Skip to comments.Skeleton of Amazon warrior discovered
Posted on 05/26/2011 5:30:06 PM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
THE discovery of the remains of an aristocratic Scottish "Amazon", killed in battle during the Wars of Independence, is set to rewrite the history books.
Her skeleton was among the remains of five "high status" individuals - all of whom had suffered violent deaths - found beneath the paved floor of the "lost" Royal Chapel at Stirling Castle.
The woman - simply known as "skeleton 539" - was a robust and muscular female, standing 5ft 4in tall. Archaeologists had previously suspected she had been a courtier at the Royal palace during the reign of Alexander 11. But detailed forensic tests have now shown that she was ruthlessly killed by a warhammer during one of the key conflicts during the Wars of Independence.
She could have stood with Robert Bruce in the historic victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 or with William Wallace at the Scottish triumph at Stirling Bridge in 1297.
And Historic Scotland has now used 3D facial reconstruction technology to bring the mysterious female "warrior" and a medieval knight found buried beside her back to life as part of a new exhibition linked to the refurbishment of the castle's Renaissance palace.
Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland's head of cultural heritage, said yesterday that the new discoveries about the grim fate of the lady and the four other skeletons found beneath the royal chapel were remarkable.
He said: "This discovery is unique in Scottish archaeology. And it opens up a new area of understanding of gender roles in battle."
He added: "It is extraordinary to find a group of individuals from the 1300s who are all exhibiting terrible wounds from death in battle. But then to find a woman among the group allows us to speculate on matters that otherwise we wouldn't have been able to imagine.
"Radio carbon dating places her death firmly within the period of the Wars of Independence - the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. And throughout that period there were also ten sieges when the castle changed hands between the Scots and English. This is exactly the period when the women lived and when she died. And we have specific evidence of her death in battle.
"The detailed analysis of her remains has given us a very clear of idea of her life - the fact that she was almost certainly a high status individual - and how she came to very sticky end."
According to the detailed forensic tests, skeleton 539 was a female, aged between 36 band 45 who died between 1270 and 1324. And she sustained several injuries to her skull at the time she died.
Mr Yeoman said: "She was brought down with terrible blows to the right-hand side of her head from an assailant who was above her, possibly on horseback.
"She was then finished off by somebody wielding a warhammer with a spike on the end of the it which was used to put two awful blows to the top her skull and undoubtedly killed her, piercing through to her brain. We have even found a match of the weapon which finished her off."
Richard Strachan, Historic Scotland's senior archaeologist, said: "The skeletons were a remarkable find and provided an incredibly rare opportunity to learn more about life and death in medieval Scotland.
"It was unusual for people to be buried under the floor of a royal chapel and we suspected that they must have been pretty important people who died during periods of emergency - perhaps during the many sieges.
"The fact that five of the skeletons suffered broken bones, consistent with beatings or battle trauma, suggests this could be what happened."
The history books have only recorded one female as playing a principal role in battle during the Wars of Independence. She was "Black Agnes" the Countess of Dunbar and the daughter of Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray a close ally of Robert the Bruce.
In 1337, while her husband was fighting in the North, "Black Agnes", below, led the historic defence of Dunbar Castle against an English siege, outraging their leader, the Earl of Salisbury, when she refused to surrender.
For months the Countess and her small force held out against the English army, walking the battlements in defiance as the massive stones from the English siege engines battered the castle walls around her.
Agnes and her ladies even dusted the damaged walls where they had been hit with white handkerchiefs.
After five months the earl abandoned the siege. As they retreated his soldiers sang: "She makes a stir in tower and trench, that brawling, boisterous, Scottish wench; Came I early, came I late. I found Agnes at the gate."
of course there is no evidence that she was a “warrior”, they sure love to speculate about things
Hey, thanks for the ping. Hope I don’t meet the same end. Brrr...
Robust and muscular?? And they would know that how??
How did they surmise that she was a warrior?? Sounds more like her and hubby were leaders in the village.
By the way the muscles/tendons were attached to the bones.
IIRC, muscles and such leave marks on the bones.
Except it says skeleton...not mummy...
Interesting. She may well have been in the fight, as her wounds and atypical burial show.
The fact that the bones were probably quite dense for somebody of that height and gender says that the person led a very physical sort of life, which leads to them being very strong, as compared to somebody who leads a relatively sedentary life.
Yes, but the attachment points on the bones reflects a number of things, including level of activity during life.
Has Bubba asked her out yet??
Except from her wounds.
They can project her body type (slender, delicate or stocky and robust) by the size of her bones, although I would quibble about calling a 5’4” female an “Amazon”. I suppose that depends on the size of the male skeletons of the time.
Those wounds are not evidence of her being a combatant, she could have been the wife/consort of a local ruler who was caught in their castle. Lots of women have died in wars as victims throughout history without being warriors.
FYI, possibly relevant for your GGG ping list.
My goodness. That scar doesn't look too different from the one left on my husband since his brain surgery in January! My husband's scar starts higher on his head, but it's the same angle, length and depth, etc.
Except that there was a female figure in Scottish history about that time who was reputed to have mounted a vigorous defense of the castle in her husband’s absence.
That would be interesting, maybe they will find some more evidence. All the speculation and attribution bothers me, especially when its in the headline I guess.
Yikes. Although, in this case, I suspect the perps weren’t trying to *help* this man in his pursuit of ongoing health.
Knight's skeleton tentatively identified as Robert Morely who died in a battle around 1390.
The male skeleton was 5’7”...
