Monday, February 3, 2014

Tomb of Oldest English Royal Found

According to the History Today magazine: "Eadgyth of Wessex was born in 910. She was the daughter of Edward the Elder, King of Wessex from 900 to 924, and his second wife Aelfflaed and was the granddaughter of Alfred the Great. She was given in marriage to Otto I, [...] also known as Otto the Great, [who] succeeded his father Henry I as King of Germany in 936. He founded the Ottonian dynasty in Germany and, in 962, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor." Eadgyth died in 946 at age 36 and was initially buried at the Monastery of Mauritius in Magdeburg, Germany.

However, on January 20, 2010, the University of Bristol announced that the remains they found buried beneath a 16th-century monument in Magdeburg Cathedral were those of the Saxon Princess and German Queen Eadgyth. An inscription recorded on the lead coffin inside a stone sarcophagus said that it was the body of Eadgyth and she was reburied there in 1510.

From the shape of her thigh bones, the scientists confirmed that she was an avid horsewoman, thereby indicating her noble birth. According to the University of Bristol, "Isotope analysis of the bones suggested that she enjoyed a high protein diet, including a large quantity of fish, [which] suggests a high status aristocratic lady."

Using radiocarbon dating techniques, the textiles in the coffin revealed the correct range of dates for it to be Eadgyth. However, the bones gave inaccurate readings.

Her body was confirmed to be Eadgyth in fact by the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University by measuring the strontium and oxygen isotopes in the teeth of her upper jaw. They showed someone who had spent time as a youth in the chalky uplands of Wessex, which would've been Eadgyth's homeland. The local environment and its underlying geology is said to be locked into the teeth by age 14. Applying laser techniques to enamel isotopes, it is possible to "reconstruct the sequence of a person’s whereabouts, month by month up to the age of 14." Fascinating, isn't it?