A 165-year-old pamphlet stored in a box at a Yorkshire public library has been identified as being the only surviving copy of a Chartist hymnbook. The 16 hymns within the document cover themes of social justice and protests against the exploitation of child labour and slavery. The pamphlet was discovered by an academic from the University of Manchester.
Archaeologists believe they have found the world’s earliest known wine-making facility in a cave in the mountains of south-east Armenia – near to where the world’s oldest leather shoe was discovered in June 2010. A shallow basin thought to be around 6,000 years old and measuring around one metre across was unearthed, along with grape seeds, the remains of pressed grapes, dried vines, and fermentation jars. It is thought that the bowl, positioned to drain into a deep vat, was once used as a wine press where people would have crushed grapes with their feet. Found by graves, archaeologists believe the wine-making facility may have been used for ceremonial purposes.
In Scotland, the remains of a boundary wall dating back to the 17th-century have been discovered at Edinburgh Castle during the excavation of the site’s esplanade for the new Tattoo. Experts believe the find will give historians a better understanding of the construction of the esplanade, which was formed in 1753 to create a parade ground for the military.
Italian art historian Carla Glori has claimed to have solved the mystery of the identity of the sitter in of one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings, the Mona Lisa. According to Glori the humpedback bridge featured in the painting spans the river Trebbia at Bobbio, near Piacenza, and the woman pictured is in fact Bianca Giovanna Sforza, the daughter of Ludovico il Moro.
Last month, the letters S and G were said to have been found in the eye of the painting’s sitter, but not all Da Vinci experts are convinced – retired Oxford University professor Martin Kemp maintains that the woman in the portrait is Italian noblewoman Lisa del Giocondo.
Archives dating from the 16th century are to be made available to the public thanks to a grant of £22,700 to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre by the National Cataloguing Grants programme. Among the documents to be made available online are the archives of the Earls of Radnor, including letters by George Washington, Horatio Nelson and Queen Elizabeth I, and correspondence from Thomas Cromwell.
Items once belonging to 19th-century poet Alfred Tennyson have been discovered in the attic of his former Isle of Wight home, Farringford House. A book inscribed to his son Lionel and sea serpent carvings were found under plasterboard during restoration work at the house where Tennyson lived with his family for 40 years. The attic was formerly the poet’s study from where he penned some of his most famous poems, such as The Charge of the Light Brigade and Crossing the Bar.
A portrait of Chairman Mao painted by artist Andy Warhol and once owned by the late actor Dennis Hopper has sold for £193,000 at a New York auction. According to Christie’s, the print contained bullet holes fired by Hopper after he mistook the portrait for the communist leader himself. Created in 1972, the work sold for more than 10 times its estimate.
A portrait of Queen Victoria’s favourite dog, a collie named Sharp, is to go under the hammer at Bonhams New York in February, and could fetch between £2,500 and £4,000. Sharp rarely left the queen’s side after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, but was known by others for his ill temper – the faithful dog was buried in Windsor Home Park, Berkshire, after his death in 1879.
Researchers at the German Foreign Office have unearthed a host of documents revealing a Nazi investigation into a Finnish dog that gave Nazi salutes. Jackie’s owner Tor Borg was interrogated by the Germans on suspicion of insulting Hitler and attempts were made to sabotage his business. One anonymous witness apparently claimed that “he saw and heard how Borg’s dog reacted to the command ‘Hitler’ by raising its paw”.