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Inspiration

Origins

Excavations by National Museum Wales on the early medieval settlement at Llanbedrgoch on Anglesey, North Wales, unlocked details of life in 9th and 10th century Wales.

In 1998, an unexpected discovery was made on the west side of the settlement. Five human skeletons were found in the upper level of a filled-in ditch, immediately outside a defensive wall that surrounded the settlement. Scientific techniques have allowed the faces of four of those that lived there to be recreated from their skulls, and they are on display in the Origins gallery at National Museum Cardiff.

They appear to have been casually buried in shallow graves. Three of the bodies had been buried individually, but there was one double burial in which an adult male (approximately 23-35 years old) had been thrown directly on top of a child (approximate age 10-15 years old). The adult male's arms may have been tied behind his back and he may have suffered a blow to the left eye with a sharp object.

The Llanbedrgoch skeletons date to the second half of the 10th century, a period when Vikings on the Isle of Man effectively controlled Gwynedd, and may have had bases on Anglesey. The circumstances of burial and lack of Christian orientation have led to speculation that these individuals were victims of raiding. The precise circumstances of their deaths may never be known, but they may have been the victims of military activity by Vikings in their search for wealth, perhaps in the form of hostages or slaves.

The Llanbedrgoch skulls show a number of similar features, including horizontal eye fissures, square jaws and adherent ears (they were lacking ear-lobes). Some of these features suggest a genetic relationship between the individuals. Either they belonged to the same families or the individuals came from a small gene pool.

Not only has the site produced a wealth of evidence for settlement layout, buildings, artefacts and standards of living on a high status site - it has also provided the remains of people who once breathed and walked there.

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