She's published on Pacific Islanders and how they adapted to life on Easter Island, but more importantly for us she's recently finished her PhD at the University of Bristol dealing with the archaeology of the Viking camp at Repton.
Her work at Repton has appeared on BBC Four’s ‘Digging for Britain’ and she will be appearing was it next week for ‘Real Vikings’, I think so yes, yes on the ‘Real Vikings’ next week and has just recorded something for Dan Snow’s ‘History Hit’ so she's a real star of stage and screen, but today she's going to be talking about how her work has reassessed the evidence from Repton and about her annual excavation there, so I shall hand over to Cat.
Great, thank you very much for that and for the invitation to come and speak and I'm really delighted I couldn't make it was so worried about a Viking having to let you all down for a little bit of snow, I thought that would be a bit of a disappointment and so I'm going to be doing is talking a little bit about my research for the PhD and some of the work in progress. So I called this ‘Repton and the legacy of the Viking Great Army’ because towards the end I want to talk not just about this winter camp, but also that ongoing legacy that these Vikings left behind. I know you've had some really excellent lectures that some of you have been to on things like place names and so on, so I want to try and relate this a little bit to that. But just to sort of set the scene a little bit so we're in 873AD, and the Viking Great Army has been sort of marauding around the country for almost a decade and this great heathen army as it was referred to in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, seems to be a bit of a step up for the Vikings. So there's a move away from just the sort of hit-and-run, rape and pillage, and it's a move towards political conquest and eventually settlement. So this particular year we see the Great Army having camped out in Torksey in Lincolnshire so we know that now for all their great work that's been going on there by Dawn Hadley and Julian Richards, and they are now set their sights on capturing all of Mercia and the sort of jewel in the crown of that really is Repton, and the Anglo-Saxon monastery and royal site. So in this winter they moved to Repton and we know from The Chronicle that they are very successful, they managed to force the key Anglo-Saxon King Burghred to flee, going into exile in Paris never to return, they install a puppet King and then they set up winter camp in Repton. Now until the 1970s that was pretty much all we knew about Repton and what happened there; a few little stray bits and finds saw there was a sort of giant that was found some time by some Antiquarians which I'm going to get back to later on, but really not that much archaeological evidence and so we just probably don't need to point out where we’re talking about now because being this close, but what I'm going to be describing it's all around St Wystan's church in Repton as you can see in here, but in the 1970s and 80s excavations by Martin Biddle and his late wife Birthe KjølbyeBiddle uncovered all the evidence of this Viking winter camp. Now they started really looking into the church there the Anglo-Saxon Church, and soon came across this very, very large ditch that was right up against the church, and other evidence of the Great Army or the Viking presence. This included several burials, several individual burials that were very distinctly Viking, and we can say that I think with quite some certainty because this grave here which was just to the north of the church was a double grave of two men, one of them the so-called Repton warrior, grave 511 was buried with a Thor's hammer around his neck and a sword, a Viking type sword, and several other artefacts. Both of these two men the other man was a little bit younger, had quite severe injuries in particular the older man had a very large cut to his femur, so to his thigh, and they were also covered, their grave was covered with broken stones including lots of fragments of a broken Anglo-Saxon cross - so there was a very definite Viking presence here. The ditch that you can see here was also traced, and in Repton school right next to the church and down by the river and it was suggested that this form, this D-shaped enclosure that would have then incorporated the Viking winter camp, so this created a sort of defensive structure similar to what is seen at several Scandinavian sites and the assumption then was that the Viking camp was all inside it. Other Viking burials included a man buried with some coins dated to precisely that same time period that we know from The Chronicle, which is 872 – 875, so the archaeological evidence really seemed to corroborate the historical records which was great but the other really notable discovery was this here. Now this was found in the vicarage garden next to St. Wystan’s church, it's really quite shallow mound here. There were some, as I mentioned earlier, some antiquarian investigations in and around the church dating back a few hundred years and there was a record of a very large assemblage of bones found underneath a mound. Inside this were allegedly the bones of a giant, nine foot tall, and several weapons. Now they didn't quite know what that was or if this related to precisely the same mound but when it was excavated they did discover a very large collection of bones. In fact it was a whole charnel deposit so this is a plan from the excavations, this is the outline of the mound, it had an outer curb around it of stones, and then inside with this partially destroyed Anglo-Saxon building probably dating possibly to the 7th or early 