Excavation search for soldiers killed on Flodden battlefield

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Excavations are to take place on the Flodden battlefield at Branxton, in the hope of locating the remains of fallen soldiers.

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From Monday a team of volunteers will excavate the Northumberland site where, on 9 September 1513, some 14,000 Scottish and English soldiers lost their lives.

The Scottish king, James IV, was also killed in the battle, as was almost all his nobility.

The battle of Flodden proved a devastating defeat for the Scots, who invaded England in an attempt to thwart Henry VIII’s challenge to their independence. It was the greatest ever Scottish invasion of England, and the biggest ever Anglo-Scottish battle.

Many of the dead were buried as quickly as possible and as close as was practical to the spot where they fell.

Supervised by professionals from the Flodden 1513 project and Archaeological Practice Ltd, an 80-strong excavation team will over 11 days work to locate any remains.

The team will work in a field where, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, body pits were identified during works to lay drainage pipes. The field is adjacent to Piper’s Hill.

There are currently no plans to exhume any remains. Instead the team will inform English Heritage of their location, to allow the burials to be declared war graves or protected from further intrusion.

Excavation director Chris Burgess told historyextra: “The target of the excavations is to understand what form burials took. Were they formal, how big are the graves, are they preserved?

“The bodies are unprotected at the moment. You have to know where they are to protect them, but no one has ever gone looking. 

“It will help us learn about how bodies were buried, and where specific parts of the battle occurred. Bodies were not usually moved far, as they are heavy and it can be quite traumatic to put them in the ground.

“This should help us better understand the battle. We would learn a huge amount if we were to exhume the remains, but you have to show respect. It’s the final resting place of English and Scottish soldiers.”

Historian George Goodwin welcomed the project. “I think it’s brilliant,” he said.

“Any form of evidence to reveal the circumstances of the battle is absolutely crucial.

“There is so little evidence available from the Scottish side, and on the English side there are a number of different sources but they are a little bit on the biased side, to put it mildly.

“We need more sources to find out exactly what happened, to find out the motive of James IV and why he left the position on Flodden Hill.

“Had he stayed on the fortified Flodden Hill then he could have been able to withstand a siege, and the outcome would have been completely different.

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“This work is crucial in understanding why the battle happened where it did.”
 
The excavation site will be open to visitors from 3-11 September, between 10am and 4pm.