History, as Written by the Victors

Historical Revelation of the Week:
August 2011 Oxford, England

Unearthed January 2008:
Grave Site

35 male skeletons, aged 16 to 25

Historical Importance:
So, who were all these corpses?

“The bodies buried at Oxford were those of vigorous males of fighting age, most between 16 and 35 years old. Most were unusually large; an examination of the muscle-attachment areas of their bones revealed extremely robust physiques. Some victims had suffered serious burns to their heads, backs, pelvic regions and arms.”

That just might be a good way to tell if you may have found a Viking burial site. However, that wasn’t a good day to be a Viking.

While most stories may paint the most brutal picutures of these northern warriers, don’t be fooled. Remember, when Einstein said everything is relative, he meant it. What the English, or Anglo Saxons did to the Vikings in their own turn was equally atrocious. History is written by the winners and England is not called Vikingland. Keep reading to find out how this one discovery shows how true this is.

“It was obvious at the time of excavation that many of the skulls had been fractured or crushed, but after piecing these skulls back together, she found that many of them were covered in blade and puncture wounds mostly to the back of the head.”

I particularly love it when we find physical evidence of old legends and lift them off the page, even if they be gruesome…

“It is possible that the Oxford skeletons were victims of an event called the St Brice’s Day Massacre, recorded in a number of historical sources.

In AD 1002, the Saxon king Ethelred the Unready recorded in a charter that he ordered ‘a most just extermination’ of all the Danes in England.

He made the decision after he was told of a Danish plot to assassinate him.”

And this too, is very interesting for a number of reasons. Read on and I will tell you why.

“The charter also recorded how on that day, the Danes in Oxford fled to St Fridewides church expecting to find refuge, but instead were pursued by the townspeople, who then set the church on fire.”

Vikings seeking refuge in a church? They get burned out by the English locals? On how many occasions were Vikings and other Scandinavian peoples accused of doing the same thing? Many! In fact, I think that was the favorite accusation of the Vikings from their victims. Funny how the people who accused Norse the most of sacrilegious acts burn a church at the first word of their king.

And that’s all England had in Vikings for 2011. Next week we are on to Ireland.


This post is part of the January is Viking Month blog series. To read the next post, Here there be Vikings, Not Just Legends, click here. To see the series page click here.

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