Category: malcolmj - Part 3

Latin Lovers: Bettany Hughes Helps Boris Johnson Launch ‘Classics for Schools’

Mayor of London - Boris Johnson Mayor of London Boris Johnson is to be joined by popular historian Bettany Hughes and head teachers from primary and secondary schools across the city at Londons City Hall tomorrow to launch a new drive to boost classical education in state schools. But is there any point teaching a dead language to already-bored kids?

The tousle-haired Tory studied Classics at Oxford as an undergraduate, and has long talked-up how beneficial a good understanding of classical history can be when it comes to getting to grips with modern politics. In the past hes called for every child to be taught Latin, and even written a book, The Dream of Rome made into a documentary by the BBC in 2006 comparing the European Union with the Roman Empire.

A recent survey by Cambridge Schools Classics Project found that as little as 2% of state primary schools taught Latin, compared to 40% of independent primary schools. A press release from the Mayors office stated that Johnson is a firm believer in taking the class out of the classics, and reiterated his desire to see more state schools embracing Latin as a subject.

Hughes a regular face on TV, in programmes such as The Seven Ages of Britain has been brought onboard to champion Latin as the key to an unsurpassed treasury of literature, history and philosophy. In a recent blog for The Guardian, she described how she thinks that a decline in interest in history at GCSE can be reversed by making the subject ‘cool again’. Hughes showed the way forward by making a documentary, The Spartans, which was a major influence on Zack Snyders smash-hit film 300. Shes probably just the sort of media personality that Johnsons campaign needs to try and make Latin seem cool again, supposing a language synonymous with stuffy academics and dusty textbooks could ever have been considered cool in the first place.

My own experience of classical studies at a state high school admittedly suggests its a subject in some need of a reboot. There were just three students enrolled so few that my teacher taught the class dually with Latin, which was equally as unpopular. I recall at the time finding it hard to complain about a class that seemed to involve watching a video of Spartacus what felt like every other week. But in hindsight, it definitely didnt serve to enrich my understanding of the ways of the ancient Mediterranean world at high school level as fully as could be hoped.

The Mayor is a firm believer in taking the class out of the classics.

Just how relevant are the lessons of classical history in the politics of 2010 anyway? Theres an interesting article on the BBC website outlining some of the tips that modern public officials such as Johnson might take from the experience of the likes of Caesar or Claudius. People writing in the comments section have practically fallen over themselves in a bid to find an appropriately witty quote from the classics to chip in with capax imperii nisi imperasset or up to the job until he did it quips Andrew Guest from London of Gordon Brown. But the discussion descends into a bit of an Oxbridge versus Redbrick tit for tat evidently taking the class out of the classics isnt going to be an easy task.

Knowing how heavily put upon kids and teachers alike are just by the core subjects of the modern schools curriculum, I have to say I find it hard to see how a dead language like Latin can really take precedence over other key areas of study in the 21st century. As already mentioned, GCSEhistory isn’t the most popular of classes at present; the learning of modern languages such as French, Spanish and German could probably do with a boost themselves, and are surely more relevant to a young adult heading out into cosmopolitan Britain from high school today. And arent there other valuable contemporary tongues that ought to be added to the curriculum? China is the worlds largest and third richest nation wouldnt we be better teaching our kids how to communicate directly with that superpower-in-waiting, rather than empires that have been extinct for millennia?

Let the vox populi speak we want to hear your thoughts on the subject via the comments field below.

Egypt’s SCA Avoids Politics… NOT!

Al-Aqsa Mosque seen from outside the city wallLast year, Dr Zahi Hawass spoke to Heritage Key in a video interview about the restoration work being carried out at the Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides) synagogue in Cairo by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (see the video at the bottom of this page). With the project nearing completion, the SCA chief has today announced that a planned celebration to mark the reopening of the restored monument has been cancelled.

Dr Hawass explained that the decision comes in the aftermath of Israeli authorities prohibiting worshippers from praying in the Al-Aqsa mosque in the West Bank.

