The site of an ancient Danish ring fortress has been found near Koge. Danish archaeologists led by Dr. Nanna Holm and assisted by researchers at the University of York, used gradiometry to discover the 475 foot diameter fort. Gradiometry measures variations in earth’s magnetism. The exact date of the fort is still unknown, but it is believed to contemporary with King Harald I Bluetooth or Sweyn Forkbeard, the first Danish King of England.
Viking Ring Fort at Trelleborg
Though the excavation is very preliminary, archaeologists have already discovered evidence of fighting at the site. Charred oak posts near one “entrance” indicate that the gate was burned down. Dendrochronological analysis should be able to determine the age of the gates.
Gradiometry image of fort
This is the first Fyrkat fortress discovered in Denmark in more than 60 years.
- “Viking ‘ring fortress’ discovered in Denmark“, The Telegraph, 2014-09-06
- “Danish Archaelogists Find Viking Age Ring Fortress“, PastHorizons: Adventures in Archaeology, 2014-09-07
- “Viking ‘ring fortress’ discovered in Denmark may have been used to launch invasion of England in 1013“, National Post, 2014-09-07
- “New Viking Ring Fortress Discovered in Denmark“, Sci-News.com, 2014-09-08
- “1,000-Year-Old Viking Fortress Unearthed in Denmark“, Huffington Post, 2014-09-09
Alfred the Great died in 899 and subsequently interred in Winchester Cathedral. He is believed to have been moved outside of the city in 1110, along with his wife Ealhswith, by Benedictine monks to their new minster at Hyde Abbey. When the monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539, its treasures were destroyed or dispersed, but the bones of Alfred and his family remained. In 1788, convicts built a prison on the site, found the grave, stole lead from the coffin, and scattered the bones. Could this be the last chapter of the greatest Anglo-Saxon king?
After years of research, an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Bartholomew’s in Winchester is believed to be the last resting place of Alfred the Great (or at least a piece of him). Before the 12th century, only royals and monks were permitted to be buried at the St. Bartholomew’s. The diocese exhumed the remains, fearing that grave robbers might disturb them. There has been great interest in royal burials since the discovery of Richard III’s body under a Leicester parking lot in 2012.
University of Winchester archaeologists received permission from the diocese to examine the collection of skulls and bones from the churchyard. They hope to sort out the sex and ages of those remains. DNA testing would require finding a living relative of the 9th century king.
- Grave of ‘Alfred the Great’ Winchester church exhumed“, BBC News, Hampshire & Isle of Wight, 2013-03-26
- “Unmarked grave dug up in hunt for England’s King Alfred the Great“, CNN, 2013-03-27
- “Search for a Saxon king: Archaeologists hope to find Alfred the Great in an unmarked grave in Winchester“, MailOnline, 2013-08-09
- “Alfred The Great Remains Found? Researchers Analyze Bones In Search Of Ninth-Century Monarch“, Huffington Post, 2013-08-13
The foundations of a large Anglo-Saxon hall was discovered beneath a village green in Kent. The green has remained undeveloped for over 1,000 years. The feasting hall measured 69 by 28 feet. The foundation consisted of post holes and plank gaps.
Artifacts and animal bones uncovered at the site have dated the hall as late 6th or early 7th century. Dr. Gabor Thomas explained that the hall was a symbol of local wealth and status. The kings of the era did not collect taxes and so moved from place to place, living off the bounty and offerings of their subjects.
Among the items found were a decorative gilt horse harness mount (above) and bone combs (below). Archaeologists intend to further investigate the site in the future.
- “Saxon find in Lyminge has historians partying like it’s 599“, TheGuardian, 2012-10-30
- “Archaeologists unearth 1,300-year-old Anglo Saxon feasting hall inches below village green in first major find of its kind in 30 years“, MailOnline, 2012-10-30
- “Archaeologists reveal rare Anglo-Saxon feasting hall”, University of Reading“, 2012-10-31
- “Anglo-Saxon hall found in Kent is ‘tip of the iceberg’“, The Telegraph, 2012-10-31
- Lyminge Archaeological Project
In 2009, a hoard of Anglo-Saxon relics were found in a 5-hectare Staffordshire field at Hammerwich. Within recent weeks, 90 more relics were unearthed including what may be part of a helmet and an assortment of much smaller fragments, many that weigh less than a gram.
The newest additions increase the total sum of gold, silver, and copper objects found at the site to nearly 4,000. The objects appear to be 7th century, though it is not known when they were buried. The date places the hoard in the Kingdom of Mercia.
