‘Lost’ letters highlight DNA tensions

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Extracts from ‘lost’ letters belonging to the Cambridge scientists who discovered the structure of DNA in the 1950s have been published in the journal Nature, revealing many of the tensions surrounding the scientific breakthrough. The correspondence was found among papers belonging to scientist Sydney Brenner who had once shared an office with Francis Crick, one of the three winners of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the DNA-related work.

Meanwhile, archaeologists on the island of Crete in Greece have uncovered a 2,700-year-old skeleton, covered in more than 3,000 pieces of gold foil, near the ancient town of Eleutherna. The tiny gold ornaments were probably once sewn onto a lavish robe or shroud that had initially wrapped the body of a woman. The grave also revealed a second skeleton contained in a large jar sealed with a stone slab and hidden behind a false wall.

Extracts from ‘lost’ letters belonging to the Cambridge scientists who discovered the structure of DNA in the 1950s have been published in the journal Nature, revealing many of the tensions surrounding the scientific breakthrough. The correspondence was found among papers belonging to scientist Sydney Brenner who had once shared an office with Francis Crick, one of the three winners of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the DNA-related work.

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Meanwhile, archaeologists on the island of Crete in Greece have uncovered a 2,700-year-old skeleton, covered in more than 3,000 pieces of gold foil, near the ancient town of Eleutherna. The tiny gold ornaments were probably once sewn onto a lavish robe or shroud that had initially wrapped the body of a woman. The grave also revealed a second skeleton contained in a large jar sealed with a stone slab and hidden behind a false wall.

In Wiltshire, chemical tests on teeth belonging to a teenager who died 3,550 years ago and buried near Stonehenge have revealed that the boy probably grew up around the Mediterranean Sea. The 90-bead amber necklace buried alongside the teenager and his proximity to Stonehenge, suggest that the teenager was of significant status and the amber used to make the beads is thought to have come from the Baltic Sea.

In other Stonehenge news, scientific research has suggested that the historical site was just as popular in prehistoric times as it is with visitors today after findings revealed that around 30 per cent of the wealthiest individuals buried around Stonehenge came from hundreds, and even thousands, of miles away. Some archaeologists have speculated that the site may have had a reputation as a centre of healing.

Across the Channel in France, the remains of a temple dedicated to the Indo-Iranian god Mithras has been discovered at Angers. The small rectangular chapel is thought to date to the third century AD and a bas-relief depicts the pagan god slaughtering a bull. Also found were oil lamps, coins and a bronze 4th-century crucifix fibula.

According to Bild magazine the First World War will finally end this weekend once Germany pays its final installment of the interest owed on loans taken out during the 1930s to pay £22 billion in reparations to the Allied powers. The country’s Second World War reparations were primarily paid in machinery and other moveable goods.

Elsewhere, the discovery of sling bullets and human remains just outside Hamoukar in Syria, have led archeologists to believe that the members of this suspected Uruk colony may have been killed, in fact, by an Uruk army, leading many to believe that the site may contain the remains of a 5,500-year-old fractricide. 

In other history news, a new study has suggested that a genocide took place in North America in around 800 AD. The conclusions were made based on the discovery of crushed leg bones, battered skulls and other mutilated human remains found in Sacred Ridge, southwest of Durango, Colorado. Archaeologists believe that the scale of the mutilations suggests that the event was organised and took place over a short space of time.

Back in England, scholars from Cambridge University have recorded readings of early Babylonian texts and posted them online for the first time. The Babylonian language inscribed on the ancient tablets, which died out around 2,000 years ago, has required detailed forensic investigation to establish the correct pronunciation. The collection of Babylonian readings can be listened to for free at www.speechisfire.com.

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And finally, a walking stick once belonging to British spy and multimillionaire explorer William Gill has been sold at auction in Edinburgh. The walking stick, which was used to bludgeon its owner to death more than a 100 years ago as he gathered intelligence for the British government, fetched £1,400.