Collaboration between Google and the Israel Antiquities Authority will make the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls available to over a billion internet users from 2011. Scientists believe that digitising the scrolls, which are currently kept in darkened, temperature-controlled rooms at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, will ensure the preservation of the 900 manuscripts for future generations, and means the fragile parchment fragments need not be exposed to light and air.
Traces of starch grains discovered on grinding stones found at sites in Italy, Russia and the Czech Republic have led researchers to believe that prehistoric man may have dined on plant-based foods as well as meat. According to the team, the stones show patterns of wear that could indicate that they were used for grinding roots and grains, and may suggest that plant-based food processing, and possibly flour production, was common and widespread across Europe at least 30,000 years ago.
Elsewhere, archaeologists in Winchester claim to have uncovered the remains of what may be Britain’s earliest known hospital, after radiocarbon testing at a former leper hospital in the city revealed burials took place between AD 960-1030. It was previously believed that hospitals in Britain dated from 1066 and the Norman Conquest.
Meanwhile, one of the oldest doors ever found in Europe has been discovered in Zurich, Switzerland. The door, which is believed to be around 5,100 years old, is 153 cm high and 88 cm wide, and is thought to have once been part of a wooden stilt house designed to keep out the cold winds blasting in from Lake Zurich.
Back in England, a handwritten journal dating back to 1839 has shed light on Barnsley’s coal mining history after it was donated to Barnsley Archives and Local Studies. The journal contains details of individual miners at Elsecar Old Colliery, as well as information on wages and the amount of coal being extracted. The colliery closed in 1888.
In other history news, a 2,700-year-old oath tablet pledging loyalty to the heir of an Assyrian king has been uncovered in the city of Tayinat in southeastern Turkey. It is thought that the tablet, which was originally elevated on a platform in a prominent part of the temple, could reveal new insights into how the Assyrians controlled the city.
In India, archaeologists digging in a small village around 36 km from Bhopal have found the sites of 21 temples dating back 1,300 years. The remains of over 400 idols of Hindu gods and goddesses created during the Pratihar and Parmar dynasties have been uncovered and it is thought that the temples may have been razed.
Archaeologists will also be busy in Tynemouth this weekend as they prepare to uncover a Victorian fountain half-buried in sand on Tynemouth beach. The town’s Lion’s Head Fountain, which dates from the 1860s, covered the Engine Well at Tynemouth and its water was once thought to have health-giving properties. Members of the public have been invited to take part in the dig to raise funds for charity.
In auction news, a painting by Adolf Hitler’s former deputy, Rudolf Hess, is to be sold at auction in Lincoln this weekend. The painting, which is signed by Hess and is thought to depict a Bavarian scene, was given to a former RAF gunner who guarded the Nazi official in a Berlin prison after the end of the Second World War. The piece of artwork has a guide price of between £500 and £800.
And finally, a 2,000-year-old mummified hand, which reputedly belonged to Queen Cleopatra, is to be sold at auction in December. According to staff at the Newcastle auction house the hand still retains its manicured fingernails and evidence of what may have once been a ring. While not the most attractive of mantelpiece ornaments, the hand comes in its own glass-covered mahogany box and may fetch up to £1,000.