China’s ancient treasures are under threat from tomb raiders using dynamite and bulldozers to break into tombs and chambers to seize precious artefacts and relics, say experts. According to one archaeologist at Peking University, 95 per cent of tombs are empty because of tomb-raiding; the team found that out of more than 900 tombs in one part of Shanxi, almost every one had been raided. Despite a police crackdown, many of the stolen artefacts are sold on to international dealers within days, with an estimated 100,000 people involved in the trade nationally.
The local history group Friends of Thynghowe has received a £50,000 lottery grant to investigate land surrounding a mysterious ancient monument in Sherwood Forest. The Thynghowe or Thing, an open-air meeting place where Vikings gathered to discuss the law, was first discovered in the forest seven years ago, with references to local people meeting on a hill found in a 200-year-old document describing a walk around Birklands. Only a handful of similar sites have been identified in the British Isles; a survey on the land is to be carried out to record other significant features in the landscape.
Chile’s centre-right government has caused a political row in the country by stating that school textbooks are to refer to the military rule of General Augusto Pinochet as a “regime”, and not a “dictatorship”. The move has provoked outrage among left-wing opposition parties, which have accused officials of trying to whitewash history. General Pinochet’s rule, which ended in 1990, saw more than 3,000 Chileans killed or removed by the armed forces, but the legacy of the period is still much disputed, with the former leader’s supporters saying he saved Chile from communism.
A late 18th-century Chinese porcelain altarpiece has sold for more than 40 times its estimated value at auction in Cornwall. The 22cm-high altarpiece, which had been turned into a lamp by its owner, had a list price of £400 to £600 but intense interest from Chinese bidders helped boosted the item’s final value.
Celebrity dieters often hit the news in the new year, but it would appear that the public’s obsession with celebrity weight loss is not a modern phenomenon, according to historian Louise Foxcroft. Lord Byron in particular, she says, had a “morbid propensity to fatten” and existed on a strict diet of biscuits and soda water or potatoes drenched in vinegar. He also wore thick woolly jumpers to sweat off the pounds but would then binge on large meals. According to records at Berry Bros & Rudd, a wine merchants of St James’s, London, the poet lost nearly five stone between 1806 and 1811.