BU’s Tim Darvill speaks to National Geographic

Timothy Darvill, Professor of Archaeology at Bournemouth University, gave his comment in a recent article for the National Geographic.

The article talks about Stonehenge and tries to uncover the mystery of how early Britons managed to move the monument’s enormous stones into place.

Professor Darvill said, “The Sarsens were moved about 40 to 50 kilometres from essentially local sources”.

They were most likely moved over land routes mounted on sleds, which then slid across rollers or rails, he explained. “Plenty of experiments have been done to show this is possible.”

“Some of the bigger sarsens weigh about 40 tons (36 metric tonnes) and would need about 150 people to pull them along,” Darvill added.

Michael Parker Pearson, an archaeologist at University College London and a National Geographic grantee notes that the roller method of transport can be problematic.

Many ancient monuments that we admire today were built without the conveniences of modern technology and with no definite answers, the mystery surrounding their construction continues.

You can read the article in full on the National Geographic website.

Professor David Osselton on Bloody Tales documentary

Professor David Osselton, Director of the Centre for Forensic Science at BU, featured in a documentary on the National Geographic TV channel exploring the truth behind history’s most famous tyrants.

Professor Osselton, who specialises in toxicology, helped investigate whether the Roman Emperor Nero poisoned his stepbrother as part of the Bloody Tales: Tyrants documentary.

Nero’s stepbrother Britannicus was a rival to the throne, and collapsed and died after drinking with Nero.

Journalist Joe Crowley visited BU’s labs and worked with Professor Osselton to see whether it would have been possible for Nero to poison his stepbrother, or whether his death could have been the result of an epileptic fit, as Nero suggested.

Professor Osselton said: “In the case of Nero, it has been suggested in some of the literature that it might have been cyanide.

“They were quite aware that the kernels of many fruit contain a chemical that will release cyanide into solution.”

He added that, within minutes of drinking the solution, symptoms would resemble an epileptic fit, but that it would cause the lips and tips of the fingers to turn blue.

As there were no reports of this happening to Britannicus, Professor Osselton thought that cyanide should be discounted.

He said that one of the poisons which was very widely used in Greek and Roman times was hemlock – a plant that grows alongside river banks and would produce the symptoms described.

“One thing that hemlock does produce is blodges on the skin,” he told Joe.

“Certainly, the majority of the population are unlikely to know all the signs and symptoms of poisoning.”

Bloody Tales: Tyrants was broadcast on the National Geographic channel at 8pm on Monday 22 April.

Find out more about the Bloody Tales series