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New study identifies the likely burials of up to 65 British Kings

A new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland has identified the likely burials of up to 65 British Kings and senior royals from the Dark Age.

Prior to the study, only one post-Roman burial of an indigenous British monarch from the Dark Ages has been identified (although nine Anglo-Saxon royal graves have been found on previous excavations).

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Archaeologists now suggest that 20 probable royal burial complexes each containing up to five graves (with a further 11 burial complexes under consideration) have been identified that appear to date from the fifth and sixth centuries AD.

During this period, the east and south of England was carved up into dozens of small kingdoms after the collapse of Roman Britain, ruled by Anglo-Saxon kings of fully or partially Germanic origin. In the west and the north, post-Roman royal dynasties emerged of mainly Celtic indigenous British or Irish-originating dynastic origins.

The study has been led by Professor Ken Dark of the University of Reading and Spain’s University of Navarra, proposing that sites identified in Wales, Cornwall, Devon and Somerset contain indigenous high-status royal burials associated with the British kingdoms of Gwynedd (north-west Wales), Dyfed (south-west Wales), Powys (central east Wales), Brycheiniog (modern Breckonshire) and Dumnonia (now south-west England).

The researchers compared these previously excavated sites with royal burials in Ireland and noted that the British sites mostly have a rectangular or square ditched enclosure, with many appearing to have had entry gates and access causeways protected by fences or palisades.

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The burials were found over several decades, but archaeologists never realised their probable royal status until Professor Dark’s newly published research, although the names of the individuals buried are still yet to be discovered.

Among the most important burials are of those identified in Caernarfon and Anglesey (in North Wales) and the famous site of Tintagel in Cornwall that has associated claims to the legendary King Arthur.

Professor Dark told the Independent: “Before this work, we were completely unaware of the large number of probable royal graves surviving from post-Roman western Britain. Ongoing investigations are likely to help change our understanding of important aspects of this crucial period of British history.”

Header Image – Tintagel – Image Credit : chrisdorney – Shutterstock

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 8,000 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, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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