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Although I am characteristically late in reporting on this, I couldn’t really ignore the big news this week. That’s right; Dr Alex Wolf of the University of St. Andrews has made headlines for claiming that a tenth-century skeleton found in Eastern Scotland might actually be the remains of Olaf Guthfrithsson, a king of the Uí Ímair dynasty who ruled various parts of the Irish Sea between 934 and 941.
First thing’s first – can you think of a more Viking name? I can’t.
In all seriousness, though, the skeleton was found in Auldhame – a village in East Lothian – back in 2005 by the AOC Archaeology Group. The young man was buried with all manner of goodies, such as weaponry and a rather interesting belt buckle.
The buckle is interesting, although I’m not quite sure why. I can’t get a decent picture of it online, and I don’t know so much about Norse-Gaelic metalwork, but I’m guessing it’s quite a big deal. I can’t really find any information about the other artefacts the young man was buried with, either. In fact, I can only really rehash what other websites have already said – the data just simply isn’t available yet. Oh well.
Olaf Guthfrithsson is known for beating his fellow Norsemen at Limerick in 937, and for claiming the throne of York. He is also remembered in documents for his alliance with Owen I of Strathclyde and for marrying the daughter of King Constantine II of Scotland. Before his death, Olaf was responsible for attacking the churches at Auldhame and Tyninghame, which were both dedicated to Saint Balthere.
On the back of the skeleton’s association with a known site of Olaf’s activity, and the associated grave goods indicative of royal affiliation, Dr Wolf has made the connection. We will have to wait until 2015 for the final publication but, in the meantime, Dr Wolf has said:
“Whilst there is no way to prove the identity of the young man buried at Auldhame, the date of the burial and the equipment make it very likely that this death was connected with Olaf’s attack.”
I smell a lot of if coming out of this announcement, but at least it gets the period some exposure in the press. Two kings in one year?