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 Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn

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phaecilia

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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Fri Apr 18, 2014 12:58 pm

whitehound wrote:
Here we are: http://cat.essex.ac.uk/reports/CAT-report-0012.pdf  In Colchester the Boudican destruction layer is one to two metres below the surface.  Other references suggest it's usually about 25cm thick.

On the other hand this book refers top coins of the Claudius period being found in London 17ft down.

So if I were standing looking down into a 10 foot deep hole where the Boudican Destruction Horizon exists, I'd see a 9 & 9/10 inch thick layer of "pinky-red" debris between 3 & 3/8 feet and 6 & 3/4 feet from my shoes?  And the wooden box with bones I'm imagining at the bottom of the hole is roughly 3 & 1/4 feet below the 9 & 9/10 inch thick layer of "pinky-red" debris?

And that would correspond to what Dr. John Knight would have seen in 1674 if the Boudican Destruction Horizon had existed under the Tower?

I'm not going to try calculating the 2014 distances because I don't know how much soil has built up in the last 340 years.  

I'm not sure what to think about the Claudian coins found 17 ft down.  Sounds like whoever buried them wanted to be very sure they wouldn't be found until they returned for them.

If I keep simmering this way, those 17ft. deep coins might well unravel my calculations.  Oh well, at least I tried.

Whitehound, your reply to my earlier post has appeared.  Please do write the Museum of London and tell us what they say.  Many thanks!

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Constantia

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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:56 pm

If it's at all relevant, here's an article about a Roman couple found buried at a depth of ten feet (in Italy, not England, but it shouldn't make much difference):  Roman Lovers Buried Holding Hands for 1500 Years I agree with whitehound that not much soil would accumulate in a well-tended place like the Tower (as opposed to an abandoned city or similar site), especially once the foundations of the stairs had been built over the burial and the stairs themselves above that.
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Fri Apr 25, 2014 9:34 pm

Of course, we don't know how much soil may have accumulated *in Colchester*, and it's possible that the Boudiccan layer would be closer to the surface in London. You're right - I really must write to the Museum over the weekend.
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Sat Apr 26, 2014 9:39 am

whitehound wrote:
Could be, but I think it's more likely that the Queen just hasn't been told that the skeletons almost certainly aren't members of her family.  Plus there's the issue of what to do with them if it's proved they couldn't be the missing princes. .

Perhaps it is more to do with the fact that the Queen is religious and perhaps has strong views about disturbing the dead.

The other factor is where would you stop, once you decide the test the urn bones, then what about digging up E4 and EW to get their DNA. Then there's a question over whether Edward II is actually buried in Gloucester - so lets dig his grave up and find out. Was Elizabeth I a boy - lets dig her up and find out........

People have been very concerned about the testing on Richard's remains. Imagine the reaction if we started digging up all and sundry to test them!
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Sat Apr 26, 2014 10:42 am

Elizabeth I cannot possibly have been a boy in the external, anatomical sense - although I suppose it's possible she was an intersex. She used to go around in a gown so low-cut it showed her breasts, and she was way too skinny to be a man with moobs.

This is a little different, anyway, because the issue is that the urn bodies may not be the people they've been buried as and the evidence very strongly suggests that they aren't, so there's a question of disrespect in giving them a name (and date) which belongs to somebody else. Whoever they are, they deserve to be remembered in their own identities, as two poor victims of the Boudica revolt or whatever. Plus they are in a very accessible position, so it's not a matter of disinterring them. We do test Egyptian pharaohs who have become separated from their grave-goods, in order to work out who is whom.

But I personally don't have any problem with testing Richard's remains either, so long as it's done with respect - and that sort of research can be and often is an act of love, of seeking to bring the person back before us. Every new thing we learn about him only adds to his fame, and since he belonged to a culture where poring over bones and paying to see them was what you did to saints, he would probably find it all highly flattering. I just wish they would do an isotope test, which would fill in the blanks about where he was in his early teens.
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Sat Apr 26, 2014 12:59 pm

OK, this, below, is what I'm planning to send to the Museum of London.  Any suggestions, typoes or additional questions?

