Sewer sheds light on Roman life


Archaeologists examining an ancient sewer beneath the town of Herculaneum in Italy have recovered 750 sacks of human excrement, thought to be the largest deposit of its kind ever found in the Roman world. Scientists studying the remains have discovered a wealth of information on Roman life 2,000 years ago, including what foods people ate and what jobs they did, by matching the material to the buildings above. Samples of human excrement from the 86-metre long tunnel have revealed that the Romans ate a lot of vegetables; one particular sample contained a high white blood cell count, which researchers believe indicates the presence of a bacterial infection. Herculaneum, along with the neighbouring town of Pompeii, was buried by the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79.


Evidence of Iron Age beer brewing in southeastern France

A paper published in Human Ecology has revealed evidence of beer brewing in southeastern France during the Iron Age following the discovery of barley grains that had been sprouted in a process known as malting. An oven found nearby is believed to have been used to regulate the process. The find, which was made in Roquepertuse, close to modern Aix-en-Provence, is thought to be the earliest evidence of brewing practices in France.

US government report into Vietnam War released

A top secret 7,000-page US government report into the Vietnam War has been released by the US National Archives, 40 years after parts of some of its most contentious passages were leaked to the New York Times. The so-called Pentagon Papers, commissioned in 1967, reveal that the Johnson administration secretly escalated the Vietnam conflict and lied to Congress about its actions.

Inca tombs discovered in Peru

A site dating back to between AD 1400 and 1500 has been discovered just over two miles above sea level in the Andes mountains in Peru. So far, 370 Inca tombs have been discovered, some of which still hold the remains of the deceased inside baskets made of woven ropes. Experts believe, however, that more tombs and artefacts could be discovered at the site.

Unseen Che Guevara diary published

A previously unseen diary by Ernesto Che Guevara has been published in Cuba, coinciding with what would have been the Argentine-born revolutionary’s 83rd birthday. Diary of a Combatant, which is a sequel to The Motorcycle Diaries, a memoir written when ‘Che’ Guevara was 23, covers the three-year guerrilla campaign that led to the eventual overthrow of then-president Gen Fulgencio Batista and brought Fidel Castro to power. ‘Che’ Guevara’s widow, Aleida March, decided to publish the writings unedited so that readers could get to know the revolutionary as he really was.

Royal pantomime programme to be sold

A pantomime programme from 1944 starring an 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth and a 14-year-old Princess Margaret is to be put up for auction in Colchester this month. The programme accompanied the show Old Mother Red Riding Boots, performed at the royal school in Windsor, in which the then Princess Elizabeth played a character called Lady Christina Sherwood. The royal sisters danced, sang and acted in the wartime production, which had music provided by the military, a set designed by an Oscar winner and a sound expert from the BBC.


First edition Mozart score withdrawn from auction

A booklet containing six sonatas for the harpsichord written by the eight-year-old Mozart on a visit to London in January 1765, found in an Oxfam shop in Reading, has been withdrawn from auction after claims it had been donated in error. A senior specialist in printed and manuscript music at Sotheby’s in London believes that the booklet of music is one of only ten in existence; it is written in French and dedicated to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III who reigned from 1760 to 1820.

Bronze statue creates conflict

A 72ft, £4.7 million bronze statue resembling Alexander the Great is to be erected in the Macedonian capital of Skopje, a move that has sparked conflict with Greece, which disputes Skopje’s right to claim Alexander’s heritage. The statue will be placed on a 10-metre fountain pedestal but has been criticised by some as being a waste of money.

Skeletons found at former Omagh hospital site

Seventy-nine skeletons thought to be 160 years old have been discovered beneath the car park of the former Omagh General Hospital site in Northern Ireland. During the 19th century, the site was home to a workhouse , but no records remain as to the identity of the skeletons and the burial plots were not marked.

Lost mill to be excavated in River Coquet

Amateur archaeologists from Coquetdale Community Archaeology group have been granted £9,500 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to search the River Coquet for a 13th-century cloth mill. It is believed that local monks operated the medieval fulling mill, submerged remains of which can still be seen in a stretch of the river near Barrowburn.


And finally…

Bristol City Council has teamed up with SlingShot, a Bristol-based company, to create Fortunes, a new iphone app for the launch of the city’s new M Shed museum, which opens this weekend. The game, which takes players on a historical tour of Bristol’s city streets, is designed to help engage a younger audience with history and with the exhibitions at the museum. Players move through 19th-century Bristol where they must dodge muggers and find the jobs, partners and connections they need to increase their social status and become mayor of 1870s Bristol. Fortunes is available to download free at Apple’s app store from Friday 17 June.