The West Bank has been on lockdown since March 5, when violence flared following the provocative Israeli announcement that 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers are to be built in the mainly Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognised by the international community. The accouncement followed violent clashes in the West Bank town of Hebron in February after Israel declared its intention to add two ancient shrines revered by Jews and Muslims to their list of protected national heritage sites.

The Al-Aqsa mosque the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, and the holiest site in the world to Jews, who call it Temple Mount is a notorious flashpoint between Muslims and Jews. Since Friday, men under the age of 50 and non-Muslims have been barred from entering the compound. Israeli authorities fear renewed violence if the centre of worship is reopened.

Considering the risk of trouble, we maintain the state of alert and restrictions on access to the Temple Mount, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

Speaking last year, Dr Hawass insisted that there is no political agenda in restoring the Moses Ben Maimon synagogue, located in the Jewish quarter of old Cairo and named in honour of a great Jewish religious leader and scholar. Jewish temples are part of our history, he told Heritage Key. If we dont care about the Jewish temples, we dont care about our history.

But the decision to cancel the restoration celebration has seen the SCA embroil itself in an overtly political dispute.

It is a message to the whole world that there is not any difference between the religious monuments and places whether Islamic, Coptic or Jewish — Zahi Hawass

An SCA press release states that, in response to questions from journalists following the announcement, Hawass explained: Egypts devotion to preserve its monuments on its land is reflected in Egypts inhabitants of different faiths (Islamic, Coptic, Jewish) living in a harmonious atmosphere. It is a message to the whole world that there is not any difference between the religious monuments and places whether Islamic, Coptic or Jewish.

Hawass also took the opportunity to deny rumours that the Moses Ben Maimon synagogue will be transformed into a museum for Jewish collections, since Egypt only has a very small amount of Jewish objects, and they are part of Egypts larger cultural heritage. These artefacts will be put on display in several national museums now under construction in different towns in Egypt, he said.

Video – Restoring the Jewish Synagogue of Moses Ben Maimon Featuring Dr Zahi Hawass:

First Person Prosecuted in UK for Not Reporting Treasure

23-year-old Kate Harding from Ludlow, Shropshire last week became the first person prosecuted under the Treasure Act in Britain for not reporting the discovery of a significant historical artefact to the Coroner, reported the Mail Online.

The offending find is a 700-year-old silver coin-like item called a piedfort, marking Charles IVs ascension to the French throne in 1322.

Thicker than normal coins from the period, piedforts are thought to have been used not as currency but as guides for mint workers or reckoning counters for officials therefore qualifying the object as potential Treasure under the Treasure Act 1996.

Only three other such items have ever been found in Britain.

A “Landmark Case”

The ruling has been hailed as a landmark case, and a warning to others who might flaunt the Treasure Act, such as nighthawkers metal detectorists who illegally locate and dig up artefacts by dark, and sell them on the black market.

On the face of things, it seems rather a harsh example to be making. Harding reportedly found the coin 14 years ago, while digging in her back garden in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire with her mother. Hardings mother died not long after she claims to have made the chance discovery, and so she secretly held onto the piedfort as a keepsake, before finally showing it to an expert from Ludlow Museum in February last year.

Media reporting of the case has subsequently been quite sympathetic towards Harding, and accused her pursuers of heavy-handedness. But Ludlow Museum, the Coroner and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) maintain their responsibility to prosecute. For starters, Harding ignored numerous calls and letters from Ludlow Museum. When the CPS, on request from the Coroner, decided to investigate, Harding told police in an interview that she had lost the artefact. But it was later handed over to the Coroner during sentencing.

As for Hardings claim that she found the piedfort in her garden 14 years ago? A press release, circulated by the Portable Antiquities Scheme this week in an attempt to clarify some facts of the case, states: She originally told the Finds Liaison Officer that she found it recently (in the past 12 months i.e. during 2008) in her garden in Ludlow, Shropshire.


Harding ignored numerous calls and letters from Ludlow Museum, then told police in an interview that she had lost the artefact.

Hardings biggest mistake was disorganisation, claims her lawyer Brendan Reedy. That and missing out on what may have been a sizeable profit from the sale of the piece. The British Museum recently bought another piedfort found in West Clandon, Surrey in 2007 for 1,800.

