11th century Anglo-Saxons had a violent and gruesome justice system

January 1st, 2008 - 3:01 pm ICT by admin  

London, Jan 1 (ANI): Latest archaeological techniques used on headless bodies found in a Yorkshire cemetery in UK, has led researchers to suggest that the system of justice carried out by the Anglo-Saxons was quite violent and gruesome.

According to the Yorkshire Post, the dozen skeletons 10 without their heads were discovered by archaeologists in the late 1960s in a Bronze Age barrow at Walkington Wold, sparking theories that it was the site of a massacre, a series of executions or even a Celtic head cult.

But re-evaluation by Jo Buckberry from Bradford University and Dawn Hadley from Sheffield University using radiocarbon dating has confirmed that the site was an execution cemetery, maybe used for as long as 200 years. In fact, the researchers place the cemetery at a date in the early 11th century, several centuries later than originally thought.

For the study, the bones of the men were subjected to a fresh examination as part of the study.

Evidence of a “botched decapitation” was found in one case where a young male, aged between 18 and 25 had suffered three blows to the back of his skull, probably when he was bent over with his head resting on his chest.

Three or four others suffered sharp force trauma to the back of the head/neck region that is consistent with the use of a large bladed weapon, for example an axe or a sword.

Two suffered from cuts to the front of the neck, which can be interpreted as blood-letting, throat slitting or decapitation from the front.

The viciousness of the executions was evident after the findings revealed some skulls found without their jaws, suggesting they were displayed on poles. This possibility might be true as Anglo Saxon records refer to head stakes or “heafod stokkan” as a warning to other inhabitants.

According to Hadley, “The Anglo-Saxons seem to prefer to bury their executed dead at the limits away from settlement.”

“There is no record about who ends up being decapitated or hanged; I suppose one has to assume they are the worst kind of criminals, she added.

The research suggests that the men would have been tried by a court, their execution excluding burial in consecrated ground.

As for the location of the killings, Rod Mackey, who first excavated the site along with John Bartlett between 1967 and 1969, believes that the men were taken just outside the parish boundary to be killed.

“It was on the side of the road and on an obvious hill; an obvious place to put a gibbet or gallows right by the roadside where people would be warned, Mackey told the Yorkshire Post. (ANI)

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