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News and stories from the world of Archaeology and its related disciplines

Yorkshire discovery sheds new light on the Battle of Fulford

It seems that lessons could perhaps be learnt from the Vikings after the intriguing discovery in Yorkshire of what is believed to be a metal recycling centre dating back to the 11th century.

Historians and metal detector enthusiasts have made the find which is being heralded as evidence of how the Norse invaders recycled their fearsome array of weapons.

Hundreds of pieces of metal including arrowheads, shards of swords and axe heads have been unearthed as part of a 10-year research project to establish the exact location of the Battle of Fulford which took place on September 20, 1066.

The battle on the outskirts of York, when the invading Viking army, led by Harald Hardrada, triumphed over the English forces, is seen as crucial in the run-up to the Battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror ultimately being crowned King of England.

Historians have attempted to pinpoint the location of the battlefield as campaigners tried to halt a new development of 720 homes at Fulford.

Now more than 1,000 pieces of metal have been unearthed by members of the York Metal Detectorists Club, who have been helping to gather evidence during the decade-long study.

X-rays of the finds are being taken at York University’s archaeology department at King’s Manor in an attempt to glean more information about their history and prove the location of the battle.

Historian Chas Jones, who has been leading the research, said: “We found several smithing hearth bottoms – the remains of the molten metal which dribbles down during the reprocessing of weaponry ironwork.

“You could say this was one of the first metal recycling centres.”

The plans for the 720-home Germany Beck scheme sparked opposition from academics and historians, who have claimed that the development could actually be built on the site of the Battle of Fulford.

But the developers remain adamant that the land is not where the battle took place, and have carried out their own archaeological studies of the site.

Following a public inquiry, ministers ruled that there was insufficient evidence the Germany Beck site was the location, although they admitted that archaeological finds unearthed there were of “regional importance”.

Academics specialising in Viking history from as far away as Sweden and Norway voiced their opposition to the Government after the housing scheme was given outline planning permission two years ago.

The archaeological digs have been co-ordinated by the Fulford Battlefield Society, which was established nine years ago to investigate the site.

A series of finds which have been unearthed include fragments of what could be 11th century swords and arrows. Other pieces of worked metal have also been discovered, suggesting that Norse blacksmiths could have been operating there.

According to Mr Jones, the iron finds support the theory that metal had been gathered and recycled in an area close to where the battle took place once the fighting had ceased.

Archaeological experts believe the metal artefacts discovered at Fulford were being refined and recycled by the Norse victors when the Battle of Stamford took place on the border of North and East Yorkshire just five days later.

The Fulford site was abandoned by the Vikings as they switched their attention to Stamford Bridge, explaining why so much material has been left behind.

A full report on the 10-year research project into the Battle of Fulford is due to be published in February.

BATTLE CHANGED COURSE OF HISTORY

The Battle of Fulford has often been dismissed as no more than a curtain-raiser to the most famous conflict on English soil. But historians have emphasised the events of Wednesday, September 20, 1066, on the outskirts of York were to have a huge impact on the Battle of Hastings.

The Battle of Fulford placed the English forces under immense pressure and losses suffered in Yorkshire were to have a dramatic impact on resistance at Hastings. After sailing up the Ouse with about 10,000 men in 300 longships, Harald Hardrada and rebel English earl, Tostig, defeated the earls Edwin and Morcar. Harold scraped together a scratch force and raced 180 miles north in just four days to rout the Norwegian army outside York at Stamford Bridge on September 25. Then on October 14, Harold was defeated as he tried to block the Norman advance at Hastings with an army of little more than 5,000 weary troops.

Additional info here and here.
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