Dead Sea Scrolls online

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Five of the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 11 caves near the Dead Sea, east of Jerusalem, between 1947 and 1956, have been made available online thanks to the internet search engine Google. The scrolls, which include the Temple Scroll and Great Isaiah Scroll, were photographed using ultraviolet-protected flash tubes, which lit them for 1/4000th of a second to avoid causing light damage. To read more about the project and to see the digitised scrolls visit The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls website.

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Titanic telegram up for auction

A telegram written by a survivor of Titanic and sent from Carparthia, the first vessel to arrive on the scene of the disaster in April 1912, has been put up for auction. The telegram, which was sent from the rescue ship four days after the liner sank, reads: “Safe on Carpathia Telephone friends Newark New York, Burn”. The document is being offered for sale for £2,500.

Iceland’s literary landscapes captured on film

A new documentary film has been released by Cambridge University in a bid to shed new light on the centuries-old sagas of Icelanders (Íslendingasögur) – stories passed down from one generation to another over hundreds of years. According to Dr Emily Lethbridge, the sagas, which were copied in manuscripts in Iceland from the medieval period until the early 20th century, still hold a deep-rooted significance for Icelanders today. She commented: “While the stories are rooted in the landscapes all around Iceland, there is little description of them in the sagas. I decided to spend a year travelling around the country exploring the settings of each saga and meeting the people who, remarkably, still live today in places named in the sagas.”

Watch the film below to find out more about the most famous of the Íslendingasögur – Gísla Saga

‘Lost’ Beethoven work heard for first time

A Beethoven movement written by the composer for his string quartet Opus 18 Number Two in 1799 but then discarded in favour of another version, has been heard for the first time, more than 200 years since it was first written. Although the original work does not survive, it has been pieced together by Professor Barry Cooper of Manchester University using surviving sketches from Beethoven’s notebooks. According to Cooper, the sketches revealed all but 74 bars of the movement, but half of the bars were written for just one instrument; Cooper himself has completed the missing instrument parts. The completed movement was performed by the university’s resident string quartet at the Martin Harris Centre in Manchester.

Maya queen discovered in rodent-infested tomb

The skeleton of a Maya queen, with her head placed between two bowls, has been discovered in a 2,000-year-old tomb in the Guatemalan ruins of Nakum, together with jade gorgets, beads, and ceremonial knives. The skeleton was found beneath a younger, 1,300-year-old tomb, which had been badly destroyed by rodents. Experts believe that both tombs formed part of a mausoleum for the Maya royal lineage but are unclear why the lower skeleton’s head had been placed between two bowls.

Hidden SAS diary to be published

A Second World War diary of the British special forces unit, the SAS, hidden since 1946 is to be published for the first time. The diary, whose author remains anonymous, totalled some 500 pages and weighed over 11.3kg. It contained the top secret order authorising the first SAS operation, together with rare photographs of the team which carried it out, naming those who died. The diary also revealed confidential instructions to kill Rommel in France and correspondence from Winston Churchill on the future of the SAS. The work is being published to mark the 70th anniversary of the SAS with limited numbers on sale for £975 each.

Roman shipyard unearthed in Italy

Archaeologists from the University of Southampton believe they have found the remains of a Roman shipyard at Portus, 20 miles from Rome, Italy – the largest Roman imperial shipyard found in Italy to date. It is thought that the structure, which dates to around AD 117 and once stood five storeys high, was used to build or service ships that travelled the empire to keep Rome supplied with food and other goods, and may even have been used as a base for galleys that transported emperors. Tacks that would have been used to nail lead onto the hulls of ships have been unearthed at the site but so far no evidence of ramps from which to launch newly constructed ships into the waters has been found.

Atlantic shipwreck reveals £150 million of silver

Experts have confirmed that a shipwreck discovered nearly 4,700m below the North Atlantic, 300 miles off the Irish coast is the SS Gairsoppa, a UK cargo ship sunk by a German U-boat in 1941. The 412ft wreck, found earlier this summer, was carrying 200 tonnes of silver, worth £150 million when it was spotted by a German submarine and torpedoed while travelling back to Britain from India. Only one of the 85-man crew survived the attack. The silver on the ship is a mixture of privately owned bullion insured by the UK government and state-owned coins and ingots.

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Lock of hair rewrites history of human migration

Genetic information taken from a lock of hair donated by a young Aboriginal man in the 1920s has suggested that man was directly descended from a migration out of Africa into Asia about 70,000 years ago. DNA in the hair was used to sequence the Aboriginal genome for the first time and the results have led experts to believe that humans left Africa in two separate waves.