MSNBC

Microsoft/National Broadcasting Corporation

Cards fit for a king - or princess

A complete set of silver playng cards, created in Germany in 1616, was acquired through auction in 2010 by entrepreneur Selim Zilkha. Legend tells that the set was owned by a Portuguese princess who fled Napoleon in 1807. (photos)

Medieval monks predict climate change

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have matched diaries kept by monks, dating to 1500, to look at weather patterns from the past 500 years. The scientists have found that historical records closely parallel modern computer simulations of European climate patterns.

Cannons, not mirrors: Archimedes legend revised

Debunking a legend begun in the Middle Ages, new research suggests Archimedes used steam cannons to set fire to Roman warships. The legend claimed that during the siege of Syracuse, mirrors were used to create a deadly concentration of sunlight that set the ships aflame.

Experts look to art for new information on the Crusades

The discovery of two Crusader-era murals in a church in Syria may offer archaeologists insight into the history of Christianity during the Middle Ages. The murals are the first found in the Middle East which depict heaven and hell as subject matter.

Search of the grave of Fulke Greville could solve Shakespeare mystery

A group of parishioners at St. Mary's church in Warwick, England have requested permission to open the tomb of Fulke Greville, a writer and contemporary of Shakespeare, who, some believe, wrote at least some of Shakespeare's plays. They hope that mysterious "boxes" in the grave might contain manuscripts.

Bad eyesight may have affected Galileo's findings

A joint Italian and British project to test the DNA of the exhumed body of Renaissance scientist Galileo may lead to interesting findings, including the theory that vision problems affected the astronomer's work.

Roman oil lamp factory discovered in Italy

A pottery workshop for the mass production of oil lamps dating to the 2nd century C.E. has been discovered near Modena, Italy. The complex created pottery lamps which bear the brand name stamped on the bottom. (photo)

Pennsylvania may end "Beer Case Law"

Moderate drinkers at Pennsic take heart. The end of Pennsylvania's beer "case law," which requires purchase of an entire case of beer at a time, may be at hand.

Suffering for beauty has ancient roots

For as long as humans have admired themselves in magazines, mirrors and murky pools of water, they’ve also had to contend with the ugly side of beauty.

Some relics of St. Francis probably did not belong to the saint

Carbon dating done on relics of St. Francis of Assisi have given mixed results. While a tunic, belt and mortuary cushion were dated to the right time period, another tunic, which the church attributes to the saint, did not.

Botticelli fresco in Hungary?

Art historians are excited about the possible discovery of a Botticelli fresco in the ruins of a Hungarian palace. The large work was found in remains of the palace of Archbishop Janos Vitez, the head of the country's Catholic church from 1465 to 1472.

Frescos cleaned with salad dressing?

Fine art met culinary art in Siena, Italy recently when delicate frescos by Renaissance painter Lorenzo di Pietro were cleaned with a salad-dressing-like mixture of oil and water.

Rome: Upstairs Downstairs with swords!

In an article for Newsweek, Malcolm Jones looks at the second season of the HBO series Rome.

400-year-old seeds help tell Jamestown story

The recent discovery of some 400-year-old seeds in a well at the Colonial Jamestown archaeological site has given researchers much to ponder about the life and survival skills of the early Jamestown settlers.

Pazyryk warrior gives keys to Russian past

The well-preserved, frozen remains of a 2,000-year-old Russian warrior, found recently in the Altai mountains region of Russia, have archaeologists excited.

Shakespeare's Church Has Leaky Roof

The caretakers of the church where William Shakespeare was baptized and buried want help to fix its leaky roof. Holy Trinity Church in Stratford upon Avon is seeking sponsors to "adopt a gargoyle" and help the church provide the extensive maintenance needed.

Bones probably not those of Joan of Arc

Eighteen experts, working to determine if a rib bone and a piece of cloth belonged to St. Joan of Arc, have not completely finished their task but now feel that "there is relatively little chance that the remnants are hers."

Scientists at last understand ancient calculating device

After many years of study, scientists at last can fathom the works of a calculating device from ancient Greece, which some researchers consider more valuable than the Mona Lisa due to its unique historical value.

"Da Vinci Code" Renews Interest in the Grail

The popularity of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code has sparked interest in grail legends, according to scholars. An MSNBC article looks the various ways the grail has popped up in literature over the centuries.

Heyerdahl Sails Again; Re-enactor's Descendant Repeats his Feat

The grandson of Thor Heyerdahl is re-enacting his grandfather's 1947 re-enactment of a hypothetical ancient voyage from South America to the Polynesian islands.

Shakespeare First Folio to be Auctioned

A rare, 17th century, calf-bound volume of the plays of William Shakespeare is scheduled to be auctioned in the summer of 2006 at Sotheby's sale of English Literature and History.

Cultural Icons Among Most Endangered Wonders

Newsweek has listed three iconic medieval structures among the Seven Most Endangered Wonders of the World.

Researchers Debate Fate of 14th Century Ship

Archaeologists in Stockholm, Sweden are debating the best method to handle a 14th century ship discovered buried in the mud of a bay in central Stockholm. Parts of the ship may be too delicate to remove.

Mona Lisa Mostly Happy

A team of Dutch scientists has determined that the expression of the face of Da Vinci's famous Mona Lisa is "83 percent happy, 9 percent disgusted."

DNA Test of Jamestown Skeleton Inconclusive

DNA tests conducted on a 400-year-old Jamestown, VA skeleton have failed to prove that the remains are those of Jamestown founder Bartholomew Gosnold.

Crumbling Roman Walls May Affect Italian Tourism

The collapse of a wall in the ancient Forum in Rome has travelers concerned for their safety. The incident happened at the time when the Italian government is considering cuts to cultural programs.

Mary Rose Anchor Raised

As work on the wreck of Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose continues, archaeologists announced that the anchor has been recovered.

Medieval African Manuscripts on Display

A collection of 16 manuscripts from medieval Timbuktu will go on display in Johannesburg, South Africa this month for the first time. The works are part of a 30,000 manuscript discovery from the city which was founded in the year 1100.

"Monty Python’s Personal Best" on PBS

PBS has obtained the rights to air six new Monty Python specials, each showcasing a member of the British comedy troupe.

English DNA May Solve American Mystery

Is a skeleton found at colonial Jamestown, Virginia that of the colony's founder Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold? Scientists hope to solve the mystery by studying English DNA.