Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Decapitating Vikings in Dorset

Yesterday's Daily Telegraph had an article about the discovery at Ridgeway Hill near Weymouth in 2009 of the remains of 51 young men who had been beheaded in a massacre dated to the tenth or eleventh century. Analysis of the bones indicated taht they were of Scandinavian origin, and the killing had been an organised event, with the severed heads piled up to one side.

There is an online account about the discovery here, and another report, with photographs, by the BBC from the time of the excavations can be seen here.

The latest suggestion according to the Daily Telegraph report is that they were victims of the 1002 St Brice's Day Massacre ordred by King Ethelred II and were perhaps Viking mercenaries. The fact that they had been decapitated from the front suggests that they may have been Jomsvikings - a group who prided themselves on showing bravery in the face of death. There is a reference from Queen Emma, Ethelred's wife, to a Jomsviking leader of a group in England at this time.

Last November I posted about the St Brice's Day massacre in Oxford and the recent discovery of the remains of some of the victims. The post can be read here.

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