Medieval Soldier Gets 21st Century Treatment at Monk Bar
The remains of a soldier who fought in the one of the bloodiest battles in English history, the battle of Towton, has been installed in YAT’s Richard III Experience at Monk Bar, York, to help visitors uncover the grisly history of the medieval battlefield.
The man, aged between 36 and 45 years at the time of his death, measures an impressive 6 foot 1 inches, which is unusually tall for the period. He is thought to be of a high status, down to his height, age and the fact he was found separate from the mass graves, under the floor of Towton Hall, close to the battleground, located near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. He may have lived a privileged life but that didn’t protect him on the battlefield or spare him a gruesome death, as evidence on the skeleton shows some very deep cuts across his body.
“The skeleton shows some extensive injuries, he has a stab wound to his left foot, which shattered one of the bones and cut two more, does this mean he was on horseback and combatants on the ground were slashing at him from below or was this an injury caused by downward blow of a sword?” Commented Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust, the owners of the Richard III Experience.
The foot injuries were the least of his worries though, as the skeletal evidence points to a painful demise.
There are two wounds on the skull, the first looks to be a weapon cut on his lower jaw but the most dramatic injury can be found at the base of the skull, where a blunt force trauma has taken place, either from a blunt instrument striking the skull or a bladed weapon that caused the same injury under the protection of headgear. It is thought that this blow to the back of the head is the fatal injury.
“You can see that our soldier did not have a good day at Towton, none of his injuries show any evidence of healing, so we can assume all these wounds took place on the battlefield. It is interesting to note that the cut he has on his jaw matches other individuals found at Towton – was there a practice of forcibly removing helmets on the battlefield? We don’t know for sure but we are encouraging our visitors to make up their own minds on how they think this man died.” Said Sarah.
The skeleton display is a new addition to the ‘Commemorating the Re-Interment of Richard III’ exhibition in Monk Bar, which explores the significance of Towton on Richard’s life and the story of the re-discovery of the last Plantagenet monarch in Leicester.
The Richard III Experience at Monk Bar is open 10am to 5pm everyday. For more information visit www.richardiiiexperience.com.
Watch a time-lapse video of the installation of the skeleton below.