Researchers from the University of Birmingham (UK) may have discovered the oldest calendar in human history. This is exciting news for archaeologists, historians and those with an interest in the human past. We are going to lay out the key points of this exciting bit of archaeology news.

How Old is the Oldest Calendar?

Before now, the oldest known calendars appearing in archaeology news were from Mesopotamia. These were about 5,000 years old (c. 3000 BC). This supported ideas that civilisation and astrology originated in the Near East.

This new historical discovery is almost twice as old as previous examples. The archaeological remains date from around 10,000 years ago (c. 8000 BC). Birmingham researchers suggest the remains may be a kind of lunar calendar. If so, it would indicate that hunter-gatherer societies practised astrology earlier than previously thought.

Where was the Oldest Calendar Found?

The discovery was made in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The site itself is Warren Field, Crathes. The location of this ancient calendar raises further questions. The Near East was home to great ancient civilisations such as the Hittites an Assyrians. The region is also credited with being important in the spread of agriculture.

But Scotland can hardly boast a similarly epic past. This discovery might indicate that there were early civilisations and complex societies present in prehistoric Scotland. Or it may suggest that such early calendars were widespread throughout the world.

Implications of the Oldest Calendar’s Discovery

The implications of this discovery are mostly social. Scientific feats such as this would require a large amount of social interaction. Ideas would have to be exchanged and labour coordinated. So this 10,000 year old calendar suggests that hunter-gatherers functioned as a complex society.

Who Discovered the Oldest Calendar?

The project was led by Vince Gaffney of the University of Birmingham. He comments that this might have marked the invention of both time and history.

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Claudius the God by Robert Graves is my Summer book this year. It isn’t the only book which I’ve read this Summer. But it is the one which I will remember as the Summer’s best read.

Not a new book, Claudius the God was fist published in 1934. It is the sequel to I, Claudius. I read the first part on a Summer holiday when I was 13. So it seemed natural to read the second part on another holiday, although I’m definitely not 13 any more.

What is the Claudius Series About?

The I, Claudius series is about the future and actual Roman Emperor Claudius. It is a historical novel written in the style of an autobiography. Claudius narrates the events of his life in Ancient Rome from a first-hand perspective.

You might think that I, Claudius will be too dry and historical for you. From my description above, I can see why you might think that. It is an old book after all. And novels as old as the Claudius series can be tough to get through. But remember, I read the first part when I was a kid. And I was not one of those child geniuses (not even close).

I read War and Peace earlier this year (find a War and Peace review here). By which I mean that I tried to battle my way through it for most of the year. That novel is at the opposite end of the difficulty spectrum to I, Claudius.

Claudius is about the daily lives of the people of Ancient Rome. So don’t expect to be bogged down in Roman politics or religion.

Who are the Main Characters in the Claudius series?

  • Claudius. A member of the Roman imperial family. He has a number of physical disabilities. These have been with him since birth. He eventually becomes Roman Emperor despite wanting to restore Rome to a republic.
  • Tiberius. A Roman Emperor famous for his sadistic behaviour. A cruel tyrant and paranoid ruler. Numerous important Romans are killed as part of his subordinates’ schemes. Macro and Sejanus are the most prominent examples of his henchmen.
  • Caligula. Emperor after Tiberius and before Claudius. Another example of a sadist and tyrant. Proclaimed himself a living god. His assassination led to Claudius’ becoming emperor.
  • Herod Agrippa. One of my favourite characters from the novels. Herod Agrippa is a descendant of Herod the Great who spends much of his time in Rome. He plays no small part in Roman politics, is the first to be noticed in times of joy and makes himself scarce in turmoil.

Why is the Claudius Series a Great Read?

I, Claudius and Claudius the God are both great reads. It would be hard to say which is the better novel. The two create a single narrative, so there is no break in the plot between them.

The story of I, Claudius and Claudius the God is compelling. Claudius is a man who does not want to and should not be the Roman Emperor. In spite of this that is exactly what he becomes. You could say that this is a book about fate.