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon metalwork ever found. It includes over 5kg of gold, 1.5kg of silver, and thousands of garnets.
- “Archeologists reveal golden helmet and 90 Anglo-Saxon treasures in stunning SECOND find in a Staffordshire field“, MailOnline, 2012-09-18
- “Staffordshire Hoard: Gold fragments found in Hammerwich“, BBC News, Stoke & Staffordshire, 2012-12-18
- “Staffordshire Hoard: Bid to keep Anglo-Saxon treasure“, BBC News, Stoke & Staddforshire, 2013-04-30
- Staffordshire Hoard, Official Site
- Staffordshire Hoard, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery
- Staffordshire Hoard, Flickr
Operation Nightingale was a tehabilitation project for soldiers returning from Afghanistan, headed by the Defence Infrastructure Organization (DIO) and the Army. In 2012, soldiers involved in the project uncovered the 1,400 year old remains of Anglo-Saxon soldiers at Barrow Clump. One of the skeletons was found with a spearhead and a wooden cup bound in bronze. Another was found with a shield over its face.
Trial trenches revealed twelve graves containing thirteen individuals. Grave objects included copper-alloy brooches, brushes, and iron knives, buckles, spearheads, and a shield boss.
Experts believe the site was once a cemetery. Excavations were undertaken because the area was being damaged by burrowing badgers. Work at the barrow is believed to take three years, with the first year being devoted to the Anglo-Saxon burials. Neolithic finds are also expected at the site.
- “Soldiers injured in Afghanistan make surprise find on UK archaeology dig“, The Guardian, 2012-08-06
- “2012 Excavations“, Wessex Archaeology Online, 2012
- “Operation Nightingale / Project Florence“, Wessex Archaeology Online, 2013-08-13
- “Salisbury Plain Excavations“, Wessex Archaeology Online
The grave of a sixteen year old girl was found at Trumpington Meadows near Cambridge. Her 1,400 year old grave contained a knife, glass beads, and a gold and garnet cross, making this one of the earliest Christian burials in England.
Skeleton of the young woman
Dr. Sam Lewsey, an expert on Anglo-Saxon burials, stated that the knife and glass beads were evidence of pagan burial rituals, placing the grave firmly with the transitional period. The girl was given a bed burial, a practice where nobles were laid on a frame of wood and metal, topped with straw. Bed burials disappeared after the 7th century.
Garnet cross, front and back
- “Is this Britain’s first Christian burial? Anglo Saxon grave reveals 16-year-old girl laid to rest with a gold cross“, MailOnline, 2012-03-15
- “Collingbourne Ducis, Wiltshire: an Early Saxon cemetery with bed burial“, N. Stoodley, J. Schuster
A group of 37 men, aged 16 to 37, were found at St. John’s College in Oxford. Testing of the remains have shown that the men had strong frames, were from different places, and had diets consisting in large part on seafood. This has lead some to believe that they were Viking raiders. The men were not given a formal burial, but were instead interred in a mass grave.
There are many hypotheses about the men’s identities and deaths. Prof. Mark Pollard of Oxford University’s School of Archaeology believes the men were caught and killed in retaliation for the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. The massacre, ordered by King Æthelred the Unready on 13 Nov 1002, sought to eradicate all Danes from England. Carl Falys of the Thames Valley Archaeological Services, claimed that the men appear to have been attacked from all sides. Tom Hassell, former director of Oxford Archaeology suggested that the men may have been killed following the massacre, when Oxford was attacked in revenge.
The Danish king, Sweyn Forkbeard, took Oxford in 1009. The remains may have been part of that conflict as well.
- “Oxford Viking massacre revealed by skeleton find“, BBC News, 12 Aug 2011
- “There’s no bones about THIS history“, Oxford Mail, 04 Apr 2013
- “St. Brice’s Day massacre“, Wikipedia
I recently found an interesting (albeit long-winded) article that discusses the Germanization of post-Roman Britain. It doesn’t go into many details of the German invasion, but does discuss possible mechanisms by which the culture and religion of the population were changed within a century. The mechanisms that Khan discusses are “elite emulation” and “population replacement”. He then explores examples where those mechanisms didn’t occur as expected.
