January 19, 2014
Pelvic Bone Fragments May Belong To King Alfred The Great
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
A bone fragment discovered during a 1999 archaeological dig in the UK could belong to King Alfred the Great, who according to legend fought off the Vikings and helped lay the foundation for the nation of England, BBC News and other media outlets have reported.
The piece of pelvic bone was discovered at Winchester’s Hyde Abbey and dated to the era during which the ninth-century monarch died (895-1017), according to the BBC and AFP news reports published Friday. The bone was originally retrieved during the excavation of a car park built on the site of the cathedral and had been in storage at a museum in the southern England community.
The discovery comes just a few months after an excavation at another car park (this one in the city of Leicester) led to the discovery of the remains of 15th century King Richard III, and University of Winchester archaeologist Nick Thorpe told the French news agency that he and his colleagues were “extremely excited to have been able to plausibly link this human bone to one of these two crucial figures in English history.”
Thorpe’s team happened across the bone after failing to discover anything of note during a 2013 excavation of their own. They checked the museum’s records and found two boxes filled with bones from the 1999 Hyde Abbey-area dig. One of the bones was located at the high altar, where Alfred and Edward were said to have been buried, and carbon dating traced them back to the period during which the royal family members lived.
Sarah Griffiths and Ben Spencer of the Daily Mail explained that the remains had been initially dismissed because they were found around other remains that were found to be hundreds of years younger.
Researchers also reported that there was a chance they would be able to extract DNA from the pelvic bone, but cautioned that they might have difficulty finding a living descendant of Alfred’s to compare results with. Alternatively, they could check it against Alfred's granddaughter, who is buried in Germany. However, that grave was not well preserved, leading them to seek out another, more reliable source in the genetic line.
According to Griffiths and Spencer, King Alfred “held back the Viking invaders, established the foundations of our law codes and justice system, and safeguarded the English language and Christian religion. His son Edward the Elder, who ruled until 924, continued his work, driving the Danes north and unifying the kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia.”
“Finding Alfred’s remains has long been a passion for historians, because his body was known to have been moved at least once after New Minster in Winchester, his first burial place, was demolished in the early 12th century,” they added. “The bodies of Alfred and his successors were moved to Hyde Abbey in 1110, but the building was demolished during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and the graves were dug up when a prison was built on the site in 1788.”