This report sets out a confident hypothesis for the location, plus a number of conjectures, based on the body of evidence and research that has been undertaken around Fulford to find the site of the battle that took place on 20th September 1066, the first of the three battles of that autumn.
The report finds that the literature identifies a location south of York and the geology uniquely points to Germany Beck as the only militarily significant ditch mentioned in several sources as the place of the battle. Modelling the way the landscape has changed since 1066 allows the descriptions provided for the battle, to be tested. The reconstructed surface provides positive feedback for the literature and helps to make more sense of what was written in Norse sources about the course of the battle.
The emergence of substantial quantities of ferrous material just south of the Beck, reinforces the claim of Germany Beck as the place of the battle. These notable concentrations of ferrous finds, including, tools, axes and other shaped billets, were collocated with hearth bottoms, slag, charcoal, and tuyères fragments. Another collection suggests the possibility that some weapon fragments were awaiting reprocessing as they were found close to one of the hearth bottoms.
The shape of the billets suggests a military rather than a civil use and the isolated nature of the sites, do not conform to recognised patterns for the location for such metal-working. The soil survey work suggests that there might be a number of charcoal-producing pits associated with the metal work and it is known that Norse metal workers of that era dug pits to produce charcoal.
The interpretation provided here is of post-battle reprocessing. There was not one centrally organised workshop since the number, and spread of hearths, suggests a ‘gold rush’, perhaps with each warband processing material. These sites were found to correspond closely to the assumed area of the fighting and no similar sites were found in the surrounding area which was also surveyed.
It is also suggested that the work was disrupted by the defeat of the invaders at Stamford Bridge, five days after their victory at Fulford. This is an important assumption as it helps explain why so much material was abandoned at Fulford in a pattern that has not yet been found elsewhere. The interrupted-reprocessing hypothesis would explain why sites of similar antiquity have failed to yield a single weapon fragment. If the recycling work had been completed, only hearth debris would have been found, so the Fulford site might be unique.
So much material has emerged that it allows a clear and confident description of the battlesite to be proposed because all the reprocessing sites can be well correlated with the probable course of the battle that was derived from the landscape and the literature. Setting this out as a hypothesis does not represent any lack of confidence in the picture that has emerged. Instead it should be interpreted as an expression of humility because any scientist must recognise that much remains to be discovered and uncovered in the future when new techniques, and greater resources, become available to test the hypothesis.
Almost as important as the evidence that has emerged was that no contra-indicators were found to cast doubt on the proposed site nor were any consistent pointers to another location identified, even though much work was devoted to searching for alternative sites before Germany Beck was identified as the locus. The project was not designed to prove that the area of Germany Beck was the site of the battle - The project set out to find the location of the battle.
The investigation of the Fulford battlefield is still a work in progress as the research was done under some unnecessarily restrictive conditions. An annex is devoted to new or confirmatory work that needs to be undertaken. The evidence suggests that the site still has much to reveal. These follow-on projects will help test if Germany Beck is indeed the place of the battle. Those who repeat the mantra that ‘there is no evidence for a battlefield’, need to explain exactly what evidence they were expecting. Their second challenge is to show that they have carried out some relevant investigations.
The nature of the ephemeral evidence left by battlesites of this antiquity requires a holistic approach to the data that links the literature, landscape and finds analysis.. However, by any sensible meaning of the word, the work reported here ‘proves’ that the site of the battle took place along Germany Beck. A public debate is overdue to define some rules and tests that can be applied to define battlefields.