Hengest & Horsa arrive in England
After a wide-ranging discussion that jumps between Turkish history, the assimilation of African blacks in colonial America, the Islamicization of North Africa and the Middle East, and even the Iberian / Italian conquest of South America, the author returns to the subject of Anglo-Saxon England for the last half of the article. He suggests the German invaders may have been a very organized warrior society, of whom some of which may have served under Theodoric the Ostrogoth before his power collapsed in 6th century Italy. He also suggests that the warrior invaders probably brought women with them, because this would have cemented German culture and paganism in a way that intermarriage with indigene women would not. Khan writes that the change seen in Britain occurred much faster than in other regions, implying that the invasion was swift, thorough, and widespread throughout much of Britain.
- “Celts to Anglo-Saxons, in light of updated assumptions“, Razib Khan, Discover Blogs, 2011-06-23
In May 2008, construction of a mixed retail-residential development called “The Meads” commenced in an area known to have been scraped clear by Victorian brick-clay diggers. It was believed that any artifacts or graves would have been found then, 100+ years ago despite aerial photography in 1982 that showed evidence of large ring ditches on the site. A watching brief was placed on the construction site by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust. Not only were prehistoric rings discovered, but a major Anglo-Saxon cemetery dating from the mid-6th to the late 7th century.
Prehistoric ring ditch
Archaeologists and volunteers from surrounding communities, working with the Canterbury Archaeological Trust and Sittingbourne Heritage Museum discovered hundreds of Anglo-Saxon graves and thousands of relics (e.g., jewelry, buckles, garnet brooches, sword mounts, pots, jars, glass drinking horns) reminiscent of the Staffordshire Hoard.
Glass drinking horns from Grave 184
After two years of excavation, work on The Meads site ended in 2011 due to a lack of funds. Many finds were left embedded in soil blocks and others will be moved to storage for future examination.
- “Town’s past recovered from graves“, BBC News, 2009-09-16
- “How Sittingbourne discovered an archaeological treasure trove“, The Guardian, 2010-08-15
- “CSI Sittingbourne archaeology project closes“, BBC News, Kent, 2011-09-22
- “Saxon Sittingbourne“, Sittingbourne Heritage Museum
- “A Prehistoric and Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at the Meads, Sittingbourne“, Canterbury Archaeological Trust
- “Sittingbourne Excavation“, Flickr
The bones of Queen Eadgyth, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, were discovered in the Madgeburg Cathedral in 2008. Her bones were wrapped in expensive silk, placed in a lead coffin, which in turn was enclosed in a stone sarcophagus. Experts believed that the sarcophagus was likely empty before it was opened.
Queen Eadgyth’s Sarcophagus, Madgeburg Cathedral
Eadgyth was the daughter Eadweard the Elder and granddaughter of Alfred the Great. She was sent to Germany when she was 19 in the hopes of building political relations. Descendants of Eadgyth and Otto ruled Germany until 1254, and remain progenitors to many of Europe’s royal families today.
The interior lead coffin bore Queen Eadgyth’s name and mention of the content’s transfer from a monastery in 1510.
“EDIT REGINE CINERES HIC SARCOPHAGVS HABET…”
Lead coffin of Eadgyth
In addition to Eadgyth’s remains, an infestation of beetles were also found that date to the transfer. Testing on the 40 remaining bones and fragments (hands, feets, and some skull were missing) at Bristol University revealed that the interred was born and raised in the chalky uplands of Wessex at the end of the 10th century. Testing at the University of Mainz confirmed she was female and died between 30 and 40 years or age. She enjoyed a high-protein diet and evidence from a femur suggested she was an avid horse-rider. Despite efforts to do so, DNA could not be extracted from the remains. In 2010, she was re-interred at Madgeburg Cathedral in a titanium coffin (designed by Leipzig sculptor Kornelia Thümmel) during an ecumenical ceremony.
- “Editha-Sarg: DNA-Analyse soll Rätsel um Königin lösen“, Spiegel Online, Wissenschaft, 2009-01-29
- “Saxon queen discovered in Germany“, University of Bristol, 2010-01-20
- “Tomb of the Saxon Queen: Discovered, Alfred’s granddaughter“, Mail Online, 2010-01-21
- “Remains of first king of England’s sister found in German cathedral“, The Guardian, 2010-06-16
- “Bones confirmed as those of Saxon Princess Eadgyth“, University of Bristol, 2010-06-17
- “Gemahlin von Otto dem Großen: Königin Editha im Magdeburger Dom bestattet“, Spiegel Online, Wissenschaft, 2010-10-22
- “Queen Eadgyth laid to rest. Again.“, The History Blog, 2010-10-24
- “Eadgyth“, Wikipedia