The disastrous mortal disease known as the Black Death spread across Europe in the years 1346-53. The frightening name, however, only came several centuries after its visitation (and was probably a mistranslation of the Latin word ‘atra’ meaning both ‘terrible’ and ‘black)’. Chronicles and letters from the time describe the terror wrought by the illness. In Florence, the great Renaissance poet Petrarch was sure that they would not be believed: ‘O happy posterity, who will not experience such abysmal woe and will look upon our testimony as a fable.’ A Florentine chronicler relates that,

All the citizens did little else except to carry dead bodies to be buried […] At every church they dug deep pits down to the water-table; and thus those who were poor who died during the night were bundled up quickly and thrown into the pit. In the morning when a large number of bodies were found in the pit, they took some earth and shovelled it down on top of them; and later others were placed on top of them and then another layer of earth, just as one makes lasagne with layers of pasta and cheese.

The accounts are remarkably similar. The chronicler Agnolo di Tura ‘the Fat’ relates from his Tuscan home town that

… in many places in Siena great pits were dug and piled deep with the multitude of dead […] And there were also those who were so sparsely covered with earth that the dogs dragged them forth and devoured many bodies throughout the city.

The tragedy was extraordinary. In the course of just a few months, 60 per cent of Florence’s population died from the plague, and probably the same proportion in Siena. In addition to the bald statistics, we come across profound personal tragedies: Petrarch lost to the Black Death his beloved Laura to whom he wrote his famous love poems; Di Tura tells us that ‘I […] buried my five children with my own hands’.

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Face of Senwosret III. ca. 1878–1840 B.C. Middle Kingdom, Egypt.

A team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, with archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology, have found the first evidence of a religious diet locked inside pottery fragments excavated from the early medieval Jewish community of Oxford.

Whilst residing in Paris in the sixth century, Queen Clotild, the widow of the Merovingian ruler Clovis, became the unwilling subject of the inveterate plotting of her sons, Lothar and Childebert, who were jealous of her guardianship of her grandsons, the children of their brother, Chlodomer. Childebert spread the rumour that he and his brother were to plan the coronation of the young princes and sent a message to Clotild to that effect. When the boys were dispatched to their uncles they were seized and separated from their household. Lothar and Childebert then sent their henchman Arcadius to the Queen with a pair of scissors in one hand and a sword in the other.

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Archaeologists said on Thursday they had uncovered a large ancient pharaonic city that had lain unseen for centuries near some of Egypt’s best known monuments.

The city was built more than 3,400 years ago during the opulent reign of Amenhotep III, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs, the Egyptian archaeologist overseeing the excavations, Zahi Hawass, said.

The team began searching for a mortuary temple near Luxor in September, but within weeks found mud brick formations in every direction, Zahi Hawass said in a statement.

They unearthed the well-preserved city that had almost complete walls and rooms filled with tools of daily life along with rings, scarabs, coloured pottery vessels and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep’s cartouche.

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Terracotta hydria (water jar.) 4th century B.C. Greek.

Hungarian Jews Being Selected By Nazis To Be Sent To The Gas Chamber At Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Auschwitz Album, May-June 1944.

A freshly unearthed Bronze-Age stone may be the oldest three-dimensional map in Europe, researchers say.

The 2m by 1.5m slab (5ft by 6.5ft), first uncovered in 1900, was found again in a cellar in a castle in France in 2014.

Archaeologists who studied patterns engraved on the 4,000-year-old stone say they believe the markings are a map of an area in western Brittany.

They say this makes the slab the oldest 3D map of a known area in Europe.

In the immediate postwar, the victorious allies divided the IG Farben conglomerate into individual companies. Bayer emerged as an independent enterprise. By the mid-1970s, Bayer, along with BASF and Hoechst, had returned to economic domination, aiding in the “German Economic Miracle” and re-emerging as one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Bayer, however, did little to come to terms with its Nazi past. Fritz ter Meer, convicted of war crimes for his actions at Auschwitz, was elected to Bayer AG’s supervisory board in 1956, a position he retained until 1964.

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Pair of ancient Roman gold snake bracelets, 1st century CE.

Mexican revolutionary General Francisco “Pancho” Villa rides with his men during the Mexican Revolution, 1914. (Colorized)

As classics scholar Fanny Dolansky argues, it’s possible to apply a similar line of thought to the dolls of young Roman girls from the second to the fourth century. Over 500 objects excavated from the Roman Empire have been identified as dolls, primarily girls’ playthings, and over a dozen have been buried in tombs of young girls.

Dolanksy surveys eighteen dolls discovered in modern-day Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Egypt. Made from bone, ivory, or cloth, the dolls range in length from 15 to 30 centimeters and resemble upper-class adult women, with molded breasts and delineated genitalia. (Dolanksy limits her research to the lives of girls from the highest echelons of Roman society; unfortunately, few examples of lower-class children’s playthings have survived.)

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Figure riding a sea turtle, probably depicting an ancient Greek fable similar to Odysseus’ Return to the Homeland (Nostos).

Detail of a Wounded Lion from the Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal relief, Assyria, 645–635 BC.

Based on a manual recently discovered in a 3,500-year-old medical papyrus, University of Copenhagen Egyptologist Sofie Schiødt has been able to help reconstruct the embalming process used to prepare ancient Egyptians for the afterlife. It is the oldest surviving manual on mummification yet discovered.

A giant cloud of ash and gases released by Vesuvius in 79 AD took about 15 minutes to kill the inhabitants of Pompeii, research suggests.

The estimated 2,000 people who died in the ancient Roman city when they could not escape were not overwhelmed by the lava, but rather asphyxiated by the gases and ashes and later covered in volcanic debris to leave a mark of their physical presence millennia later.

The study by researchers from the Department of Earth and Geo-environmental Sciences of the University of Bari, in collaboration with the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) and the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, has revealed the duration of the so-called pyroclastic flow, a dense, fast-moving flow of solidified lava pieces, volcanic ash and hot gases that hit the ancient Roman city minutes after the volcano erupted.

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In his lifetime, just four people managed to launch successful assassination attempts against Benito Mussolini, the infamous fascist dictator who brought Italy into World War II and inspired Adolf Hitler.

Of those four, just one—Anglo-Irish woman Violet Gibson—ever came close to succeeding. The 50-year-old made headlines on April 7, 1926, when she fired on Mussolini and almost altered the course of history forever. But in the years after her bold attack, Gibson was consigned to an asylum, and her story was all but forgotten.

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