Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bones and scones

Not long after bones exhumed from a parking lot in Leicester, England, were confirmed to be those of King Richard II, the lost remains of England's first monarch, Alfred the Great (PICTURED ABOVE IN A BYZANTINE ICON), may have been found. The Anglo-Saxon king (849-899 A.D.) had initially been buried in Winchester Cathedral, but was later moved with his son Edward and his wife Alswitha to Hyde Abbey nearby. The location of his remains was lost to history when a prison was built over the Abbey in the 18th c. In an attempt to find them, archaeologists exhumed an unmarked grave at Saint Bartholomew's Church in Winchester, but the results were disappointing. They then "excavated" storage boxes from the archives of the Winchester City Museum that contained items excavated from Hyde Abbey in the 1990s. There the scientists from the University of Winchester may have found what they were looking for: a fragment of a pelvis bone (PHOTOS HERE). The radiocarbon date is right (895-1017 A.D.), the gender is right (male), and the age at death matches (between 26 and 45+ years). Another suggestive detail is that the bone was found near the monastery's High Altar, where only Alfred and Edward had been buried. The discovery of the 1,000-year-old pelvis is interesting enough, but a phrase in the headlines piqued my interest. Alfred is "best known in British history for his inability to make cakes." Click on the link for the story, unfamiliar to me but well-known to English schoolchildren and Anglophiles like my friend Sue.*

*Happy Birthday and thanks to you and David for the tip!

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