Museum of Lost Objects: The Lion of al-Lat

Head of the lion of al-Lat Image copyright Alamy

Two thousand years ago a statue of a lion watched over a temple in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. More recently, after being excavated in the 1970s, it became an emblem of the city and a favourite with tourists. But it was one of the first things IS militants destroyed when they moved in last year.

It's said that there are more than 300 words for lion in Arabic. That's a measure of the importance of the lion in the history of the Middle East. For Bedouin tribes, the lion represented the biggest danger in the wild – until the last one in the region died, some time in the 19th Century.

The animal was feared and admired and this must explain why a statue of a lion twice as high as a human being, weighing 15 tonnes, was fashioned by artists in ancient Palmyra.

With spiralling, somewhat loopy eyes, and thick whiskers swept back angrily along its cheek bones, the lion was clearly a fighter, but it was also a lover. In between its legs, it held a horned antelope. The antelope stretched a delicate hoof over the lion's monstrous paws, and perhaps it was safe. The lion was a symbol of protection – it was both marking and protecting the entrance to the temple.

But no-one could protect the lion when IS arrived and wrecked it in May 2015.

"It was a real shock, because you know, in a way, it was our lion," says Polish archaeologist Michal Gawlikowski, whose team unearthed it in 1977.

Image copyright Michal Gawlikowski
Image caption Michal Gawlikowski and the late Khaled al-Asaad, Palmyra's director of antiquities

For well over 1,000 years, the statue had lain buried in the ruins of the ancient city, though parts had been used as foundations stones in other buildings. Keep Reading

Taxpayers ‘unaware’ of key tax changes

HMRC sign Image copyright Getty Images

Most taxpayers are unaware of "important and imminent" changes to the way savings and dividends are taxed, because of poor HMRC communication, a House of Lords committee says.

The committee said the forthcoming changes were complex and confusing and had been poorly communicated.

It concluded that HMRC's communications strategy was "inadequate".

A key change is the abolition of the tax deduction scheme whereby banks deduct tax from most interest earned.

The committee said most taxpayers were unaware of the imminent change, and whether or not they may have to file a tax return and pay tax to HMRC on interest earned in future.


The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee is also concerned that the complexity of the tax system and compliance burden placed on individual taxpayers is growing.

It says the government must demonstrate how it is delivering a simpler tax system. Keep Reading

How can you improve upon ‘automotive perfection’?

Bugatti Chiron on road Image copyright Dominic Fraser
Image caption The Chiron has 1,500 brake horsepower and a limited top speed of 261mph (420km/h)

How do you improve on something many experts thought was faultless?

Bugatti's Veyron supercar was considered an auto-engineering masterpiece; not just carmaking, but science.

Then someone at Bugatti's owner Volkswagen decided that they should try to do better.

The result is the Chiron, unveiled at this week's Geneva Motor Show to the sort of adulation and hyperbole that greeted its predecessor 10 years ago.

While environmentalists weep, petrolheads rejoice – the world now has a new fastest production car.

"The challenge was to be better than the previous car in every dimension," company president Wolfgang Durheimer tells the BBC.

Media captionBugatti unveils its Chiron supercar at this year's Geneva Motor Show

At €2.4m (£1.86m; $2.6m) each – plus taxes and delivery – the Chiron is nearly twice the price of the Veyron. Keep Reading

Hubble sets new cosmic distance record

The galaxy GN-z11, pulled out in the inset, is seen only 400 million years after the Big Bang Image copyright NASA/ESA/P.OESCH (YALE UNIVERSITY)
Image caption The galaxy GN-z11, pulled out in the inset, is seen only 400 million years after the Big Bang

The Hubble Space Telescope has spied the most distant galaxy yet.

It is so far away that the light from this extremely faint collection of stars, catalogued as GN-z11, has taken some 13.4 billion years to reach us.

Or to put that another way – Hubble sees the galaxy as it was just 400 million years after the Big Bang.

Astronomers say they are confident about the measurement because they have been able to tease apart and analyse the object's light.

Such spectroscopic assessments are difficult to perform on the most far-flung sources, but if it can be done it produces the most reliable distance estimates.

The details of the discovery will appear shortly in an edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

"This really represents the pinnacle of Hubble's exploration of galaxies across cosmic history," said Yale University, US, astronomer Pascal Oesch, the lead author on the study. Keep Reading

How does ‘Curvy Barbie’ compare with an average woman?

Curvy barbie Image copyright AP

Mattel has been praised for the release of three new types of Barbie – curvy, petite and tall. They've now gone on sale in the UK but how close do the dolls come to representing the average young woman?

Say the word "Barbie" and you'll probably picture a thin doll with make-up, a mane of straight blonde hair and garish clothes.

Now toymakers Mattel have released three new body shapes. Original Barbie is being joined by Curvy Barbie, Tall Barbie and Petite Barbie. The latest Fashionistas line also features a wide range of skin tones reflecting many different ethnicities.

With children's body image firmly on the agenda, the new dolls' arrival has been met by a broadly positive response. But how reflective are these dolls of young women in Britain and America?

If Barbie were a real woman…

Mattel says it doesn't have a scale that would give Barbie's full-size dimensions. But there is "playscale" – a ratio of 1:6 that governs the size of many toys. If you accept that as a ratio for Barbie then you can multiply all her dimensions by six to find the real-world size.

Like the first ever Barbie, Curvy Barbie is 11in (27.9cm) tall. Multiply by six and you find Barbie would be 5ft 6in. That's taller than the average UK woman at 5ft 3in and slightly more than the average US woman at just under 5ft 4in.

Real-life Barbie has often been credited as being 5ft 9in, but this may come from measuring the doll in its typical high-heeled shoes before scaling up. To simply take Barbie as 5ft 9in would produce a ratio of 6.35 and different measurements. Keep Reading

Indian state where a plane on the roof is normal

Punjab Image copyright Rajesh Vora/PHOTOINK

Photographer Rajesh Vora has been fascinated with the variety of sculptures – ranging from military tanks to animals to aeroplanes – that sit atop roofs of houses in rural areas of north India's Punjab state.

Mr Vora travelled more than 6,000km (3,728 miles) across four districts in the state to photograph the sculptures, introduced to Punjab by immigrants who began building homes in their villages back in the late 1970s.

The sculptures often represent the aspirations of their owners, along with some elements of their personal history, which is why aeroplanes were often a common theme.

The photographs are being displayed in an exhibition called "Everyday Baroque", organised by Delhi-based Photoink.

Image copyright Rajesh Vora/PHOTOINK
Image copyright Rajesh Vora/PHOTOINK
Image copyright Rajesh Vora/PHOTOINK
Image copyright Rajesh Vora/PHOTOINK
Image copyright Rajesh Vora/PHOTOINK
Image copyright Rajesh Vora/PHOTOINK
Image copyright Rajesh Vora/PHOTOINK
Image copyright Rajesh Vora/PHOTOINK
Image copyright Rajesh Vora/PHOTOINK Offers “Instant Affiliate Websites”

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