New records reveal life in the workhouse

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Thousands of untouched documents, including letters, memos and reports between the Cardiff and Llanfyllin Poor Law Unions and the London workhouse boards, have gone online for the first time. The newly scanned catalogue, compiled by volunteers, reveals what life was like in workhouses between 1834 and 1900.

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In Scotland, the murder site of Lord Darnley, second husband to Mary Queen of Scots, is to be unearthed for the first time. Excavations are currently underway in the quadrangle of Old College at Edinburgh University. Darnley was killed in mysterious circumstances in February 1567 and the crime was never solved.

In other Scottish news, the 4,000-year-old skeleton, known as the Queen of Inch, is to be re-interred in Inchmarnock island in the Firth of Clyde, around 60 years after it was discovered by a farmer. Archaeologists believe that the necklace buried with the skeleton indicates that the woman could have been a queen or chieftain.

Elsewhere, details of ten mass graves containing the remains of over 100 people discovered in York in 2007 have been revealed in Current Archaeology magazine. The skeletons, found crammed together and buried side-by-side, would have been soldiers of Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentary army, but are thought to have been killed by an infectious disease rather than in combat. 

Also hitting the history headlines this week was the news that Lullingstone Roman Villa in Kent may have been home to a former Emperor of Rome. A seal found just outside the villa is believed by archaeologists to be the personal mark of Publius Helvius Pertinax, Governor of Britain between AD185 and 187, and Roman Emperor for just 87 days in AD193.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, French politician Georges Freche has caused controversy by unveiling a statue of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in Montpellier at a cost of €200,000. Four other statues have been commissioned and Freche has said that he would ‘not rule out’ erecting a statue to Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Other finds this week include the remains of four trading vessels dating from the first century BC to the seventh century AD on the Mediterranean seabed off the coast of Italy. Sonar scanners revealed the remains of the ships, some measuring up to 18 metres long, with their cargoes intact. The vessels were carrying goods from North Africa, Italy and Spain, including wine, olive oil, fruit and garum, a pungent fish sauce used in Roman cooking.

In Turkey, archaeologists claim to have found the only surviving Byzantine monastic complex from ninth-century Constantinople in the Küçükyalı Arkeopark on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. Among the finds are elaborate marble floors and mosaics, coins and wall paintings.

Another archaeological dig near the antique city of Vindunum (now Le Mans) has uncovered a vast religious site dating from the first to the third centuries AD. Only a few stones remain to suggest the original temple structures, but archaeologists have discovered Gallic, Celtic, and Roman silver coins, brooches and jewellery left as offerings to the gods.

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And finally, Brazilian Second World War ‘rubber soldiers’ are awaiting the outcome of legal moves that could bring them recognition and compensation for their contribution to the war effort. Around 55,000 Brazilian people signed up to provide rubber to the US during the war, but many ended up living a life of poverty as the Brazilian government’s promises of healthcare, accommodation and food failed to materialise.