____________________

I am a member of a discussion group who have been discussing the bones which were found buried under some stairs in the grounds of the Tower of London in the late 17th C, and which were assumed to be those of the missing "Princes in the Tower".

The bones were reportedly found under the foundations of the stair at a depth of 10ft, which makes it unlikely they were the result of a hasty Mediaeval burial.  The only thing about them which suggests a Mediaeval date is the claim that when found they were dressed in velvet, which crumbled as soon as it was exposed to the air.  However, this may have been journalistic invention, or a misunderstanding of felt or woollen fabric or moleskin which, whatever it was, would have been in a very poor state.

According to this article  from 1928 - http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=120158  - the Roman cemetary in the Goodman's Fields area extended as far as the Tower.  I know that last year a carved stone Roman eagle, believed to have come from a tomb, was found under The Minories a few hundred yards from the Tower at a depth of 7-8ft, and since the ground the Tower is built on stands a few feet above the surrounding land, that would mean that the mystery bones were found at about the same depth as the eagle *if* the level of the earth around the Tower has not changed significantly since the late 17th C.

If, however, the earth around the Tower has either built up or been dug away significantly since the 17th C, that would mean that 10ft below the 17th C level was either below or above the level of the eagle, which was found about 10ft below the *present* surface level of the earth around the Tower, assuming the Tower mound to be only 2-3ft above the surrounding land which, if my memory of commuting past it in the 1980s is correct, is probably about right.

So, we felt that the Museum was the right organisation to ask whether the level of the earth around the Tower has changed much since the late 17th C; exactly how much higher the Tower mound is than the level of The Minories; and whether it is correct that the cemetary which lay to the east of Roman London extended as far as the Tower.  We would be grateful for any information you could give us on this.

Also, we have tried unsuccessfully to find any reference to how far below the surface the Boudica Destruction Horizon begins in London, and how thick it is.  I managed to find information that the destruction layer begins one to two metres below the surface and is about 25cm thick in Colchester, but without knowing whether the soil in Colchester has built up more or less than the ground-level in London, that doesn't help very much.  Once again, we would be grateful for any light you may be able to shed on this.
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phaecilia

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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Sat Apr 26, 2014 1:25 pm

Suggestion:  Rewriting the long sentence quoted below into 2 or 3 shorter sentences might be better.   I had to re-read it.  But that could just be me.  If I'm the only one who needed to re-read, don't change it.   Everything else looks good to me. 

"If, however, the earth around the Tower has either built up or been dug away significantly since the 17th C, that would mean that 10ft below the 17th C level was either below or above the level of the eagle, which was found about 10ft below the *present* surface level of the earth around the Tower, assuming the Tower mound to be only 2-3ft above the surrounding land which, if my memory of commuting past it in the 1980s is correct, is probably about right."

phaecilia
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Sat Apr 26, 2014 1:54 pm

Easy enough to cut it in two and make it:

If, however, the earth around the Tower has either built up or been dug away significantly since the 17th C, that would mean that 10ft below the 17th C level was either below or above the level of the eagle, which was found about 10ft below the *present* surface level of the earth around the Tower. That is assuming the Tower mound to be only 2-3ft above the surrounding land which, if my memory of commuting past it in the 1980s is correct, is probably about right.
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khafara

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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Sat Apr 26, 2014 2:43 pm

Thanks for doing this, Whitehound!
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Thibault

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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Sun Apr 27, 2014 9:08 am

whitehound wrote:
Elizabeth I cannot possibly have been a boy in the external, anatomical sense - although I suppose it's possible she was an intersex.  She used to go around in a gown so low-cut it showed her breasts, and she was way too skinny to be a man with moobs.

No, I don't think she was either, but there are a lot of people 'out there' who seem to  clown .

However, I do think church authorities are wary of giving permission to exhume graves of royals for whatever reason, including valid historical research, because they are frightened it will unlock the flood gates. As a historian, I do not have an issue with testing, as long as it is done with care, but judging by the outpourings over the tests on Richard, very many people do.

