Anglo-Saxon Woman Mutilated as Punishment

Archaeologists conducting research at Oakridge in Basingstoke, England have revealed that the remains of an Anglo-Saxon woman excavated during the 1960’s was severely mutilated, which most likely resulted in her death.

Researchers from the University College London, and a team of archaeologists and scientists from around the UK have analysed the skull which had the nose and lips cut off, with evidence that she may have also been scalped.

The act may have been conducted according to laws that punish individuals accused of heinous offences, in addition to adulteresses and thieving slaves.

King Cnut’s (AD 1016–1035) second law code calls for the removal of the eyes, nose, ears, upper lip and scalp for a ‘greater crime’ than theft. It also stipulates the removal of the nose and ears in the case of a woman accused of adultery. Additionally, King Edmund’s (AD 921–946) third law code, lists scourging, removal of the scalp and mutilation of the little finger in combination as the penalty for thieving slaves.

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According to a report published in the Journal Antiquity, “This case appears to be the first archaeological example of this particularly brutal form of facial disfigurement known from Anglo-Saxon England.”

Radiocarbon dating of the skull suggests the remains dates from around AD 776 to AD 899, with the woman’s age being estimated to 15-18 years old. The skull also shows no signs of healing, suggesting that she died shortly after injuries where inflicted.


Header Image Credit : Antiquity

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is an award winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education and the BCA Medal of Honour.

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