English king research is hip for Winchester

Pelvis fragment ‘could belong to King Alfred’

January 17, 2014

Last year, the University of Leicester generated headlines around the world with the announcement that it had unearthed the remains of Richard III.

Now the University of Winchester also claims to have found part of a dead English king – part of a pelvis bone “most likely” belonging to either Alfred the Great or his son.

The pelvis fragment was found in “two boxes of bones” left over from an excavation in the 1990s of the site of Hyde Abbey, where records claim monks moved Alfred’s remains after he was initially buried in Winchester’s Anglo-Saxon cathedral after his death in 899, at the age of 50.

Katie Tucker, researcher in human osteology at the Winchester, had her interest “piqued” by the pelvis fragment, which had been found at the site of the Abbey’s High Alter.

“Radiocarbon dating showed it dated from AD 895-1017. Osteological analysis found it belonged to a man between 26 and 45+ at death,” according to a statement from the university and Hyde900, a community cultural group also working on the project.

“The simplest explanation, given there was no Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Hyde Abbey, is that this bone comes from one of the members of the West Saxon royal family brought to the site,” said Dr Tucker. 

“Given the age at death of the individual, and the probable male identity, the plausible candidates are King Alfred, King Edward the Elder, or the brother of King Edward, Æthelweard. All were buried in the Abbey,” she explained.

“However, historical evidence indicates that only the coffins of Alfred and Edward were at the site of the High Altar. The discovery of the bone in a pit dug into the graves in front of the High Altar makes it far more likely that it comes from either Alfred or Edward.”

A programme following the search for Alfred, The Search for Alfred the Great, will be aired on BBC2 at 9pm on Tuesday 21 January.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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