We are now into the year 2020, and with the fresh optimism of a new year, so I am going to start making regular blog posts once again. The excitement of publishing my first book, Royal Witches, and the amount of my time that has taken up is now dying down, and it is time to return to exploring my love of the wider world of history! To start off the new year, then, I am taking a look back at some of the news stories from the history world of last year. Here are just 9 of the exciting discoveries, shocking news stories, and intriguing new revelations that came out in 2019.
30 perfectly preserved mummies were found near Luxor, Egypt.
In October it was revealed that wonderfully inscribed and painted wooden coffins were found at the Asasif Necropolis. They were described by the Egyptian Antiquities Minister as “the first large human coffin cache ever discovered since the end of the 19th century”. Men, women and children were all included, and their bodies dated from 945-715 BC. The coffins will be displayed in the Grand Egyptian Museum being built near the Giza Pyramids in Cairo, set to open this year. Read more about the discovery here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/egyptian-coffins-mummies-nile-luxor-antiquities-archeology-a9163776.html
Some of the intricately painted coffins, via Egypt Today.
Nearly 5000 years ago, humans painted a volcanic eruption onto a rock in Turkey.
In May, a study was published of an ochre cave painting in Kula which is believed to show a volcanic eruption that happened in the area 4,700 years ago. Footprints were discovered in the area in the 1960s, which had been preserved in volcanic ash, and the cave painting became known to scientists in 2008. A study released this year put the footprints and painting together, and concluded that humans witnessed a volcanic eruption, went to investigate the area, and then made art of it.
Read about the study here: https://www.livescience.com/65609-ancient-volcano-rock-art.html
The rock painting, an enhanced image, and a reconstructed version. Via Live Science.
One of only 3 remaining Eleanor Crosses has been saved from ruin.
In November, conservation work finished on the Eleanor Cross in Northampton, built in 1291 upon the death of Edward I’s queen, Eleanor. It had been so worn and damaged that it was on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register, and a big campaign was launched to save the important monument. The conservation was paid for by Northampton Borough Council and Historic England, and a regular maintenance programme has now been put in place to keep it in good repair for future generations.
Read more about the conservation here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-50438581?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c8nq32jw58pt/history&link_location=live-reporting-story
The restored Eleanor Cross (left) and the monument as work began (right). Via BBC.
A pen from the Roman period was found in London which appears to have been a joke gift.
We are used to seeing joke souvenirs when we go on holiday. It’s a long running joke to buy something like a t-shirt with the phrase “I went to — and all I got you was this lousy t-shirt”. Well, it turns out that our Ancient Roman forebears had the same type of humour. In July, it was revealed that a stylus found in a dig in London had the phrase: “I have come from the City. I bring you a welcome gift with a sharp point that you may remember me. I ask, if fortune allowed, that I might be able (to give) as generously as the way is long (and) as my purse is empty” inscribed on it. Basically saying that they had no money left so all they could get was this pen! Read more about the discovery of the pen here: https://www.livescience.com/66066-ancient-roman-pen-was-joke-souvenir.html
The stylus with the very long inscription along its edges. Via Live Science.
Two metal detectorists were jailed for stealing a hoard and selling it on the black market.
In November, two men from the UK were sentenced to 10 years and 8 1/2 years in prison for stealing a 1000-year-old hoard of gold jewellery, silver ingots and coins that they found in Herefordshire. The find was estimated to be worth up to £12m, but instead of declaring the find to officials, they tried to sell them to dealers and pocket all the money for themselves. Most of the items are still missing, and historians believe the find could have been crucial to changing our understanding of the 9th century. Read more about the case here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/nov/22/detectorists-jailed-for-stealing-12m-viking-hoard-of-gold-and-silver
Some of the recovered pieces from the hoard – a ring, a small crystal ball pendant, and an ingot. Via The Guardian.
The first ever mammoth trap was discovered in central Mexico.
In November it was announced that the first mammoth trap that has ever been found in the world had been uncovered in Mexico. Set 14,000 years ago, a huge collection of 800 bones from at least 14 mammoths were uncovered in Tultepec. There were signs that they had been hunted, leading to the conclusion that the site was part of a mammoth trap. Read more here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/11/08/hundreds-bones-found-worlds-first-mammoth-trap/
One of the skeletal remains of a mammoth from the site. Via The Telegraph.
Scientists extracted 4500-year-old yeast to make a loaf of bread.
In August, a group of scientists managed to extract dormant yeast from an Ancient Egyptian vessel, re-awaken it, and bake a few loaves of bread with it. Read about how it was done here: https://www.the-scientist.com/image-of-the-day/image-of-the-day–baked-with-ancient-yeast-66320
One of the loaves of bread, inscribed with the symbol for bread. Via The Scientist.
The face of a Viking Shield-Maiden was reconstructed.
In November, the face of a woman who died 1000 years ago was reconstructed. Her skeleton had been discovered in 1900, buried with a shield, a bridled horse, a sword, spear, battle-axe and arrows and was the first known example of a female Viking warrior to be found. The 18-year-old suffered a huge blow to her forehead, but it is unclear whether this killed her. She is also thought to have been a high-ranking military official, possibly even a general. Read more about the woman here: https://www.livescience.com/Viking-shield-maiden-facial-reconstruction.html
The face of the warrior woman, via Live Science.
A 1700-year-old chicken egg was found in England.
The only complete chicken egg dating to Roman Britain was found in Aylesbury in a waterlogged pit. The pit had many offerings in it from people hoping for blessings or good luck, including 4 eggs which probably represented fertility. 3 of the eggs broke during excavation, but one managed to survive intact, making it a unique object. Read more about the find and the dig here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-50603415?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c8nq32jw58pt/history&link_location=live-reporting-story
The complete chicken egg, an extremely rare survival. Via BBC.
And that ends our round-up of historic news! There were many more exciting finds and new pieces of historic information in 2019, and we look forwards to what may be revealed this year. What was your favourite news item to come out last year?
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