The skeletons discovered in Oxford city center could be remains of viking looters instead of settlers killed in the famous Brice Massacre. Experts believe that the group of 37 men whose remains were found in St giles four years ago could be mercenaries attacking Oxford.
Previously, they thought they were Danish settlers killed by the English inhabitants in the well documented Brice Massacre Day.
The remains of the men, whose ages are between the 16 and 25 years, were found at St. John’s College in 2008 by the Thames Valley Archaeological Services. They were thought to be victims of King Ethelred "the Unprepared", which ordered the death of all Danish settlers in 1002.
- The bones found in Oxford are from Viking mercenaries
Now, after the chemical analysis and tests performed on bones and teeth, a team from the Oxford University School of Archeology has proposed a alternative theory.
Professor Mark Pollard, director of the research laboratory at the School of Archeology, believes the skeletons could belong to Viking mercenaries who were captured and killed in retaliation, rather than Danish settlers who lived in the area.
He says: "When the bones were found by Thames Valley Archeology, they assumed they belonged to the massacre because they belong to that date and there was a historical link. There was evidence of burning in the bones, so this is a possibility. But research has suggested they were Viking invaders. It seems they were invaders who had come from everywhere. I think it was a collection of independent warriors, a bunch of bad guys basically, but not conclusive”.
But Tom Hassel, former director of Oxford Archeology, suggested another twist to history last night. He says: "After the Day of the Brice Massacre, Oxford was attacked in revenge. The Danish navy sacked Oxford in 1009 and the town succumbed to King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark fully in 1013. These men could have been part of those attacks and it might suggest that there was a good battle at Oxford.”.
The original analysis, led by Carl Falys of the Thames Valley Archaeological Services, showed that the men were 'attacked from both sides' and appeared victims of a massacre rather than participants. This supports the claim that they were victims of the Brice Massacre Day.
She says: "Usually when people have been in close combat you have evidence in their bones. You find cuts on his forearms from having defended himself, but we have minimal evidence on the skeletons”. Professor Pollard says this new information indicates diets rich in fish and strong and robust constitutions, suggesting that men they were not citizens like those killed in the massacre, but newcomers to England.
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