8th century AD, and it had two compartments possibly it was originally a mausoleum, and in this right-hand compartment, eastern compartment, were these bones. Now these were the commingled remains of nearly 300 people, the minimum number of individuals was 264. They were all secondary inhumations, so what that means is that they were people who were buried somewhere else originally and when their bones had turned to skeletons they were moved into this compartment. So it's not a sort of typical mass grave of dead bodies thrown into a room, but inside this the excavators also found a large number of artefacts including Viking type weapons and another five coins, all dating to 872 to 874 AD. So again, that connection with the Viking Great Army and the winter camp seemed pretty certain. It was clear also that this was actually all put down at the same time because there was a clean layer of sand put down underneath the bones and then they were all placed inside it. On top of that then was presumably some kind of structure and a mound built on top, so this was really screaming Viking Great Army especially also because these people were largely male about 80% were male, mostly aged 17 to 45, they were a lot taller in their stature than the remaining burial population at Repton, so this really seemed very consistent with that Great Army. Interesting though that at least 20% where the sex could be determined were women, so it was not just a group of men. Some evidence originally they had been stacked up if you can see this picture just about make out those are all femurs or thigh bones all stacked up in a corner, but we think that the antiquarian disturbances actually jumbled up a lot of this so it's possible that it was all originally stacked up very neatly. So this seems great, seems like maybe we have this burial place of the Viking Great Army, but there was a bit of a problem and that main problem was with the radiocarbon dates. So the Biddles carbon dated about 19 of these bones of different individuals, and some of them fitted very nicely with a date in the ninth century, but others didn't so some of them seem to be dating to a much earlier period, so maybe as early as the 8th or even 7th century AD. So if that was the case then surely these couldn't all be the Vikings. Maybe it was suggested instead, when they were building that large ditch around the church perhaps they came across earlier Saxon bones from the monastery in Repton and sort of quite carefully took them and re buried them inside this mound, but that seemed like a very odd thing to do from a Viking army that attacked and desecrated a monastery. So this really led to quite a lot of questions about what this really was. Was this really the Great Army after all? So when I came to this project that was one of the things I wanted to look at. There are a few unresolved questions - who were these people, were they really the Great Army or could they just be the monastic population from Repton, the other question was a bit more about this Viking winter camp, because originally when this was excavated this was really the only evidence, the only physical evidence we had of the Viking Great Army in the whole country. Since then other sites have come to light, like Torksey, and there seemed to me quite of a different nature. One of the things that's been pointed out quite a lot was that Torksey’s a lot bigger than this enclosure, this D-shaped enclosure, so does that mean that this couldn’t really have affected the entire Great Army - we now think the greater was actually very, very large, thousands of people; does this mean that actually the camp was elsewhere, or that the D-shaped enclosure wasn't the entire camp perhaps? So that's another thing I wanted to look into, and then I was also very interested in this question of how do we move from this marauding army into the settler population, so when you go around, around here, around Repton, look at the place names clearly people are settling there, but how does that happen? We know from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that's only a few years later, Halfdan and some of the other members of the Great Army settle and share out land in Mercia. So can we see if there was actually an ongoing Scandinavian presence in Repton after this winter? So that's what I set out to do and so I'm going to share some of those results as I said work is still in progress on this, but we've got some really quite exciting new evidence. So I'm going to start with those new carbon dates because I think that's the one thing that has been resolved most satisfactorily and that I can really share now. So these are the original radiocarbon dates here so if you're not used to seeing this each sort of blob is one person, and this is the timeline here, really tiny numbers that you can't see but the red line is basically 873. So if these were all from the right date then all of these blobs should lie on my nice little red line there, and as you can see quite a lot of them don't, some just about, several are a few hundred years too early; that was the big problem. So we try to do some new radiocarbon dates thinking maybe technology has moved on in 20 years, maybe there was something wrong with the equipment and the machinery so we try it again, did another 9 including some of the same individuals, but the results were pretty much the same. Some fitted nicely with the 9th century or just about, and some predated the 9th century altogether, so clearly there was something else going on, or they were not the Vikings. But if you remember earlier those individual graves were quite helpful as well, those Vikings were