A mass burial grave site of Viking Great Army discovered in the UK
Historical records state that the Viking Great Army wintered in Repton, Derbyshire, in 873 AD and drove the Mercian king into exile, researchers said.Updated: Feb 05, 2018 15:36 IST
A mass grave - containing around 300 bodies - uncovered in the UK may have been a burial site of the Viking Great Army war dead, archaeologists have discovered. Although the remains were initially thought to be associated with the Vikings, radiocarbon dates seemed to suggest the grave consisted of bones collected over several centuries.
New study by researchers at University of Bristol in the UK shows that this was not the case and that the bones are all consistent with a date in the late 9th century. Historical records state that the Viking Great Army wintered in Repton, Derbyshire, in 873 AD and drove the Mercian king into exile, researchers said.
Excavations led by archaeologists at St Wystan’s Church in Repton in the 1970s and 1980s discovered several Viking graves and a charnel deposit of nearly 300 people underneath a shallow mound in the vicarage garden. The mound appears to have been a burial monument linked to the Great Army.
An Anglo-Saxon building, possibly a royal mausoleum, was cut down and partially ruined, before being turned into a burial chamber. One room was packed with the commingled remains of at least 264 people, around 20 per cent of whom were women.
Among the bones were Viking weapons and artifacts, including an axe, several knives, and five silver pennies dating to the period 872-875 AD. As many as 80% of the remains were men, mostly aged 18 to 45, with several showing signs of violent injury.
During the excavations, everything pointed to the burial’s association with the Viking Great Army, but confusingly, initial radiocarbon dates suggested otherwise. It seemed to contain a mix of bones of different ages, meaning that they could not all have been from the Viking Age.
New dating proves that they are all consistent with a single date in the 9th century and therefore with the Viking Great Army. “The previous radiocarbon dates from this site were all affected by something called marine reservoir effects, which is what made them seem too old,” said Cat Jarman from the University of Bristol.
A double grave from the site - one of the only Viking weapon graves found in the country - was also dated, yielding a date range of 873-886 AD. The grave contained two men, the older of whom was buried with a Thor’s hammer pendant, a Viking sword, and several other artifacts, researchers said.
He had received numerous fatal injuries around the time of death, including a large cut to his left femur, they said. Outside the charnel mound another extraordinary grave can be shown to be likely to relate to the Vikings in Repton as well, researchers said. Four juveniles, aged between eight and 18, were buried together in a single grave with a sheep jaw at their feet, they said.