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Archeology: An Anglo-Saxon teenager had her nose and lips cut off during a gruesome punishment

Anglo-Saxon teenage girl’s nose and lips cut off and possibly scalped in gruesome crime, reveals skull excavated in Hampshire

  • The skull was excavated during an Oakridge excavation in the 1960s
  • Experts who re-analyzed the specimen found evidence of several gruesome injuries
  • Radiocarbon dating indicated that the skull dates back to approximately 776-899 AD
  • Data from later Anglo-Saxon times suggests her wounds were due to a crime
  • That could have been theft, adultery or something worse, the team reported

In an Anglo-Saxon teenage girl, his nose and lips cut off – and possibly also scalped – analysis of an ancient skull has revealed.

Excavated in Oakridge, England, the radiocarbon remains are dated to AD 776-899 – predating the written records of this gruesome form of punishment.

Although it is not known exactly why the poor young woman was the victim of the horrific facial mutilation, it was once routinely distributed to female offenders.

The malformation was given to adulterous women, slaves who stole and criminals guilty of more serious acts, the investigators reported.

British experts who studied the skull – which was excavated in the 1960s – said it belonged to a 15-18-year-old, who likely died directly from her injuries.

An Anglo-Saxon teenage girl has her nose and lips cut off - and possibly her head also scalped - analysis of an old skull, pictured, has revealed

An Anglo-Saxon teenage girl has her nose and lips cut off – and possibly her head also scalped – analysis of an old skull, pictured, has revealed

“This case appears to be the first archaeological example of this particularly brutal facial deformity known from Anglo-Saxon England,” the team – led by University College London archaeologist Garrard Cole – wrote in their paper.

The skull was recovered by archaeologists who excavated the Oakridge site prior to the development of a residential area. It’s unclear if it was preserved with a skeleton – the skull was accidentally found in the excavation’s loot heap.

According to the team, who analyzed the specimen in detail for the first time, the wounds to the skull show no signs that the woman was healed from her punishment – suggesting she likely died shortly afterward.

These traces included evidence of a cut on her nose so deep it had cut into the surrounding bone, similar signs of a cut on her mouth – and a wound corresponding to an attempt at scalping or aggressive hair removal.

Isotope analysis of the skull – which can shed light on a person’s food and water sources – indicated the teen was unlikely to have been in Oakridge.

Excavations at Oakridge have also revealed the remains of a Roman-British burial, a well and traces of an Iron Age settlement.

However, the researchers said there is no evidence that the excavation site where the skull was found was ever part of a “ normal ” Anglo-Saxon community burial ground.

British experts who studied the skull - which was excavated in the 1960s - said it belonged to a 15-18-year-old - based on the teeth, in the photo - who likely died instantly of her injuries

British experts who studied the skull - which was excavated in the 1960s - said it belonged to a 15-18-year-old - based on the teeth, in the photo - who likely died instantly of her injuries

British experts who studied the skull – which was excavated in the 1960s – said it belonged to a 15-18-year-old – based on the teeth, in the photo – who likely died instantly of her injuries

According to the team, the wounds on the skull (marked with arrows) show no signs that the woman was healed from her punishment - suggesting she likely died shortly afterwards. These marks include evidence of a cut on the nose so deep that it had cut into the surrounding bone, similar signs of a cut on her mouth - and a wound consistent with an attempt at scalping or aggressive hair removal.

According to the team, the wounds on the skull (marked with arrows) show no signs that the woman was healed from her punishment - suggesting she likely died shortly afterwards. These marks include evidence of a cut on the nose that was so deep it had cut into the surrounding bone, similar signs of a cut on her mouth - and a wound consistent with an attempt at scalping or aggressive hair removal.

According to the team, the wounds on the skull (marked with arrows) show no signs that the woman was healed from her punishment – suggesting she likely died shortly afterwards. These marks include evidence of a cut on the nose that was so deep it had cut into the surrounding bone, similar signs of a cut on her mouth – and a wound consistent with an attempt at scalping or aggressive hair removal.

According to historical records, isolated burials during this period were often associated with the social outcast – who is said to have been excluded from the local burial site.

The woman’s eventual placement may have been part of the punishment given for her crimes, the team explained – as some law codes encouraged the use of banishment in addition to facial mutilation.

The full findings of the study have been published in the journal Antiquity.

Excavated in Oakridge, England, the radiocarbon remains have been dated to AD 776-899 - predating the written records of this gruesome form of punishment

Excavated in Oakridge, England, the radiocarbon remains have been dated to AD 776-899 - predating the written records of this gruesome form of punishment

Excavated in Oakridge, England, the radiocarbon remains have been dated to AD 776-899 – predating the written records of this gruesome form of punishment

THE ANGLO-SAXONS

The Anglo-Saxons were a people who lived in Britain from the 5th century AD.

They consisted of Germanic tribes who emigrated from continental Europe, as well as native Britons who adopted their cultural practices.

The Anglo-Saxons were fierce warriors and tribes often fought against each other for territory.

They ruled Britain from 500 years until 1066 when they were conquered by the Normans.

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