Grave mistake over king’s lost bones

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The bones of King Alfred the Great or his son, Edward the Elder, are believed to have been found in a box stored in a museum – and not buried in an unmarked grave.

Archaeologists carried out an exhumation of the grave at St Bartholomew’s Church in Winchester last March in a bid to find the last resting place of the 9th-century king.

Tests have shown that those remains were not the influential warrior king but further investigations have uncovered a pelvis bone which had been in storage at Winchester City Museum from a previous excavation carried out at the end of the 1990s.

Carbon dating has shown that this bone dates back to 895-1017, which scientists from the University of Winchester believe ties in with the death of the two kings and is unlikely to have come from anyone apart from the father or the son.

Dr Katie Tucker, researcher in human osteology at the University of Winchester, said she had been disappointed when the exhumed bones turned out to be much later than Alfred’s time – the earliest of six partial skeletons found dated back to about 1100 – but said the subsequent find was an “amazing” discovery.

According to historical records, when King Alfred died in 899, he was interred at the Anglo-Saxon cathedral in Winchester, known as the Old Minster, and his bones were later moved by monks to New Minster and then Hyde Abbey, still in Winchester.

Hyde Abbey was dismantled after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century and the bodies buried on the site are believed to have been “scattered” when a prison workhouse was built there in 1788.