Hidden

Archeologists Find the Hidden Original Form of Arthur’s Stone, an Ancient Structure That Inspired the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’


For the first time ever, archaeologists have excavated sites near Arthur’s Stone, shedding new light on the origins of the mysterious Neolithic structure, which dates to around 3700 BCE—a full millennium before the construction of Stonehenge (2500 BCE). Based on the new findings, the famed rock tomb in Herefordshire, England now seems to have been part of a region-wide community of shared burial rituals.

According to the archaeologists from the University of Manchester and Cardiff, the hulking Stone Age tomb can now be understood in relation to the 6,000-year-old “halls of the dead” discovered nearby in 2013, which were used to store bodies before they were moved into individual chambered tombs. The researchers discovered the burned remains of the halls, which they said were intentionally set alight, and later incorporated into burial mounds.

Based on the new excavation’s findings, Arthur’s Stone was actually built in two distinct phases of construction. In its first incarnation, it was based on a large mound of stacked earth pointing southwest and surrounded by wooden posts, which ultimately decayed—similar in form to what is known of the “halls of the dead.” Later, it was rebuilt with larger post pillars, two rock chambers, and an upright stone facing southeast, according to Current Archaeology.

Excavations near Arthur's Stone. Courtesy of the University of Manchester and Cardiff.

Excavations near Arthur’s Stone. Courtesy of the University of Manchester and Cardiff.

Professor Julian Thomas, part of both the new excavation and the earlier finds, explained the significance of the new findings on the University of Manchester website. Because of the similarities between the previously hidden first phase of Arthur’s Stone and the recently identified “houses of the dead,” “the block of upland between the Golden Valley and the Wye Valley is now becoming revealed as hosting an integrated Neolithic ceremonial landscape.”

The excavation was part of the Beneath Hay Bluff Project, which is dedicated to investigating Neolithic structures in southwest Hereforshire.

The 2013 discovery yielded artifacts similar to others found in Yorkshire dating from 2600 BC. This led scholars to believe that the site remained an important venue for ceremonies 1,000 years after the halls were initially built, strongly suggesting links between communities in Hereforshire and East Yorkshire over many generations.

Arthur’s Stone, a UNESCO-listed heritage site, served as inspiration for the “stone table” in C.S. Lewis’s fantasy book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where it was imagined as a table built by lion king Aslan’s father. Though Lewis’s version consists of a large slab of rock supported by four smaller rock pillars, the real-life structure is actually composed of nine standing stones supporting a 25-ton hulking quartz capstone.

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Conservators at the Met Have Discovered a Hidden Composition Under Jacques Louis David’s Portrait of a Famed Chemist


In 2019, Jacques Louis David’s famed neoclassical portrait of chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier and his wife, Marie Anne, was sent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s conservation lab. The job was straightforward—the removal of a varnish. But in the process, researchers discovered something else, too: a hidden composition under the painting.

The painting we know depicts the Lavoisiers as assiduous leaders of a scientific revolution. A humbly attired Marie Anne leans over her husband, who is seated at a red-swathed table, hard at work before a bevy of specialized instruments. 

Jacques-Louis David, <i>Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794) and Marie-Anne Lavoisier (Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, 1758–1836)</i> (1788). Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Jacques Louis David, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794) and Marie Anne Lavoisier (Marie Anne Pierrette Paulze, 1758–1836) (1788). Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But after months of analysis—via such techniques as infrared reflectography and macro X-ray fluorescence mapping—experts learned that David’s original painting of Lavoisier and his wife was far less flattering, depicting the couple as well-heeled members of the nobility, luxuriating in their lavish lifestyle. In the artist’s original sketch, the instruments are gone, the table is bare and inlaid with gilt brass details, and Marie Anne dons a swanky plumed hat. 

The restored painting has now been returned to the Met’s neoclassical galleries. It looks like it always has, but its context has changed.

“The revelations about Jacques Louis David’s painting completely transform our understanding of the centuries-old masterpiece,” said Max Hollein, director of the Met, in a statement. “More than 40 years after the work first entered the museum’s collection, it is thrilling to gain new insights into the artist’s creative process and the painting’s evolution.”

Left: a map showing the combined elemental distribution of lead and mercury in David's painting. Right: an infrared reflectogram of the canvas.

