A group of around 70 books, each containing between five and 15 lead leaves and bound by lead rings have come to light in Israel. The artefacts were originally discovered between 2005 and 2007 after a flash flood exposed two niches inside a cave in northern Jordan. The books, thought to be almost 2,000 years old, could be the earliest Christian writing in existence and are written mostly in coded ancient Hebrew. A scholar of ancient religious archaeology believes the relics to be of Christian origin rather than Jewish, due to some of the images decorating the covers of the books – one features an image of the city of Jerusalem, with a cross in the foreground and a small building with an opening, which is thought to represent the tomb of Jesus. The Jordanian government is now trying to get the relics repatriated back to the country where they were found, claiming that they were smuggled into Israel.
To see amazing slideshow images of the books, visit the BBC Radio 4 website.
Archaeologists believe that they can now dismiss the 80-year-old theory of how humans first populated the Americas, following the discovery of thousands of stone tools pre-dating the technology widely assumed to have been carried by the first settlers. Found in Texas, the recently discovered artefacts are around 15,500 years old and pre-date those created by the so-called ‘Clovis people’ who were previously thought to have been America’s first immigrants. The Clovis culture was defined by its highly efficient stone-tool technology.
An elaborate labyrinth of sacred catacombs containing the mummified remains of millions of dogs has been excavated under the Egyptian deserts. Experts working on the Catacombs of Anubis project, led by Cardiff University’s Paul Nicholson, are now examining the tunnels, found beneath the desert at Saqqara in Egypt. It is believed that the catacombs contain the remains of some eight million dogs and jackals, many of which were only hours or days old when they were killed and mummified. It is likely the dogs were bred in their thousands in special puppy farms around the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, and acted as an intermediary between the donor and the gods.
Image: Hendrikje Nouwens, an Egyptologist from the Netherlands, examines one of the dogs buried in a special wall niche. Remains of the wooden coffin can be seen. Photo: Dr Paul T. Nicholson
Researchers have claimed that significant archaeological discoveries are being made possible by strong beams of X-rays, which can illuminate pigments beneath the surface of artefacts; X-rays have even been known to show traces of tools made thousands of years ago. The process was first used by Professor Thorne and his team at Cornell University in the US, back in 2005.
Newly released documents have suggested that Eamon de Valera, one of the men who helped secure an independent Ireland, secretly co-operated with Britain to crush the IRA. The papers reveal that in 1939 de Valera asked London to help smear Sean Russell, the IRA’s chief of staff, as a communist agent; de Valera feared London might invade if Ireland was perceived as a threat, particularly as war with Germany was brewing.
Census data from 1891 has confirmed that a Scotsman from Busby, Renfrewshire, arranged Brazil’s first organised football match in 1894. Thirty-one-year-old Thomas Donohoe moved to Brazil in 1893 to work in a textile factory near Rio de Janeiro and has been confirmed as having organised the first five-a-side game a year later.
The museums and heritage services section of Birmingham city council has made the decision to scrap free entry to five of the city’s museums in a bid help make “significant savings” of £1.2 million for 2011/12, of which £250,000 is to come from community museums. Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, Soho House and the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter are to each charge a £4 entry fee for adults, while Sarehole Mill will charge £3.
A self-portrait by British artist Lucian Freud, drawn for his mother while he was in his late teens, is expected to fetch £6,000 at auction in May. The card was originally drawn as a birthday card for his mother, whose portrait also features on work, and was created using ink, gouache and coloured pencil.
Three sites, including one in Bath, have each been given a share of a £10 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Kettle’s Yard, Cardigan Castle and the Royal Crescent in Bath will each get a slice of the grant, with the largest portion of £4.7 million going to restoring buildings and gardens and creating a new heritage centre at Cardigan Castle in Ceredigion.
Paintings by 17th-century Spanish Baroque artist Francisco Zurbaran have been saved from sale by a £15 million donation. The works, which currently hang in Auckland Castle, were earmarked for sale by church commissioners who wished to use the funds raised for church efforts in poorer areas. However, the £15 million donation by investment manager Jonathan Ruffer means that the paintings can stay in the room specifically built for them, 250 years ago.