Sentencing was proportionate, at least, to what was hardly the crime of a master artefact thief. Harding faced up to three months in jail or a fine, but was let away with a conditional discharge, and made to pay only 25 of 300 in court costs.

Treasure Act Earners

The Treasure Act which was instigated in 1996 to replace the medieval law of Treasure Trove legally obliges finders of objects defined as possible treasure to report the discovery to their local coroner within fourteen days for examination. Its a system thats been in the spotlight quite a lot recently, following such high-profile and lucrative discoveries as the Staffordshire Horde (valued at 3.3 million) and the Stirling Iron Age Gold Torcs (thought to be worth around 1 million), both of which have netted their respective finders very large sums of cash.

A quick glance at our Top 10 Metal Detector Discoveries blog reveals many more examples of finders playing be the rules of the Treasure Act and coming up trumps. The Vale of York Hoard a 1,000-year-old set of Viking jewels and coins unearthed by a father-son metal detecting team near Harrogate in 2007 was jointly bought by the British Museum and the Yorkshire Museum in August 2009 for a cool 1.1 million. Metal detectorist Cliff Bradshaw netted 270,000 for finding a precious gold Bronze Age cup, dating from 1700-1500 BC, in the Ringlemere Barrow in Kent in 2001. In 1992 the Hoxne Hoard a cache of 15,000 late 4th and early 5th century Roman silver and gold coins set treasure-hungry amateur Eric Lawes metal detector bleeping to the tune of 1.75 million.

With a precedent for prosecution of non-declaration of finds now set, its probably a good time to fess up and possibly even cash-in if youve got any ancient treasures hidden away in the attic.

Colossal Head from Statue of King Tut’s Granddad Found at Amenhotep III Funerary Temple Site

Head of gigantic Amenhotep III statue discovered at LuxorA multi-national team of Egyptian and European archaeologists excavating at the site of Amenhotep IIIs enormous funerary temple in the Kom El-Hettan area of Luxors West Bank have uncovered the 3,000-year-old head of a massive statue of the 18th Dynasty pharaoh, the king of Egyptian kings, whom DNA testing has recently proven was Tutankhamuns grandfather.

The find made by the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project was announced on Monday by Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni. Measuring 2.5 metres, made from solid red granite and depicting Amenhotep III wearing the Upper Egyptian white crown, it has been described by Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass as a masterpiece of highly artistic quality.

Old Big Head

The head, added Hawass, is a portrait of the king with very fine youthful sculptured features. It was sheared from the body statue at the chin and neck. The body statue fragments of which are currently in restoration is believed to show Amenhotep III in a standing position, with his hands crossed over his chest and holding the royal insignia.

It is a masterpiece of highly artistic quality and shows a portrait of the king with very fine youthful sculptured features.

Leader of the project at Amenhotep IIIs funerary temple Dr. Hourig Sourouzian said that more of the statue may still lie in the rubble of the enormous ruined monument, one of the biggest man-made structures in ancient history. Measuring 700 metres long and 500 metres wide, and covering an area of 350,000 square metres it was ten times larger than any other mortuary monument in Egypt.

Investigation and restoration of Amenhotep IIIs funerary temple is expected to take upwards of 20 years (you can see Dr Sourouzian discussing the daunting task in this Heritage key video interview). 84 colossi statues have been unearthed there already, among them representations of King Amenhotep III and his wife, Queen Tiye.

Grandpa Amenhotep

Queen Tiyes mummy was recently identified by Dr Hawass and a team of scientists as part of a painstaking medical and archaeological endeavor the results of which were revealed last week in the Discovery Channel documentary King Tut Unwrapped to map the family history of Tutankhamun. The project also determined that Amenhotep III ninth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, ruler of Egypt between 1390 BC and 1352 BC was King Tuts grandfather. The boy king is believed to have been born of an incestuous marriage between Akhenaten and his sister, both the offspring of Amenhotep III.

