Danish Bones Found in Oxford - Sarah Woodbury

Danish Bones Found in Oxford

There’s a new article in The Oxford Student which describes a recent find of bones, determined to have belonged to Danes and the result of a massacre ordered by King Ethelbert in 1003 AD.  It sheds some light on an early period in British history and points to something that is easy to forget as you work your way through the Early Middle Ages:  that the “Saxons” from literature and mythology were not monolithic, but comprised of different ethnic groups and nationalities.  What this find reveals is that the Saxons, who now controlled most of England, murdered their Danish neighbors.  From a Welsh perspective, these groups might seem one and the same, but they weren’t.

In the Oxford article, it states:  “Vikings’ skeletons found underneath one of St John’s quads are the remains of a violent “ethnic cleansing” over 1,000 years ago.

“The bones, discovered in March 2008 by a team from the Thames Valley Archaeological Services (TVAS) during excavations of the newly-opened Kendrew Quadrangle, presented a mystery to the experts. The skeletons were evidently not part of an organised cemetery, but they were mostly complete, and bundled together in a mass grave . . . .  Cracked skulls, stab wounds and evidence of burning show that between 34 and 38 young men had been brutally murdered; five had been stabbed in the back, and one had been decapitated.”

To read the rest of the article see:  http://oxfordstudent.com/tag/archaeology/

In Ellis Peters’ book Summer of the Danes, she relates how Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd, the brother of Owain Gwynedd went to Ireland and came back to Wales with a contingent of Danish troops.  As it turns out, the Danes had settled/conquered certain coastal regions of Ireland, including Dublin:  

“The first Viking raiding parties arrived in Ireland in 795, targeting wealthy monasteries on outlying islands such as Rathlin, County Antrim and Inishmurray, County Sligo. By 841, Vikings were over-wintering in fortified settlements such as Dublin, Wexford and Waterford and over the next two centuries these cities were gradually absorbed into local Irish kingdoms.”  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/aug/16/ireland

As it turns out, Owain Gwynedd and Cadwaladr were descended both from these Dublin Danes and the High Kings of Ireland through their father, Gruffydd:  “Gruffydd’s mother Ragnhild was the daughter of Olaf of Dublin, son of King Sigtrygg Silkbeard and a member of the Hiberno-Norse Uí Ímhair dynasty. Through his mother, who appears in the list of the fair women of Ireland in the Book of Leinster, Gruffydd claimed relationships with many of the leading septs in Ireland. His great-great grandparents on his mother’s side include the High King of Ireland, Brian Bóruma, and the King of Dublin and King of Northumbria, Olaf Cuarán, and Gormflaith.”  From:  Hudson, Benjamin T. (2005). Viking Pirates and Christian Princes: Dynasty, Religion, and Empire in the North Atlantic (Illustrated ed.). United States: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195162374

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