Guardian

Rocket cats?

Proof that gun powder technology captured the imagination of 16th century military minds can be found in a manual written by artillery master Franz Helm of Cologne, Germany who proposed strapping rockets to the backs of cats in order to "set fire to a castle or city which you can't get at otherwise." (photos)

Illuminated almanac: 15th century iPad?

The Wellcome Library has acquired a rare medical almanac, a "combined calendar, astrological chart and medical textbook," that compacts into a small, folded strip, for UK£100,000 from the Edith Sitwell collection. The illuminated alamnac is believed to have been produced in an English workshop in the early 15th century. (photo)

"Not a pretty picture" painted by pit of Roman skulls

In 1988, 39 skulls of adult men were discovered near the Museum of London. The skulls dated to Roman times and now are believed to have been gathered by "head hunters" who retrieved the heads of those who died in the nearby amphitheater. "It is not a pretty picture," said Rebecca Redfern, from the centre for human bioarchaeology at the museum of London.

"Staggering find" links British Isles and Norway

Curator Barry Ager of the British Museum discovered a rare Viking artifact lately in an unexpected place: the storeroom of the British Museum. The ornate, gilded brooch, spotted by Ager "in a lump of organic material excavated from a Viking burial site at Lilleberge in Norway," turned out to be a rare piece of jewelry. (photo)

New life for Lady and Unicorn Tapestries

The six "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries, housed by the Musée National du Moyen Age in Paris, were showing their age with dust and sagging linings taking their toll, but the 16th century Flemish masterpieces were recently given new life with a complete restoration of the linings and a special vacuuming. (photo)

"Organic lump" holds rare Celtic brooch

In 1891, the British Museum acquired a lump of organic material found at a Viking burial site in Lilleberge, Norway. The material had metal pieces in it, but no one took the time to examine it further - until recently when Curator Barry Ager took a second look and ordered the material x-rayed. (photo)

New Shakespeare collection to include "Apocrypha"

Have you heard of Shakespeare's Mucedorus? Neither have most people, since the late 16th century play has been attributed to someone else. But now, thanks to linguistic "fingerprinting," Shakespeare's involvement in the writing of the play may have been proven.

Mona Lisa quest sparks controversy

Everyone knows the face of the Mona Lisa, but Silvano Vinceti hopes that he can show the world her actual face by identifying her remains removed from the Sant'Orsola convent in Florence. The task is expected to be accomplished by matching DNA from eight skeletons removed from the convent with that of remains taken from the lady's family tomb.

500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden marked

14,000 individuals -- 10,000 Scots and 4,000 English -- lost their lives in the Battle of Flodden which took place in 1513 in Northumberland, England. Among them was King James IV of Scotland. This year re-enactors and others are marking the 500th anniversary of the history-changing battle. (photo)

The mysterious buildings of Longforth farm

Archaeologists working at Longforth farm near Wellington, England, are puzzled by the discovery of a group of substantial medieval buildings, apparently abandoned between the 12th and 14th centuries.

"Princes in the Tower" to remain unidentified - for now

Shakespeare wrote that Richard III plotted the deaths of his young nephews in the Tower of London, a theory touted by the Tudors but never confirmed. In the 17th century, the bones of two young children were found in the Tower and were reburied in Westminster Abbey as the princes, Edward V and Richard Duke of York.

Latin: Dead or alive?

The announcement of the new Pope in Rome has led some journalists to ponder if Latin really is a dead language. The Guardian's Style Blog jumps into the discussion.

Viking valkyrie to be showcased in Denmark, Britain

In December 2012, metal detector enthusiast Morten Skovsby got lucky near the village of Hårby, Denmark.  His detector hit on a thumb-sized silver figurine depicting a Valkyrie, the only known 3D Viking representation of the battle maiden. (photos)

Historians argue over head of Henry IV

Historians continue to debate over the authenticity of a mummifed head found in the attic of a tax collector. Some believe it is the remains of "good King Henri" (Henry IV of France, murdered in 1610), while others believe the claim is "rubbish."

