New research into the remains of 97 babies discovered in what was thought to be a Roman brothel in Buckinghamshire has questioned the theory that the brothel’s occupants committed infanticide to rid themselves of unwanted offspring. The newborn infants were originally excavated from the remains of a lavish Roman villa complex in Buckinghamshire around 100 years ago, but were rediscovered packed in cigarette cases in a museum storeroom in 2008. However, Brett Thorn, keeper of archaeology at the Buckinghamshire County Museum, has disputed the brothel theory on the grounds that the villa was too far away from major population centres. Thorn has proposed instead that the villa had associations with a series of mother goddess cults from around the world, and may have been the site of a shrine where women went to give birth. This, he believes, is supported by the discovery of cut marks in one of the bones, which could indicate ritual practices, the de-fleshing of bones before burial, or the dismembering of a baby during childbirth to save the life of the mother.
A full discussion of the new research and DNA results will feature on the new series of Digging for Britain on BBC Two, which starts the first week in September
Analysis of portraits of Peter the Wild Boy, the feral child brought back to England from Germany by George I in 1725, suggests that Peter had a rare genetic condition known as Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome, says Lucy Worsley, curator of Historic Royal Palaces. Peter was unable to walk or talk and disliked wearing clothes, but became a firm favourite at Kensington Palace where he was treated like a “human pet”. Worsley, together with Professor Phillip Beales of the Institute of Child Health, believes that Peter’s short stature; thick curly hair; hooded eyelids; pronounced curve on his upper lip; and fusing on his left hand all point to Pitt-Hopkins, a condition only identified in 1978.
Reverend Hugh Grimes, a Church of England vicar working at Christ Church in Vienna during the Second World War, has been credited with helping save the lives of up to 1,800 Austrian Jews in 1938. Reverend Grimes baptised hundreds of Jews in the hope that their baptism certificates would help them escape the country. The church ledgers reveal an increase in baptisms after 23 July 1938: the date the Jewish identity card was introduced.
A private box at the Royal Albert Hall has gone on sale for £550,000. The box – the only one of its kind in the hall to retain its original timber veneer and mirrored panels – has around 865 years left of its original 999-year lease. Queen Victoria paid £100 for 20 of the 1,300 seats when the building was constructed in 1871.