Archive for the ‘Great Britain’ Category

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If you find yourself walking in central London, think about this: not far beneath your feet there may well be human remains. On the edge of Charterhouse Square in the district of Farringdon, engineers were digging an access tunnel for the new Crossrail underground railway when they uncovered 12 skeletons.

“We suspected there might be bodies there,” says Crossrail’s chief archaeologist, Jay Carver. “When the excavation machine uncovered the first bones, we went in and excavated by hand.”

Historical documents suggest the then-lord mayor of London ordered an emergency burial ground to be prepared in Farringdon, in response to the Black Death sweeping Europe in the 14th century.

Relatively few people died in the early stages of the plague and so they were buried in an orderly, east-west orientation. In later years there were more dead, and in their graves bodies are essentially heaped on top of one another. The newly discovered Farringdon bodies, just 2.5 metres below the surface, are neatly oriented and were probably wrapped in shrouds and interred: the Crossrail team have found shroud pins but no fabric remains and no sign of coffins. Pottery found at the same depth as the bodies has been dated to before 1350.

The skeletons will now be removed to the Museum of London Archaeology, where radiocarbon dating will determine the approximate age of the bodies. Skeletons discovered in a plague pit in nearby Smithfield yielded DNA markers identifying the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis.

“Our evidence suggests these are burials associated with that period and therefore that these are people buried during the emergency black death period,” says Carver. “If we can find a signature of that bacterium it will provide some interesting new data about this important historical event.”

The Crossrail team have a licence from the Ministry of Justice allowing them to exhume the remains, and at some point the archaeologists will make a decision about curation. Will the skeletons be reburied?

“They may be placed in a charnel store in a crypt, in case future generations want to study them,” says Carver. “It’s an academic and legal decision.”

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2013/03/crossrail-plague-skeleton.html?cmpid=RSS|NSNS|2012-GLOBAL|online-news

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A petrified burglar fled a family home in the middle of the night – after coming face-to-face with their giant pet rabbit Toby.

Kimberley May, her fiance Martin, and their three-year-old daughter Olivia were all sound asleep when the thief broke into their house. But as the raider rifled through cupboards the noise woke up Toby the family’s British Giant bunny in his kitchen cage. The 4.5kg, two-feet long pet began stomping so loudly on the floor that the intruder was caught on the hop and left.

Kimberley said: “We went to bed on Wednesday at about 10pm. In the early hours of the morning Toby our rabbit did five loud thumps. “I sort of half woke up then realised he’d stopped and went back to sleep. When I went downstairs every single cupboard and drawer were open, there were bits out everywhere, then we started noticing things were missing and we phoned the police.”

Kimberley, a nurse, is convinced that two year-old Toby’s thumping scared the thief off from their house in Plymouth, Devon. She found a hoard of items left piled up on the sofa which she thinks the burglar was preparing to take but left behind.

She added: “Because of Christmas and my birthday just gone, I had loads of gift sets and perfumes that they’d laid out across the sofa. “We think that when the rabbit thumped it scared the burglar off and they left all the stuff they were going to take. He’s like a little dog, if you whistle him he comes. The rabbit was just traumatised in his cage, shaking. He’s usually really friendly but he tried to go for the policeman.”

The crook still managed to get away with other valuables including a treasured First World War medal that belonged to Kimberley’s great-grandad. Kimberley added: “They managed to take a laptop, an iPad and my handbag with my purse and everything in, but the worse thing was my great granddad’s medal. My gran actually died in 2007, she lived in a council house all her life, hardly had any possessions That was the one thing important thing she had. They also took a box which had all our wedding invitations and favours in it, as well as paperwork which I was due to give to the church and reception venue.”

Detective Constable Nick Bloom said: “We believe the family was burgled between 10.30pm on Wednesday February 6 and 7am on Thursday February 7. The police are asking for any witnesses or anyone with information to come forward.”

Toby still has some way to go before he is fully grown – British Giant rabbits can reach up to 5.9 kg.

Owner Kimberley, 30, said monster bunny Toby was so big he lives in a cage built for a Labrador. Kimberley and online salesman partner Martin, 33, got their prized pet from an animal adoption centre who took him in an unwanted pet.

She said: “He’s playful, really friendly, and he doesn’t mind my three-year-old crawling all over him. He’s like a small dog really. He has the run of the house and at night he goes in a dog’s crate. It’s a Labrador-sized cage. When he thumps on the floor its incredibly loud – you can hear it echoing around the house.”

On the night of the burglary Toby stomped his five-inch long feet so loudly on the plastic floor of his crate that he managed to wake Kimberley up.

She said: “The rabbit had obviously seen the burglar when he went into the kitchen. I heard him thump five times on the bottom of his cage and I woke up, sat up, then turned over and went back to sleep. As I’ve done that the bed springs have made a loud creaking sound, so the guy has probably heard movement and made a run for it.”

Although the thief managed to take some valuables Kimberley fears the break-in could have been even worse had it not been for Toby.

