Though things have been a little quiet here for a few days, the wheels of progress are turning. I’ve been down to Wilting three times in as many days to continue with the scanning of the upper fort site. I’ve been using a non-ferrous detect to concentrate on picking up any unusual jewellery or gew-gaws that could have been dropped within the fort perimeter relevant to the period.
Chris Jordan’s recent post linking us all to the excellent Fulford battle site raises an important point regarding medieval battle sites:
“Little evidence could have survived the 938 years separating us from the battle on 20th September 1066 [Fulford], they pointed out. Medieval battlefields are not artefact-rich environments. The armies arrived, fought, died, fled or marched away after a few hours. The combatants came clad in iron armour, clutching iron weapons. Such ferrous fragments that survived the attention of scavengers would rust, so the material is not popular with archaeologists or conservationists. No site of this antiquity has so far yielded a recognizable weapon….
“The location of any mass graves was also unlikely. The damp, acid soil and subsequent agricultural activity would have dissolved and distributed any mortal remains within a century of the battle. Contemporary accounts record that wolves lived in the nearby woods ready to accelerate the dispersal process.”
Three battles were fought in 1066: Fulford (Norway v. northern English eorls), Stamford Bridge (King Harold v. Norway) and Hastings (King Harold v. Normandy). Of the three, only Hastings shows evidence in the literature of having substantial structures relevant to the site. Also, the Hastings site in general is vast, taking in the port, landing areas, two forts, the Crowhurst abbey and battlefield itself. It’s pushing it a bit to imagine nothing of significance remains. Troops often buried personal stuff before going into battle. If they subsequently died, no-one went back for the stuff.
Nick wants to find some Norman pottery, possibly in surviving postholes, which would be conclusive. Today I unearthed a third bronze ring which could be a horse bronze, we’re not sure yet. All three are heavily accreted and found reasonably deep. Some other curious artefacts have also come to light which are gracing the tank as we speak. We’re after the elusive find which will prove the game-changer. We’re also after the bodies.
In the two weeks leading up to the Battle of Hastings itself, William and his comitatus would have been in constant planning. We know that such planning would have taken place at William’s camp at the upper fort. We also know that provision would have to be made for the burial of Norman casualties if William won the battle. Poitiers indicates that the subsequent Norman dead were buried before Harold’s body was returned to William’s camp (at the upper fort at Wilting). That being the case, did William go to the trouble of carting hundreds of his dead nobles two miles back to Wilting, or did he inter them at the field? Investigations are continuing….