September 22, 2012 by

Archaeology news in the UK–exciting update!

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I am always on the lookout for interesting archaeological finds or digs in the UK.  I have three today:

The first is the ongoing quest for the grave of Richard III: http://www.northwalesweeklynews.co.uk/conwy-county-news/uk-world-news/2012/08/24/archaeologists-in-richard-iii-dig-55243-31688154/

“King Richard III, the last Plantagenet, ruled England from 1483 until he was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. It is believed his body was stripped and despoiled and brought to Leicester, where he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as Greyfriars.”

Richard III is the king defeated by Henry Tudur, the descendent of Ednyfed Fychan, the seneschel to Llywelyn the Great. Henry became Henry VII.  The interesting problem in this case, and it has happened all over the UK, is that they lost the location of the original church where they think he is buried!  You wonder how that could have happened but over time, people forget, or lose interest, or the church is burned to the ground and not rebuilt.

And then it turns out the dig was successful and they think they’ve found his body!  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-19561018  or here http://www.hinckleytimes.net/news-in-hinckley/local-news/hinckley-news/2012/09/20/skeleton-discovery-of-king-killed-at-battle-of-bosworth-is-vital-to-country-s-past-105367-31868296/  Thanks to Ian in the comments for pointing me to the news!  I have to say to find anything at all–not to mention something this momentous–in a three week archaeological dig is nearly unheard of!

A second story is about the continuing excavation at the Pillar of Eliseg (where I visited in May!  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-pillar-of-eliseg/):  http://www.denbighshirefreepress.co.uk/news/115663/archaeologists-in-quest-to-unearth-mysteries-of-past.aspx

“The Pillar of Eliseg was originally a tall stone cross but only part of a round shaft survives set within its original base.

It once bore a long Latin inscription saying that the cross was raised by Concenn, ruler of the kingdom of Powys, who died in AD 854, in memory of his great-grandfather, Eliseg.

Phase one of the project, in 2010, focused on the mound, which was identified as an early Bronze Age cairn.

The archaeologists completed the second phase in September 2011, by revealing for the first time details of the cairn’s composition and evidence of many stages in its history.

The experts found possible cremated remains and bone fragments dating back to the Bronze Age and diggers found pieces of Roman pottery as well as shards of post medieval pottery and a spindle whorl at the top of the mound on which the pillar stands.

The undisturbed mound in this trench was then partially excavated revealing a likely early medieval long-cist grave in the section as well as evidence suggesting the interment of cremations during the Bronze Age.

This is now the focus of the third phase.”

And to make our round-up of UK countries complete, Archaeologists are on a quest to uncover the site of the battle of Bannockburn (also lost to time):  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/archaeology/9552291/Archaeologists-dig-to-find-site-of-Battle-of-Bannockburn.html

“Archaeologists launched a bid to uncover the site one of the most famous battles in Scottish history — in the grounds of a police headquarters.

Central Scotland Police’s headquarters at Randolphfield, Stirling, is named after Sir Thomas Randolph, one of the commanders of Robert the Bruce’s army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The first major skirmish of the two-day battle occurred on Sunday 23 June when Randolph routed around 300 English cavalry, who were attempting to relieve Stirling Castle.

A pair of small standing stones near the entrance to the current police headquarters is believed to mark the site of the fighting, but until now there has been no other physical evidence.

Stirling Council archaeologist Murray Cook said ground-penetrating radar would be used to locate the Roman road on which King Edward II’s army marched on Stirling and the famous spike-filled pits that played a crucial role in the outcome.”

2 Responses to Archaeology news in the UK–exciting update!

  1. Ian Taylor

    The idea that Richard III’s body has been found is one of the most fascinating archaeological stories for a long time.

    If it turns out to be true, then it is a wonderful piece of detective work to first calculate exactly where the church under which he was buried was, and as you say the site has long been lost and was most recently used as a council car park, and then secondly to locate the body within the church. All credit to the authorities who allowed the dig to go on beyond its originally scheduled 2 weeks, to enable the find to be made.

    It will be fascinating too, that for one of very very few times it might be possible to identify positively the identity of remains of this age. The circumstantial evidence seems to point to it being Richard, the injuries on the remains seem to tie in very closely with the descriptions of how he died, and even the deformity of the spine, which Shakespeare plays on, seems to be present.

    This is clearly not definitive proof of identity though, but the fact that genealogists have managed to trace a direct lineage to identify Richard’s current living descendants means that there is a chance that the remains can be identified by matching DNA with those descendants.

    The implication of the remains actually being Richard could be large. Here is a King of England, who was never given a proper burial. There is an interest in having the remains interred locally, however there may be strong pressure for a state burial in London, that might lead to a very interesting ceremony which would be well worth watching. There are also interest groups that like to
    think that some publicity can be gained through other burial sites, in Yorkshire for example http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/the-northerner/2012/sep/18/blogpost-richard-lll-york-minster-leicester-university-bosworth-archaeology

    This story will continue to evolve over the next few months and should prove very interesting to follow

    • Sarah Post author

      Thanks for the comment and the link! I am less familiar with this era, and of course, it was Henry Tudur who defeated Richard, so I’ve always been biased. That said, this is a very exciting find and it will be interesting to see what happens next.

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