clearly considerate when they buried grave 529, this man here that you can see, they buried him not only with a ring of a type that's quite distinctive of Scandinavian artefacts, but also five silver coins - those coins dated to 873 to 875, and what that does is it gives us something called a TPQ or terminus post quem date, and that means a date after which, that's the earliest possible date for that grave because you don't sort of post-date coins and put them in the ground. So we know he must have been buried in 873 or later, but the radiocarbon dates came out to 670to 770 AD, clearly that's not possible so something is wrong, something is going on here. Another example as well, this is an individual who was buried on top of that charnel mound, because I'll get back to this later, but they were used, that area was used for graves later on. Again that should date to after 872 and the radiocarbon dates only just about works, so there really is something else going on and that's what I've been looking into. Some of the graves well I'm going to get back to this one later on, so if you remember back to what I showed you earlier see this curb here that's around the mounds, the big mass grave is in the middle here. These are some of those graves later on, so burial continued in use after the late 9th century around St Wystan’s Church, but there was it seems to be a distinct set of burials in the vicarage garden right up into the mound itself and again I'm going to talk about that at the end, but just that site in the southwest if you see this little put a blob here, it was a very unusual grave. This is the grave of four juveniles buried together, they have a sheep jaw at their feet and they aged between 8 and 17 and placed very, very deliberately in this grave and they seem to have had a very large marker stone perhaps a post or something like that, and is right on the outer edge there, and again I'm going to get back to this grave a bit later on. So I wanted to date that as well and then I needed to try and look at what could be going on with these radiocarbon dates. Now since the 1990s we've moved on quite a lot with understanding how early carbon dating works and what influences it, and one thing that we now know is that you have to take into account what people were eating, and the reason for this is that all the carbon in our bodies, we've got lots of carbon in our bones and our skin, in our hair, and it's all comes through the food that we eat so we don't just get it from the atmosphere, but we eat food and drink and that forms part of our tissues, and it's constantly turning over. When we die we don't take up any new carbon and that's why we can look at the decay of carbon-14, and do radiocarbon dating but not all the carbon is equal, so some carbon is in the atmosphere and it gets into things like sheep and plants and so on. So if you only eat food from terrestrial sources all the carbon in your body is going to be coming from the atmosphere, but if you eat something so I just had a nice tuna salad in the cafe out there which means that I now incorporated some new marine carbon, so some carbon that those tuna had got into their diets through the oceans, this is important because carbon in the oceans actually gets there from the atmosphere then sort of circulates around the oceans for a very, very long time. So what the fish is eating in the ocean it gets carbon into its tissues, that's actually quite old carbon and what this means is that there's a difference of about 400 years. So if a Viking comes along, say Halfdan comes along, he kills a sheep and a fish on the same day, bury them both in the ground, and my team comes along and digs them both up, radiocarbon date them, it will look like the fish was killed about 400 years before the sheep - and that's really important because if Halfdan actually ate the fish and the sheep then he will actually be taking that carbon into his system. So we need to look at that because when we carbon date the bone we were actually carbon dating the food sources really. So we need to take that into account for each individual because we can't just assume that everyone's eating the same just like now, my colleagues I had lunch with didn't have fish, they had the terrestrial food, and so they're going to have different carbon patterns. So we need to do this for each individual, we need to find out how much fish they're eating and we can do that by looking at some of the other carbon isotopes, I'm not going to go into the science of this now, you’ll just have to take my word for it, but I'm very happy to explain afterwards if you like. We can look at sort of animals we know what our carbon-13 value is for a sheep and for a fish. We can then measure the stable carbon 13 in the skeleton and work out where he sort of sits in between that. So during that we can then work at how much of that 400 years difference we have to take into account. So I did this with a [inaudible] and this was probably the exciting moment of my career to date from I put it all into the computer and waited patiently, and look they all basically fall in line, so all those earlier dates were the people who ate more fish than the others and what that means is that those early dates, so sort of 6-700 AD all caused by this, what we call the marine reservoir effect, and it means that all the samples we dated are completely consistent with a date in the 9th century and completely consistent with a Viking Great Army, which is very, very exciting. If you want to know more about this the article is out in the general antiquities open access so it's free for anyone to get access to if you just type in ‘antiquity