Amenhotep was the wealthiest and most powerful of all the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. In a list compiled by American business and financial bible Forbes in 2008, he was ranked as the 12th richest person in human history.

London Invaders – The Scandinavians

Ikea Flags / Kodak E100G xpro

They came. They saw. They brought affordable self-assembly flat-pack furniture.

Okay, so the Scandinavian contribution to the fabric of modern London might not be any more obvious than a few IKEA stores and a scattering of ubiquitous blonde-haired tourists, students, au pairs and bar workers. But without both the influence and menace of outlanders from Denmark, Norway and Sweden in the Anglo-Saxon period, Britains iconic capital wouldnt be the city it is today. Thats why I reckon theyre the invaders that had the biggest influence on London.

The Vikings burned, raped, pillaged, ransacked and generally terrorised London frequently between 842 and 1042 not the most constructive of contributions, true. But their unwitting role as an external threat was absolutely critical in defining the physical, emotional and political makeup of what would become contemporary London and England.

The Romans before them might have brought useful things like straight roads, drains and sturdy defences to the city. But had the Vikings not driven the Anglo-Saxons to retreat to walled Roman Londinium (roughly speaking, the foundations of the modern City of London), which was lying abandoned in the 9th century, its remarkable remains might have been left to crumble into dust. Heck, thats more than you can say for Londons pigeons, at least.

If its a more positive Scandinavian influence on London that youre looking for, then consider that a Danish King, Cnut, ruled England and London between 1016 and 1042, and is considered one of the most successful monarchs of the era. His 25-year reign was an oasis of stability and peace in an age of invasions, and allowed the city fuelled in no small part by waves of Danish traders sailing up the Thames to become the countrys biggest and most powerful metropolis.

Meet the Vikings

They were a nasty, smelly, foul-mannered bunch of bloodthirsty heathen pirates from Denmark, Norway and Sweden, armed with huge axes and even bigger beards and that was just the women. They had names like Eirik Ale-Lover, Ogmund the Evil, Ulf the Unwashed and the particularly charming Gunnstein Berserk-Killer. The Vikings definitely werent the sort of guys you invite round for tea.

They had names like Eirik Ale-Lover, Ogmund the Evil, Ulf the Unwashed and the particularly charming Gunnstein Berserk-Killer.

Their incursions into Anglo-Saxon Lundenwic began with the so-called Great Slaughter, which as youve probably figured out already wasnt a social call. The Vikings liked London so much that they even parked their longboats on the Thames and set up camp in the city in the winter of 871-72. Did they pay the congestion charge? Did they hell.

Nothing promotes unity and action quite like an external threat. King Alfred the Great knew that. In the wake of kicking the Danes out of London and most of England after victory at Ethandun in 878, he was able to use the looming menace of the Scandinavian raiders to unify the hitherto fractious Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into something resembling an English nation a nation which, from the 10th century, increasingly began to rotate upon an axis that was London.

After 886, London had shifted from the modern Covent Garden area back to the safety of the walls of the old Roman city, and hastily re-fortified. As part of that process, Southwark was founded Londons so-called first suburb. Situated on the lower bank of the Thames, it was one of many defensive burhs established across Britain. Between Southwark and the City of London, from at least 1000, stretched the all-new London Bridge a sturdy wooden structure which was built as much a crossing as it was a physical barrier to prevent Viking raiders from sailing up the Thames to outflank Londons defences and attack further inland.

Thanks or, more precisely, no thanks to Scandinavian invaders, London had repositioned, restablished and secured itself permanently, on both banks of the Thames, in a location that we today call the heart of Britains capital city.

Scandinavians on the Throne

VIKING LONGSHIP &quot;SEA STALLION&quot; ARRIVES IN<br /> DUBLINThe Scandinavians werent all Viking raiders, and they werent all enemies. English king thelred the Unready counted among his allies Olaf II of Norway. Its from Norse sagas, penned on the basis of oral history passed down through the centuries, that we get some of our very first documentary evidence on early London. One tale gives a vivid account of the English and their Norwegian chums daringly recapturing London from the Danes and hauling London Bridge down in the process. Oops.

thelreds son and successor Edmund Ironside was eventually succeeded on the throne by a Scandinavian Cnut (youve always got to be careful when it comes to spelling that name), who later also became king of Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden. He most likely took the English throne by devious and bloody means, after having Ironside with whom he had originally agreed to share power murdered. Ironsides Viking assassin is said to have bumped-off the English king in a particularly cruel, gruesome and imaginative fashion by sticking a knife up his bottom. Brings a whole new meaning to the term back-stabbing.