In Ancient Greece a tyrant was one man who held power over many. The same concept was taken up in Rome. All Roman Emperors were therefore tyrants. Tiberius and Caligula turned tyranny into sadism, and the latter died as a result. Perhaps Claudius was the only candidate who could break that tradition. His lack of a desire to have power makes his character the perfect person to rule Rome.

Robert Graves uses I, Claudius and Claudius the God to make grand statements like the above. But he also tells a compelling story about the lives of people in Ancient Rome. These are the reasons for the Claudius series being a great read.

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The island of Sicily has a rich and varied history. Many cultures and kingdoms have laid claim to it in the past. This diverse history has helped to shape Sicily as it is today.

Ancient Sicily

In the Classical Period, Greek city states sent their citizens out across the Mediterranean. These Greeks founded colonies in North Africa, Italy and elsewhere. Sicily was one of the places colonised by the Age Greeks. When we talk about the Classical Period we mean the time in which Athens, Sparta and Corinth rose to power. Major city states appeared in Sicily as a result of the Greek colonisation. Greek culture and religion were also transported to Sicily.

Early Roman Sicily

As the Roman Empire grew in power, it came into contact with previous Greek colonies. The culture and society of some Sicilian cities remained Greek, although they were by then largely autonomous.

Parts of Sicily were also held by Carthage. The city of Carthage was a Phoenician colony. Phoenicians originated from the Levant area of Western Asia. The Roman Empire expanded South to incorporate these Greek and Carthaginian cities. In this way, the island of Sicily became a part of the Roman Empire

Late Roman Sicily

In the late Roman period, Sicily was a major agricultural area. The island also contained large numbers of slaves. These slaves were used for manual labour in the fields. These slaves revolted during the First Servile War and Second Servile War. For more information on these slave revolts, click the links embedded in the text.

Byzantine Sicily

Sicily was inherited by the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire in the Early Middle Ages. This occurred after the Roman Empire was divided between East and West. The Byzantine (Eastern Roman) court was located in Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul.

The Byzantine Empire fought against the Ostrogoths in Italy and Sicily. These enemies of Byzantium were kept from taking control of the island, only to be succeeded by a new threat.

The Emirate Of Sicily

In the 7th Century Islam was a fast-growing religion. Islamic powers had conquered much of the Byzantine’s territories in Western Asia and North Africa.

This military expansion eventually spread to Sicily. Parts of the island were held by Byzantine loyalists while more and more territory was conquered by Islamic armies. The Islamic architectural and cultural influences brought to Sicily by this invasion may still be seen today.

But the Emirate of Sicily was short-lived. An increasingly powerful military force in Europe was soon to take over.

Norman Sicily

The Normans were a Medieval group descended from Vikings. They had settled in Northern France (Normandy area). But around the beginning of the 11th Century, Normans began to expand their territories across Europe. These territories were not linked by a common ruler or allegiance.

England was invaded by William the Conqueror. His defeat of Harold the Saxon in 1066 AD marked the beginning of Norman England. Normans also arrived in Italy and took control of former Byzantine provinces in the South. E.g. Naples and its surroundings. Sicily was also captured and turned into a Catholic state.

The Kingdom Of Naples

As seen on TV series The Borgias, in the later Middle Ages Sicily became a province of the Kingdom of Naples. This made it essentially a sub-region of a city state. It would later become included in the country of Italy.


Hopefully you can now see how it was that Sicilian culture emerged. Greek colony, Roman province, Byzantine frontier, Islamic Emirate, Norman state and a part of modern Italy. These transitions involved changes between such religions as: Ancient Greek, Ancient Roman, early Roman Christian Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Catholicism.

Cultural, artistic and architectural changes accompanied transitions between rulers and religion.

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We have just returned from a short trip to Istanbul. If you are thinking about having a holiday in Istanbul, this article will tell you what to do before you go and while you are there.

Where is Istanbul?

Istanbul is the inter-continental city. It is located on three spurs of land between Europe and Asia. The old city lies on the European side of the Bosphorous, with ever growing residential areas on the Asian side. The old city itself is divided by the Golden Horn, a small tributary of the Bosphorous. Istanbul may also claim to be a coastal town. Parts of it overlook the peaceful Sea of Marmara.

