Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Proving that you never really can run away from home

Your DNA will be used against you!
The granddaughter of Alfred the Great came back to England yesterday – or at least fragments of a body returned, more than 1,000 years after the Wessex princess was packed off by her brother as a diplomatic gift to a Saxon king.

Tests in Bristol are expected to provide further proof that Eadgyth (roughly pronounced Edith) was indeed the woman found wrapped in silk and sealed in a lead coffin, inside a magnificent stone sarcophagus at Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany.

[snip]

"We know she was reburied," Horton said, "but the sarcophagus could have held nothing at all, or a few bits and pieces scooped up from roughly the area of her original grave. Instead we have the remains of one woman, of the right age. The smoking gun is what the tests tell us of where she came from." He hopes isotope tests on enamel from her teeth, and tests on bone fragments, will reveal a woman born and brought up in Wessex and Mercia, where her family moved between different palaces and strongholds. The water drunk or contained in food eaten in childhood laid distinctive traces which last for life and centuries beyond. Scientists will be measuring the bone and teeth fragments looking for strontium and oxygen isotopes which if strong enough should locate precisely the princess's first years.

The sarcophagus also held soil fragments and beetles, all being studied with the silk and the coffin itself by scientists, archaeologists and art historians, hoping to tease out more details of Eadgyth's history in life and death. Initial results are being presented at an international conference at Bristol University today.

Eadgyth's bones are believed to have been moved at least once before being reinterred in Magdeburg Cathedral in 1510.

6 comments:

Julianna Lees said...

How exciting! I'd love to see the silk that Eadgyth was wrapped in. I wonder if it was of Sassanian style, as so often with these early textiles.

Julianna

ellroon said...

Clicked on your name and found you've done a lot of research in this area. Sounds utterly delightful and I'm envious.

Off to google Sassanian....

Ali said...

I love the Guardian for fascinating pieces like that.

ellroon said...

Me too. Southern California history is boring... Ooo! Look! This building was built waaaay back in 1927! This melting pile of clay was actually a mission! I think we may have found an arrowhead! (I should drag out the old joke about the only thing we preserve well in So Cal are our Hollywood stars.... but I won't.)

Ali said...

ah, good thing you didn't...

ellroon said...

But then again...