Pierced regal posteriors aside theres no doubting that Cnut was a positive force for England and London. After a ruthless start, he attempted to ensure as much continuity as possible, by marrying thelreds widow, granting earldoms to Englishmen and restoring the church to a high place in English society. He also codified English law. Most importantly, as ruler of much of Scandinavia, he was able to bring a halt once and for all to Viking raids in England. London could breathe easy at last.

After Cnuts death and the short-lived reigns of two of his sons, the Saxon line was restored with the reign of Edward the Confessor from 1042-1066, but there was Scandinavian blood in the dynastys veins right to the bitter end Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, was Cnuts nephew.

When Harold and the Saxons were finally overthrown by William the Conqueror and the Normans in 1066, the official seat of power still lay at Winchester. But London had by then after centuries of turmoil become the biggest and most prosperous city in England, as it would remain until the 21st century. Thanks, in no small part, to a Scandinavian king, and a Scandinavian regal lineage. Think about that next time youre assembling a Billy bookcase.

First Pictures of Britain’s Oldest Shipwreck

South West Maritime Archaeological Group excavating underwater at Salcombe Site 'B'. Image Copyright - SWMAG.South West Maritime Archaeological Group (SWMAG) have sent us some of the first pictures of the remarkable finds recovered from the site of Britains oldest shipwreck a 3,000 year old Bronze Age trading vessel that sunk off the coast of Devonshire in southwest England around 900 BC. We blogged about its discovery on Tuesday.

The wreck was located in just a few metres of water at the bottom of Wash Gully near Salcombe. When it went down, the boat was on its way back from the continent with a precious cargo of tin and copper ingots key raw metals in the Bronze Age as well as a number of other items including weapons and pieces of jewellery. While the remains of the boat itself have been eroded away altogether over the centuries, many of the artefacts have survived and been collected by SWMAG divers.

295 items weighing a total of 84 kilograms have been recovered altogether, and many more are expect to be located yet. The most impressive pieces are two gold torcs or bracelets, one of which can be seen glistening on the seabed in an underwater photograph. Another is a Ewart-Park Leaf Sword, an armament typical of the Late Bronze Age Ewart-Park industrial phase (named after a founders hoard discovered in a park in Northumberland).

Its the ingots that have really got archaeologists excited, however. These lumps of copper and tin, discoloured by the saltwater and coated in barnacles and other crustaceans after three millennia at the bottom of the English Channel, might not be much to look at, but their significance cant be underestimated.

Analysis of just two of the copper ingots has indicated that they are absolutely typical of the Late Bronze Age, and drawn from a variety of sources, none of which are necessarily British. They therefore testify to the substantial trade that took place between Britain and Europe, and a network that fanned out through France as far as the Iberian Peninsula, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Almost five times as many artefacts have been recovered from this vessel as from the site of the second largest Bronze Age shipwreck found in British waters, also at Salcombe, where just 53 pieces were picked up. As more of these finds are analysed, a much clearer picture of this European trade network is expected to emerge.

Britain’s Oldest Shipwreck Discovered Off Devonshire Coast

Bronze Age boat

A 3,000 year old Bronze Age trading vessel the oldest shipwreck ever found in British waters has been located off the coast of Devon in southwest England.

It went down around 900 BC carrying a precious cargo of tin and copper ingots from the continent, and has lain undetected on the seabed in just eight to ten metres of water in a bay near Salcombe ever since. Experts have hailed the discovery one of only four Bronze Age vessels found in British waters as extremely important, and genuinely exciting.

