Battle and trial: weapon injury burials of St Andrew’s Church, Fishergate, York
Medieval Archaeology, Vol.45 (2001)
In 1985-6, York Archaeological Trust excavated St Andrew’s church in Fishergate. During the course of the excavation 402 articulated skeletons were discovered and assigned context numbers, along with a large amount of disarticulated bone. One sub-group of twenty-nine skeletons was noticeable because they had evidence of trauma caused by interpersonal violence (hereafter referred to as ‘weapon injuries’) consistent with the effects of projectiles such as arrows and crossbow bolts, or blades. In the earliest archaeological phasing of the church, dated to the late 11th century, there were twelve males who had evidence of weapon injuries. The phasing, the evidence of weapon injuries, and the number of examples, have led to the conclusion that these men died as a result of a single event, such as a battle. There were, however, a further seventeen burials, also with weapon injuries, within the church and cemetery that ranged in date from the 12th to the 14th centuries. These later burials are difficult to explain, but a strong possibility is that the weapon injuries occurred as a result of trial by combat.