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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Sun Apr 27, 2014 10:57 am

We can't have one without the other - if we want the urn bodies tested we have to be willing for Richard to be, and vikky-verky. But of course it's very, very unlikely that the urn bodies are royals. It's more like the tests that were done on that woman who claimed to be Anastasia - there was a small possibility that she was a royal, it was claimed that she was, and she was tested to see if she was, and she wasn't.
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:11 am

That only happened because she had had an operation for something or other and they kept some tissue - her body was cremated. Very lucky for historical truth  Very Happy 
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Thu May 01, 2014 5:41 pm

Hi Phaecilia,
The box would be a stumbling block if it existed. It's true that accounts of the discovery of the bones include a claim that they were in a wooden box, but there is no real evidence that this is true. Tanner and Wright found that some rusty nails had been deposited in the urn with the bones, but their contention that these may have formed part of the chest is a bit wishful considering the bones had been rescued from a heap of building rubble. They didn't find any scraps of material either.

The things people believed had been present with the Tower bones reminds me a bit of Rous' claim that when Henry VI's body was disinterred in 1484 for reburial at Windsor people were amazed to find it completely incorrupt and fresh as on the day he died. We now know that there was nothing left in 1484 but bones, which were placed in a box inside a full-sized coffin for the reburial....
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Thu May 01, 2014 6:18 pm

The bones weren't even declared to be the remains of the princes until (if I recall correctly) more than a year after they were discovered, and this was done by Charles II for political reasons (reinforcing respect for the monarchy, things like that).

In many ways, this whole business has reminded me of the so-called remains of Arthur and Guinevere found on the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey.

In both cases, was it a deliberate hoax or more along the lines of wishful thinking (as in, people see what they want to see, not necessarily what is in front of their noses)?
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Thu May 01, 2014 7:55 pm

Marie2 wrote:
Hi Phaecilia,
The box would be a stumbling block if it existed. Marie

Why would it? Buried wooden artefacts have been known to survive in Britain for many thousands of years, and there are certainly some wooden survivals from the Roman period in London.
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Fri May 02, 2014 1:19 pm

whitehound wrote:
Marie2 wrote:
Hi Phaecilia,
The box would be a stumbling block if it existed. Marie

Why would it?  Buried wooden artefacts have been known to survive in Britain for many thousands of years, and there are certainly some wooden survivals from the Roman period in London.


My thinking was that John Knight's description of the bones having been found "in, as it seemed, a wooden chest" gives us a burial that concurs with More - who tells us the bodies were (initially) placed in a chest and buried at the stair foot; so if the 'box' (chest) existed it would be an uncomfortable coincidence.
Also I don't know whether wooden chests or coffins were used in Roman burials (and these bodies might be even older - an Iron Age skeleton was unearthed in the Tower grounds in the 1970s) - perhaps someone can enlighten me.
One reason, apart from the fact that there is no sign of it, why I am extremely sceptical about the chest is that according to the account of Bluemantle Herald, the damage to the skull of the older child was caused during the digging. Maybe the chest was disintegrating but still recognisable as a chest, but personally I think this is a case of people believing what they wanted to. Bear in mind that none of the gentlemen whose accounts we have is likely to have seen the workmen unearth the bones because they got thrown on a tip. Sandford's is the longest and most authoritative account, apparently based on information from John Knight who was the nearest they could get to a gentlemanly eyewitness; Sandford mentions neither velvet nor chest, but merely says the workmen cast the bones on to the tip with the rest of the rubbish because they didn't think them important. Did Knight therefore come to imagine the "as it seemed" chest later because he thought there must have been one, or was encouraged to believe that there seemed to have been one? Likewise the anonymous marginalist who claims to have seen the remains being unearthed covered in rags of velvet and immediately laid into a stone coffin seems to have been fantasising based on the fact that the Princes would have been buried fully dressed (and he mentions no wooden chest).
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Fri May 02, 2014 3:11 pm

I see what you mean, but being buried in a wooden chest is such a common and generic thing that I don't think it really lends any support for More. If he'd said "They were buried in an oaken chest bouind with brass and carved with the initials CR", and they'd been found in an oak chest bound with brass and carved with the initials RG, then you'd have to say that that was really close and probably significant - but just being in a chest isn't much stronger than "He said they were buried wearing shoes, and they were found wearing shoes" (not that they were - but if they had been).

