Tools reveal diversity of early American settlers


Tools and animal remains found on islands off the coast of California may give an insight in to the lives of the first Americans, according to experts. The 12,000-year-old finds show fine tool technology and indicate the existence of a rich maritime economy. The team studying California’s Channel Islands were surprised to find that the tools differed greatly to those previously found on the mainland – inland tools tended to have fluted points, probably used to hunt large animals like the woolly mammoth, whereas points found on the islands were much more delicate, almost certainly used for hunting fish.


Stonehenge to be laser scanned

Wiltshire’s ancient monument, Stonehenge, is to be scanned using modern laser technology to search for possible hidden clues about how and why it was built. The team involved will be looking for rock art but also more modern graffiti during the survey, which is due to finish at the end of March. Carvings have previously been found on the stones, including a famous Neolithic ‘dagger’ and the word ‘Wren’, thought to have been carved by Sir Christopher Wren whose family had a home nearby.


400-year-old King James Bible discovered

An original King James Bible from 1611 has been discovered on a shelf in St Laurence Church in Hilmarton, near Calne in Wiltshire. The book was originally found in 1857 by a former reverend of the church who trimmed some of the pages to tidy the book up and carved a cover from oak. There are fewer than 200 original editions of the King James Bible known to exist. You can read more about the King James Bible in the March edition of BBC History Magazine – out now.


Unseen photographs of the ‘Great Quake’ are unearthed

Six unpublished colour photographs of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire that nearly destroyed the city have been unearthed. The images were taken by photography innovator Frederick Eugene Ives several months after the ‘Great Quake’ in April 1906, and show the shattered buildings in downtown San Francisco, and rooftop views overlooking miles of ruins. Ives was one of only a few photographers experimenting with colour photography in the early 20th century.

Scottish team to scan ancient Indian landmark

A team of experts from the Glasgow School of Art and Historic Scotland are to digitally scan the Rani Ki Vav Stepwell in Gujarat, India, as part of a global programme to record sites of historical significance. The site, which dates back to 1050, has only been fully excavated within the past 50 years, and is made up of decorated stepped terraces descending into the ground.


Magic mushrooms could have been used 6,000 years ago

Scientists studying cave murals in Spain believe they have found evidence of magic mushroom use 6,000 years ago. The Selva Pascuala cave mural near Villar del Humo depicts a bull, but also appears to show a row of 13 small mushroom-like objects, which some scientists believe could be Psilocybe hispanica, a local funghi with hallucinogenic properties. It is thought the mushrooms may have been used in religious rituals.

Early humans may have begun in southern Africa

Data collected during an extensive genetic study looking at patterns of genetic diversity among 27 (present-day) African populations, has suggested that modern humans may have originated from southern Africa. The results show that hunter-gatherer populations in the region had the greatest degree of genetic diversity, an indicator of longevity, and say that the region was ‘probably the best location for the origin of modern humans’. The findings challenge the view that modern humans came from eastern Africa.

Unseen Eva Braun photo album is released

A previously unseen photo album showing photographs of Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun is to feature in this month’s Life magazine. Some of the images depict Braun as a child, while others shed light on her life with Hitler; many of the pictures show her holidaying at the Nazi leader’s retreat in the Bavarian Alps and dressing up for carnivals. The photographs were recovered from Braun’s home by the US Army after the pair had committed suicide in an underground bunker in April 1945.


Roman activity uncovered near Stroud

Items found at an archeological dig in Stonehouse near Stroud have revealed evidence of some of the earliest Roman activity known in the Stroud Valleys. More than a dozen human skeletons were unearthed from the site at the end of 2010 and further analysis of the discoveries is now underway. One of the most notable burials was a grave containing the skeletons of two individuals, closely flexed together. A number of iron nails found around the edge of two of the graves suggests the bodies were buried inside coffins.

19th-century human bones to return home

The skeletal remains of 138 indigenous people taken from the Torres Strait Islands in the 19th century are to be returned by the Natural History Museum in London following a long campaign by indigenous leaders. The body parts were originally collected by early explorers and missionaries, but Torres Strait islanders believe that the souls of the dead have been unable to rest ever since, and are delighted with the repatriation plans.


Pompeii tomb pieces reunited after nearly 2,000 years

Almost 2,000 years after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the Italian city of Pompeii, the broken parts of a tomb inscription for a husband and wife have finally been reunited, after the missing piece was discovered. The marble inscription was smashed during the eruption in AD 79, but the missing piece, containing the female name Servilia, has now been reunited with the other fragments. The inscription, which is now legible, reads: ‘Lucius Catilius Pamphilus, freedman of Lucius, member of the Collinian tribe, for his wife Servilia, in a loving spirit.’