Investigation and recovery work on the boats cargo was carried out by archaeologists from South West Maritime Archaeological Group (SWMAG) between February and November 2009, but the find was only made public this month at the annual International Shipwreck Conference in Plymouth (you can view their full presentation here).

295 artefacts with a combined weight of 84 kilograms have been retrieved so far, including weapons and jewellery, alongside abundant raw metal.

This cargo points to a healthy and sophisticated trade network that existed between Britain and Europe during the Bronze Age. The find as a whole is testimony to the incredible seafaring capabilities of prehistoric Britons.

Plying the Bronze Age Seaways

Rickham Sands from GaraA Bronze Age settlement is known to have existed on the coast near Wash Gully where the wreck was found the boat was probably attempting to land there when it came a cropper just 300 yards from the shore. The waters around this stretch of the Devonshire coast are notoriously treacherous. A nearby reef hints at the most obvious reason for the vessels demise.

Sadly none of the ships structure remains most likely it has rotted away over the centuries. But experts have speculated that it was probably a bulk carrier about 12 metres long by almost two metres wide, and made out of long timber planks or a wooden frame with animal hide stretched across it. It would have been crewed by about 15 men and powered by paddle.

A narrow row boat might sound like an exposed and treacherous way of crossing the English Channel, but its thought that intrepid Bronze Age mariners would have used vessels like this to criss-cross the waterway with some frequency. And directly between Devon and France too, rather than skirting the coast up to the narrower stretch between Dover and Calais, as some people have suggested they did.

Dr Stuart Needham, a Bronze Age archaeologist, commented to The Telegraph: This is genuinely exciting. Everyone knows that man has been walking around on land since time immemorial, but I think people now will be surprised to know how much they were plying the seaways at this time, up and down the Atlantic seaboard and across the Channel.

Theres a complex lattice of interactions across Europe happening throughout this period, he added.

A Big Scale Trading Vessel

Everyone knows that man has been walking around on land since time immemorial, but people will be surprised how much they were plying the seaways.

The large quantity of copper and tin found aboard the ship which appears to have come from scattered locations as far afield as the Iberian Peninsula, Switzerland, France or Austria via a wide and complex trade network would have been used to make bronze, which was the key product of the period. The bronze would in turn have been used to fashion all from tools to weapons and jewellery.

Among other artefacts in the boats cargo were a bronze leaf sword, two stone objects that might have been slingshots, and three gold wrist torcs. Four golden Iron Age wrist torcs of European origin were found last year by a metal detectorist in Scotland these new finds hint at how far back trade in luxury items with the continent stretches.

Academics from Oxford University have taken charge of investigating the discoveries, to see if their exact origins can be determined. Its hoped that more artefacts will be raised from the seabed yet.

Chairman of SWMAG Mick Palmer told The Telegraph: For the British Isles, this is extremely important. This was a cargo trading vessel on a big scale. There is more down there and we will carry on searching for it. We anticipate a lot more will be found.

This cargo would have made a tidy profit for the ships Bronze Age crew had it reached land; 3,000 years late, its finally set to be cashed-in. SWMAG stands to net a healthy return on their find, with the British Museum due to individually value and purchase each piece over the next few weeks.

Well have some pictures of finds from the Bronze Age shipwreck and an interview with a marine archaeologist from SWMAG up on the site soon.

Doctor Who on Call at Stonehenge

Stonehenge has been the setting of choice for a future episode of Doctor Who. Image credit to Simon Wakefield.

Stonehenge no stranger to mystery was shrouded in a cloak of foggy secrecy on Tuesday night, as the BBC filmed scenes for a forthcoming episode of Doctor Who inside a closed set at the iconic Wiltshire monument. Rumour has it that the first few instalments of the new season of the long-running cult timr-travelling sci-fi drama expected to air sometime in the next few months will be set sometime in the past.

Dr Who anoraks observing from the edges of the set, hoping to catch a rare glimpse of filming, spotted the Time Lord himself played by Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor to date between the standing stones and clouds of dry ice, as well as his new sidekick Amy Pond (played by Karen Gillan) and a returning character, archaeologist River Song (played by Alex Kingston).

