Archaeologists excavating a cave on Skye believe they have found the remains of the earliest stringed instrument ever found in western Europe. The small burnt and carved piece of wood is thought to have once been part of the bridge of a lyre, and could be over 2,300 years old. Found in High Pasture Cave, a site known for its Bronze and Iron Age finds, the object was recovered from the rake-out deposits from a large slab-built hearth outside the cave entrance. According to Cambridge music archaeologist Dr Graeme Lawson, the earliest known lyres date from about 5,000 years ago, in Iraq, and were complicated and finely-made structures. The find, he believes, “confirms the continuity of a love of music amongst the Western Celts.”
One hundred years after Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, experts at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge have been assessing the impact the team’s diet would have had on its chances of survival. While meals inside the wooden hut at Cape Evans consisted of a wide variety of food, including seal meat, stewed penguin, and turtle soup, rations for the five men on the final journey to the pole were quite different. Georgina Cronin, of the institute, believes Scott and his men underestimated the calories needed for pulling their own sledges in Antarctica, a fact that contributed to their suffering. Rations consisted of pemmican (ground meat mixed with fat), and biscuits baked by one of the expedition’s commercial sponsors, which was often turned into a stew. But some experts believe this high-protein diet was probably not good for them. Hauling a sledge demands an intake of around 6,000 to 7,000 calories a day, but Dr Stroud, also from the institute, estimates Scott and his team would have had a deficit of around 3,000 calories a day.
More than 30,000 silver coins have been unearthed by archaeologists in Bath, a find believed to be the fifth largest hoard ever discovered in Britain and the largest from a Roman settlement. The coins, which were discovered about 450 feet from the city’s historic Roman baths, are thought to date from AD 270 and may have been hidden during a time of unrest in the Roman empire. The coins were found fused together in a large block and it could take experts up to 12 months to analyse them.
A letter written by author Beatrix Potter has sold for £750 at auction in London, around £250 less than the price it was expected to reach. The letter, which is written on black-edged mourning paper and dated 25 March 1933, recommends a gardener employed by Potter’s late mother at her home in Cumbria, and is signed by HB Heelis, the author’s married name. The letter was bought by a private collector from North America.