Tag Archives: skeleton

War of the Roses skeletons discovery – Lancastrians executed by Yorkists?

War of the Roses skeletons discovery - Lancastrians executed by Yorkists?

Remains of executed Lancastrians?

The discovery of a dozen skeletons by workmen could belong to Lancastrian soldiers executed after one of the War of the Roses bloodiest battles.

The grisly find of 12 skeletons was made as electricity cables were laid on Tadcaster Road, near the Knavesmire in York.

The area was where criminals convicted in York were executed up until 1802 – including highwayman Dick Turpin – but archaeologists believe the bodies could belong to Lancastrian soldiers, possibly captured after the Battle of Towton.

Radiocarbon dating on two of the skeletons suggests they died around the 1460s.

The bones were discovered in November 2013 by Northern Powergrid and its contractor Interserve, who were working on replacing more than 6,500km of underground electricity cables.

York is one of only five designated UK areas of archaeological importance, which means any work disturbing the ground must be overseen, so the companies worked in conjunction with the City of York Council and York Archaeological Trust on the infrastructure project.

A team of archaeologists remained present on site at all times and, when workmen discovered the first bones, they were called over to examine the find and begin the process of carefully uncovering the skeletons.

 

The skeletons were identified as male and mostly aged between 25 and 40 at the time of their death. Two had significant bone fractures which could be evidence of fighting, perhaps associated with professional soldiers.

Ruth Whyte, osteo-archaologist for York Archaeological Trust said:

“We knew this was a fascinating find as, unlike 15th century Christian burial practice, the skeletons were all together and weren’t facing East-West.

“The Knavesmire was the site of York’s Tyburn, where convicted criminals were executed right up until 1802.

Were these individuals criminals or could they have been Lancastrian soldiers? They may have been captured in battle and brought to York for execution, possibly in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton during the Wars of the Roses, and their remains hastily buried near the gallows.”

 

Dave Smith, Northern Powergrid’s Project Engineer, said:

“When we started the 18-month project to replace cables dating back to the 1950s we never expected that we – and our contractor Interserve – would be so instrumental in helping unearth such a key discovery for the city.”

The skeletons have been handed over to York Archaeological Trust to protect and preserve. Arrangements are also underway to exhibit one of the skeletons as part of the city’s Richard III Experience at Monk Bar in March.

Source – Northern Echo,  27 Feb 2015

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Almanac – June 06

1832 – Jeremy Bentham died. British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.

Bentham became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism.

He advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalising of homosexual acts.

He called for the abolition of slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, and the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children. He has also become known in recent years as an early advocate of animal rights.

He had continued to write up to a month before his death, aged 84,  and had made careful preparations for the dissection of his body after death and its preservation as an auto-icon.

After dissection, the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton padded out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.

Originally kept by his disciple Thomas Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London in 1850. It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the college; however, for the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, it was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where it was listed as “present but not voting”.

Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, mummified to resemble its appearance in life. However, Southwood Smith’s experimental efforts at mummification, based on practices of the indigenous people of New Zealand and involving placing the head under an air pump over sulphuric acid and simply drawing off the fluids, although technically successful, left the head looking distastefully macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.

The Auto-icon was therefore given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair. The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks. It is now locked away securely.

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Almanac – May 24

1725 – Jonathan Wild died.  He was perhaps the most infamous criminal of London — and possibly Great Britain — during the 18th century, both because of his own actions and the uses novelists, playwrights, and political satirists made of them.

 He invented a scheme which allowed him to run one of the most successful gangs of thieves of the era, all the while appearing to be the nation’s leading policeman. He manipulated the press and the nation’s fears to become the most loved public figure of the 1720s; this love turned to hatred when his villainy was exposed. After his death, he became a symbol of corruption and hypocrisy.

When Wild was taken for execution to the gallows at Tyburn , Daniel Defoe said that the crowd was far larger than any they had seen before and that, instead of any celebration or commiseration with the condemned,

    “wherever he came, there was nothing but hollowing and huzzas,
    as if it had been upon a triumph.”

Wild’s hanging was a great event, and tickets were sold in advance for the best vantage points. Even in a year with a great many macabre spectacles, Wild drew an especially large and boisterous crowd. The hangman, Richard Arnet, had been a guest at Wild’s wedding.

In the dead of night, Wild’s body was buried in secret at the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church next to Elizabeth Mann, his third wife.  His burial was only temporary.

In the 18th century, autopsies and dissections were performed on the most notorious criminals, and consequently Wild’s body was exhumed and sold to the Royal College of Surgeons for dissection. His skeleton remains on public display in the Royal College’s Hunterian Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

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