Archaeologists prepare to dig up Alfred the Great and Henry I's graves

London, Feb 6 (ANI): After exhuming King Richard III's skeleton from a car park in Leicester, scientists are now turning their attention to an even earlier king - Alfred the Great.

A team of archaeologists and researchers are applying for permission to dig up the unmarked grave where the bones of the Anglo-Saxon king, who ruled from 871 until 899, are thought to lie, the Daily Mail reported.

The Rev Canon Cliff Bannister, the Rector of St Bartholomew's, where the bones are thought to be buried, as well as the archaeologists and the researchers, reckon they have evidence that the bones could be those of Alfred.

The bones - which include five skulls plus other bones - are part of a collection that was bought by a 19th-century vicar for the princely sum of 10 shillings.

Katie Tucker, an osteologist and archaeologist from the University of Winchester, will be leading the analysis.

"The most simple part will be to work out ages, sexes, and put the bones back together," she told The Times.

The first task for the team will be to radiocarbon date the bones. The only other bodies buried in what was Hyde Abbey are those of monks - who didn't arrive until the 12th century.

It is thought the grave could hold the bones of Alfred after a possible earlier burial of the king under the nearby ruined Hyde Abbey was dug up in the 19th century.

The University of Winchester is seeking permission from a diocesan advisory panel of the Church of England which will consult English Heritage and a judge will make a final decision.

Dr Tucker explained that it is not known if the bones of the king were disturbed when Hyde Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in the 1530s.

Since then there have been several digs at the site. Bones exhumed in the 19th century were put on display in Winchester in the 19th century before they were buried in the unmarked grave at the church.

German scientists have analysed the skeleton of Alfred's granddaughter in Magdeburg, Germany to try and get DNA but that has proved unsuccessful, Dr Tucker said, so experts will rely on radiocarbon dating to get proof.

And if Richard III and Alfred the Great were not enough lost kings to be going on with, an MP has raised the possibility of finding a third lost monarch: Henry I.

Nearly 900 years ago the body of King Henry I was laid to rest in Reading Abbey. Yet, in the tumultuous time since his internment, in 1136, his tomb has been destroyed and no trace remains of what happened to his body.

Local MP Rob Wilson, whose interest was raised when Richard III's bones were found in Leicestershire last year, wonders what similar exploration would reveal in the Abbey's ruins.

Henry, born around 1068, was the fourth son of William the Conqueror and succeeded his brother William II to the English throne.

He centralised the administration of England and Normandy in the Royal Court and was believed to be the first Norman monarch to speak fluent English. (ANI)


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