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Swords, Cutting and Military History

Skeleton executed by sword blows to head poses questions on Norman Conquest

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Dateline: UK via Culture/24 UK

An unusual set of battlefield burials have led to the skeleton of the first ever human discovery directly related to the 11th century Norman Conquest.

A potentially groundbreaking discovery has been announced as part of the 750th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Lewes in Sussex.

A brutally-murdered man, executed by six sword blows to the back of the skull during a vicious 11th century battle on hospital grounds in Sussex, is compelling archaeologists to reconsider Norman war burials after becoming the first ever skeleton to be related to the 1066 invasion.

© Courtesy Sussex Archaeological Society

Originally discovered during a dig at a former medieval hospital more than 20 years ago, the individual has been carbon dated to within 28 years of 1063.

‘The first injury was probably a cut to the right side of the ear and upper jaw,’ says Malin Holst, an osteoarchaeologist from the University of York who was commissioned to examine the skeleton by the Sussex Archaeological Society. ‘This was then followed by a series of sword cuts, all delivered from the left hand side behind the victim, in a downward and horizontal motion….’

…Casper Johnson, the Senior Archaeologist for East Sussex Council, believes other skeletons from the site could be associated with the battle on its 750th anniversary.

‘This could shed new light on what happened in Lewes at the time of the Norman invasion,’ he believes. ‘But further dating of the skeletons is needed.’

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