More than £5 million of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a further £1 million from the Mayor of London has been granted to create a major centre for black history and culture in the capital. The current Brixton-based Black Cultural Archives, which holds over 10,000 historical documents spanning more than 500 years, will eventually be moved to its new home in the currently derelict Grade II Raleigh Hall in Windrush Square.
Analysis of DNA from the 8,000-year-old remains of early farmers found in Germany has revealed similarities to the genetic make-up of those living in today’s Turkey and Iraq. The discovery has led scientists to believe that the concept of farming in Europe may not have been spread by word of mouth, as previously thought, but could have been brought to Europe by migrants from the Near East.
Elsewhere, concerns have been raised about Italy’s state support for the country’s cultural heritage after Pompeii’s House of the Gladiators, formerly used by gladiators for training purposes, was found in ruins. It is thought that the structure may have become unstable following heavy rains in the region.
Back in Britain, flint and bone fragments found under a former riverbank where the river Wye used to flow may indicate that the river was used for food and transport around 6,500 to 7,500 years ago – thousands of years earlier than previously thought. The previous earliest known settlement in the town is thought to be about 2,500 years old.
Meanwhile, across the world, what could be the world’s oldest axe with a sharpened edge has been discovered in northern Australia. The ground-axe fragment is thought to be 35,000 years old and pre-dates other examples found in Japan and elsewhere in northern Australia by up to 12,000 years.
In other archaeology news, a series of ancient underwater etchings have been discovered in the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon river in Brazil, after drought caused the river to fall to its lowest level in 100 years. The etchings are thought to have been created between 3,000 and 7,000 years ago and feature images of faces and snakes.
In Germany, 11 sculptures, condemned by the Nazis as being pieces of “degenerate art”, are to go on show at Berlin’s Neues Museum. The pieces belong to a collection of 15,000 works and were originally banned for containing “deviant” sexual elements and anti-nationalistic themes.
Elsewhere, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has announced that it is to return 19 artefacts taken from Tutankhamun’s tomb to their homeland of Egypt. The collection, consisting of small figurines and jewellery, will join the rest of the Tut collection at the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, due to open in 2012.
In Scotland, archaeologists have discovered a First World War trench system in a park in Stirling, which would have been used to train recruits of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
Historian and government advisor Simon Schama has set out six key historical events that he believes every child should learn about at school: Thomas Becket and Henry II; The Black Death and the Peasants’ Revolt; the execution of Charles I; the British in India; the Irish wars; and the opium wars and China. His announcement forms part of his campaign to engage school children in British history once again.
And finally, Andante Travels has invited deserving archaeological projects to submit their applications for this year’s Andante Travels Archaeological Award – a £2,000 cash prize designed to help protect, or discover more about, our archaeological heritage anywhere in the world. Last year’s winner was the Maya site of Lamanai, a vast ruined city in the remote jungles of Belize. More information can be found at www.andantetravels.co.uk or by telephoning 01722 713 800.