Pompeii exhibits to go on display at British Museum


Casts of dead bodies, the preserved remains of a dog and a nearly 2,000-year-old loaf of bread are among 250 relics of Pompeii and Herculaneum to be exhibited in the British Museum from March 2013. Some of the items, including preserved wooden furniture from Herculaneum, have never left Italy before. The exhibition, set to run from 28 March until 29 September, will explore the daily lives of individuals including businessmen, powerful women, freed slaves and children in the two settlements, some of whom are portrayed in bronzes and wall paintings.


Archive Asia images go online

Hundreds of images of Asia from the British Colonial Office’s Photographic Collection have been made available to explore by The National Archives on picture-sharing service Flickr. The Asia Through a Lens project covers China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, India, Pakistan, the Maldives and the Suez Canal, and follows similar releases featuring locations including Canada and Africa. The National Archives hopes to improve the descriptions of their images through user comments on the website.


New Edmund Burke essays discovered

Three essays thought to be among the earliest political writings of 18th-century MP Edmund Burke have been discovered by a professor from Queen Mary University. Richard Bourke found the works, which are thought to date from approximately 1757, among notebooks held by Burke’s friend and distant cousin, William Burke. The politician was an MP for the Whig party between 1766 and 1794, and the essays hint at the philosophical and intellectual themes that would influence his later thinking and parliamentary career.


Buddhist statue discovered by Nazis ‘made of meteorite’

A statue known as the ‘Iron Man’ discovered in Tibet in 1938 by a Nazi expedition was constructed from the remains of a meteorite, according to scientists. Weighing 10kg, the statue portrays the god Vaisravana and includes a large swastika on the chest, which may have inspired the SS-supported expedition to take it back to Germany. Dr Elmar Buchner, who led the study into the origins of the statue, claims that it is part of a 15,000 year-old Chinga meteorite, and was probably created nearly a thousand years ago.


Laser mapping used to uncover Skokholm settlements

Archaeologists have used aerial laser surveying techniques to reveal more about an island off the south-west coast of Pembrokeshire, which may have been home to multiple settlements throughout history. Although the currently uninhabited island is known to have been inhabited in prehistoric times, the survey has revealed later Iron Age ruins and medieval earthworks. Dr Oliver Davis, one of the researchers, said: “The laser scans can identify features that vegetation might hide, as little as a few centimetres high”.

A physical survey team will be sent in 2013 to confirm the evidence of a medieval settlement, thought to be similar to the one on nearby Skomer Island.


Painting of 19th-century Shakespearean actor uncovered

A painting of a black Shakespearian actor thought to date from the 1820s has been found after being hidden for decades in a tea-chest in a garage. Ira Aldrige, who was one of the few successful black actors of his time and the only one given a bronze plaque at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, was most famous for roles in Othello and The Merchant of Venice. Art historian Michelle Linger calls the piece “significant,” as, unlike his depiction in the majority of the portraits, the actor is shown in a non-Shakespeare role in mid-performance.


Volunteer project investigates Exeter’s ethnic history

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded more than £49,000 to a team of volunteers investigating the multicultural history of Exeter. Launched by Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, star of the television series Young Black Farmers, the project will produce a website and guided tour in March 2013. The project, launching on 1 October, is set to be carried out thanks to a partnership with Exeter University, Devon Record Office, Exeter City Council and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.


Elizabeth I’s saddle sold for £19,000 at auction

A royal saddlecloth used by Elizabeth I on a state visit to Bristol in 1574 has been sold for £19,000 to an unknown buyer at an auction in Newbury. The saddle, presented to an ancestor of the late writer Miles Kington and passed down through his family for several generations, was sold by his wife. In a note to his wife left with the item, Kington joked that the saddle was cursed, and would kill any horse that it was placed on.


Amateur fresco restorer demands royalties

An 80-year old woman responsible for a botched restoration of the fresco Ecce Homo is now claiming royalties. Cecilia Gimenez, who repainted the faded image of Jesus, is demanding a cut of the profits earned by The Sanctuary of Mercy Church in Borja, Spain, which has started charging people to view the artwork. However, although the church is making money from Gimenez’s efforts following the spread of the story online, the family of original artist Elias Garcia Martinez are threatening to sue over the destruction of the work.


Image credits: The National Archives/British Colonial Office (Asia images); Wiley Science Newsroom (Buddha statue); Thomas Crown Art (Shakespearean actor); Dreweatts (Elizabeth’s saddle)