Legendary 'Heathen Army' of 250 Viking Skeletons Found in England

Friday, 02 February 2018 - 11:07AM
Friday, 02 February 2018 - 11:07AM
Legendary 'Heathen Army' of 250 Viking Skeletons Found in England
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There are tales of a 'large heathen army' of Vikings that played a crucial part in creating England as they hacked and slashed their way across the country in 866AD, murdering kings without discretion until they were eventually stopped by Alfred the Great.

For years, this army was little more than legend. That was before researchers carbon dated the bones of at least 264 people found buried in a mount at a church yard during the '70s and '80s.

Some of the skeletons showed signs of violence, suggesting further that they came to rest there after an intense battle, suggesting the bones did, in fact, belong to the invading Scandinavian warriors who formed an alliance to invade England all those years ago.

Archeologists at the time thought the grave to its side, containing four child skeletons that showed signs of traumatic injury, were sacrificial killings to accompany the Vikings.

"Archaeological evidence for the Viking Great Army that invaded England in AD 865 is focused particularly on the area around St Wystan's church at Repton in Derbyshire," explains the new study.

"Large numbers of burials excavated here in the 1980s have been attributed to the overwintering of the Great Army in AD 873–874. Many of the remains were deposited in a charnel, while others were buried in graves with Scandinavian-style grave goods. Although numismatic evidence corroborated the belief that these were the remains of the Great Army, radiocarbon results have tended to disagree. Recent re-dating of the remains, applying the appropriate marine reservoir correction, has clarified the relationship between the interments, and has resolved the previous uncertainty."

This initial uncertainty occurred because radiocarbon dating suggested the bones belonged to people over the course of several centuries and not the Vikings.


"The previous radiocarbon dates from this site were all affected by something called marine reservoir effects, which is what made them seem too old," explained lead study author Catrine L. Jarman. "When we eat fish or other marine foods, we incorporate carbon into our bones that is much older than in terrestrial foods. This confuses radiocarbon dates from archaeological bone material and we need to correct for it by estimating how much seafood each individual ate."

Last month, archeologists unearthed a treasure trove of pre-Viking artifacts from Norway's melting glaciers, which were preserved in the ice before climate change eventually melted them down. Scientists also recently discovered a bizarre circle of skeletons with interlocking arms in Mexico that remains unexplained, although they were likely buried this way in accordance with some ancient ritual