Impressive remains of what might be a Dark Age royal palace have been found at Tintagel Castle, a site on England's Cornwall coast deeply linked to the legend of King Arthur.
Steeped in myth and mystery, the iconic ruins have long been rumored to be the birthplace of King Arthur, the legendary king of the Britons who, according to medieval stories, fought back the Saxon invaders in the late fifth and early sixth centuries A.D.
"After just five days on site, four trenches have revealed the first glimpses of the stone walls of buildings," reported the government-backed conservation agency English Heritage, in a statement.
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The archaeologists of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit unearthed 3-feet thick walls, steps and slate flagstone floors which are believed to date back to the sixth century -- the time when the legendary Arthur may have lived. The buildings were possibly built by the rulers of a British kingdom known as Dumnonia.
Their location in Tintagel deepens the mystery of the site, strengthening the link with Arthur's legend.
Tales about the heroic king, his magic sword Excalibur, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table have fascinated people for centuries. The story was first introduced by 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth. According to his fanciful History of the Kings of Britain, one the most popular books of the Middle Ages, it was at Tintagel, at the fortress of a Cornish duke, that King Arthur was conceived from an illicit union between King Uther Pendragon and Igraine, the Duke of Cornwall's beautiful wife.
Geoffrey of Monmouth completed his book around 1138. At that time, the Tintagel rocky outcrop where the palace complex has been discovered was uninhabited. Indeed the castle was built almost a century later.
Whether the newly discovered massive structure was a Camelot castle, the finding is historically important.
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"The discovery of high-status buildings -- potentially a royal palace complex -- is helping to reveal an intriguing picture of what life was like in a place of such importance in the historically little-known centuries following the collapse of Roman administration in Britain," Win Scutt, English Heritage's properties curator for the West of England, told London's The Independent.
Pieces of imported Late-Roman jars and fragments of fine glass indicate the people who lived in the palace were of elite status.
In particular, the archaeologists were intrigued by a fragment of fine tableware.
"Made in western Turkey and dating from the fifth or sixth centuries A.D., this fragment of a bowl or a large dish may have been used for sharing food during feasting. It has traveled a huge distance to arrive here at Tintagel," English Heritage said.
The palace appears to have been abandoned sometime between the last half of the sixth century and the early century.
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The archaeologists found no evidence of catastrophic events. They believe instead the Dark Age palace was abandoned as its inhabitants fled in a bid to avoid a bubonic plague that was sweeping Britain and the entire Mediterranean world.
"This is the most significant archaeological project at Tintagel since the 1990s," Scutt said.
"We're cutting a small window into the site's history to guide wider excavations next year," he added.
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