Allusions were made to Stonehenge having been constructed by a renegade Time Lord using anti-gravity lifts.

Stonehenge has cropped-up a number of times already in the Doctor Who cosmology, although its never yet appeared in a TV episode. In 1965, during the last instalment of the shows second season, allusions were made to the monument having been constructed by a renegade Time Lord called The Monk circa 1500 BC, using anti-gravity lifts (an original extreme Stonehenge building theory if ever weve heard one).

In a Doctor Who novel in the 70s, a bad guy called the Ragman was defeated there; in another book a few years later the Doctor was taken prisoner at the site by The Monk. Most recently, in a 2005 webcast comic book, a fleet of extraterrestrial villains were seen to land near Stonehenge.

Keep a look out for the Stonehenges Doctor Who-debut when the famously spooky show hits BBC1 in the spring, if you can drag yourself out from behind the sofa.

Video Dr Who series five trailer:

Cracking the Codex: Long Lost Roman Legal Document Discovered by Researchers at University College London

Dr Simon Corcoran and Dr Benet Salway of the history department at University College London have found fragments of an important Roman law code that previously had been thought lost forever. Its believed to be the only original evidence yet discovered of the Gregorian Codex a collection of constitutions upon which a substantial part of most modern European civil law systems are built.

They made their remarkable find by painstakingly linking 17 pieces of seemingly incomprehensible parchment. Together they form, according to Dr Salway, a page or pages from a late antique codex book rather than a scroll or a lawyers loose-leaf notes, judging by the number of abbreviations within characteristic of legal texts, and the presence of writing on both sides of the fragments.

Thought to originate from Constantinople (modern Istanbul) the page or pages bear the text of a Latin work in a clear calligraphic script, perhaps dating as far back as AD 400, Salway added.


The Gregorian Codex or the Codex Gregorianus was compiled during the reigns of a string of Roman emperors, from Hadrian (117-138 AD) to Diocletian (284-305 AD). It was thought to have been published around 300 AD, but little is known about its original format and composition. The identity of its author a man by the name of Gregorius (or Gregorianus) is very shady, and no surviving copies have been found. Until now, that is.

It is ultimately from the title of this work that we use the term code in the sense of legal rulings.

These fragments are the first direct evidence of the original version of the Gregorian Code, said Dr Corcoran. Our preliminary study confirms that it was the pioneer of a long tradition that has extended down into the modern era and it is ultimately from the title of this work, and its companion volume the Codex Hermogenianus, that we use the term code in the sense of legal rulings.

Signs of Intensive Use

The fragments found by Corcoran and Salway contain sections where Roman emperors have replied to legal questions raised by members of the public. The pages have evidently been reviewed quite heavily, because various scribblings in have been added by readers around the main text. The responses are arranged chronologically and grouped into thematic chapters under highlighted headings, with corrections and readers annotations between the lines, commented Dr Salway. The notes show that this particular copy received intensive use.

There are passages within the script that are consistent with quotations of the code in other documents. Additionally, there are sections of new material never before seen in modern times that should make for fascinating and highly illuminating study.

Dr Corcoran and Dr Salways finds were made as part of Projet Volterra a ten year study of Roman law in its full social, legal and political context, funded by the UCL Arts & Humanities Research Council. Its hoped that further examination of these Gregorian Codex fragments will yield some revealing insights into the late period Roman legal system.

Life of Adventure – Opening one of the Sarcophagi discovered at Gisr el-Muder, Saqqara

Nothing keeps Dr Zahi Hawass awake at night quite like the prospect of being the first person to lay eyes on a millennia-dead Egyptian mummy. I could not sleep with thinking about it all the time, he reveals at the start of Heritage Keys latest fantastic video by Nico Piazza, documenting the opening of an intact tomb at Saqqara. Thinking about the moment that I will come down, he continues, about 11 metres, and begin to open a sealed sarcophagus that no one ever touched since 2,600 years ago.

The camera pans across creepy piles of heavily decayed human bones lying in corners the latest intact tomb located at the massive necropolis of Egypts ancient capital Memphis, located 40 kilometres south of Cairo, is evidently one rich in human remains. The unidentified body found lying inside a giant limestone sarcophagus is the prize of them all.

