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Alfred the Great bones 'in museum box' after exhumation draws blank

THE bones of King Alfred the Great or his son, Edward the Elder, are believed to have been found in a box stored in a museum, not buried in an unmarked grave as previously thought.

Archaeologists carried out an exhumation of the grave at St Bartholomew's Church in Winchester, Hampshire, last March in a bid to find the last resting place of the ninth-century king.

Tests have shown that those remains were not the influential warrior king but further investigations have uncovered a pelvis bone which had been in storage at Winchester City Museum from a previous excavation carried out at the end of the 1990s. Carbon dating has shown that this bone dates back to 895-1017, which scientists from the University of Winchester believe ties in with the death of the two kings and is unlikely to have come from anyone apart from the father or the son.

Dr Katie Tucker, researcher at the University of Winchester, said she had been disappointed when the exhumed bones turned out to be much later than Alfred's time but said the subsequent find was "amazing".

According to records, when King Alfred died in 899, he was interred at the Anglo-Saxon cathedral in Winchester, known as the Old Minster, and his bones were later moved by monks to New Minster and then Hyde Abbey, still in Winchester.

Hyde Abbey was dismantled after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. It was during an excavation in the late 1990s that the pelvic bone believed to be Alfred's or Edward's was found. But no analysis of the find was undertaken because of lack of funding.

Dr Tucker found out about the bones after the skeletons exhumed last year turned out to be a red herring. She arranged for tests to be carried out on the pelvic bone, which not only dated it but found it belonged to a man aged between 26 and 45.

The research into the final resting place of Alfred is the subject of a BBC documentary, The Search for Alfred the Great, which airs on January 21.

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