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 the 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 battlefield 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 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 every day. For more information visit www.richardiiiexperience.com
Watch a time-lapse video of the installation of the skeleton below.
Notes to Editors:
Time-lapse video is available on The JORVIK Group’s YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/jorvikyork and a high-res copy is available on request.
Other images of the skeleton and the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar are also available on request.
Video and image should be credited to York Archaeological Trust.
Key Facts on the Skeleton
- Found during excavation at Towton Hall with two others by the Towton Battlefield Archaeology Project
- Discovered near a mass grave where individuals had similar head injuries to skeleton in Monk Bar
- Skeleton measures 6 feet and 1 inch – individual would have been 4 inches taller than the average height of a man in the medieval period
- Age has been placed at 36-45 making this individual older than the majority found at Towton
- Height, age and position outside of the mass grave point to a person of a higher rank and social standing
Full List of Injuries
- Unhealed sword cut to right little finger – possibly accidental or defensive injury
- Stab wound to the left foot, top of the foot arch – caused shattering of bone and cuts on two other bones
- Weapon cut to the back of the lower jaw – several individuals from Towton have this injury as well
- Blunt force trauma to the back of the skull, possibly caused by a bladed weapon striking the back of the helmet at force or a blunt weapon hitting the skull. It is likely that the assailant who struck the soldier attacked from the back, left side. It is probable that this injury proved fatal.
About the Battle of Towton
- Bloodiest battle fought on British soil, with c.28,000 fatalities
- Fought during the Wars of Roses between the Lancastrian king, Henry VI against the Yorkist claimant, Edward, Duke of York (future Edward IV), older brother of Richard, Duke of Gloucester (future Richard III).
- Took place on 29th March 1461 at Towton, near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire.
About the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar
The Richard III Experience is located at Monk Bar, on York’s city walls, on the former site of the Richard III Museum, which was run for over 20 years by Mike Bennett before his death in 2014. The attraction has been re-developed and is now part of the JORVIK Group of Attractions and twinned with the Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar.
The JORVIK Group of attractions comprises:
JORVIK Viking Centre
The Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar
The Richard III Experience at Monk Bar
The JORVIK Group is owned by York Archaeological Trust, an independent charity which investigates the past for the benefit of present communities and future generations.
More information on all The JORVIK Group: www.thejorvikgroup.com
More information on York Archaeological Trust: www.yorkarchaeology.co.uk