Medieval mystery: Bizarre porpoise burial baffles experts

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A weird medieval grave containing the stays of a porpoise continues to be baffling consultants months after its discovery.

The grave was found in September 2017 on an islet off the west coast of the island of Guernsey within the English Channel. The islet, Chapelle Dom Hue, is believed to have been occupied by Benedictine monks within the medieval interval.

Researchers have discovered a number of medieval pottery and prehistoric flint on the islet, however had been shocked after they discovered the mysterious grave.

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 “It contained the stays of a harbour porpoise,” defined Philip de Jersey, a analysis affiliate at Oxford College and Guernsey archaeologist. “The animal appears to have been butchered earlier than being positioned in a neat rectangular pit, minimize down into the gneiss [a form of rock] which kinds the bedrock of the islet.”

The stays of the construction on Chapelle Dom Hue that archaeologists suppose could also be a chapel (Credit score: Guernsey Museum)

The grave, which is oriented north-east/south-west, was discovered close to the stays of a construction that archaeologists suppose could also be a chapel.

Pottery discovered on the website probably dates the grave to the 14th century, in accordance with de Jersey. “Porpoise was a delicacy within the Center Ages, and there are many references to its consumption, together with a pair in 13th/14th century paperwork relating particularly to Guernsey,” he instructed Fox Information. “The puzzle, nonetheless, is why go to the difficulty of digging a ‘grave’ for this animal after it had been butchered?”

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The archaeologist notes that it might have been simple to throw the carcass into the ocean, which is just some ft away. “It’s simply potential, maybe, that this pit was some sort of failed experiment at preserving the meat, full of salt, and additional evaluation of the soil could shed some gentle on this,” he stated. “There have been no finds accompanying the animal apart from sherds of medieval pottery, as discovered on the remainder of the positioning, and redeposited prehistoric flint.”

PorpoiseSite1

The excavation website wanting west (Credit score: Guernsey Museum)

At this stage, it seems as if the grave thriller will endure.

The porpoise skeleton has suffered from the acidic soil, making a primary try to radiocarbon date the animal’s vertebra unsuccessful. “We could possibly make one other try with part of the cranium, which is barely higher preserved,” de Jersey instructed Fox Information.

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There are not any plans to do additional excavation on the website.

Comply with James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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