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Ancient skeleton sheds light on Welsh history; BURIAL FIND OFFERS HISTORIANS CLUES ABOUT LIFE IN MIDDLE AGES.

Byline: RACHAEL MISSTEAR West Wales Editor rachael.misstear@walesonline.co.uk

LYING crookedly in a shallow grave, its bones have existed undiscovered for more than 1,000 years.

But the discovery of this ancient skeleton could shed new light on the history of the Vikings in Wales.

Wales. THE The unearthing of the skeleton at Llanbedrgoch on Anglesey has given historians important new clues on the impact of both Anglo-Saxons and Vikings operating around the Irish Sea.

Archaeologists from the National Museum Wales said the burial find is an unexpected addition to a group of five - two adolescents, two adult males and one woman - discovered in 1998-99.

Originally thought to be victims of Viking raiding, which began in the 850s, this interpretation is now being revised. THE VIKINGS the Irish Sea small sea-bands at eighth Over the ninth and they established significant and settled across the region: in andWestern Scotland, Galloway, coastal areas Mastery routes in very important Irish Sea the most these routes seaway with a settlement which, in overland to city of York. Viking route the Island and the Wales were strategic The unusual non-Christian positioning of the body, and its treatment, point to distinctions being made in the burial practices for Christians and other communities during the 10th century.

Analysis of the bones by Dr Katie Hemer of Sheffield University indicates that the males were not local to Anglesey, but may have spent their early years - at least up to the age of seven - in North West Scotland or Scandinavia.

Given the significance seaways Anglesey, widespread Viking Irish Sea would be if there had such settlement Wales. nativeWelsh does suggest forces over parts of Wales.

"The new burial will provide important additional evidence to shed light on the context of their unceremonious burial in shallow graves outside the elite fortified settlement in the later 10th century," said Dr Hemer. The recent excavations also suggest the presence of a warrior elite thanks to the discovery of seventhcentury silver and bronze fittings on Source: Wales and swords and scabbards. They suggest the recycling of military equipment during the period of rivalry and campaigning between the kingdoms.

AND VIKINGS first came to region in borne raiding end of the course of the 10th centuries According to history, the borderlands between the Welsh and English were a target for Northumbrian intervention between AD610 and the 650s. The Northumbrian king Edwin subjugated Anglesey and Man, until Cadwallon in alliance with Penda of Mercia invaded England and killed Edwin in AD 633, to rule north-east Wales and Northumbria for a year.

power bases in locations Irish Sea Northern Isles of Isle of Man, The Llanbedrgoch Cumbria and of Ireland. maritime region was for the VIKINGS. Perhaps important of was the Dublin Viking the Wirral connected the Viking This busy meant that Anglesey of North of immense significance. site, considered one of the most intriguing settlement complexes belonging to this period, has been the subject of 10 summer seasons of fieldwork by the museum's Department of Archaeology and Numismatics.

strategic of the "The results have changed our perception of Wales in the Viking period," said museum spokeswoman Lleucu Cooke. "The site was discovered in 1994 after a number of metal detector finds had been brought to the museum for identification."

the nature of in the then it surprising been no within from sources that Viking wintered in Dave Wyatt, Normans. " These included an Anglo-Saxon penny of Cynethryth, struck in AD 787-792, a penny of Wulfred of Canterbury, struck around AD 810, ninth century Carolingian deniers of Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald, and three lead weights of Viking type.

Past excavations by the department, between 1994 and 2001, revealed much about the development of this important trading centre during the late 9th and 10th centuries, but the development of the site during the preceding period had remained less clear.

Excavation director and acting keeper of archaeology, Dr Mark Redknap, said the recent finds have revealed valuable new data on the pre-Viking development of the site.

"The 2012 excavations have revealed not only surprises such as the additional burial, bringing with it important additional evidence on this unusual grave cluster, but also valuable new data on the pre-Viking development of the site.

"Beneath a section of its 2.2m wide stone rampart, constructed in the 9th century, our team of students and volunteers uncovered an earlier buried land surface and a number of ditches, over which an early medieval midden full of food refuse along with some discarded objects had formed.

"Other finds from the excavation, which include semi-worked silver, silver casting waste and a fragment of an Islamic silver coin (exchanged via trade routes out of central Asia to Scandinavia and beyond), confirm Llanbedrgoch's importance during the 10th century as a place for the manufacture and trade of commodities."

WALES AND THE VIKINGS THE Vikings first came to the Irish Sea region in small sea-borne raiding bands at the end of the eighth century.

Over the course of the ninth and 10th centuries they established significant power bases and settled in locations across the Irish Sea region: in the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland, the Isle of Man, Galloway, Cumbria and coastal areas of Ireland.

Mastery of maritime routes in the region was very important for the Irish Sea Vikings. Perhaps the most important of these routes was the seaway linking Dublin with a significant Viking settlement in the Wirral which, in turn, connected overland to the Viking city of York. This busy Viking route meant that the Island of Anglesey and the coasts of North Wales were of immense strategic significance.

Given the strategic significance of the seaways around Anglesey, and the widespread nature of Viking settlement in the Irish Sea region, then it would be very surprising if there had been no such settlement within Wales. Evidence from native Welsh sources does suggest that Viking forces over wintered in parts of Wales.

Source: Dr Dave Wyatt, Wales and the Normans.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 25, 2012
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