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Tech Unveiling Secrets of 12th Century Skeleton Found Cistercian Monastery


"It's extremely rare to find such a burial.

(Photo via Daily Mail)

For more than 500 years, a skeleton laid undisturbed in Furness Abbey, which according the Daily Mail was quite an accomplishment given that the abbey was destroyed in 1537, it was looted and the site excavated in the 1930s.

The skeleton of one of the abbey's abbots was unearthed just two years ago when emergency repairs were being made. Although the discovery can reveal clues as to the man and his position, it is also providing insight into the status the abbey may have held in the middle ages. BBC has more:

Kevin Booth, senior curator at English Heritage, said: "This is a very rare find which underlines the abbey's status as one of the great power bases of the Middle Ages.

"While we don't yet know the identity of the abbot, he was clearly someone important and respected by the monastic community.

"Given that the crozier and ring have been buried for over 500 years, they are in remarkable condition."

The Daily Mail has more details on the artifacts themselves:

The head of the crozier, an ornamental staff carried by high-ranking members of the church, is gilded copper decorated with silver medallions that show the archangel Michael slaying a dragon.

The crook end is decorated with a serpent’s head. A small section of the wooden staff survives – as does part of the cloth the abbot held to prevent his hand tarnishing the crozier.

The ring he wore is gilded silver set with a gemstone of white rock crystal or white sapphire. It is possible that a hollow behind the stone contains a relic – perhaps what the monastery believed to be part of the body of a saint.

As for these items found with the abbot, the team believes they shed light on the type of person he may have been. For example, the Guardian states that the ring is considered "quite large", suggesting the man may have been overweight. Examination of the skeleton itself confirms this. The Guardian states researchers estimate him to have died at 40 or 50 years of age and curvature of spine shows signs of obesity. They were also able to uncover that he had signs of diabetes. Curator Susan Harrison is reported as saying he must have "had a descent way of living."

Channel 4 News reports other implications that have been revealed of the man's status and place of burial within the abbey:

Oxford Archaeology North's Stephen Rowland told Channel 4 News: "It's extremely rare to find such a burial. Nationally he's an important person; he's a member of the Cistercian order which was the most powerful monastic order in England. He would have had estates across the Furness Peninsula, into Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire, control over large amounts of resources. He was a bit like a feudal overlord.

The Daily Mail reports these findings could also have other worldly implications. It states that several ghosts have been rumored to haunt the ruins and speculates information on this skeleton could reveal the identity of one of them:

Dating the grave could even produce a name for the abbot when matched against historical listings.

And the ghost? ‘I’d like to thoroughly quash all the ghost stories around this and concentrate on reality,’ Miss Harrison said.

The artifacts are expected to go on display at the abbey in May.

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