St. Brice’s Day Massacre at Oxford

Aethelred IISt. Brice’s Day Massacre is an event recorded in an ancient chart, which says that in AD 1002 the Saxon king Ethelred the Unready was told that there was a Danish plot to assassinate him. After that he ordered to kill all the Vikings in England. The same chart reports that in Oxford the Danes fled to St. Fridewide’s church where they hoped to find refuge but were burnt alive there by the townspeople.
A find made in 2008 at St. John’s college in Oxford, may be related to the massacre. Digging prior to a building work at the site revealed 35 skeletons of males aged 16 to 25, all eating a diet high in seafood. Many of the skulls were fractured or crushed. In most cases wounds were found on the back of the head. The bodies did not receive a formal burial, they were dumped in a mass grave near a Neolithic stone monument. On some of the bones there is evidence of charring but not in the surrounding soil, which may indicate that prior to burial the bodies had been partially burnt. These men were not prepared to fight. As it seems, they tried to run away when killed by their enemies.
Radiocarbon dating of the bones indicates that they were dumped between AD 960 and 1020. The same dating applies also to 51 beheaded Vikings recently found at Weymouth. Both events seem to be related to the massacre ordered by the king Ethelred in AD 1002.

Image: Aethelred the Unready. Public domain.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Aed Thompson

Great article, and an important thing to note. The Anglo-Saxons werent always at the mercy of the Vikings, sometimes the tables were turned.
Also a great case of links between literary evidence and archaeology that allows a coherent view of a point in history to be forged.



I would love to have seen them running away after they were killed! Supernatural indeed. No wonder they were feared!


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