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Viking treasure haul unearthed in Scotland

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In total, more than 100 items were recovered, including armbands, a cross and brooches

A haul of Viking treasure has been unearthed from a field in south west Scotland by an amateur using a metal detector.

Derek McLennan, a retired businessman from Ayrshire, made the find in Dumfriesshire in September.

In total, more than 100 items were recovered, including armbands, a cross and brooches.

Experts have said the discovery is one of the most important Viking hoards ever found in Scotland.

The items are believed to be worth a six-figure sum.

Mr McLennan last year uncovered Scotland’s biggest haul of medieval silver coins.

Among the objects within the hoard is an early Christian cross thought to date from the 9th or 10th Century.

The solid silver cross has enamelled decorations which experts consider to be highly unusual.

The haul also includes possibly the largest silver Carolingian pot ever discovered, with its lid still in place.

The pot is likely to have been around 100 years old when the hoard was buried in the mid 9th or 10th Centuries.

Source: BBCNews Read and see more

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Sex ’emerged in ancient Scottish lake’

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Artist’s impression: The researchers believe the fish had to be side-by-side to copulate

Scientists believe they have discovered the origin of copulation.

An international team of researchers says a fish called Microbrachius dicki is the first-known animal to stop reproducing by spawning and instead mate by having sex.

The primitive bony fish, which was about 8cm long, lived in ancient lakes about 385 million years ago in what is now Scotland.

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Royally Photobombed

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Image: BBCNews

The Caribbean colony that brought down Scotland

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As Scotland prepares for an independence referendum I decided to look back at the late 1690s when an independent Scotland launched an ambitious but ultimately doomed plan to create a colony in what is now Panama.

We landed near the border with Colombia, close to where the Isthmus of Panama is at its narrowest, on a little airstrip wedged between the blue sparkle of the Caribbean and the green intensity of an impenetrable forest, and boarded a little fibreglass boat with a single outboard motor.

We made our way west, parallel to the coast, bouncing roughly in the surging surf, until we came to the island that is still called Caledonia.

“In the time of our forefathers,” a village elder told us, “white people came here – Scottish and Spanish people. We liked the Scottish more than the Spanish, for the Spanish attacked us and drove us inland away from the coast and the Scots did not. But there were battles and many ships were sunk”.

The story of the ill-fated Scots colony at Darien survives in the oral history of the Kuna Indians, who are the only people who have ever settled successfully in this inhospitable place.

In 1698, a fleet of five ships sailed from Leith docks near Edinburgh carrying 1,200 settlers to found a colony in Panama.

It was a place where the poet John Keats would later locate “stout Cortez” gazing at the Pacific for the first time, “and all his men looked at each other with a wild surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien”.

The Scots found a large sheltered harbour with a supply of fresh water. They went ashore and built a fort they called Fort St Andrew.

Three centuries on, we hacked our way through the forest and found a trench they had dug to provide the fort with a defensive moat.

It is a wide gash, filled with sea water, cut through solid coral rock by 17th Century hands – the first canal in Panama, possibly, built by Scotsmen under a punishing tropical sky. It is pretty much all that is left of the colony they named Caledonia, and the town they called New Edinburgh.

For even before they made landfall, the colonists had begun to die.

Tropical diseases – malaria, yellow fever, something they called the bloody flux – cut them down even faster on land.

Somewhere beneath the tangle we hacked through, there is a Scottish cemetery with hundreds of graves. No-one has ever found it.

The forest is too dense. Within nine months of setting sail from Leith, on a wave of national euphoria, most of the colonists were dead. A second fleet sailed in 1699, not knowing that the colony had already been attacked and burned to the ground by the Spanish, and abandoned by its few survivors.

Allan Little: “Scotland is rethinking the lessons of the Darien disaster”

The disaster helped end Scotland’s independence. For the colony had been funded by public subscription – an early example of a financial mania.

Public bodies, town corporations, members of parliament, landed gentry, and thousands of private citizens – sea captains and surgeons, apothecaries and ironmongers – sank their life savings into the scheme.

Between a quarter and a half of the available wealth of Scotland was spent, and lost.

A record of all the investors was kept

And it was the role of England that was most bitterly resented.

Scotland, though an independent country, shared its head of state with England.

