Great Heathen Army

They found it. Or more accurately, they’ve decided what they found in 1979 really is it. I’m talking about a mass grave at Repton in Derbyshire. The experts have solved a dating problem. Now it seems very likely the bodies are from the Great Heathen Army.

Here’s the short version.

In 865 vikings from coming from the Continent joined forces to invade the kingdoms that comprised what is now England. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle called them the Great Heathen Army. In legend, the army was led by the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, who had a grudge against King Aelle of Nlorthumbria because he had killed their father.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the army wintered at Repton 873/4, and thereafter split up. The mass grave discovered there contains (probably) 264 bodies, of which 80% are males between the ages of 15 and 45. Many of them have signs of violent injury.

That looks like an army. There doesn’t seem to be any historical record that would explain the mass grave. The likeliest explanation is that members of the nearby military camp suffered some sort of epidemic.

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