The History of Istanbul

The city began its life as a Greek colony. The small town of Byzantium overlooked an important trade route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Ships passing either way would have to navigate the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorous River. The entrance to these two bodies of water is dominated by the hills of Istanbul.
The town later fell under the rule of the Roman Empire. It became a city in its own right when the emperor Constantine I moved his capital there, renaming the settlement Constantinople. After the Roman Empire was split in two, Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. The largest surviving relic of the Byzantine Empire is the Hagia Sophia. This was the largest building in the world until the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. If you are visiting Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia is a must-see.
In 1453 the Ottomans conquered Constantinople and established it as the capital of their empire. This period saw the building of fantastic palaces, awe inspiring mosques and rich bazaars in the city. Ottoman sites you have to visit include: Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, Süleymaniye Mosque, the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar.

Where to Stay in Istanbul?

I’d recommend staying in the Sultanahmet area of the city. This area of Istanbul contains all of the major historical sites as well as shops, businesses and transport. Make sure that your hotel has a swimming pool, because beaches are a long boat ride away.

Before Travelling to Istanbul

Before you go to Istanbul you should definitely watch The Accidental Spy. Why am I telling you to watch an old Jackie Chan film before going on holiday? Once you get to Istanbul, you’ll know. Jackie Chan fights his way through most of the major sites of Istanbul in this hilarious martial arts comedy. You will end up touring sites such as the underground Cisterns and saying to yourself “isn’t that where Jackie Chan roundhouse kicked that Turkish gangster?”


What were the Napoleonic Wars?

The Napoleonic Wars were a series of conflicts fought between various European alliances and coalitions while Napoleon Bonaparte was the ruler of France. These wars spanned the European continent from Spain to Moscow by land, and across the known world by sea. They have been portrayed in filmsgames and literature (see War and Peace review and debate).


Who fought in the Napoleonic Wars?

The Napoleonic Wars were fought between France, Great Britain, Austria, Russia, Spain, Prussia, other Germanic nations and many other smaller parties or countries with a lesser involvement.


Who were France’s allies in the Napoleonic Wars?







-Ottoman Empire


Who did France fight against in the Napoleonic Wars?

-Great Britain








Important notice: the above are not complete lists. Numerous smaller nations were pulled into the conflict and countries often changed sides.



Battles of the Napoleonic Wars

The Battle of Trafalgar. This was a large naval battle which occurred at the start of the Napoleonic Wars. It was fought between Great Britain under Horatio Nelson and an alliance between France and Spain under Pierre-Charles Villeneuve. It was a crucial victory for Great Britain which gave them naval superiority and ended plans for a French invasion of Britain.

The Battle of Austerlitz. Also known as the ‘Battle of the Three Emperors’, the Battle of Austerlitz was a land battle fought by France under Napoleon against a Russian and Austrian alliance. The Russian force was led by Tsar Alexander I and Mikhail Kutuzov, while the Austrian forces were commanded by Emperor Francis II. The combined Russian and Austrian armies were defeated and forced to retreat. This French military victory led to the collapse of the Third Coalition.

The Battles of Jena and Auerstadt. These battles saw the French Empire win victories of two Prussian armies during the same day. Napoleon led the victorious French army at Jena, while Davout led another French army at Auerstadt. As a result of these victories, Napoleon’s armies captured Berlin and pushed Prussia out of the Fourth Coalition.

The Battle of Borodino. This battle was fought between Napoleon’s French invasion force and Kutuzov’s Russian army. It is debatable which side won the battle, as the French captured the main positions on the battlefield but the Russian army was able to withdraw without being destroyed. The Battle of Borodino led to the capture of Moscow by the French. However, it may have also caused the eventual destruction of Napoleon’s army.

The Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon led the French army in this battle which took place in present-day Belgium. The French faced a combined British, Prussian, Dutch, Hannoverian, Nassau and Brunswick force. The British army and its smaller allies were commanded by the Duke of Wellington, Sir Arthur Wellesley, while the Prussian army was led by Gebhard von Blucher. The British and allied army was able to hold off the French forces until the Prussian army arrived to attack Napoleon’;s army in its flank. The British, Prussian and allied victory ended the Napoleonic Wars. It also led to the exile of Napoleon and the end of his French Empire.