Viking Great Army’ into a search engine it will take you to the article and you can you can get all the sort of lowdown on the science. Now what this doesn't do which I do want to sort of make very clear is it doesn't prove that this is the Great Army, it just now proves that they're not a much, much earlier population or a mix. But it now means that we can go back to thinking of this as a quite likely army population. We've also managed to get some really good dates for some of the other graves so this double grave was actually never radiocarbon dated before and so although the assumption because of the artefact was that it dated to the same age, we didn't really know. This one we could sort of combine these dates again looking at the marine reservoir effect and get a combined date of 873 to 886, which is really quite nice and neat, it's just giving it a few years different. The same really was the case with a juvenile grave, again 872 to 885 AD, so just when the Great Army was there or very, very soon after. So now I think we can really take all these graves and say right okay so clearly have some association with the Viking Great Army. This one is a bit difficult to interpret so Martin and Birthe in their publications suggested that this might actually be a sort of sacrificial grave, a sort of ritual burial to do with closing that mound because of its location. There's evidence of injury of a violent injury or trauma on at least two of these skeletons, of course that doesn't make them sacrifices, we can't necessarily know that but again, work is ongoing to try and find out more about these four children. So that's great so the first one was quite good, we got the radiocarbon dates sorted so I was pleased at that point, but I'm still trying to work on seeing if I can prove if they really are the Great Army or not. So the next thing I've been working on is some other isotope evidence and this is trying to find some evidence of childhood origins. Is there any way that we can prove that these were people who came from Scandinavia or if they were local people, they could have been the local population who were injured, killed by the incoming Viking Great Army. Now again we've got lots of scientific techniques that we can use for this and one of the things I've been working on is called strontium isotope analysis. I know you didn't come here for a science lessons, so I’m going to try to keep it very simple, so please just bear with me I'll try to simplify as much as I can. This is again based on the fact that we are what we eat, so all our tissues basically come from everything that we get into our diet. Now that food also retains lots of different, I said lots of different chemicals from where the food was grown. So if you’re eating grains, those grains have gotten nutrients from the soils they grew in, so something called strontium is in pretty much everything - that comes very much from the soils and from the underlying geology, and it's different in different types of geology; so in the area with very old rocks like Scandinavia for example, it has a different strontium isotope ratio from somewhere like the southwest of England which has got very chalky, very young geologic terrains and that's passed on through the food chain. So you all know that when you drink milk calcium from that milk will form part of your bones making them stronger, the same is the case for strontium that also comes into your bones and into your tissues from your food, and we can look at that in bones and teeth and then we can check the ratios and see if they'll know more like the geologic terrains in say Scandinavia, or in what's local to Repton which is great. What's even better is that once, when your teeth are forming in childhood your teeth actually take up those ratios from your diet. So I grew up in Norway so my teeth have got isotope ratios very typical sort of old granite's and those types of rocks. If you grew up around here your teeth will be very different from mine, and your teeth don't change, bones constantly changing and turning over but once your teeth are formed in childhood that's it - even when they're buried in the ground for a thousand years we can look at those ratios and see what they match and that's really, really exciting. We know quite a lot about England in particular, sort of different persons if you look at the colour, so Repton is in this kind of green, possibly towards the yellow range, so if we if we got the values corresponding this blue for example we could know that that person didn't grow up in Repton, that's what we were doing. So just to get some more science from there, this is the sort of thing I spend most of my time looking at, trying to interpret and try to tell a great story around. So what I did in Repton was I looked at 61 individuals including several from the mass grave and some of those individual graves as well. So each of these bars is one person and these are the strontium values; so generally to just help you understand this higher you go generally speaking slightly simplified the older the geology and the terrain. So these sort of younger terrains so places like Denmark for example are kind of down here mainly; Scandinavia goes all the way up here. So the next thing you do then is look at local, what would somebody who grew up in Repton look like, anyone here grew up in Repton? Nobody! Oh disappointing. If you did then your teeth should be falling in here somewhere, so you should be one of these blue blobs. So that's the first thing you do, you check what's the local ratios and as you can see some people falling in that band, but actually not an awful lot of them and that's