She added: “If he hadn’t been scared off he could have come upstairs looking for things. My daughter was asleep up there – it could have been really dangerous. Toby has done the job of a guard dog. We’re so proud of him we’ve rewarded him with a new tunnel to play with. It’s a cat’s tunnel obviously because he needs a big one.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/9873002/Giant-rabbit-scares-burglar-out-of-family-home.html

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Mathematicians from Great Britain’s University of Sheffield have developed a formula to perfectly decorate any Christmas tree called Treegonometry.

Sheffield students Nicole Wrightham and Alex Craig created the formula to perfectly decorate a tree as part of a challenge put out by the Debenhams department store. The calculations will tell you exactly how many meters of lights and how much tinsel you should use, as well as the height of the angel or star that should go on top of the tree.

The formulas are as follows:

•Number of baubles: Take the square root of 17, divide it by 20 and multiply it by the height of tree (in centimetres).
•Length of tinsel: 13 multiplied by Pi (3.1415) divided by 8, then multiplied by tree height.
•Length of tree lights: Pi multiplied by tree height
•Height (in centimetres) of star or fairy on top of tree: Tree height divided by 10.
If you want to skip the math, the pair of students also put out a calculator that will compute it all for you simply by the tree’s height. For example, a tree that’s 140 centimeters (55 inches) tall would need 29 baubles, 715 centimeters (281.5 inches) of tinsel, 440 centimeters (173.2 inches) of lights, and a 14-centimeter (5.5-inch) decoration on top.

http://www.techhive.com/article/2018984/treegonometry-uses-math-to-perfectly-decorate-a-christmas-tree.html

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Matt Queenan, 83, believes there could be well-preserved Spitfires lying in crates dug deep into the ground, potentially underneath houses.

He claims he is one of a team of workmen who buried them in 1950, greasing them up and encasing them in boxes under instructions from the War Office.

He has now spoken of the secret mission for the first time in public, after 36 of the iconic planes were found in Burma. The aircraft, discovered by aviation enthusiast David Cundall, are expected to soon be repatriated 67 years after being “lost”.

One of the Spitfires is due to go on display in Birmingham shortly.

Mr Queenan, a former bareknuckle boxer, said: “You don’t need to go all the way to Burma to find Spitfires. There are plenty buried here in Birmingham.”

He claims the operation was carried out in a hangar in Castle Bromwich, near to where the aircraft were built during the Second World War.

After being told to bury them by War Office official Harry Bramwell, the labourers “covered them in greased” before they were “boxed up”, he alleges.

A spokesman for the RAF museum conceded the claims could not be ruled out, while the Ministry of Defence said it was “highly improbable”.

Mr Queenan said: “It was December. We got picked up by Harry Bramwell from outside the Labour Exchange in the city centre.

“We covered the planes in grease and they were boxed up. We were told they were going to be buried.

“I think they were buried nearby, close to the Chester Road, but I don’t know where.

“There could be houses over them or anything now because it was all fields in them days.”

A spokeswoman for the RAF Museum, in London, said Mr Queenan’s claims could not be ruled out.

“It is possible, but we just do not know,” she said. “Many of them would have been disposed of in the local area through scrapyards. The RAF didn’t keep records once they had been handed over to someone else to take care of.

“It’s unlikely, but it could have happened.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “It is highly improbable Spitfires were buried in Birmingham in the 1950s. We have no evidence of it.”

Earlier this year, 62-year-old David Cundall found 36 Spitfires in Burma, after spending 15 years and more than £10,000 searching.

“They were just buried there in transport crates,” Mr Cundall said. “They were waxed, wrapped in greased paper and their joints tarred. They will be in near perfect condition.”

The aircraft will be returned to Britain after Prime Minister David Cameron intervened in favour of their repatriation.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/9732585/Is-there-a-squadron-of-Spitfires-buried-in-Birmingham.html

 

A long-lost medieval cookbook, containing recipes for hedgehogs, blackbirds and even unicorns, has been discovered at the British Library. Professor Brian Trump of the British Medieval Cookbook Project described the find as near-miraculous. “We’ve been hunting for this book for years. The moment I first set my eyes on it was spine-tingling.”

Experts believe that the cookbook was compiled by Geoffrey Fule, who worked in the kitchens of Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England (1328-1369). Geoffrey had a reputation for blending unusual flavours – one scholar has called him “the Heston Blumenthal of his day” – and everything points to his hand being behind the compilation.

After recipes for herring, tripe and codswallop (fish stew, a popular dish in the Middle Ages) comes that beginning “Taketh one unicorne”. The recipe calls for the beast to be marinaded in cloves and garlic, and then roasted on a griddle. The cookbook’s compiler, doubtless Geoffrey Fule himself, added pictures in its margins, depicting the unicorn being prepared and then served. Sarah J Biggs, a British Library expert on medieval decoration, commented that “the images are extraordinary, almost exactly as we’d expect them to be, if not better”.

The recipe for cooking blackbirds is believed to be the origin of the traditional English nursery rhyme “Sing a song of sixpence / A pocket full of rye / Four-and-twenty blackbirds / Baked in a pie.” Professor Trump added that he was tempted to try some of the recipes, but suspected that sourcing ingredients would be challenging. “Unfortunately, they don’t stock unicorn in my local branch of Tesco.”

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/04/unicorn-cookbook-found-at-the-british-library.html