Unearthed remains may be those of a knight who jousted

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The bone injuries identified on the remains of this man suggest he may have been a knight who suffered breaks on his right side as a result of jousting. Photo: Headland Archaeology Ltd
The bone injuries identified on the remains of this man suggest he may have been a knight who suffered breaks along his right side as a result of jousting. Photo: Headland Archaeology Ltd

Archaeologists who unearthed the bones of more than 700 individuals at England’s Hereford Cathedral suspect one of them may have been a medieval knight, complete with jousting injuries.

A detailed study of their bones, recovered in excavations undertaken between 2009 and 2011, have produced exciting glimpses into life, disease, accident and injury from the 11th-century Norman Conquest through to the 19th century.

However, in some cases individuals stood out more than others, such as the burial of a leper, or a woman with a severed hand.

But it is the discovery of the possible knight that has ignited the most interest.

He had many fractures, but all to the ribs and the shoulder on his right side.

Some of these had healed while others had not, showing they were caused on more than one occasion.

The injuries indicated that he had not recovered from his latest wounds at the time of his death.

He had an unusual twisting break to his left lower leg.

The wounds are all considered consistent with those sustained through jousting contests.

Analysis of his teeth indicates he was most likely brought up in Normandy and moved to Hereford later in life.

Headland Archaeology’s lead archaeologist, Andy Boucher, who managed the post excavation work, said: “Obviously, we can never be sure how people came about their wounds, but in this case there is a considerable amount of evidence suggesting this man was involved in some form of violent activity and the locations of his injuries do match quite closely what might be expected from taking part in mock battles.

“The fact that he was still doing this after he was 45 suggests he must have been very tough.”

The man story’s was explored in a two-page spread in the February edition of the BBC’s History¬†magazine titled “Into the bloody world of the medieval tournament”.

Hereford Cathedral was built in the early 12th century. The man’s burial site is partially stone-lined, and was in an area used for burials in the late medieval period, between 1100 and 1300.

Jousting tournaments were based on melees, where knights would fight as individuals or in teams, either on horse or on foot. They were treated like real battles, and were organised for the knights to practice their horsemanship and lance skills.

Headland Archaeology is nearing the end of its Heritage Lottery-funded work at the cathedral.

The company’s team is currently working on the publication of the results of its work.

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