Archaeologists on Mission to Find Remains of Saxon King, ‘Alfred the Great’
A team of archaeologists have applied for permission to excavate the churchyard of St Bartholomew’s Church in the city of Winchester, England, in the hope of finding the remains of ‘Alfred the Great’, a Saxon king who ruled from 871 to 899 AD.
The task would not be easy as it is believed that the king was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard and that his remains may be mixed up within a collection of bones belonging to other individuals.
Katie Tucker, an archaeologist from Winchester University, said: 'As far as we’re aware there are five skulls plus other bones. The most simple part will be to work out ages, sexes, and put the bones back together.'
The researchers would also need to track down a living descendant of King Alfred for a DNA match and this poses challenges considering the length of time that has now passed. The team will initially use radiocarbon techniques to date the bones and then the search for a living relative will begin if the bones date from the correct period.
Only royals and monks were buried in the abbey in the 12th century and so if the bones date from the 10th century, there would be a good chance that they belong to the Anglo Saxon king, according to Dr Tucker.
Alfred the Great ruled England as King of Wessex during the 9 th century and is particularly known for his social and educational reform and his military victories against the Vikings. He has the reputation of a learned and merciful man who encouraged education and improved his kingdom's legal system and military structure. He is the only English monarch to be accorded the epithet 'the Great'.
The rector of St Bartholomew’s, the Reverend Canon Cliff Bannister, who is working with archaeologists said “If it is Alfred, and we know it is a big if, it would be a huge find.”