Tuesday, December 01, 2009

New evidence found about the Battle of Fulford

The discovery of over a thousand pieces of iron, including arrowheads and axe heads, may provide valuable new details about the Battle of Fulford, which was fought between a Viking and Anglo-Saxon army in 1066.

The battle was won by the Norse forces led by the Norwegian king Harold Hardrada on September 20, 1066. Historians and archaeologists have now evidence that the Vikings spent the next few days setting up hearths to reprocess metal left over from the battle. Their efforts came to a sudden halt when the Vikings were decisively defeated by the English king Harold Godwinson five days later at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

"We always knew that it would be very difficult to locate the precise site of this ancient battle" said Charles Jones, who leads the research project at Fulford. "Medieval battles were brief events and, compared with later conflict, were modest in size; but there were probably between 10 and 15 thousand warriors at Fulford. What we are finding suggests that the victors systematically cleared the site of the items that would help modern searchers like us to identify this forgotten battle. We have been very fortunate at Fulford. If, as I expect, it turns out that this recycling work was interrupted by the arrival of King Harold with another army, then our hearth-finds might also explain why the site at Hastings has not yielded a single weapon fragment."

King Harold’s army annihilated the invaders and the written sources suggest that only 1 in 10 returned to Norway. Charles Jones continued "So the metal workers had only done a few days recycling work before they were either killed or driven out of England. This was unfinished business, interrupted by King Harold’s arrival."

"These finds are particularly exciting because they confirm the work that we have done by drilling over 100 holes to plot the landscape of the Battle of Fulford. What we found when we reconstructed the surface on which the battle was fought in 1066 was that it not only fitted the one detailed account of the battle from the Nordic sources extremely well, but actually allowed us to make better sense of the description of events in the saga than the modern landscape which has been changed by the regular flooding. These physical finds leave very little room for doubt that we have identified a missing piece of our history - the site of the Battle of Fulford."

According to the York Press, the finds are currently undergoing X-ray fluorescence examination at the University of York’s Department of Archaeology.

“The X-ray fluorescence allows the precise metal composition to be determined and this will help eliminate modern iron alloys and match related pieces of metal,” Jones added.

The site of the battle of Fulford is not fully accessible to archaeologists, as a developer who wants to build 700 homes in the area is blocking access to lands they own. Charles Jones and other members of the research project are campaigning to prevent the housing development from proceeding, and hope to protect the site of the battle of Fulford for its historical importance.