Researchers at the University of Sheffield have launched a new online catalogue examining the history of miracles through the ages. The database includes over 600 miracles spanning three continents and 800 years of history, and allows for exploration of links between records, such as locations, gender and the outcomes of the miracles. The information has already revealed that miracles became more diverse over the years and that the lower classes appeared to be more favourably treated by the saints. You can view the catalogue on the University of Sheffield website.
Scientists using the latest forensic techniques have confirmed an embalmed head as belonging to King Henri IV of France – a lesion near the nose, a pierced ear and a healed facial wound were among the marks identifying the head. The French king was assassinated in 1610 and his head was later lost after revolutionaries ransacked the royal chapel at Saint Denis, near Paris, in 1793. The head will be reinterred in the Basilica of Saint Denis next year. You can read more about Henri IV of France in our Christmas issue – out now.
A massive storm that struck the coast of Israel causing the collapse of a cliff in the city of Ashkelon has unearthed a Roman statue believed to date back 1,800-2,000 years. The white marble figure of a woman weighs around 200 kg and is about 1.2 metres tall but is missing a head and arms.
Also making the history headlines this week was the discovery of what is thought to be a 2,400-year-old pot of soup, found sealed in a bronze cooking vessel near Xian in China. The liquid and bones inside the vessel had turned green due to the oxidization of the bronze container and tests are being carried out to ascertain the ingredients used. Also found was an odourless liquid, believed to be wine.
In Cambridgeshire, a First World War postcard found behind panelling in a village hall at Shepreth is believed to have been written by a wounded soldier staying in the hall, which was used as a military hospital during the war. The postcard appears to have been written by a wife or sweetheart to a Pte Edward Wolstencroft of the Royal Fusiliers who, records show, was tragically killed during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
Staying with the First World War, a historian at the University of Aberdeen has claimed that Christmas truces between opposing forces continued throughout the conflict rather than just during the Christmas of 1914. According to Dr Thomas Weber, festive cease-fires also took place in 1915 and 1916 but may have been more localised and on a smaller scale. You can read more about Christmas cease-fires during the First World War in our online feature.
Menus dating back to 1916 discovered at the Green Howards Regimental Museum in Richmond have revealed how Yorkshire soldiers enjoyed a Christmas dinner during the First World War. The menu, handwritten on paper torn from a notebook, is full of ‘trench humour’ with delicacies such as Croquette du Saumon de la Somme and Liqueurs des Allies. It is unclear whether the menu was for a real meal or was merely a joke on the part of the soldiers.
In other seasonal news, a Georgian mince pie recipe published in a recipe book in 1772 has been discovered at Wallington Hall in Northumberland. However, rather than the fruit filling we enjoy today, the 18th-century version included ox tongue. Wallington Hall is now recreating the festive treat for visitors to sample.
In Cornwall, the National Maritime Museum is working to conserve what could be one of the oldest birch bark canoes in existence. The boat has been stored on the Enys Estate near Penryn for a number of years and is estimated to be over 250 years old. It has now been moved to the Maritime Museum in Falmouth for conservation before being repatriated to the Canada’s Canoe Museum for further research.
And finally, archive of film footage depicting British life in the 1930s and 1940s has been released online for the first time by the British Council. The films were used as propaganda to show the best of British life as fascism was gaining momentum in Europe and includes footage of cricket and Kew Gardens.