As the coffin is cracked open in front of the expectantly onlooking media, Dr Hawasss excitement is palpable. Besides a fascinating look at ancient Egyptian burial practices, in this video we also get a revealing insight into the love of archaeology that drives the Director General of Egypts Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), as he gives one of his most revealing interviews yet. You can also purchase Dr Hawass’s book Life in Paradise: The Lost Tombs of Thebes which reveals the magnificent hidden tombs in the Theban complex, of which you can get a glimpse in a Heritage Key video with Dr Hawass and Dr Janice Kamrin (Watch the Video).

The contents of one of the niches inside the Saqqara tomb. Image credit - Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Life of Adventure

If you think a brown fedora is all that Dr Hawass has in common with fictions most famous archaeologist, think again at the start of the video we see him getting lowered into the tomb, which lies not far from King Djosers iconic Step Pyramid, at the end of a rope Indiana Jones-style. There’s not a stunt man in sight.

I came here about three days ago and I opened one coffin and I saw the sealed limestone sarcophagus, he describes, as workers hurriedly chip away at the seal of the sarcophagus in the background. Its size, material and quality give some firm clues as to the wealth and social standing of the individual buried inside. How can you afford to cut a limestone sarcophagus from Tora, which is located at the east of the Nile? Hawass ponders. Because this is very expensive.

Okay, Ready?

Dr Zahi Hawass next to one the newly opened sarcophagi in the Saqqara tomb. Image credit - Supreme Council of Antiquities.Okay, ready? barks Hawass, and the lid is finally lifted. As the first section is removed, its possible to appreciate just how thick and robustly made ancient Egyptian sarcophagi were the lid must be at least 30 or 40 centimetres thick. Once the sarcophagus is opened, Hawass squats down beside it and examines the smooth, almost perfectly embalmed mummy laid neatly inside.

When you open something like this, he confesses quite plainly, in a statement that perhaps hints at why the SCA maintain such a tight control over investigating major archaeological discoveries in Egypt, its so exciting, you have to do it by yourself to feel that.

Hawass tells the assembled camera crews and reporters that they next plan to put the mummy under an X-ray machine (a technique they’ve used on many mummies, including famous ones such as King Tut), which can on occasion expose them to be stuffed with amulets. Sometimes there could be 100 hundred pieces of gold and amulets, Hawass reveals, they put it inside and this can help the deceased to go safely to the afterlife.

A Beautiful Moment

There are 30 different mummies in the tomb in total. Most of the people buried here evidently werent as rich as the individual in the splendid coffin. Were shown four bodies in a corner, embalmed but otherwise simply laid on the floor, side by side. One has been buried next to his dog pets, as we learned in a fascinating interview with Dr Salima Ikram were so sacred to Egyptians they were very often mummified too. Next to another body is the smaller corpse of a child.

It is a beautiful moment in my life, Dr Hawass concludes, rather tenderly, of the experience of finding and investigating this wonderful intact grave at Saqqara. After the credits, another brief snippet of interview reveals why it was so special for the SCA chief. When the workmen were moving the lid, I put my eyes inside and was looking at the unknown! Hawass beams. And when I saw the mummy in that beautiful condition, I was so happy. It is something with a passion. The passion that I have for archaeology.

HD Video: The Discovery of an Intact Tomb at Saqqara (ft. Dr. Hawass)

(Click here to read a transcript of this video)

If you enjoyed this frank chat with Dr Hawass, there are many, many more videos featuring the man bringing the denim shirt back into fashion with a vengeance on our video page. Hes recently been giving us the low-down on such fascinating topics as why Tutankhamuns tomb escaped major robbery, the legendary curse of King Tut, and exploring the famous Step Pyramid Egypts Stairway to Heaven. There are loads more video interviews with Hawass and other top heritage experts besides arriving on the site all the time, including a tour by the 8th Countess of Carnarvon of the wall paintings of the Tomb of King Tutankhamun (Watch the video) sign up to our RSS feed and youll be the first to hear about them.