Photographer: Robert Howlett | Isambard Kingdom Brunel, builder of the Great Eastern | ca. 1857-1858 | George Eastman House,

Some stories we’ve been reading this week:

If you’ve been reading the Friday links for a while, you know we’re suckers for discoveries of long-lost ancient art and artifacts. This week brought us three exciting ones:

  • This is huge: researchers revealed that the fragments of an ancient manuscript appears to be part of what could be the world’s oldest copy of the Quran, and that it may have been transcribed by a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • A mosaic depicting Alexander the Great was unearthed in an ancient synagogue in Israel. The find is significant because it is the first non-biblical scene discovered in an ancient synagogue, but we would have loved the mosaic of the elephant no matter what.
  • And last but not least, archaeologists have uncovered surprisingly colorful frescoes in what remains of a Roman villa dating from the 1st century BCE near the French city of Arles. They’re quite beautiful.