Magdeburg Cathedral bones confirmed as oldest English royal remains

Confirmation that bones found in a tomb in Magdeburg Cathedral, Germany, are of  a Saxon princess, the oldest English royal remains to be found.   The bones are part of the body of the Saxon princess Eadgyth, the granddaughter of King Alfred the Great, who died more than 1,000 years ago.

The tomb where they were found was first investigated in 2009, but it was then believed the bones had been moved.   Two years ago German archaeologists opened the tomb, expecting it to be empty, but found it contained a lead box with the inscription, “The remains of Queen Eadgyth are in this sarcophagus”.   The bones were inside, wrapped in silk.

The latest techniques have been used by experts from the University of Mainz and the University of Bristol to analyze the bones and some teeth found in the upper jaw.   It was discovered they belonged to a female who died aged between 30 and 40;  that the woman was a frequent horse rider and ate a high protein diet with large amounts of fish, which suggested she had enjoyed an aristocratic lifestyle.   This did not prove, however, that they were the bones of Queen Eadgyth.  What has been described as “some exceptional science” was needed to prove that.   By studying tiny samples of tooth enamel, researchers were able to establish that the woman must have spent the first 14 years of her life in the chalk regions of southern Britain, and that fitted in with historical records of Eadgyth’s early years in Wessex.   She must have moved around the kingdom following her father, King Edward the Elder, during his reign.   When her mother was divorced in AD 919, and she was about nine, both of them were banished to a monastery in Wessex.

Eadgyth’s half brother, Athelstan, the first king to rule all of England, gave her in marriage to King Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor, in AD 929.   She lived most of her married life in Magdeburg, capital of Saxony-Anhalt, and had at least two children.   She died in AD 946 at the age of about 36, and was buried at the monastery of St Maurice in Switzerland, but her bones were moved serveral times, until eventually being placed in the richly carved tomb in Magdeburg Cathedral in 1510.

The princess will be laid to rest later this year when her bones are reburied in Magdeburg Cathedral – exactly 500 years after their last interment in 1510.

Mediaeval manuscripts used as dust jackets

We have found a really interesting story about how mediaeval manuscripts were used in the 17th and 18th centuries as “stuffing” in the binding of books or as dust jackets.   And it comes from Edmonton, not the one near us, but Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada.

The story starts like this:-  “The book before me is huge and heavy, bound, not in paper or cardboard, but with planks of solid oak, held together by thick cords.   It looks like a prop from a fantasy film. It’s actually a Latin dictionary, published in the early 1700s.”   But here’s the secret:-   “But as old as the dictionary appears, it hides a secret far older.   Inside the heavy oak cover is a parchment liner.    Other pieces of the same parchment are stuffed into the spine, to bind the book block together.   The parchment wrapper is far older than the dictionary:  a medieval manuscript, hand-written on calfskin vellum.”

The book is usually kept in a vault  at the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, at the University of Alberta, and there is no record of when or how the book arrived in its collection.  

A group of students and staff at the university is “prospecting” for lost mediaeval book pages blithely recycled and reused by commercial printers, centuries later, to create durable bindings for “mass-produced” books hot off the post-Gutenberg presses that put those long-forgotten scribes out of work.   Some of the books have dust jackets made out of 800-year-old sheet music, or illuminated manuscripts with real gold leaf, which still shines today.   

And now the people at the university are using modern technology to identify the scraps of manuscripts.   They type a few of the words of the Latin text into Google Books, and, in the case of the wooden bound book mentioned above, they are informed in an instant that it is “a copy of the Justinian Code, the foundational books of laws inherited from the Roman Empire, upon which mediaeval law was largely based.”

What an amazing story, which can be read in full here:      old-books-hide-even-older-secrets-from-middle-ages

Published in: on October 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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Fulford – soldiers of today leave for battle

You don’t often see a sign like this.    It’s really good to see such a smart Fulford sign  –  Fulford, the first of the three battles of 1066.   And also good to send our best wishes to 2nd Signal Regiment who are preparing to leave York for an operational tour in Helmand province.

A special pre-deployment service was held for them at St Oswald’s Church, Fulford, and more than 250 soldiers marched down the main street headed by their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Colin Vaudin.

Published in: on October 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Come along to King Harold Day next Saturday 13 October

Published in: on October 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm  Comments (1)