Archaeology horror: Mutilated skull discovery paints dark picture of ancient Britain | World | News


The female teenager’s nose and lips were cut off over 1,100 years ago, according to new analysis. Her life came to an end in early medieval England in Oakridge near Basingstoke. The skull was initially discovered in the Sixties during excavations prior to the development of a housing development.

However, scientists didn’t analyse the skull at the time, and it is unclear whether the teenager’s skeleton was ever found.

The remains were instead placed in a museum, and the skull was rediscovered during a recent audit of the collection.

Garrard Cole, an honorary research fellow at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, involved with the study told of the researchers’ shock at finding the skull in such a battered condition.

He told LiveScience: “We can only speculate as to what happened in this instance, but the highly formalised nature of the woman’s injuries suggest penalties for specific actions, such as sexual deviancy, or at least a perception of such.”

It is unclear why the young woman’s face was mutilated.

If her wounds were a punishment, then she is the earliest person on record in Anglo-Saxon England to receive the brutal punishment of facial disfiguration.

The analysis also showed that she may have been scalped with a sharp weapon.

Despite not knowing much about her, tests have revealed crucial details as to who she might have been.

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Also assessed were the skull’s wounds.

The most severe damage was found around the nose and mouth.

Mr Cole said: “There were at least two cuts through the bone marking the side of the nasal aperture and the bone between the nose and the upper front teeth.

“Both wounds seem to have been made by a sharp, thin-bladed weapon.

“In the Anglo-Saxon period (410 to 1066 AD), this is most likely to have been an iron knife.

“The other sharp-bladed weapon — the sword — would be too heavy and massive.”

The researchers also noticed a shallow cut across the teenager’s forehead.

This, Mr Cole said, was “interpreted as evidence for hair removal”.

The researchers wrote that the teenager likely didn’t survive the traumatic event, as the edges of the wounds show no signs of healing.

Even if her lips and scalp had been left alone, “the injury to the individual’s nose could have been sufficient to cause her death, as the wound would probably have damaged the network of arteries in the back of her nose”.

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