What happened to the bodies? Little is known of the way bodies were cleared after ancient battles but it
is believed that the process was thorough. The remains of the warriors were
generally treated with respect although there is evidence that it was a year or
more before the bones were laid to rest. Meanwhile the weapons and garments of the fallen were
collected. Metal and fabric were too valuable to be abandoned.
The total casualties probably exceeded 1000. No mass graves have been
discovered. A group of 11 burials with battle
wounds have been excavated by a church near the city gate and dated to the
time of the battle on the site of the modern Novotel.
- One can speculate that they were making their way to the city when they
were overtaken after the breakthrough. These might have been locals who
received proper burials.
- They might have been recovered by their family for burial but why have so few graves
The soil is shallow so burial would have been impossible and
the flooding, time and the acidic conditions would have removed all
traces of human remains.
- There are, however, reports of a body of a warrior
being found in the 19th century on the anaerobic conditions found
in parts of the Ings to the rear of the
suggested site but attempts to locate the place where these finds were stored have so far failed.
So what happened?
the bodies collected and burnt?
- Did the Vikings conduct a ceremony for their fallen?
- Was this done immediately and who undertook the work?
Five days elapsed before king Harald and earl Tostig entered York for a 'Thing' or
council and the City surrendered.
- The Norwegian invaders as well as the Anglo-Saxons had generally
adopted Christian burial customs by 1066. So bodies would be buried
without any grave goods.
- The local soil is acidic and has been well cultivated over the years
so any bones would have dissolved or been incorporated into the soil.
- 103. OF KING HARALD SIGURDSON.
One year after King Harald's fall his body was transported from England north
to Nidaros, and was buried in Mary church, which he had built.
From Snorre Sturlason, The Heimskringla: A History of the Norse
Kings. Samuel Lang, tr. and Rasmus B. Anderson, ed. vol. 2 (London: NorrĪna
Society, 1907), pp. 691-716 from
- Bones were left at Stamford Bridge according to near-contemporary
- After the battle of Stamford Bridge, in September, 1066,
the bones of the slain lay about for some time uncared for in the fields. At
last they were gathered up and buried (so tradition says) in a little plot of
ground "belonging to the priest of Bossall." .... In later days a chapel
dedicated to St. Edmund was erected on the site, in which intercession would
be made for the souls of the slain. ....The " priest of Bossall " still owns
the garth and receives rent for it from the owners of the farm.
The Parish of Bossall with Buttercrambe.
By the Rev. NY. Hooper.
transcribed from the Sand Hutton & Claxton Chronicle (circa 1920)
But the really interesting discoveries were from the thousands of bit of
rusty iron. We began to learn what they did after the battle.