Pelvic Bone in Storage May Be King Alfred the Great's
A piece of an ancient pelvis bone that had been tucked away in museum storage might belong to the English King Alfred the Great or his son Edward.
A piece of an ancient pelvis bone that had been tucked away in museum storage might belong to the English King Alfred the Great or his son Edward, scholars announced Friday (Jan. 17).
Archaeologists had mounted a search to find the lost remains of Alfred the Great, who was king of Wessex and dominated England from 871 until his death in 899. Last year, researchers exhumed an unmarked grave at Saint Bartholomew's Church in Winchester, England, but none of the bodies buried there were a match with Alfred.
After that initial disappointment, the group then turned to bones in storage boxes at the Winchester City Museum that had been excavated from a nearby monastery, Hyde Abbey, in the 1990s. There, they found a promising fragment of a pelvis bone. Radiocarbon tests showed that it dates between the years 895 and 1017. Further skeletal analysis showed that the bone belonged to a man who was between 26 and 45-plus years when he died, the researchers said. (Photos: The Search for Alfred the Great's Grave)
If the remains are indeed Alfred's, the discovery would mark the second English king to be found in the United Kingdom less than two years. In 2012, archaeologists discovered the remains of King Richard III underneath a parking lot in Leicester. Last year, DNA testing helped confirm that the battle-scarred skeleton indeed belonged to Richard. The king's remains are set to be reburied this year.
Restless bones "Given the age at death of the individual, and the probable male identity, the plausible candidates are King Alfred, [his son] King Edward the Elder, or the brother of King Edward, Æthelweard. All were buried in the Abbey," Katie Tucker, a researcher in human osteology at the University of Winchester, said in a statement.
When the pelvis bone was initially excavated in the late 1990s, it was found near the monastery's High Altar, where only Alfred and Edward had been buried, Tucker said, citing historical records.
"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," Tucker said.
Hyde Abbey was not Alfred's original resting place. It's believed the monarch was initially buried in the Anglo-Saxon cathedral in Winchester, called the Old Minster, in 899, though monks later moved his skeleton to New Minster and then Hyde Abbey, just outside the walls of Winchester.
Like many other Catholic institutions, Hyde Abbey was dismantled in the 16th century under Henry VIII during the so-called dissolution of the monasteries. The bodies buried at the monastery seem to have been allowed to remain, though some may have been disturbed when a prison was built on the site in the 18th century, said Barbara Yorke, professor emerita of early medieval history at the University of Winchester.
Then in the 19th century, an antiquarian claimed that he had excavated the bones of the Wessex royal household from Hyde Abbey before giving them to a rector who reburied the bones at the unmarked grave at Saint Bartholomew's Church. But when archaeologists opened that unmarked grave last year, they found the bodies of people dated from about 1100 to 1500, much later than Alfred's reign.
A documentary about the search for Alfred the Great will air on the United Kingdom's BBC2 on Jan. 21 at 9:00 p.m.
Original article on LiveScience.
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In January 2013, scholars from the University of Winchester announced that they found part of a right pelvis bone of an older adult male in museum storage.
Sept. 16, 2012 --
The remains of Richard III, the monarch immortalized as a villainous hunchback by William Shakespeare and the last English king to die in battle, might have been discovered in a parking lot in Leicester. DNA analysis is still needed to confirm the findings, and that could take up to 12 weeks, according to researchers at the University of Leicester. While we wait, let's look at other royals known to have vanished from history.
NEWS: Medieval Church Discovered Beneath Parking Lot
Edward V and Richard, Duke of York Before Richard III assumed the throne, there was only one person standing in his way: his nephew, Edward V. Only a boy at 12 years old, Edward V was unprepared for the responsibilities of the crown left to him by his father, Edward IV, who entrusted Richard as Protector until the boy came of age. The future king Richard III in short order imprisoned Edward V in the Tower of London, along with his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York. The uncle then declared Edward IV's marriage invalid, and therefore his heirs were illegitimate. Richard III assumed the throne and the two boys disappeared from history shortly thereafter. Although remains belonging to two children were discovered in the 17th century by workers renovating a section of the Tower, the bones were never conclusively identified as belonging to the two boys.
