Second World War mass grave discovered in Slovenia

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A 20-metre-long pit believed to contain the remains of up to 700 men and women has been discovered near the town of Prevalje in Slovenia. The mass grave is thought to date to the end of the Second World War and researchers believe the victims may have been suspected Nazi collaborators who were killed by communist-backed anti-fascists. The find was made following recent floods and a landslide in the area.

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In other world war news, a pocket book containing poems and messages written by injured soldiers during the First World War has emerged after 92 years. The book, which was passed between the soldiers by an unknown nurse, includes entries describing wounds received in combat, as well as expressions of gratitude to the nursing staff.

In auction news, Sotheby’s is to sell a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America and Shakespeare’s First Folio, as well as a cache of letters from Elizabeth I to the jailor of Mary Queen of Scots, all belonging to the estate of the late Lord Hesketh. Shakespeare’s work has been valued at between £1 million and £1.5 million, while Birds of America could sell for up to £6 million. Other highlights of the December auction include a copy of William Caxton’s Polychronicon, as well as an illustrated copy of Plutarch’s Lives of Romulus and Cato the Younger.

In Herefordshire, the remains of nine adults and children, one dating to back between 10 and 210 AD, excavated near farmland close to the River Frome in 2007, have been re-interred following a service at the local church. The oak coffin in which one of the men was buried is to be displayed at Hereford City Museum.

Elsewhere, a Saxon boat has been found at the bottom of the River Ant in Norfolk during flood defence work. The three-metre vessel, hollowed out from a piece of oak, has been taken to York for preservation treatment.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, archaeologists have unearthed what they believe to be the first written trade agreement in Anatolia. The cuneiform-script tablets are thought to be 4,000 years old and form part of excavations that have been underway in the area since 1948.

In other archaeology news, a previously unknown Bronze Age monument has been discovered in countryside near Cottingham in East Yorkshire. The find was made during flights over the area during the summer.

Also making the history headlines is the news that a 17th-century painting by the French artist Poussin is to be sold at auction and the funds used to safeguard the future of Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. The work, entitled Ordination could make between £15 million and £20 million.

Researchers at the North West Film Archive in Manchester are concerned for the future of records of British life on film that are under threat from a fungal mould, which eats away at film. It is hoped that special sensors can be developed to detect the mould before it does any serious damage.

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And finally, an antique Chinese bowl with a guide price of £600 has sold for more than £38,000 at auction in Newcastle. The blue and white pot, thought to be a 19th-century copy of one made during the Kangxi dynasty between 1662 and 1722, attracted huge interest in China after it appeared in the online auction catalogue.