “virtually raise” the vessel for the public. The ship lies 2.5 miles beneath the North Atlantic, but the expedition will examine a two-by-three-mile debris field to study thousands of scattered artefacts.
Staying underwater, a team of 11 Chinese archaeologists has travelled to Kenya to begin the search for a sunken ship, thought to have been part of a great armada commanded by Ming dynasty admiral Zheng He nearly 600 years ago. A possible shipwreck site has already been identified near Lamu Island.
In other news, findings made by archaeologist Yuval Peleg look 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 has led him to suggest that a number of Jewish groups rather than one specific unit may have actually written many of the scrolls.
Back in the UK, the remains of a 4th-century Roman villa have been found near Aberystwyth in Wales – the most northwesterly villa ever found in Wales. It is thought that the villa was roofed with local slates, cut for the pentagonal roof – the walls were built of stone. The outline of the villa was spotted from the air in 2009 during a drought.
Also in Wales, pieces of Roman pottery as well as shards of medieval pottery have been uncovered on the site of a historic 9th-century monument, the Pillar of Eliseg, in Llangollen.
Another discovery made recently occurred during excavations on the Bulgarian island of Saint Ivan when archaeologists unearthed an exquisite marble reliquary incorporated into the church’s altar. Historian Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the Bulgarian National History Museum, has suggested that the reliquary may hold the relics of John the Baptist.
Meanwhile, just a week after the remains of a new ‘henge’ were discovered in Wiltshire, stone tools, flakes and the remains of a final feast have been found neatly buried at Marden Henge, indicating that the huge stones that now stand at Stonehenge were brought to Marden first. The site has remarkably avoided being ploughed for more than 4,000 years.
A discovery of a different kind was made this week after glass negatives bought by a painter for just US$45 have proven to be the work of iconic photographer Ansel Adams. The negatives, now worth $200 million, were believed to have been destroyed in a fire in 1937, but were bought by painter and collector Nick Norsigian in 2000.
And finally, dogs have always been seen as man’s best friend, but for just how long has this been the case? Experts think they may have the answer after radiocarbon tests performed on a canine jaw fragment found in a Swiss cave indicate that domestic dogs lived there between 14,100 and 14,600 years ago.