Harold II Even though Harold II might have had one of the most famous deaths of any monarch in English history, his final resting place is unknown. Harold II assumed the throne in 1066. That same year, William the Conqueror led an army of Norman invaders into England. The armies of William and Harold met at the Battle of Hastings in October. After hours of fighting, with victory within his grasp, Harold was, according to legend, either shot in the eye or stabbed with a sword. His body was then mutilated and dismembered. Although the site of Harold's death is known, what followed after is a matter of some speculation. According to popular accounts, William had Harold's body buried in secret, even though Harold's mother offered a sum to claim the body.
Henry I When Henry VIII was engaged in his campaign against Catholicism, he seized church lands and raided monasteries. In the process, his men disturbed and even destroyed the final resting places of the monarchs who came before him. In fact, Henry VIII even likely caused the destruction of the tomb of his namesake: Henry I. Henry I was the son of William the Conqueror, and reigned for nearly 30 years from 1106 to 1135. Although he crowned himself king in 1100, his reign was disputed by his older brother, Robert, who had been away fighting in the Crusades. Henry initially was able to buy Robert off, but the two later came into conflict again, which was only resolved in 1106 with Henry's army capturing Robert in battle and imprisoning him for life. Henry spent much of his time away from England, often frequenting Normandy. In order to rule in his absence, he created a bureaucracy that would efficiently govern and run the affairs of state, the most important duty of which was to collect taxes. Following the death of his son, Henry was left with only one legitimate heir, his daughter. When Henry died in 1135, his daughter's rule was rejected by the English nobility and civil war ensued.
Pharaoh Userkare If famous kings who died within the last 1,000 years are difficult to find, then an obscure pharaoh that lived some 4,300 years ago must be close to impossible. The reign of Userkare, the second pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty, has been shrouded in mystery, partly due to the fact that his tomb had not been discovered. In 2010, Giulio Magli, professor of archaeoastronomy at Milan's Polytechnic University, suggested a possible final resting place for the pharaoh. as reported by Discovery News' Rossella Lorenzi. The search, however, is still ongoing.
WATCH VIDEO: Find out what it's like hunting down ancient Egyptian treasures.
Queen Nefertiti Obscure royals are bound to escape history's notice. But when the ones who really left their mark manage to elude discovery, that's another story entirely. Ancient Egypt's Queen Nefertiti might be the most sought-after royal yet undiscovered. She died over 3,300 years ago, but was made famous in the modern era following the discovery of the 19-inch limestone, painted bust of her, seen here. Nefertiti was, in the words of Discovery News' Rossella Lorenzi, "the royal wife of the 'heretic' pharaoh Akhenaton, who initiated a new monotheistic religion that involved the worship the sun god Aton." Despite pursuits to find her tomb, including one such expedition funded by the Discovery Channel, no archaeologist has yet found where Nefertiti is buried.
READ MORE: Tracking Nefertiti: Egypt Guide
Emperor Jianwen When you're emperor of a nation as large as China, you'd think someone would notice your disappearance. Emperor Jianwen (1377-1402) was the second emperor of the Ming Dynasty, and nearly led it to ruin. Failed efforts to gain greater control over territory within his empire, which was governed by his uncles, led to the outbreak of civil war. When troops belonging to one of Jianwen's uncles attacked Nanjing, then the capital under the Ming Dynasty, the imperial palace caught fire, supposedly killing Jianwen and his concubines. However, an alternate version of events suggests Jianwen secretly escaped in the midst of the battle and took refuge in a monastery, where he lived out the rest of his days.
Anastasia Nikolaevna Although no longer missing, the final resting place of Anastasia Nikolaevna, daughter of tsar Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia, was a nearly century-long mystery that ended in 2009. Along the way, false reports, witnesses and impostors claiming to be the deceased grand duchess turned up. The idea that somehow Nikolaevna had escaped execution gripped popular imagination, including an animated film in 1997. In 1991, speculation that Nikolaevna survived the massacre that claimed her family was bolstered by the discovery of a mass grave. Buried there were the remains of the tsar, his wife and three of their daughters. Traces of the two remaining children, a son and another daughter, were not at the site. In 2007, a grave in Yekaterinburg, Russia, proved to be the final resting place of the two remaining children. Two years later, researchers announced that DNA analysis confirmed that the remains were of the two young royals.