Two baby teeth and a jaw fragment have been confirmed as the earliest known remains of Homo sapiens in Europe, according to research published in the journal Nature. Dating of the finds has suggested that the jaw bone, found in Kents Cavern, Devon, is more than 41,000 years old, while the two baby teeth, discovered in the Grotta del Cavallo in Apulia, Italy, could be up to 45,000 years old. The evidence supports recent stone tool discoveries that suggest modern people were in Europe more than 40,000 years ago, and also confirms that modern people overlapped in Europe with the Neanderthals for an extended period.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A has suggested that voyaging Vikings used Icelandic spars to find the sun in the sky. Icelandic spars, which are formed from crystallised calcium carbonate, polarise light, and may have been used as a navigational aid when cloud cover hid the sun. Norse legends tell of sunstones that were used to guide seafarers to North America, and the team behind the research believes that Icelandic spars could have provided the raw material of these mythical sunstones.
A pair of Queen Victoria’s silk bloomers have sold for £9,735 at auction in Edinburgh. The rather large undergarments, which sold for three times their estimated price, were auctioned alongside other royal artefacts, including a pair of Queen Victoria’s silk stockings, which sold for more than £5,000.
German archaeologists believe they have unearthed evidence of a Roman camp that may have once formed a vital part of the frontier that protected Rome’s empire against Germanic hordes. The camp, which was found on the River Lippe near the town of Olfen, is the size of seven football pitches and is thought to have been occupied between 11 and 7 BC. Roman coins, fragments of pottery and the remains of old defences are some of the finds already made at the site.
A Christmas pudding dating to 1900 and sent to the Naval Brigade during the Boer War has been donated to The National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, after having been left in the back of a food cupboard for years. The message on the pudding’s decorative tin reads: “For the Naval Brigade, In the Front, With Miss Weston’s Best Christmas & New Year, 1900, Wishes.” For anyone tempted to sample the 111-year-old plum pudding, cooking instructions state: “this pudding is ready for use but may be boiled for an hour if required hot”.
Archaeologists have unearthed what they believe was once a prehistoric ceremonial site at Cave Hil in Belfast. An earlier community excavation at the site of the Ballyaghagan cashel – a stone ring fort – uncovered objects dating back to 3,500 BC. The team first believed the site to be a standard cashel, but further excavation confirmed that it was not an early Christian enclosure after all. One of the unusual features discovered at the site was a piece of sandstone inscribed with an oval shape with segments.
A letter written by Admiral Lord Nelson and addressed to the Honourable William Frederick Wyndham, British minister for Florence at the time, has sold for £20,200 at auction in Derby. The document, which is dated 1799, was written two years after Nelson lost his right arm at the battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and tells of Nelson’s frustration at the lack of government funds to send news: “I am anxious to hear of any movements of the armies. They are most interesting but I could not pay sixpence for the news of the greatest victory from the public purse… I am forced to confess that our Government keep us seamen from putting our hand in the public chest.”
The brass Balaklava bugle that sounded the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854 is to come out of retirement at the Queen’s Royal Lancers Regimental Museum in Nottinghamshire, and be played at the British Military Tournament in London in December. The bugle was first played by Light Brigade commander and Lord Cardigan’s duty trumpeter, Billy Brittain, as British cavalrymen charged into Russian gunfire. Brittain later died of wounds received during the battle.