Now you have a catchy poem you can add to your home page! (end of article)
Skeleton reveals violent life and death of medieval knight
A 620-year-old skeleton discovered under the floor of Stirling Castle has shed new light on the violent life of a medieval knight.
By Auslan Cramb, Scottish Correspondent 4:41PM BST 29 Jun 2009
Archaeologists believe that bones found in an ancient chapel on the site are those of an English knight named Robert Morley who died in a tournament there in 1388.
Radio carbon dating has confirmed that the skeleton is from that period, and detailed analysis suggests that he was in his mid-20s, was heavily muscled and had suffered several serious wounds in earlier contests.
He appears to have survived for some time with a large arrowhead lodged in his chest, while the re-growth of bone around a dent in the front of his skull indicates that he had also recovered from a severe blow from an axe.
He eventually died when he was struck by a sword that sliced through his nose and jaw. His reconstructed skull also indicates that he was lying on the ground when the fatal blow was delivered.
The knight was laid to rest under the stone-flagged floor of a chapel near the castle’s royal apartments and his skeleton was excavated along with 11 others in 1997.
However, it was only recently re-examined following advances in laser scanning techniques that not only revealed the nature of the three wounds, but also showed that the knight had lost teeth, probably from another blow or from falling from his horse.
Gordon Ewart, of Kirkdale Archaeology, which carried out the excavation for Historic Scotland, said: “This is a remarkable and important set of discoveries.
“At first we had thought the arrow wound had been fatal but it now seems he had survived it and may have had his chest bound up.”
Mr Ewart said that Morley was by far the most likely candidate. His skeleton also shows the effects of riding on the ankles and muscle injuries caused by lifting heavy loads.
His sturdy upper body and upper right arm are consistent with wielding heavy swords, and his injuries suggest a hard life of hunting, jousting and foot tournaments.
Richard Strachan, Historic Scotland’s senior archaeologist, added: “Radio carbon dating is not an exact science, but the date we came up with for this skeleton was 1390. That’s only two years difference and quite possible.
“We have been able to look at this skeleton with the benefit of new technology and techniques we didn’t have available in 1997. The key may be the teeth analysis. This will hopefully tell us exactly where this person was born and brought up.
“It’s to do with oxygen isotopes and shows the water you drink as a child, which creates a sort of ‘fingerprint’ on the teeth and never changes. This analysis will also hopefully give us some dietary information
“We believe he was aged between 18 and 26 when he died. He was about 5ft 7in tall and was well built, but he clearly had a hard life. These were troubled times.”
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This is a really silly story.
There is absolutely no evidence this woman was fighting in combat.
She was killed by a military weapon. How do the authors think women died when cities were sacked and the inhabitants killed? The soldiers used the weapons they had with them. As Eowyn said in LOTR, “Those who have no swords can still die on them.”
For a woman to engage in hand to hand combat effectively would have been FAR more difficult than for a woman to engage in today’s military combat. It would have been the rough equivalent of putting a woman into the NFL line. She wouldn’t have lasted very long.
The “female war leader” referenced did not engage in actual combat. She walked the walls of a fortress under siege to keep her fighters’ spirits up. Very brave and all, but I suspect she would have been the first to agree that it was very different from leading a heavy cavalry charge or standing in a battle line. It took great courage, but not the physical strength and stamina required by combat.
The average height for men in England circa 1300 was about 5’4”. Scottish folk are generally taller, so the men could have been 5’8” (they ate a lot of mutton).
the other one:
“The average height for men in England circa 1300 was about 54. Scottish folk are generally taller, so the men could have been 58 (they ate a lot of mutton).”
My girlfriend’s 15 year old son had a sports physical today. He measured in at 6’6.
I know! My nephew is over 6 foot tall, but his dad is 6’6”, and both grandfathers were 6’5”.
Men do not stop growing until their 25-years old, so my nephew may pick up some more height before he stops growing.
I know! My nephew is over 6 foot tall, but his dad is 6’6”, and both grandfathers were 6’5”.
Men do not stop growing until they’re 25-years old, so my nephew may pick up some more height before he stops growing.
Sort of like Patton, Eisenhower, Washington, and any other contemporary General, methinks! You are grasping at straws. What good would it do to have your men dying on the front lines but leave the gates of the castle open?
Cetainly an interesting find and interesting story. But I think there is no firm evidence to connect the body with the personage.
The article claimed she was a physical fighter. The difference is between fighting and directing the fighters.
And, BTW, the war leaders of the day generally fought personally in the front lines. They had to, if they were to keep the respect and allegiance of their notoriously insubordinate noblemen.
There is no reason why a woman could not be just as effective as a general in today’s world as a man. At the level of Force Recon Marines, the rough equivalent of a medieval warrior in physical strength and toughness required, very few females can hang.
To take my analogy of the NFL a bit farther, there is no physical reason a woman can’t be a winning head coach. Nobody in their right mind (including a female coach) would put a woman in the line (or anywhere else on the field, for that matter).
And Patton, Eisenhower, Washington and most other contemporary generals made their way to that eminence during a career where they were in the thick of combat multiple times. Except Ike, who was never really in combat.
She was probably a cropper out collecting trophies.
You can tell the strength of the muscles from the condition of the points at which they attach to the bones.
I claim her as my ancestor-ess. Being 5’4” and muscular hardly makes a woman an “Amazon.” Geez.
MSM = encourager of the anorexic model. (except for MO)
Well, if clothing that still remains from my female ancestors is any example, 5’ 4” may have been pretty tall 600 years ago. Just 125 years ago the women in my family were in the 4’8” — 5’0” range. Now, I am considered short at 5’6” and my female cousins range from 5’7” to over 6’. The men are taller too.