Left: a map showing the combined elemental distribution of lead and mercury in David’s painting. Right: an infrared reflectogram of the canvas. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Born in 1743, Lavoisier was responsible for a number of major contributions to modern science, including the metric system, the first table of elements, and the discovery of oxygen and hydrogen. His wife, born in 1758, was instrumental to many of these innovations, often assisting Lavoisier with tests. 

However, with his success, Lavoisier was also firmly entrenched in France’s Ancien Régime, the dominant system of rule upended by the revolution in the last decade of the 18th century. During that period, he was arrested by for his complicity as a tax collector, and eventually executed via guillotine in May 1794.

David’s 6-by-9 foot portrait was completed in 1788, just prior to the revolution. The artist intended to debut the work at a salon in 1789 but, according to the Met, he was convinced to pull the fawning tribute at the last minute by royal authorities, who were alarmed by rising tensions pointing to the coming overthrow. The painting wasn’t seen by the public until a century later, at the Exposition Universelle of 1889.

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794) and Marie Anne Lavoisier (Marie Anne Pierrette Paulze, 1758–1836) was purchased for the Met in 1977 by philanthropists Charles and Jayne Wrightsman.

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A Scholar Has Uncovered Hidden Messages in the Prayer Book That Anne Boleyn Is Said to Have Carried to Her Death


When Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, was executed in 1536, she is said to have carried a prayer book, which she handed to a lady-in-waiting just before her death. Now, a historian has discovered secret messages hidden in the tome, revealing that the book was passed down among women who risked discovery by the king for owning something associated with a condemned traitor.

Kate McCaffrey, a former visitor experience assistant at Hever Castle and Gardens, Boleyn’s childhood home in Edenbridge, U.K., used ultraviolet light and photo editing software to examine the book’s pages.

It was part of a set made for Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in the 1520s. It would have been given to Boleyn in the 1520s, when she served as the queen’s lady-in-waiting. Though Henry famously broke with the Catholic church to divorce Catherine and marry Boleyn, he accused his second wife of treason and and incest, beheading her after only three years of marriage.

Previously, scholars knew of only one inscription in the book, in Boleyn’s hand, reading “Remember me when you do pray/That hope doth lead from day to day.” But McCaffrey was interested in what looked like smudges on one of the pages.

What she found was four family names: Gage, West, Shirley, and Guildford. The signatories were relatives of Elizabeth Hill, a childhood friend of Boleyn’s who was part of her household at court.

“The legend is [Anne Boleyn] took the book to the gallows, although it is not proven historically,” McCaffrey told the London Times. “It could be that Anne passed this book on before her execution, or she bequeathed it, but certainly I think it was through this woman Elizabeth Hill.”

Three of the four signatures were from women: Hill’s mother, aunt, and female cousin, as well as her uncle.

“It is clear that this book was passed between a network of trusted connections, from daughter to mother, from sister to niece. If the book had fallen into other hands, questions almost certainly would have been raised over the remaining presence of Anne’s signature,” McCaffrey said in a statement. “Instead, the book was passed carefully between a group of primarily women who were both entrusted to guard Anne’s note and encouraged to add their own.”

The hidden words and names in Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours prayer book revealed by ultra-violet light. Photo courtesy of Hever Castle & Garden.

The hidden words and names in Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours prayer book revealed by ultra-violet light. Photo courtesy of Hever Castle & Garden.

“In a world with very limited opportunities for women to engage with religion and literature, the simple act of marking this Hours and keeping the secret of its most famous user, was one small way to generate a sense of community and expression,” she added.

The book may have even found its way into the hands of Boleyn’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, thanks to Hill’s daughter, Mary.

“Mary Hill was a very close friend of Elizabeth I, so a poignant and likely possibility is that Mary was able to show Elizabeth her mother’s signed inscription in the book,” McCaffrey told the Telegraph. “What makes the book so dangerous to preserve, its association with Anne, actually becomes the main reason for preserving it when Elizabeth I comes to the throne (in 1558) and wants her mother to be remembered.”

McCaffrey released her findings, which are part of her master’s thesis in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Kent University, on Wednesday, the anniversary of Bolyen’s death.

The book is on view at Hever Castle, which reopened to visitors this week. The institution owns two of three surviving books bearing Boleyn’s signature. The third is at the British Library.

