ELHAS Meeting Report September2008

The first meeting of the winter season was attended by over 30 members and guests who enjoyed a talk entitled "Mortal Remains" by archaeologist Eric Houlder. Eric, a regular guest speaker at the society's meetings is always a popular choice. Which is not surprising, given his experience and expertise in his field. He has been extensively involved in television work from the fifties to the present day in programmes ranging from "Chronicle" to "Time Team" and is currently working on a BBC project with Michael Wood. Added to this he worked for the British Museum as an excavation supervisor at Sutton Hoo, arguably Britain's most famous dig, and is an acknowledged authority on Robin Hood.

Eric's illustrated talk was about the remains found, some eleven years ago, in a mass grave at the Towton battlefield site. Towton, near Tadcaster, was the bloodiest battle ever to take place on English soil, and it is believed that more than 30,000 men died there. He began his talk by describing the political situation in England at that time which lead up to the Wars of the Roses and complemented his informative dialogue with contemporary images of the royal personages involved. He then moved on to describe how he was commissioned by Channel 4 to shoot the photographs of the skulls found in the pit. The photographs were used in an acclaimed documentary and subsequently in the book "Blood Red Roses". He briefly described the techniques and equipment used to obtain such detailed and graphic images and showed several examples explaining which medieval weapons had created the injuries and how the unfortunate soldiers died. The content could at times be described as a bit gruesome, nevertheless his audience found the information fascinating and were amazed at the knowledge and skills now available which can allow today's scientists to so accurately say how the injuries were sustained. Fortunately Eric's easy going and sometimes comical delivery helped to lighten the somewhat grim subject matter. Moving on, he explained the weaponry used during the battle, at the same time dispelling some long believed myths, mainly gleaned from TV and films about medieval weapons. Eric concluded his thoroughly interesting talk by posing the question that if there were over 30,000 dead from this battle, where are their remains.

The next meeting on Monday October 27th will be an illustrated talk by Jacki and Bob Lawrence "Cross Gates Past and Present".