interesting in itself so we could tell straight away that at least the mass grave certainly wasn't a grave of the local population but they were very, very mixed. Now you see I have a little red band here with the words doom the problem with that is that the values here are very, very common all over England so somebody called Janet Montgomery who wrote a paper on this called this the “strontium of doom”, which basically means if you get these values you're doomed, you can't work out where they're from! But what's interesting I think in particular from the mass grave is that we have a really big range. I can't put the exact values up because this is still a work in progress, it's due to be published hopefully quite soon so you just have to take my word for it at the moment. Interestingly though the double grave those two men are actually two of the lowest values really and interestingly they also have almost identical values which means that they're most likely grew up in the same place which I think is a fantastic result so you have two men one younger than the other, both arrived and Repton and died at about the same time. You also have at least one individual way outside what you really expect from England. I've also been using some other evidence one of these, another isotope this is oxygen isotope evidence, which is what you get from your drinking water. This typically relates to climate, altitude that sort of thing, so again if we, this is what we would expect for England so you can see parts of Scandinavia in these sort of blue areas are very, very different; again this is on ongoing research so I can't show the exact details but in general they're a really big mix. I have one or two individuals that fall into these sort of bluey-greeny areas which is very exciting, most of them unfortunately are in this sort of yellowy-orange zone, the problem there is a so much overlap so again I can't quite prove that they are definitely one or the other, but it's quite interesting. I actually also have some that fall into these sort of darker yellowy-orange bits here I'm still working on where they could be from but from what we know about the Great Army and these Viking forces they'd actually been active in parts of France and the continent, even down into the Mediterranean for quite some time by the time they got to England and we could well have some of those same people, so I think that's hugely exciting in that perhaps we actually see some sort of Mediterranean people there as well, but again work in progress. So I try to think about it in a bit of a different way, if I can't sort of definitely say yes these were Scandinavians I thought okay well what would we expect a Viking army to look like and are we looking at a group all from the same place, are we looking at how it's often described in history books - you have these groups coming out from Denmark, from Norway, going to the West and then from Sweden possibly going to the east, that's a sort of typical image that we've got. So I've compared Repton to a couple of other mass graves, these are both from England so one some of you might have heard of the in Weymouth the Ridgeway burial which had about 51 men buried in the pits, all decapitated heads piled up in one corner; these are also thought to be a Scandinavian, Viking raiding party, all killed presumably in attack. They date a bit later so I think it's the end of the 10th or early 11th century, and then another grave from St. John's College in Oxford, another mass grave again thought to be a Viking or a Scandinavian raiding party, so what I've got here is again these dots are the individuals (you can ignore the big boxes for now), and this is the strontium values; and what it's showing but for all these three groups is that they're all really, really mixed these aren't groups of an army group, or group of men all from the same location but they're really, really mixed and that fits in quite nicely with current thinking of these armies, that they are disparate groups, they’re brought together for whatever other reasons but geography isn't the defining factor so they're not Norwegians going on a raid, they're not you know Danes going on a raid, but presumably they're people meeting up, joining forces which is why we could have people from all sorts of locations. So that's all quite exciting so that's sort of where I've got to at the moment all the isotope evidence does support that they could have come from Scandinavia there's nothing to say that they can't which is great so I personally I'm leaning towards it’s really quite likely that we have the Great Army. Okay but what about the actual site then, what about this Viking camp because also that really matters if we are to interpret this grave and these bones, so we can't, the science can't prove who they are you can give us much more evidence but we can't really prove it but I think that actual grave and the monument and what's happening in that winter camp is really, really important for understanding it. So in part, thanks to a very kind vicar who's letting us come and dig up his garden, allowing us to make a complete mess of it every year, we were able to come in back in 2016 to do some more excavations, to try and see what techniques we can use now that they didn't have in their 70s and 80s to investigate a bit more, so we did some geophysical surveys and just to bring them back again so just to remind you here's St. Wystan’s Church, here are the graves, this is the vicarage and the vicarage garden, so the mounds and the mass grave is up here and then that D-shaped enclosure is thought to have gone down here, so the vicarage garden and the mound