Bayeux tapestry complete at last

The residents of he Channel Island of Alderney, led by librarian Kate Russell, have recently completed a major project: the final panels of the Bayeux tapestry. (photo)

Recreating the Blue Boar Inn

A team of archaeologists and academics in Leicester, England have digitally recreated the Blue Boar Inn where Richard III spent the night before the battle of Bosworth, where he met his fate. The inn was demolished in the 19th century and is currently the site of a Travelodge. (video)

Hidden Secrets of Tudor Portraits

Portraits of two Elizabethan courtiers, it seems, were painted over Catholic religious paintings.

Gypsies originated in NW India

A new genetic study published in Current Biology reveals that European Gypsies originated in northwest India and migrated to the Balkan area of Europe in the 6th century. The study was led by David Comas of Spain's Institute of Evolutionary Biology,

"Epic parties" marked spectacular Anglo-Saxon feasting hall

1,300 years ago, a "spectacular Anglo-Saxon feasting hall" was abandoned in Kent, England. Recently a team of archaeologists from the University of Reading marked the end of their excavations of the site with a candlelight ceremony surrounding the building which knew so many "epic parties."

Subject of Holbein painting identified

X-rays and infra-red photography used during conservation work on a portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger have identified the subject as Hans, a merchant working in London's steelyards, rather than the goldsmith Hans of Antwerp, the identity given to the man for over 400 years.

New study shows Scotland "one of the most diverse nations on earth"

Conventional wisdom states that most of the Scottish population stems from Scots, Celtic, Viking and Irish ancestry, but a new DNA study shows something quite interesting. Many Scots carry genetics originating in West African, Arabian, south-east Asian and Siberia.

Operation Nightingale unearths thoursands of artifacts on Salisbury plain

A team of volunteers from Operation Nightingale, a project to give soldiers recovering from injuries in Afghanistan a chance to gains new skills and interests, has unearthed an "astonishing" haul of artifacts on the Salisbury Plain.

Theft of Codex Calixtinus alleged to be an inside job

Four people, including the former caretaker at Santiago de Compostela cathedral, have been arrested for the 2011 theft of the Codex Calixtinus Of Pope Calixtus II, a 12th-century collection of sermons and liturgical passages.

Medieval crozier and ring found at Furness Abbey

Furness Abbey, one of the most powerful and richest Cistercian abbeys" in England, was the home of well-fed, well-heeled monks and abbots. Now it is the site of several rare archaeological finds including a silver-gilt crozier and a jewelled ring in remarkable condition. (photo)

The power of Botticelli's Venus

In a recent ArtBlog posted by The Guardian, Jonathan Jones ponders Botticelli's enduring masterpiece, The Birth of Venus, painted in 1484, and tries to discover if it is the ancient religion that makes it so compelling.

New excavations may shed light on York's Saxon past

Archaeologists have long known about the Roman and Viking heritage of York, England, but little of its Saxon past, but new excavations of York Minster may shed some light on the unknown era.

Up Helly Aa 2012

The Vikings returned to Scotland recently for Up Helly Aa, the celebration of Nordic influence in Scotland's Shetland Islands. The Guardian newspaper offers a slideshow of photos from the event.

Vikings invade England in the 21st century

Recent Nordic archaeological discoveries in Great Britain have sparked a new interest in all things Viking. In an article for the Guardian, arts and media correspondent Vanessa Thorpe looks at new trends, based on old tales that are driving current British culture.

Roman baths discovered in London

Builders of a new office block in the Southwark district of London will not see their dreams realized until they have determined what to do with the remains of a Roman bath house, complete with cold plunge bath and hypocaust heating system. (photo)

Interactive history of the British house

The Guardian website offers an interactive history of the British house in its "British architecture guides" section. The site includes homes from the Saxon era to contemporary, with options to zoom in for more detail and description.