Defence, Warfare and Military Activity

Little in the way of evidence for defensive sites has been found in the last decade, although further work has been undertaken on the potential military encampment at Heronbridge, near Chester (Ch) (D Mason pers comm)). The project examining hillforts in Cheshire has also confirmed the long-held supposition that at least some were reoccupied in the early medieval period, and not just in connection with the creation of burhs by Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, in the early tenth century (particularly Eddisbury (Ch), Kelsborrow (Ch) and Helsby (M); Garner 2016). One very interesting find, however, has been a skeleton from St Michael’s Church, Workington, of a 25-30-year-old man, buried in the early eleventh century, who may have shared genetic traits with others in the group (Zant et al in prep). He seemed to have suffered numerous fractures of the left forearm and elbow, of a type that could conceivably have been caused by parrying blows, and at least one seems to have been an open wound, which had become infected. These were not the cause of his death, however, as by that time, the fractures had healed, but the infection had not been completely eradicated. His actual cause of death was also violent, in that he had suffered at least four blows to the upper chest from a bladed instrument, which had apparently penetrated the chest cavity, at least one resulting in damage to the vertebrae in his upper back.

Skeleton 300 at St Michael’s Church, Workington, Cumbria (courtesy of Oxford Archaeology Ltd)

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