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First, Richard III; Now, they want to dig up Alfred the Great

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The identification of King Richard III's skeleton after being exhumed from a car park in Leicester has excited interests among scientists who have turned their attentions to exhuming an even earlier king - Alfred the Great.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Archaeologists and researchers are now applying for permission to dig up the unmarked grave where the bones of the Anglo-Saxon king, who ruled from 871 until 899, are believed to be buried.

The Rev Canon Cliff Bannister, the Rector of St Bartholomew's, where the bones are thought to be buried feels that they have evidence that the bones could be those of Alfred.

Five skulls plus other bones are part of a collection that was bought by a 19th-century vicar for the princely sum of 10 shillings.

Archaeologist Katie Tucker from the University of Winchester will be leading the analysis. "The simplest part will be to work out ages, sexes, and put the bones back together."

Alfred was the youngest son of King Ęthelwulf of Wessex, by his first wife, Osburh. In 853 A.D., at the age of four, Alfred is said to have been sent to Rome where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV who "anointed him as king."

He united areas of the country and defeated the Danes in several battles before reforming the country and laying the foundations of a more modern state. While regarded as a saint by some Catholics, but an attempt by King Henry VI in 1441 to get him canonized was unsuccessful.

However, the Anglican Communion venerates him as a Christian hero, with a feast day of 26 October.

The team will first radiocarbon date the bones. The only other bodies buried in what was Hyde Abbey are those of monks, who didn't arrive until the 12th century.

The grave is believed to hold the bones of Alfred after a possible earlier burial of the king under the nearby ruined Hyde Abbey was dug up in the 19th century.

The University of Winchester is seeking permission from a diocesan advisory panel of the Church of England. The panel will consult English Heritage with a judge making a final decision.

Tucker explained that it is not known if the bones of the king were disturbed when Hyde Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in the 1530s.

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