Battle of Waterloo



Other articles you might enjoy: Public Transport Dos and Don’tsWar and Peace book reviewFreelance Writing OnlineThe US gun laws debateGTA 5The Great GatsbyNCIS news and reviewTrayvon Martin caseBritish SummerGeorge Zimmerman verdictRome 2Iron Man 3War and Peace debate


Joe Malpas

war and peace

Why are we reviewing War and Peace again?


Last week Negau published a review of War and Peace, and here we are writing about it again, why? There are a couple of reasons why we thought a follow-up needed to be written:


-The review was our most popular article and we want to give our readers more of what they like. It’s all about you guys here at Negau, so we’ll keep writing about the articles you enjoy.


-There has also been a lot of debate about violence in society following the George Zimmerman trial, our coverage of which can be found here and here, with opinions from my blog partner Alina here. The rationality and morality of violence are considered throughout War and Peace. It seemed to us that if people want to know why lives are being taken in the present, they need look no farther than a book describing one of the most bloody periods of history.


Why is War and Peace still relevant today?


War and Peace is a historical novel set during the Napoleonic Wars, for a full plot description see our previous article. The Napoleonic Wars saw countless people killing others and losing their own lives attempting to satisfy the ambitions of powerful individuals, or so the history texts tell us, but was this due to the whims of the social elite or the unavoidable instincts of the masses? Answers to questions such as these would help us to understand why members of one social/racial/political group kill people who they see as belonging to the ‘other’.


What are Tolstoy’s views on war in War and Peace?


Tolstoy does not present war in the same way as conventional histories or historical novels. His view of war and human violence is that it is the product of irresistible movements by the masses, one group of people moves in one direction and if another group opposes that movement violence results. Tolstoy uses the Napoleonic invasion of Russia as an example of this. The people of the West (Napoleon’s armies) were driven eastwards by an unknown force acting upon their collective subconscious, and at first the people of the East (the Russian Tsar’s armies) gave way before them. Later, however, the people of the West grew fatigued, lost the desire to move eastwards which had motivated them and the people of the East turned to oppose the West’s advance. At this point bloody conflicts resulted and the tables were turned, with both the people of the East and West advancing towards Western Europe at a frantic pace.


the union


George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, racial tension in the US


Tolstoy’s views in War and Peace go some way towards explaining the violence taking place in the US this past year. The actions of George Zimmerman in 2012, when he fatally shot African American teenager Trayvon Martin, could be explained by this shared subconscious and mass-movements theory. The US is a country with a history mired by racial segregation and discrimination. There is still a large amount of underlying racial tension in US society to this day. Trayvon Martin was shot under unknown circumstances while walking through a gated community where he was staying. In recent years, due to reductions in racial segregation, young African Americans have begun to fill professional roles in the US economy. As a result of this, the numbers of African Americans living in communities such as the one in question have increased. Twenty, thirty or forty years ago such figures would have been almost non-existent. Therefore, one can say that there have been the beginnings of a mass-movement of African American people to what were previously segregated areas. George Zimmerman’s subconscious opposition to this movement (it has been argued that he racially profiled Trayvon Martin) might have motivated the violence which took Trayvon’s life.




The truth is that nobody will ever know what really happened on the night when Trayvon Martin was killed. Only one person survived the encounter and he has every reason to lie, while we have no way of knowing whether he is telling the truth. It is therefore important that we focus on understanding the underlying issues rather than the isolated incidents which they produce. War and Peace is a fantastic book for fans of history or literature, but also an important work to read in attempting to understand the world better.


Joe Malpas


Other articles you might enjoy: Public Transport Dos and Don’tsWar and Peace book reviewFreelance Writing OnlineThe US gun laws debateGTA 5The Great GatsbyNCIS news and reviewTrayvon Martin caseBritish SummerGeorge Zimmerman verdictRome 2Iron Man 3

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