Recently declassified Ministry of Defence UFO files have revealed that Winston Churchill was accused of covering up a close encounter between an RAF helicopter and a UFO during the Second World War. According to the files, Churchill ordered the incident to be kept secret for at least 50 years, lest it provoke ‘mass panic’.
Elsewhere, art officials have agreed that the painting recently hailed by the Vatican newspaper L’Ossevatore Romano as ‘a new Caravaggio’ is not of the same quality of other works by the Italian master. The Martyrdom of St Lawrence will now undergo X-rays and other analyses to ascertain its authenticity.
In other art news, a private collection of works by Lowry is expected to raise more than £5 million at Christie’s in November. The collection of 21 paintings and drawings belong to wealthy bookmaker Selwyn Demmy and span the period between 1920 and 1960.
Another auction making headlines this week took place in Reading after unseen photographs and memorabilia of The Beatles were sold to an American bidder for more than £13,000. The collection belonged to Sue Baker from Reading who collected the objects and photographs while visiting the band members at their houses as a teenager.
In Scotland, a letter casting light on the final days of Scottish poet Robert Burns has been unveiled at the National Archives of Scotland. The letter, written to the Commissioner of Excise, described the poet as “reduced and shattered … in the extreme” and describes how Burns made the journey to Dumfries to collect his salary a week before his death in July 1796.
Scotland has had a busy week in terms of history news after another discovery was made, this time a major Neolithic painting in Orkney. Archaeologists working on the site, which is thought to be a possible Neolithic temple precinct, have uncovered what they believe is the first evidence in the UK of stonework painted with a pattern. The stone in question has a zigzag chevron pattern in red pigment and is around 5,000 years old.
Moving south, archaeological investigations on the land planned for the Forth Replacement Crossing between Edinburgh and Fife are to go ahead. The exploration will include a geophysical survey, trial trenches and hand excavation to find objects of historical interest.
Meanwhile, archaeologists in northeastern Bulgaria have discovered a small jug dating back to the 14th century containing 166 coins from the age of Ivan Alexander and his son Mihail. The treasure was discovered during excavation work in the medieval city of Kastritsi in Euxinograd.
Back in the UK, archaeologists in East London have unearthed traces of the original Shakespearian playhouse built in 1576 during excavations at the site of The Theatre in Shoreditch. Also uncovered were the remains of ceramic money boxes, which would have held the earnings from each performance before they were emptied into a ‘common box’. Fragments of wine and ale flagons and mugs from the mid to late 16th century have also been found in what is thought to have been the playhouse’s bar area.
And finally, a Bradford academic has given the power of speech back to the skeleton of a Bronze Age man found in the early 19th century after a silence of 4,000 years. Using the latest technology, Dr Alan Ogden has created a facial reconstruction of the man and recreated what his voice may have sounded like.