The recently discovered ancient route associated with the Battle of Fulford. (Chas Jones)

Ancient Route of Famous Anglo-Viking Battle Unearthed in England

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Archaeologists have discovered an ancient road and route along which Saxon troops retreated in 1066 when they were defeated by a Viking army in the Battle of Fulford. The finding has provided new insights into the famous battle.

Culture24 reports that experts from the Battle of Fulford Project made the discovery of a section of clay meeting a peat-filled ditch while investigating the site of the Battle of Fulford near York in England. The aim of the project is to piece together the full story behind the battle site in Fulford, which has caused much debate between historians.

According to Chas Jones, leader of the project, the section of road uncovered was the main route heading south from York that the English army retreated along when they were outflanked by the Vikings. Numerous relics were also uncovered including pieces of iron and bits of bone.

“It will take a few months to analyze all of the material,” Chas Jones told Culture24, “but there can be no doubt that this road was the axis for the battle fought at the ford in 1066.”

The view towards Fulford Hall in the village on the outskirts of York. (Paul Glazzard / (CC license))

The view towards Fulford Hall in the village on the outskirts of York. (Paul Glazzard / (CC license))

The Battle of Fulford was fought between King Harald III of Norway, also known as Harald Hardrada ("hard ruler"), and the Northern Earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria, who were loyal to Harold Godwinson, the usurper to the throne following the death of Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor. Harald Hardrada, like William of Normandy, and King Harold Godwinson, was another claimant to the throne.

Harald was also supported by his English ally Tostig Godwinson, the exiled brother of Harold Godwinson. Tostig made a pact with Harald and agreed to support his invasion of English.

Norse leader Harald Hardrada led his troops to victory. (Wikimedia Commons)

Norse leader Harald Hardrada led his troops to victory. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Hardrada and Tostig sailed along the River Ouse towards the city of York in September 1066. The Norse Vikings, along with their English ally, were met by the Saxons on 20 September.  While there were heavy casualties on both sides, the battle was a decisive victory for the Vikings. 

Following their victory, Harald and his army retired to Stamford Bridge, located 7 miles (11 km) east of York. Meanwhile, Harold Godwinson sent his troops from London to York to meet them and just five days after the Battle of Fulford, the Saxons launched a surprise attack on the Viking army and defeated them. During the battle, Harald Hardrada sustained a hit to the neck from an arrow, but survived. 

Painting of the Battle of Stamford Bridge by Peter Nicolai Arbo, depicting King Harald Hardrada hit in the neck by an arrow (Wikimedia Commons)

Painting of the Battle of Stamford Bridge by Peter Nicolai Arbo, depicting King Harald Hardrada hit in the neck by an arrow ( Wikimedia Commons )

Despite his success at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harold Godwinson was defeated and killed in the same year by the Normans under William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. William, Duke of Normandy, became the first Norman King of England. The impact of William's conquest of England was profound; changes in the Church, aristocracy, culture, and language of the country have persisted into modern times.

Featured image: The recently discovered ancient route associated with the Battle of Fulford. (Chas Jones )

By April Holloway


Justbod's picture

Thanks for the article – great news about such an important find on a significant site, and local to us. Went walking around the general battlefield area last weekend trying to find where this dig site was, but failed to find it! Much of the area is currently fenced off pending a housing development.
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