is actually outside that, which I think is quite important because we then have to think about how does that relate to the winter camp if that was only inside the D shaped enclosure. So this is another image there, we have been trying to use new technology as we can, so along with a colleague called Henry Webber who's also a PhD student in Bristol, we used a ground-penetrating radar - this is great because it allows us to really see beneath the ground it sends radar signals down into the ground and then it sort of reflects up any changes in the surface and we get this amazing sort of time-lapse going down through the ground. So when we did that we got this, so lots of blobs lots of dark lines, we got very excited about all these blobs here, thinking maybe there could be another building or something like that; plus this very sort of nice straight line, so this is where we started digging. There wasn't a building there, we were quite disappointed to find, but we found all these pebbles spreads and pebble deposits that were clearly laid down; we found what seemed to be a sort of corner that you can see a part of here, which contain various stones including a very large number of broken up quern stones, Anglo-Saxon quern stones there were some pieces of very fine Anglo-Saxon carved sandstone this a probably from a cross shaft, so again this is all evidence of Anglo-Saxon material probably from that monastery, smashed up and used and turned into something else, and I should also mention that exactly the same materials like quern stones and so on were used in building up that mound that the Biddle's excavated, and that curb around it also had exactly the same sort of quern stones, so this is really consistent with that and here's a sort of big area that we were trying to work out what it was, but I think what was very important with some of the artefacts that we found within that and we found some very clear and evidence this is also part of the winter camp. We have ship nails so these are clinker nails, very particular of the Viking shipbuilding. We found fragments of weapons this is an arrowhead and a small fragment the tip of an axe that corresponds exactly to a type of Viking battle axe, lots of other bits of craft activity going on there's lots of slag from metalworking, and this is a woodworking tool and various other sort of metal staples that are found in large numbers of places like York for example, and this is very, very consistent with what they've been finding at places like Torksey, because we've shifted away a little bit from thinking of these as just sort of military strategic areas and actually thinking well, what are they doing, what sort of activities are going on, we know there's a lot of production sites, there's craft going on, manufacture, and we're finding exactly the same thing in Repton which we didn't really know about before. We also found these which I got very excited about, some of you might have seen these before they're tiny little lead objects with these little blobs on top, we have four of those now and they are Viking gaming pieces, and this is really exciting because it's one of the things that we didn't have any from Repton before but they've found in very vast numbers in Torksey, so this corresponds very much to the evidence there. Now the issue though is what that means because if you remember this is the D-shapes if you can just make out here at the church then the enclosure, we're actually down here and we're finding all that winter camp material which is outside that big ditch. This image here that I've shown you is a LIDAR image, this is laser images so looking at the topography basically is what this is showing you, and this gives you a really good idea what's actually happening here. We were sort of on the edge of the river this is the old Trent river, the presumed old course of the river and when we were on this sort of nice little corner this higher piece of ground here, and the church is sort of in the middle and the road goes around across to Willington over here, and I'm wondering if actually the Anglo-Saxon monastery, we don't know much about that we don't know the extent of it perhaps this was all part of the monastery, perhaps when the Viking Great Army came to Repton and they had this sort of nice enclosed site already, most early medieval monasteries had an outer enclosure or vallum, either a ditch a separation so perhaps that was around here and actually this whole area was part of the monastery, and this ditch could have been maybe a sort of initial phase, or it could have been an inner enclosure which is something that been suggested to similar Viking sites and camps elsewhere. So again still ongoing, we're going to go and make more of a mess in the vicar’s garden in the summer and find out hopefully a bit more about the sites again. But just going back to the beginning and what I was talking about this legacy because I think we need to not just focus on that one winter, 873 to 874, according to the annual Saxon Chronicle in 874 the Great Army splits and they leave Repton, part goes north with Halfdan and the other half south with Guthrum and as I said, we do hear that some of them come back to Mercia, but we don't know if they actually come back to Repton at all. We know they installed this sort of puppet king and that they were negotiating with him later on, but we don't really know if any of these Scandinavians or these Vikings settled there. But then we have this picture that I showed you earlier on with these graves so you have these graves that are cut into that mound, so this is a big mound in the landscape; the church is over here burial