The Battle of Hastings

Archaeologists believe they have found first ever skeleton of Battle of Hastings warrior

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Researchers have found the skeleton of a 45-year-old man in East Sussex, not far from the famous battlefield upon which the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066, according to a report in the BBC. The skull shows six sword blows suggesting the man died in combat and the remains date back to the same period as the famous battle. The circumstances suggest the individual may have been a soldier who fought in the Battle of Hastings.  No bones have previously been discovered of anyone who fought and died during the historic event.

“The skeleton is apparently unique in that it appears to be the only individual ever recorded which could be related to the Norman invasion. A remarkable new story could be unfolding,” said Tim Sutherland, a battlefield expert from the University of York.

The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II. It took place approximately 7 miles north-west of Hastings, East Sussex, and was a decisive Norman victory in which King Harold II was killed, allowing William the Conqueror to take control of England. Not long after, William was acclaimed King of England and crowned on 25 December 1066, in Westminster Abbey.

William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror. Image source .

The skull forms part of a skeleton that was first dug up in 1994 during excavations in Lewes, East Sussex - around 20 miles from the famous battlefield - on the site of a medieval hospital.  Radiocarbon testing of the remains at the University of Edinburgh dated them to 28 years either side of 1063, which points it within the period of the famous battle.

The skeleton, bears the marks of battle, including six sword strikes to the skull.  Osteoarcheologist Malin Holst said: “The first injury was probably a cut to the right side of the ear and upper jaw.  This was then followed by a series of sword cuts, all delivered from the left hand side behind the victim, in a downward and horizontal motion.”

SKull found from the Battle of Hastings

The badly damaged skull of a man which could be the first-ever recorded victim of the Battle of Hastings. Credit:

Experts believe the individual was British because of the way he was buried.  The Norman invaders were thought to have buried their dead in a mass grave. Although no grave pits of the Normans have been found, it is believed that this is due to the high acidity of the soil, which means all the remains have long deteriorated.

“This is a fascinating discovery and a potentially very interesting piece of evidence from the second half of the 11th century. It certainly demonstrates the violence of the period,” English Heritage said in a statement. “It would be a reasonable hypothesis that this individual could have some links to the Norman Conquest, but further research is essential in understanding the potential significance of this skeleton.”

Featured image: Painting of the Battle of Hastings by Tom Lovell

By April Holloway


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