Incredible discovery of oldest remains of English royals
Archeologists have discovered the remains of English royalty dating back 1000 years - the oldest find of its kind and shedding new light on the history of the Royal Family.
The unearthing of Queen Eadgyth, who died aged 36 in 946AD, represents one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in recent years. Researchers had believed the remains belonged to Eadgyth (Edith in modern English), the great granddaughter of Alfred the Great, but could not prove it. However, thanks to the use of hi-tech radioactive analysis of the remains, researchers were able to confirm that the bones belonged to someone who grew up in Wessex before moving to Germany.
Leading the project, Professor Harald Meller said: “Medieval bones were moved frequently, and often mixed up, so it required some exceptional science to prove that they are indeed those of Eadgyth.
“It is incredible that we have been able to do this using the most recent analytical techniques.”
Her remains were initially thought to have been lost when they were moved in 1510.
Many thought a monument built in Magdeburg Cathedral in eastern Germany, was a cenotaph in her honour.
And when the tomb was investigated as part of a wider research project, a lead coffin was found inside bearing her name and inside that the nearly complete skeleton of a woman aged between 30 and 40.
The University of Bristol then carried out tests on the bones in 2008 to prove beyond doubt they are those of England's oldest regal ancestor.
The crucial scientific evidence came from the teeth preserved in the upper jaw.
Eadgyth was the granddaughter of Alfred the Great and the half sister of Athelstan, the first acknowledged King of England.
She was sent to marry Otto, the king of Saxony in AD 929, and bore him at least two children, before her death at around the age of 36.
She lived most of her married life at Magdeburg, where the cenotaph is located.
Dr Alistair Pike, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University, explained: “Strontium isotopes on tiny samples of tooth enamel have been measured.
"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.”
Mark Horton, Professor in Archaeology at Bristol University, added that it was "incredibly exciting" to confirm that the bones were the princess's and to find out more about her life.
Mr Horton continued: "This period was when England was really formed. "We don't know much about these dark age queens and princesses.
"This has created a connection with one of them.
“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 ten at that point – both were banished to a monastery, maybe Winchester or Wilton in Salisbury."