Friday, 12 March 2010

This week's top news: oldest maritime dog and decapitated Vikings

by Kathryn Hadley
465-year old skeleton of the oldest maritime dog on display
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard announced yesterday, March 11th, that the skeleton of a two-year old mongrel who sailed abroad the Mary Rose will return to the dockyard and Mary Rose Museum at the end of the month. The dog’s skeleton went on display yesterday at Crufts in Birmingham, where it is due to be analysed in an attempt to identify its breed. It will thereafter be displayed, on March 26th, in the Mary Rose Museum.
The dog was discovered trapped in the sliding door of the carpenter’s cabin of the Mary Rose, where she had lain since the ship sank in the Battle of the Solent on July 19th, 1545. It is believed that the dog was a ratter on board the Mary Rose and studies of her skeleton suggest that she was not very active and spent most of her life on board the ship.
Read the press release on the website of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
Jack Malvern also reports in The Times.

Decapitated Viking skeletons
In June, 51 decapitated skeletons were discovered in a burial pit in Ridgeway Hill, near Weymouth. They were originally thought to be Romans, but the latest studies by scientists from NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory, part of the British Geological Survey, suggest that they were instead Scandinavian Vikings.
The team, led by David Score from Oxford Archaeology, unearthed at least 51 skulls and analysed the isotope signatures in the tooth enamel of ten of the men. They concluded that the men came from countries with a colder climate than Britain’s, typical of Norway or Sweden, and believe they were executed by local Anglo Saxons in front of an audience sometime between AD 910 and AD 1030.
Further information is available on the website of the British Geological Survey.

La Rafle
La Rafle was released in cinemas in France on Wednesday, March 10th. The film tells the story of the round-up of 13,000 Jews in the Vélodrome d’Hiver on July 16th, 1942, who were then transported to extermination camps in Poland. Although there had been previous round-ups in 1941, the scale of the rafle du Vélodrome d’Hiver was unprecedented with women and children also rounded-up for the first time. The film is viewed as a major step in France’s recognition of some of the shameful episodes of its past notably during the German occupation.
For further information, visit the film’s official website.
Lizzy Davies also reports on the release in The Guardian.

Earliest examples of the use of symbolism
According to the latest research, a series of inscribed ostrich shell fragments believed to date back 60,000 years and discovered in the Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa may be evidence of some of the earliest uses of symbolism by modern humans. The fragments have been investigated for the past ten years. The results of the research are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
Jonathan Amos also reports on the website of the BBC.

University of Manchester historian receives ‘Antiquités de la France’ award
The University of Manchester announced, yesterday, that Professor Joseph Bergin had been awarded one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious history prizes by the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres for his book Church, society and religious change in France, 1580-1730.
The Académie was founded, in 1665, by Louis XIV’s minister, Colbert, in an effort to embellish the French monarchy and its achievements by drawing on the members’ classical learning to devise inscriptions and other suitable emblems. Every year, it honours three publications with the ‘Antiquités de la France’ award in recognition of the most important books published on the history of France. The prize has, however, rarely been rarely given to non-French language publications.
Image (Mary Rose Trust)

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