Scientists to unravel centuries-old mystery of King Canute

23/12/12 .-

Scientists to unravel centuries-old mystery of King Canute as they examine skeletal remains.

Bristol University archeologists to examine remains at Winchester Cathedral.
King Canute and his family's remains scattered during English Civil War.
The bones were gathered and placed in six caskets

A centuries-old mystery surrounding the bones of King Canute could soon be solved by forensic experts.

They are to examine the skeletal remains of Anglo-Saxon royalty that have lain in wooden ‘mortuary chests’ at Winchester Cathedral for more than 350 years.

Canute, the 11th Century king who famously tried to command the tides, was buried in the cathedral but his remains and those of his family were scattered when Roundheads ransacked it during the English Civil War.

The remains of Canute, Queen Emma and their son Harthacanute, along with other kings, including Egbert, Ethelwulf and the Norman King William Rufus, were gathered up and placed in six caskets.

But identifying and separating the jumbled bones has proved impossible for historians.

The chests have been placed in the Lady Chapel to allow researchers to begin examinations without removing them from consecrated ground.

Church leaders have applied for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to finance the project.

Bristol University archaeologists will use the latest DNA techniques, with team leader Professor Mark Horton saying: ‘The preliminary findings are very exciting.’

It is thought Prof Horton’s team will use DNA evidence gathered in the recent discovery of the skeleton of Queen Eadgyth to help identify the bones.

The 10th Century Queen, wife of Otto of Saxony, was related by blood to some of the kings, including her great-grandfather Ethelwulf.

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