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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Remains of English Princess "found"

Scientists believe they have discovered the remains of one of the earliest members of the English Royal family.

There is a tomb in Magdeburg Cathedral from the 16th century of Queen Eadgyth (Edith). She was the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I (who she married in 929) and half sister to Athelstan (considered by many the first King of England) and grand daughter of Alfred the Great.

She died in 946 and buried in the monastry of St Maurice, her bones were moved at least 3 times.

When the tomb was excavated (in 2008) it was thought to be a cenotaph but when it was opened a box was found with the inscription

The rescued remains of Queen Eadgyth are in this sarcophagus, after the second renovation of this monument in 1510

The bones were wrapped in silk.

A study of the bones confirmed that the remains were those of a woman who died aged between 30 and 40. Scientists found that she was a frequent horse rider and ate a high-protein diet, including a lot of fish, hinting at high status.

However bones were often moved and mixed up. The crucial evidence indicating that this was Edith came from the study of teeth in Eadgyth's upper jaw.

According to Dr Alistair Pike of Bristol University:

By micro-sampling, using a laser, we can reconstruct the sequence of a person's whereabouts, month by month up to the age of 14.

The isotopes matched records of Edith's childhood and adolescence in Wessex

Professor Mark Horton said:

Eadgyth seems to have spent the first eight years of her life in southern England, but changed her domicile frequently, matching quite variable strontium ratios in her teeth. Only from the age of nine, the isotope values remain constant.

Eadgyth must have moved around the kingdom following her father, King Edward the Elder, during his reign.

When her mother was divorced in 919 - Eadgyth was between nine and 10 at that point - both were banished to a monastery, maybe Winchester or Wilton in Salisbury.

Of course this can't prove 100% its Edith but it does all seem indicative.

The bones are to be reinterred later this year. 500 years after they were placed at Madgeburg.


holdingmoments said...

What a fascinating story Pete.

Tricia said...

It's absolutely amazing when scientists can determine in this day and age. Really exciting find!