Stirling Castle skeletons suffered “brutally violent” deaths
Scientists studying the remains of five skeletons found buried at Stirling Castle, along with four other human remains, have suggested that they suffered “brutally violent” deaths, possibly during sieges, skirmishes or battles during the Wars of Independence. The nine skeletons, of which five display severe injuries, are thought to date back to between the 13th and 15th centuries. One set of remains, a man aged between 16 and 20, revealed a stab wound to the chest, as well as damage to his skull, jaw, collarbone and ribs. Another skeleton, this time a woman aged between 25 and 35, displayed 10 fractures to the right side of her skull, resulting from two heavy blows, as well as neat, square holes through the top of her skull, which suggest she was killed with a weapon such as a war hammer. The skeletons were all buried beneath a lost 12th-century royal chapel, indicating that they were once people of importance.
An international team analysing early human-like populations in southern Africa have suggested that early cave women may have moved on from their childhood homes, while males stayed in the area where they grew up. Tooth samples from eight individuals, found at cave sites north-west of the South African city of Johannesburg, were analysed to test for particular isotopes, or forms, of the metallic element strontium, which can reveal the geological region where individuals were raised. The larger teeth, presumed to be male, showed that these individuals lived and died in the region. However, an analysis of the smaller teeth, which were presumed to be female, showed that these individuals grew up outside the region.
‘Merlin’s burial place’ built in 2400 BC
Marlborough Mound in Wiltshire, claimed by some to be the site of the legendary wizard Merlin’s final resting place, has been found to date back to 2400 BC. Radiocarbon dating tests were performed on charcoal samples taken from the 19-metre-high mound, which was previously thought to date to AD 600. If the new date is correct, the mound would be of a similar age to Silbury Hill, an artificial man-made mound sited around five miles away.
The National Museum of Computing has announced the completion of its restoration work on a Tunny machine, a computer-like appliance that once helped to unscramble Allied interceptions of the encrypted orders Hitler sent to his generals during the Second World War. Work first began on rebuilding the Tunny in 2005, but lack of source material made the rebuild challenging. According to the team, the trickiest part of the rebuild was getting the six timing circuits of the machine working in unison.
Archaeologists believe they have discovered a ‘recreation of the underworld’ at the ancient city of Teotihuacan in Mexico after a radar device revealed a 120-metre-long tunnel, thought to lead to three chambers. No monarch’s remains have ever been found at the site but some members of the team believe the tunnel, which is situated 13 metres below ground, could lead to the remains of the rulers of the Mesoamerican civilisation. Teotihuacan, which boasts huge pyramids of the sun and moon, is thought to have been built in 100 BC and existed until the eighth century. Archaeologists believe that the city was constructed as a replica of how the Mesoamerican civilisation saw the universe. This has led some to imagine the tunnel, which is covered in symbols, to be a recreation of the underworld.
Professor's smartest archbishop is announced
Laurence Goldstein, professor of philosophy and head of the School of European Culture at the University of Kent, has announced the results of his research to name the smartest ever Archbishop of Canterbury, measured in terms of logical acuity and breadth of learning. Thomas Bradwardine who, in the early part of the 14th century, was prominent among the ‘Merton Calculators’ at Oxford University, was ultimately awarded the top spot, but Goldstein noted that current incumbent, Rowan Williams, was also a strong contender. Another former archbishop who missed out on first place was St Anselm (1033-1109).
A rare drawing by Italian artist Michelangelo is to go on sale at Christie’s in London next month. The male nude is expected to sell for up to £5m. It is one of only 24 sheets relating to The Battle of Cascina, one of the artist’s uncompleted works and the only study for the fresco in private hands. The drawing was seen in public for the first time last year, in Vienna.
Conservation charity Save Britain's Heritage has released a catalogue of properties across the UK that it deems to be under threat. Among the buildings listed were three in Oxfordshire: a 16th-century shop in Banbury's Market Place, North Aluminium Company offices, also in Banbury, and a derelict house in Headington, Oxford. The properties were listed in the report, Take a Chance on Me, which was published on 1 June.
A site at Maryport in Cumbria where 17 Roman altars were discovered 141 years ago is currently being excavated by experts from Newcastle University. The altars were originally discovered in 1870 by former landowner Humphrey Senhouse and it is hoped that this dig will help shed light on the nature of religion at the time.
A 15th-century bronze lion head, thought to have been a hat badge, has been uncovered at a building site near Runcorn in Cheshire. Around 80 items were discovered at the site, including 13th-century potter and footings of timber-framed houses. The area is currently being excavated ahead of planned building work.