King William was monarch of both kingdoms. English merchants and the English parliament saw the Scottish venture as a threat to the trading monopolies they enjoyed.

King William issued a decree to all the English colonies from Canada to the Caribbean: there was to be no trade with the errant Scots and no assistance – not so much as a barrel of clean water was to be offered to them.

Few of the 3,000 Scots who went made it home. Those who did found an impoverished country which, within a decade, accepted union with England.

The Treaty of Union of 1707 included a clause in which the English government agreed to pay a sum of money to the Scots, to compensate the Darien investors for what they had lost.

The sum of money England paid to the Scots was known in the treaty as the Equivalent, or the Price of Scotland.

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UK in the Limelight

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Northern Lights illuminate the UK

The Aurora Borealis – better known as the Northern Lights – has been giving rare and spectacular displays over parts of the UK, from the north of Scotland to as far south as Essex and Gloucestershire.

The lights have also been clearly visible in places such as Orkney, Norfolk and south Wales.

The display, which is caused by electrically charged particles from the Sun entering the Earth’s atmosphere, led to scenes such as this one at the Stonehaven war memorial, Aberdeenshire.

Mark Thompson, presenter of the BBC’s Stargazing Live, said he had not been expecting a display as spectacular as it was in places such as Wick, in Caithness.

More brilliant photos

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A Vexing Problem for Lologists

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What would the union jack look like if the Scottish bit was removed?

 

Scotland’s referendum on independence is now just over 10 months away, but the question of what might happen to the union jack has been largely overlooked. An association of flag experts, or vexillologists, has created a set of designs it hopes will encourage a discussion.

Some 400 years ago when the crowns of England and Scotland were united, an argument raged about how the blue field and white saltire of St Andrew could be combined with the red cross of St George.

The Scots were eager that their flag should be laid on top of the English flag, but of course the English thought it should be the other way around. It took a Royal proclamation to determine that the English flag should take precedence.

Now, the prospect of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom throws open the question again. It’s already been suggested by the College of Arms that with the Queen still head of state of an independent Scotland there would be no need for a redesign. But there is still the possibility of renewed debate.

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Royal baby: The American mistake

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Not a St George’s Cross in sight

Some US television networks proclaimed the royal baby news by welcoming the arrival of the “future king of England”, forgetting about the rest of the UK.

Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish… you may want to look away now. Some of the biggest names in American broadcasting have overlooked your existence amid the hysteria surrounding the newborn Windsor. Star presenters on CBS News and ABC News were among the culprits who referred to the baby as “the future king of England”. American talk show host Ellen DeGeneres tweeted: “It’s a boy! So happy for my cousin Kate and the future King of England”.

But there hasn’t been a King of England since William III in the early 18th Century – and there won’t be again, unless (or until) the United Kingdom splinters completely.

“The political state of the Queen’s home nation is the ‘United Kingdom’, not England which is just one region within the country along with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,” says Robert Blackburn, a professor of constitutional law at King’s College London. “The ‘United Kingdom’ is shorthand for the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.”

It’s a common misunderstanding in the US. The New York Times angered many Scots when it marked Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph with a tweet that said: “After 77 years, Murray and England rule”

But before Brits get too sniffy about this equation between Britain and England, we should acknowledge it’s a pretty complicated business and the English are sometimes guilty of the same mistake. A common error is for the British themselves to forget about Northern Ireland by referring to “Great Britain”, which is an island, when really they mean the United Kingdom. (The Northern Irish are “British” without being part of Great Britain.)

And remember that the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are British, but not part of the UK.

Head hurting yet?

America is a desire, says the OED

This is a two-way street, and getting to grips with the correct terminology stateside is also a tricky business. The United States of America is often referred to as “America” by British people, but consult the Oxford English Dictionary and you’ll see that America is a desire, a place you yearn for. Of course, Simon and Garfunkel fans knew that already.

The distinction between America and the US is important, because there is another America, Latin America. Not to mention Central America, and the rest of North America (including Mexico and Canada).

So can we legitimately use “American” as an adjective referring to something from the US? If so, you’re back in the Britain/British quagmire again. Perhaps the answer is for everyone to be tolerant, to embrace a bit of “constructive ambiguity”… and just toast the health of the future king.

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