See more photos of the discovery below.

Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours prayer book. Photo courtesy of Hever Castle & Garden.

Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours prayer book. Photo courtesy of Hever Castle & Garden.

An illumination from Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours prayer book. Photo courtesy of Hever Castle & Garden.

An illumination from Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours prayer book. Photo courtesy of Hever Castle & Garden.

The hidden words and names in Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours prayer book revealed by ultra-violet light. Photo courtesy of Hever Castle & Garden.

The hidden words and names in Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours prayer book revealed by ultra-violet light. Photo courtesy of Hever Castle & Garden.

Kate McCaffrey with Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours prayer book. Photo courtesy of Hever Castle & Garden.

Kate McCaffrey with Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours prayer book. Photo courtesy of Hever Castle & Garden.

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A Lawyer Cracked a Hidden Room in His Office and Found a Cache of Historic Photography, Including a Famed Portrait of Susan B. Anthony


A lawyer looking for a new office stumbled upon a trove of historic photographs when he discovered a secret attic in the three-story building he bought last December in Geneva, New York. Among the finds in the hidden trove was a rare portrait of suffragist Susan B. Anthony.

David J. Whitcomb, 43, was changing a light bulb on the building’s third floor when he realized the ceiling looked strange. That was because it was a drop ceiling, installed decades ago to convert the space into an apartment unit. Whitcomb spotted an access panel, climbed up on a stack of chairs, and peered inside with a flashlight.

“The first thing I saw was a whole bunch of picture frames stacked together and these frames are gorgeous. They’re the turn-of-the-century, they’re gold, gilded, and they shone really bright and I was like ‘Oh my God,’” he told CNN. “I lowered myself and said ‘I think we just found The Goonies treasure.’”

The building’s two previous owners knew nothing of the hidden space, meaning it had been boarded up some time before the 1960s.

The photographs and other artifacts lawyer David J. Whitcomb found in a secret attic in a building he purchased in Geneva, New York. Photo courtesy of David J. Whitcomb.

The photographs and other artifacts lawyer David J. Whitcomb found in a secret attic in a building he purchased in Geneva, New York. Photo courtesy of David J. Whitcomb.

Papers in the stash featured the name of James Ellery Hale, or J.E. Hale. The Geneva Historical Society connected Whitcomb to its former president, Dan Weinstock, who explained that Hale was a photographer who lived in the town from 1892 to 1920. He moved his studio to Whitcomb’s building sometime after 1900.

Born in 1850, Hale had photographed President Grover Cleveland’s fiancé Francis Folsom in 1885, as well as many other early suffragists, displaying their portraits at the 1907 New York State Woman Suffrage Association in Geneva.

The Anthony photograph was taken in 1905, the year before her death. The Susan B. Anthony Memorial Association used it as her official portrait after Hale gave them the rights to the image. A clipping of a newspaper article featuring the same photo is part of the collection of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

Whitcomb found pieces of the glass negative used to print the photograph, but fears the part featuring her face has been lost. He is hoping a local photographer can help develop images from some of the 50 intact glass negatives in the trove, which also includes burlap sacks full of hundreds of prints, images of Geneva sports teams, cameras, and props and photo backdrops Hale would have used in his shoots.

The Susan B. Anthony photograph by James Ellery Hale that lawyer David J. Whitcomb found in a secret attic in a building he purchased in Geneva, New York. Photo courtesy of David J. Whitcomb.

The Susan B. Anthony photograph by James Ellery Hale that lawyer David J. Whitcomb found in a secret attic in a building he purchased in Geneva, New York. Photo courtesy of David J. Whitcomb.

The collection also features at least two other prominent early women’s rights leaders, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Elizabeth Smith Miller. Most of the photographs’ subjects have yet to be identified.

Whitcomb has consigned his find to One Source Auctions & Antiques in Canandaigua, New York, where the trove was appraised at $100,000. The Anthony photograph alone could fetch between $10,000 and $50,000

“It’s a very uncommon find, especially this being the main photo of Susan B. Anthony on file at the Library of Congress,” the auction house’s Aaron Kirvan told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

“What’s amazing is that this material sat in this building for over a century, forgotten,” Whitcomb added. “Someone just dry-walled over this attic and it was lost to history until we discovered it, and it’s telling a very interesting story.”

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