The mass burial at Repton British appeared during the Scandinavian invasion of England the end of the IX century.


Reconstruction of the external appearance of one of raptorski Vikings. (Photo: Roger from Derby, UK / Wikipedia)

One of the female skulls from the crypt in Repton. (Photo: Cat Jarman / University of Bristol)

Mass burial during excavations. (Photo: Martin Biddle / University of Bristol)

Bones buried in a “mass grave” of Repton. (Photo: Mark Horton / University of Bristol)‹

In the year 793 the Norsemen attacked the island of Lindisfarne off the North East coast of England. There they plundered the monastery of St. Cuthbert, the cradle of English Christianity. This year is traditionally considered the beginning of the Viking age.

To 860 years the Scandinavians continued to make scattered raids on Albion, but then changed tactics. In the year 865, the individual units are United under a single command and invaded England, to conquer it .

The troops consisted mainly of Scandinavians of Denmark, so they went down in history as the Great Danish army or the Great army of the Vikings (the Anglo-Saxon chronicle called it the great heathen army). The invading army lasted 14 years and ended with the conquest of three of the four English kingdoms: East Anglia, Northumbria and Mercia. The fourth king of Wessex Alfred managed to stop the expansion of the Scandinavians in 878 he defeated them soundly at the battle of Edington. After this England was divided between the Danes and Anglo-Saxons. In the Anglo-Saxon kings took several decades to regain control of the country.

In 1974-1988 years in the Church of the Holy Wigston in Repton (Derbyshire, England) discovered several mass graves. In one of the earlier Anglo-Saxon buildings have discovered the remains of at least 264 people. 80% of the bones belonged to men, most of whom were between 18 and 45 years. Several skeletons had traces of injuries. Among the remains found Scandinavian weapons and other items, including an axe, several knives and five silver penny 872-875 years.

Researchers have suggested that burials associated with the great pagan army. This was noted not only findings, but also written evidence, according to which the Danes remained on wintering in Repton in 874. However, radiocarbon Dating seemed to be talking about something else: he gave dates with a spread of several centuries. Archeologists concluded that the burials of Repton are bones of different historical periods and not just the end of the IX century.

Recently, experts took samples of bones and sent them to new radiocarbon analysis. The results have been interesting: the end of the ninth century the bones are all buried, and therefore they are connected with the Grand army.

The same mistake the researchers explain the so-called reservoir effect. When people eat seafood, their body is carbon, which is much older than the one contained in the other, “land” food. If this “marine” intake is not taken into account, the radiocarbon Dating will give an incorrect age.

The new analysis also found between 873 and 886 for double burial, one of the few in the country, where he found the Scandinavian weapons. In the grave lay two men; the elder was, in particular, a sword and a pendant in the form of Thor’s hammer. Judging from his bones, shortly before his death he received several serious injuries including to the left hip.

In another burial, which is open in the joint, were the remains of four children and adolescents (aged 8 to 18 years). To him put into the grave the jaw and leg bones of sheep. At least two children have signs of injuries. Interestingly the burial place – at the entrance to the main “mass grave”. Those who were unearthed, believed that the burial of children and adolescents was a ritual: there is evidence of human sacrifice that accompanied the burial of the Vikings. New analysis dates the tomb 872-885 years.

Kat Jerman (Cat Jarman) from Bristol University, who led the study, said that the new dates are very important: they allow us to consider buried as the first Scandinavians who came to England not only to loot but also to live.

With full confidence to call warriors the buried army of Vikings is not, but it seems likely. In addition, the results demonstrate how new techniques are helping to revise the previous erroneous information and clarify the events that took place many hundreds of years ago.

All the results were published in the February issue of the journal Antiquity.

On materials The University of Bristol.