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Project uses 'crowd-sourcing' to decipher early handwriting

Published: October 26, 2012 at 8:59 am
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A team of researchers from Oxford University is calling on people to help learn more about the world's earliest known undeciphered writing system. The proto-Elamite system, used between 3200BC and 2900BC in an area south-west of present-day Iran, is featured on a series of clay tablets being examined with dedicated image-capturing equipment in the Ashmolean Museum. The resulting pictures will be made available on a new website along with the symbols that have already been decoded, allowing experts and members of the public to share their interpretations.


First World War 'should be jointly commemorated' 

British and Irish institutions should join forces to mark the centenary of the First World War, according to a report presented earlier this week. The paper, written by the chairman of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly's committee on Sovereign Affairs, follows a year-long consultation with academics, political organisations and community groups. As well as recommending the introduction of annual commemorations of specific anniversaries, the report also warns of the dangers of particular groups exploiting the centenary for divisive purposes.

Oldest known Auschwitz survivor dies

The oldest known survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp has died at the age of 108, according to officials. Antoni Dobrowolski, who worked as part of an underground movement to provide teaching to children in the years when education was restricted to suppress Polish culture, was captured by the Gestapo and sent to the camp in 1942. Later transferred to camps at Gross Rosen and Sachenhausen before being freed in 1945, Dobrowolski described Auschwitz as "worse than Dante's hell".

Portrait of 'young Henry VIII' found at National Library of Wales

A painting of a young Henry VIII discovered at the National Library of Wales is one of the earliest known depictions of the monarch, according to experts. The image, showing the future king weeping on the death of his mother (above, in the top left corner) is one of 34 pictures featured in a manuscript that was donated to the library in 1921, but which officials say was not recognised as being particularly exceptional. The volume also includes a 15th-century passional and is thought to have been presented to Henry VII following the death of his wife, Elizabeth of York.

Oldest Battle of Britain pilot, William Walker, dies

The oldest surviving pilot from the Battle of Britain has died at the age of 99. Flight lieutenant William Walker, who was born in Hampstead, north London, joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1938 before being called up for full-time service a year later. After being hit while engaging a large German bomber force over the English Channel on 26 August 1940, the pilot bailed out into the English Channel where he was rescued by a fishing boat and brought ashore at Ramsgate.

Stray cat leads to 2,000-year-old Roman catacomb

A tomb discovered by two Italian men chasing a wayward cat is likely to date from between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD, according to archaeologists. The catacomb, found beneath a cliff near Via di Pietralata in Rome, was littered with bones and lined with niches typically used to hold funeral urns. Experts believe that heavy rains earlier in the month caused rocks previously concealing the entrance to crumble, allowing the cat to unwittingly enter the grotto.

Bronze Age sauna uncovered in Assynt

Archaeologists have found what they believe could be the remains of a Bronze Age sauna at a site at Stronechrubie in the north-west Scottish Highlands. The dig, run by Historic Assynt, supervised by AOC Archaeology Group and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, uncovered a metre-deep pit linked with a channel to a nearby stream.

Gordon Sleigh, the group's project leader, said: "There were no animal bones or anything to suggest its use as a cooking site, and its size would have made it well-nigh impossible to bring to boiling point. So warm water is more likely, which suggests it was used for bathing, or perhaps as a sauna or sweat lodge."

Ceefax service ends after 38 years

BBC Ceefax, the world's first teletext service, has made its final transmission following the transfer of UK television signals to digital broadcasting. The service, which was launched on 23 September 1974 and designed to give viewers free access to the same information that was available to BBC journalists, reached as many as 20 million people a week during the peak of its popularity in the 1990s. 


Image credits: University of Oxford (writings); National Library of Wales (young Henry VIII); AOC Archaeology (Assynt)


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