If the Medieval Dead could speak, what would they tell us?
Some of the answers might come in a new six-part documentary series that will begin airing later this month in the United Kingdom. Medieval Dead blends history with archaeology and forensic research, focusing on the preserved remains of the people from the Middle Ages.
From excavations dating back to the early 20th century the bodies of many such individuals are now being studied in groundbreaking ways as archaeologists use new methods of scientific analysis such as DNA sequencing and digital remote sensing – alongside traditional excavations and in the research library.
The series follows stories which bring to life details of the lives of individuals of the medieval world – from soldiers who died in great battles to the lowliest of people who endured extraordinary hardship or disease during the course of their everyday lives. The series emphasises the human experience of the medieval period.
Episodes include Richard III’s Lost Chapel; Last Stand at Visby; Agincourt’s Lost Dead; The Mysterious Woman of Tadcaster; Defenders of Masterby; Disease and Pestilence.
Created by Dragonshead Productions and Like a Shot Entertainment, the producers worked with the University of York and filmed on location in the Department of Archaeology in the King’s Manor in York city centre.
University of York staff who feature on screen include battlefield archaeologist Tim Sutherland and osteoarchaeologist Malin Holst. Tim Sutherland has an international reputation as an expert in conflict archaeology since his excavation of the mass grave at the battlefield of Towton near York. Malin Holst conducted osteological research into the skeletons from the Towton graves and has analysed many of the remaining individuals from medieval York.
Other University of York contributors include Dr Helen Goodchild (Project and Fieldwork Officer), Dr Michelle Mundy (Lecturer in Bioarchaeology) and Dr Anthony Masington (Computing Officer).
Also featured are Yorkshire based metal detector expert Simon Richardson – who works with Tim Sutherland and Malin Holst in helping to locate many of the region’s archaeological treasures – as well as contributors from the Universities of Cambridge and Durham as well as the Royal Armouries, the Historical Museum of Stockholm and the Museum of Visby.
Alongside the King’s Manor, York Minster and other locations in the City of York the series also features locations across the UK, Northern France and Scandinavia.
The series was written and directed by Jeremy Freeston, one of the UK’s most experienced history and specialist factual filmmakers, a veteran of C4’s Secrets of the Dead and Granada TV’s Battlefield Detectives and Rescue Emergency.
Feature film director Jeremy Freeston staged large scale drama reconstruction sequences including the battles of Towton and Agincourt. The Yorkshire Museum of Farming’s Murton Park Village stood in for the streets of medieval York – and many of the supporting artists and fight extras were from northern based Wars of the Roses re-enactors The Stanley Household.
Source: University of York