‘Oldest’ British Skull Revealed to be Decapitated Woman from Norman Conquest
Lost for years, the “oldest British skull” ever to be found was finally traced and shockingly exposed as a fraud! Radiocarbon dating of Greta, the skull unearthed by workers at what were then the Branston Gravel Pits near Burton in England in 1943, has found that far from being 10,000 years old, she probably dates to the time of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066!
David Atkins kneeling in front of what he long believed was the oldest British skull. (David Adkins / DerbyShireLive)
Greta: Oldest British Skull Theory Falls Apart
Fondly dubbed Greta by experts at the time of her find, she was declared to be 10,000 years old and was named the “ Eve of England” by the press after her discovery in 1943. She was displayed at the Burton upon Trent Museum, until the museum closed and then lay forgotten in a cupboard for 40 years.
David Adkins, an archaeology enthusiast from Burton, traced the ancient skull to the Stoke’s Potteries Museum in 2019. Moreover, Adkins claimed his research pointed to the head being 4000 years older than previously believed!
Newspaper records talked of the discovery of a mammoth tooth found later at the same location where Greta’s remains were discovered. “The mammoth became extinct in Britain over 14,000 years ago. If the tooth was one of the grave goods in Greta's grave, she could be over 14,000 years old, pushing her back in time to the Paleolithic or Early Stone Age ,” said Adkins to the Sun. These claims made Greta the oldest British skull and among the world’s most ancient female skeletal remains.
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Another theory that Adkins had was that the unusual injury on Greta’s cranium, which was all that was found of her skeleton, pointed to her having been murdered 10,000 years ago, before being decapitated and her head put on a spike. Her injuries, he told the Derby Telegraph , showed "striking similarities" to those of decapitated skulls found in Lake Motala region of Sweden, which were subsequently placed on wooden stakes. "Looking at all the evidence, we have the inescapable probability that Greta was beheaded in Burton some 10,000 years ago and her head was placed at the edge of the water for ceremonial reasons lost in time.”
The haunting empty eye sockets of Greta’s skull are silent, but carbon dating has proven her to be a medieval woman who was likely decapitated. (David Adkins / StaffordshireLive)
Oldest British Skull: Exposed as a Mammoth Hoax!
Atkin’s theories were largely accepted until radiocarbon dating added a startling twist to the tale. Greta died between 1041 and 1163, experts from Durham and Oxford Universities and the Francis Crick Institute in London have found. What’s more, the injuries to her skull could possibly have been caused during the 11th-century Norman Conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror. So, far from being prehistoric, Greta is clearly medieval.
But the discovery hasn’t disheartened Adkins who is now excited that he may have exposed a great historical fraud. “It was a bit like being hit in the face with a snowball – only to find it was a snowball full of diamonds. It was surprising to find the carbon dating did not show Greta was Mesolithic or even prehistoric – but that she was much more recent and dated from around the time of the Conquest,” he told the Sunday Mercury .
What now needs investigation is whether scientists at the time of Greta’s original find mistakenly dated her to the Mesolithic Era or if she was a deliberate hoax similar to the Piltdown Man.
The Piltdown Man refers to the bone fragments found in 1912 by Charles Dawson, which he claimed were 500,000 years old and provided the missing link between apes and humans. The bones were subsequently discovered to be fakes, actually a mix of orangutan and human bones.
Adkins is now working on the hypothesis that Greta is not a case of genuine misdating but a calculated hoax, and in fact some of the people involved in perpetrating it could be the same as those in the Piltdown Man.
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When she was first found, Greta was sent to famous anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith for examination, and it was he who declared her to be 10,000 years old. Arthur Keith was also the man who lent the Piltdown Man credibility; without his support, the hoax would never have succeeded. The discovery that the Piltdown Man was a fake, meant a huge loss of face for Sir Arthur. But the jury remained out on whether he was party to the fraud. Renowned anthropologist Frank Spencer alleged in a paper that he was, but the allegation was never proved. Adkins also believes in Arthur Keith’s culpability.
In fact, similar means have been employed in both Greta’s and the Piltdown Man’s case to fake their antiquity. The skulls of both were stained with chemicals to make them look much more ancient than they really were. “Either Greta was stained deliberately before Sir Arthur received the skull or it was stained after he received it,” Adkins told the Sunday Mercury . “If the latter is true, then it supports the belief that he was also involved with the case of Piltdown Man.”
Even odder is the fact that Sir Arthur’s notes and papers on both the discoveries have mysteriously disappeared. This, Adkins believes, adds up to him being firmly behind both frauds.
As for Greta, even if she isn’t the “Eve of England,” she is certainly one of Britain’s most sensational female remains, hogging the headlines from the time of her discovery in 1943 for one reason or another.
Top image: Greta’s skull was for the longest time viewed as the oldest British skull until it was carbon dated and proven to be a medieval skull. Source: David Adkins / DerbyShireLive
By Sahir Pandey
Kreft, H. 2020. Skull found in Burton belongs to 'murdered' woman . Available at: https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/burton/greta-stone-age-burton-skull-3370271
Lockley, M. And Kreft, H. 2021. Disturbing update on ancient skull found in Burton . Available at: https://www.staffordshire-live.co.uk/news/burton-news/disturbing-update-ancient-skull-found-6113583
Pettit, H. 2019. Headcase: Mystery of Britain’s ‘most ancient skull’ lost for 40 years solved – after 14,000-year-old Greta’s cranium found in dusty cupboard . Available at: https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/9844568/britain-greta-skull-found-staffordshire/