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First King Richard III’s remains are found and now academics believe they may have found some remains of King Alfred (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-25760383).

However, the pelvis bone wasn’t found at the high profile dig that is taking place in Winchester but in a box of remains found during a dig carried out in the 1990s and which have been held at a local museum since then.  The Daily Telegraph says:

“In a dusty storage box filled with animal remains at Winchester’s City Museum   they found a fragment of human pelvic bone, including the right hip joint, which had been buried beneath the historic site of the high altar in 1999  but had never been examined.

Scientific analysis of the bone revealed it had belonged to a man aged 26-45, who died between 895 and 1017 AD – meaning it could conceivably belong either to Alfred or his son and successor Edward.

Although no DNA tests have been carried out, the bone is almost certainly from  a member of the King’s family because it predates Hyde Abbey itself, experts said.

Alfred, who died in 899, was initially buried at Winchester’s old minster but  was subsequently moved to another church to be alongside his wife and  children, and all were later reinterred at Hyde Abbey after it was  consecrated in 1110.”  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/10579315/King-Alfred-the-Great-bones-believed-to-be-in-box-found-in-museum.html)

‘Chasing’ deceased monarchs seems to be a popular pastime with academics at the moment.  Although discovering such remains can be good for business/tourism, as we’ve seen since the discovery of the bones of Richard III it can also lead to acrimonious and unseemly disputes (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/26/richard-iii-remains-york-leicester-legal-battle-laid-rest).  I have an interest in archaeology (I have been on digs in the past) but I do wonder exactly how such regal discoveries really aid our understanding of the individual and their times (yes, we may learn how they died, if they had suffered any serious illnesses etc but does that tell us anything about the ‘real’ person).  Speaking in general terms about eighteenth century antiquarianism, Rosemary Sweet said that it gave “a sense of past and historical identities”*  Three hundred years ago the ancient world inspired many of the collectors.  Perhaps there is a sense of romance behind the discoveries and the Dark Ages & Middle Ages are our ‘ancient’ times and such discoveries are even more necessary now, to combat the rapid pace of today’s disconnected world, than they were in the 1700s.

* Sweet, Rosemary, “Antiquaries and Antiquities in Eighteenth-Century England”, Eighteenth-Century Studies Vol. 34, No. 2, Antiquarians, Connoisseurs, and Collectors  (Winter, 2001), pp. 181-206 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30053965

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