continued around the church as well but some people were choosing to bury their dead into this mound and why is that? Turns out these people are actually quite different, their coffin types are very different they're wealthier coffins, a lot of them so these ones especially with a G on them were buried with gold so they had very fine embroidery, some had one individual had three of these little golden pendants on the cuffs, these are very much high status items so this looks like it's a slightly different group - it's a high status group, and these are separate from the rest of the graves so why is that? Also some empty graves quite interestingly, so there's evidence there was a grave there but the bones had been removed. In one particular example that was very clear because they had accidentally left one of the feet behind in the grave, so the rest of the skeleton was gone but the foot remained! Which I think also it's quite interesting if you think about that mass grave, one of the questions I often get is but why would they do that why would they take up these bones from another location and move them into a sort of charnel burial chamber like this? Well we've got evidence that they were doing this sort of thing, they were curating these bones and moving them around. So the question is really maybe this was the second and subsequent generation of Scandinavian settlers, maybe they were deliberately choosing that mound if that mound really was the Viking Great Army maybe this was the next generation that they were seeking to associate themselves with that sort of almost like a founding settlement, and if we also look at that grave , just remind you of the juvenile grave was done in the corner here, if you remember that line I showed you on the radar plot earlier on, so just again there's a vicarage that's Martin Biddle’s trench and there's our trench, this orange blob here, we did actually I think we found out what that line was it seems to have been a path, so it's a pebbled path that’s about a metre wide and it went all the way across the trench there, so very thin and if you look at how its lined up it goes from down here somewhere and then it goes right up here and then it aligns almost perfectly with a side of that juvenile grave which had this big marker stone and the entrance to the charnel was on this side as well, and I was very, very excited about this as well because I think if we try to interpret what that grave means and what that marker might have held, and we have this path going into the charnel and into that deposit, then that's telling us that somebody was marking this mound; they're making a very deliberate statement about who was in here and why they were buried there, and my sort of ongoing research is looking very much at that sort of continuing legacy trying to work out what happened next, who were these people and what were they trying to say by picking up bones of nearly 300 people and burying them in a mound, and I think that was very much a sort of territorial claim as well, saying okay well actually we, this is ours now and we're here to stay. So that brings me to the end and just the sort of main conclusions that I've got from this is first of all that the charnel is consistent with a single 9th century deposit, so we can now fully support this idea that it could have been the Viking Great Army, what we know about them is that they’re are very mixed, very disparate origins they're not a group of Danes, sort of a group of Norwegians, not that those terms really meant very much at the time anyway, and we also know that there's winter camp extended beyond that D-shape and they had craft production, we think that whole pebble strength might have been some kind of a workshop because there's a lot of evidence for iron are working for example, so if you imagine you're camping out for a winter in very wet and muddy conditions it makes sense to use gravel as a sort of surface for whatever it is you are doing; and I really do think that there is a likely ongoing Scandinavian presence, I don't think it's just a matter of the Vikings upping sticks and moving never to return. We have other evidence like this, this is a hogback tombstone which is a typical sort of Anglo-Scandinavian type of artefact from the early 10th century, one of those was found near the church as well and again, this could be more evidence that there is a group with a very distinct sort of Scandinavian or Viking identity, but hopefully we go back in the summer and we'll find out more about this or we might completely change what I'm thinking about - I'll have to come back and give another lecture next year and let you know! So just finally, I just want to say thank you to all the people who've helped fund me and so on and the wonderful people in Repton and they say well you're here today very much appreciate everyone's help and yeah if you've got any question feel free to ask. Thank you [Applause]
In 873 the Viking Great Army attacked the monastery in Repton, forcing the Mercian king to flee the country and installing a puppet king in his place. 1100 years later, excavations uncovered a large defensive ditch, several distinctly Scandinavian graves, and a mound containing the remains of nearly 300 people. This talk presents new scientific analyses of the burials at Repton, bringing us closer to uncovering the identities of those buried there. In addition, results of new excavations have provided a better understanding of the Viking winter camp. Put together, this new evidence allows for a reassessment of the Viking presence in Repton and the legacy the Great Army left behind.
Wednesday 28 February 2018
- Viking Talks