History in the Media


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Excavations at Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire have uncovered sections of an eighth-century cross and traces of royal burials. Archaeologists have been working with a mechanical digger to access the cliff-top site, after sections of the Anglo-Saxon graveyard began falling down to the beach below. With continued digging, before the remains plummet into the North Sea, English Heritage hopes to reveal finds linked to the abbey's most famous resident, St Hilda, and to King Oswy of Northumbria. The dig should also be valuable as a pilot for new methods to deal with erosion and rising sea levels at other key historic sites. (January 24th)

The Gujarat earthquake, which exacted such a dreadful human toll, has also reduced the 18th-century palace in Bhuj to rubble. The destruction of the city was worst in the old quarter, where the palace built by Maharajah Lakhpatji was a prime tourist attraction. Many of the ornate balconies have survived, but its ceremonial arch, colonnaded square and eunuchs' quarters have been destroyed, along with the museum's collection of glass and mirror-ware. (February 3rd)

Archaeologists in Coventry have uncovered fragments of a 14th-century mural from the city's Benedictine chapter house, founded by Lady Godiva but destroyed in the 16th century. The surviving fragments have allowed art historians to glimpse the highly detailed and ornate craftsmanship of the complete work, painted in the 1360s by an English artist following the Italian style. The find represents only the second Apocalypse mural known from medieval Britain, after the 1380s example from Westminster Abbey, and is of superior quality and design. (February 4th)

The Louvre has bought a Poussin masterpiece, thought lost for two centuries, for around 4.4 million [pounds sterling]. `Sainte Francoise of Rome Announcing the End of the Plague' was originally painted in 17th-century Rome for Pope Clement IX, before being brought to France in the 19th century by Alexis Le Go, secretary of the French Academy in Rome. The painting passed down generations of his descendants before being sold to a Marseilles junk shop. It went on display this week, and will be on show in a special exhibition until April 2nd. (February 8th)

The British Library has launched the online catalogue for the National Sound Archive -- at www.cadensa.bl.uk -- allowing the public to search its vast collections for the first time. The archive houses almost 2.5million sound recordings, covering every genre from oral history and drama to pop music and wildlife sounds. Called CADENSA, the online catalogue allows users to search the catalogue prior to a research visit to the Library and includes links to webpages provided by specialist subject curators. The library has also uncovered the historic court recording of Nelson Mandela's last speech before he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964. Dr Rob Perks and a team of technicians struggled to retrieve the recording -- made on the now obsolete `dictabelt' system -- by rebuilding the Library's machine and heating and flattening the warped vinyl recordings to allow the stylus to read their grooves.

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