Monday, March 3, 2014

Are These Bones King Alfred's?

Image copyrighted by Getty Images In August of 2013, the media reported that scientists have been given the go-ahead to test the remains in an unmarked grave from St. Bartholomew's Church in Winchester in the south of England. Researchers suspected that some of those bones may belong to Alfred the Great.

However, tests have revealed that the bones are more than 200 years older. This was disappointing to say the least, following the initial excitement.

Remains from an earlier excavation were kept in a box in a storeroom at the Winchester City Museum since 1999, but it was only recently that scholars started to suspect that the remains might be of someone very important.

Image copyrighted by PA Archive/Press Association Images When Dr. Katie Tucker from the University of Winchester carbon dated the oldest bone (pelvic bone also known jocularly as the "seat of power") in the box, she found that it dated back 895–1017 and was of a man aged 26–45. The remains had been found near the high altar of the abbey, indicating their high status. Given these particulars, the bone could belong to either King Alfred, King Edward the Elder, or King Edward brother Aethelweard.

This is very exciting! Finding Alfred's bones would be a find much bigger than Richard III's remains, which I blogged about here and here.

A quick recap: Alfred the Great ruled Wessex from 871 to 899 and is remembered for keeping the Vikings and Danes at bay, for his military prowess and strategies, for starting the unification of England, for setting up English as the standard of language for education and government, for his social and educational reforms, and for his sweeping law codes. He was known to have suffered from an unknown debilitating illness that some suspect might've been Crohn's Disease or migraines.