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Ossuary with skulls and bones in Hythe, Kent

2018 August 9

In the ossuary – adjacent to St Leonard’s church in Hythe, south Kent  on the edge of Romney Marsh – there is ,as described, the largest and best-preserved collection of ancient human skulls and bones in Britain. In the 4 bays there are 1,022 skulls together with a single stack of bones. Overall these are estimated to be the remains of some 4,000 people. The church volunteers have currently contacted the University of Canterbury to ascertain the rationale for the skulls.Previous accounts thought of Danes killed in a battle, men fallen in the Battle of Hastings of 1066, victims of the Black Death and Anglo-Saxons killed in battle.These ideas have recently been rejected. Allegedly the skulls are deemed to be a higher proportion of females than males and of nearly 10% of juveniles.

The material now suggests that these were residents from the Hythe area who died over a long period and had been buried in the churchyard and that the earliest of the remains were dug up in the C13th when the church was extended eastwards over their previous graves.

However, a few weeks ago the ossuary was broken into at night time and around 22 skulls were stolen. They have yet to be found. Even so this is a most unusual site in Britain and looks very different to those I have seen in the past in Europe.

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