I looked it up and the Bartlow Hills Roman burials contained large wooden chests bound with iron and containing cremated remains, and the use of wooden chests or buckets is said to be typical. So while the chest could well be a later invention, it doesn't matter either way whether it was or not.

Actually if there *was* a wooden chest, and it disintegrated to the point that accounts varied as to whether it had been there or not, that would be further evidence that the bodies are ancient. If they'd been buried in the London clay for less than 200 years the coffin ought to have been in fairly good nick.
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Fri May 02, 2014 5:26 pm



I need to correct myself a little. On checking, I see that Sandford did repeat Knight's assertion that the bodies were found "in, as it were, a wooden chest", and that More didn't actually claim the bodies were placed in a chest for burial. But how generic would it be for two well grown children to be buried in the same coffin? Does Knight's interpretation of what he saw suggest he thought he was looking at murder victims hidden inside in a household chest rather than two children coffined in the normal way? Sandford puts the loss of the chest down to its having been broken up by the workmen.
I actually wonder whether these two children were not only much more anonymous and from a much earlier period than the Princes, but possibly quite low status and perhaps therefore buried with little ceremony. I don't have much to recommend this idea, I admit, other than the presence of wormian bones, which could indicate chronic disease possibly due to malnutrion, and the apparently diseased jaw of the elder child.
I also see that I have a note in my files that Roman floor tiles have been found 2 m below the level of the current Tower buildings, but I'm afraid I don't know where this information came from.
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Fri May 02, 2014 6:06 pm

I vaguely assume that the fact that two children were buried in the same chest meant that they were siblings who had died together, perhaps in an epidemic. I guess you're right that having two bodies in the same chest is unusual, and therefore potentially suspicious. This page on Romano-British burial practices mentions one urn burial containing an adult and child together, but this seems to be rare.

Yes, I think Knight's description could well imply something more like a household chest than a conventional coffin - but if you look just over halfway down that page on Romano-British burials you'll see a drawing of a Roman burial chest which looks a lot like a blanket box.

Does anybody know whether, if a body has been cremated on a funeral pyre (as opposed to in a crematorium, which would be hotter), it's always obvious from the bones that they have been burned, or not? Roman bodies seem usually to have been cremated, and if the mystery bones were the remains of a partial cremation it would explain why they are so fragmentary and incomplete - although if so they couldn't possibly have been wearing clothes.
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Thu May 08, 2014 9:07 am

Apparently it's fairly obvious when bones have been burnt at low or low-ish temperatures.

Here is a report on how experts IDed the bone fragments found in a fireplace as belonging to a human child:
http://m.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-22596503
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Thu May 08, 2014 10:46 am

Eeee - yes, but the main reason the pathologist identified [what are probably] April's bones as having been burnt seems to be because they had been purged of organic matter. I don't suppose the scientists who examined the urn bones in - when was it, the 1930s? I forget - expected to find any surviving organic matter in bones which (as they thought) had been in the London clay for nearly 200 years and then in an urn for 250, so a lack of organic material wouldn't rouse their suspicions, and they weren't looking for evidence of burning.

Didn't one of the skulls have a dark stain on it which was initially taken to be evidence of smothering, and then dismissed as post-mortem damage? Maybe it was a scorch....

I wish we knew how big the casket was, if it existed. If it was big enough to hold two whole schoolboys that wouldn't rule out their being Roman, since some Romans were buried whole - but if it was only big enough to hold bodies which had already been disasembled, that would be strong evidence that they were cremated, and therefore that they're not the York boys.
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Thu May 08, 2014 10:55 pm

I think there is a view that the staining on one of the sculls might be from the fact that there were rusty nails as well as animal bones in the urn.
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PostSubject: Re: Annette Carson weighs in on the Bones Stored in the Urn   Fri May 09, 2014 3:19 am

Ah, yes, that's right, I remember now. Was it actually tested for the presence of iron, leading them first to think it was blood and then rust? Or did it just look like blood/rust?

[squick alert] Of course it could be blood anyway, especially if the bodies were not buried exactly at the same time (especially possible if they *weren't* in a casket). If one body was buried, and reduced to bones, and then the second body was only then put in on top, as it were into a family plot, then fluids from the second body could have stained the now-bare bones of the first body.
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