Medieval Dead reveals true stories of medieval life by examining the skeletal remains that lie buried below the earth’s surface. Combining atmospheric dramatic reconstructions of gripping stories with archaeological science, Medieval Dead takes viewers deeper into the medieval world than ever before.
S01:E01 - Last Stand at Visby
Midsummer 1361. In Gotland, Sweden King Valdemar and his Danish army attack the walled town of Visby. While the town’s rich merchants look on, a hastily recruited army of feudal peasants is quite literally cut to pieces by the Danes right outside the main gates. 1,800 of the townsfolk are killed in the most brutal and clinical way. In 1905 the first mass grave at Visby was found and so far more than 1,185 bodies have been recovered – many more are awaiting excavation. In this episode, Tim Sutherland – a battle expert and one of the country’s foremost medieval archaeologists – travels to the battle site to unearth the chilling story of the Gotland Militia. Malin Holst inspects the extraordinary collection of bones found buried outside Visby, many of which were buried in full armour – something that was almost unheard of at the time. And the team searches for the ‘Fourth Grave Pit- of Visby legend – can they locate the site? These finds help tell a remarkable tale of brutality and medieval lust for power.
S01:E02 - The Mysterious Woman of Tadcaster
In 2009 excavations at Tadcaster Castle in Yorkshire recovered a series of medieval graves – among which one stood out. It contained what appeared to be the body of a woman. Tests established that she was at least 46 years old when she died - yet she was much taller and more robust than the average female of the medieval era. That grave dating from the medieval period found outside a northern town posed a tantalising question – who was the Woman of Tadcaster? Why was she buried alone? And why was she buried there? The story has long intrigued both the history community and our forensic metal detector Simon Richardson who now teams up with Tim and Malin to find out more about the mysterious skeleton. Malin suspects that she may have succumbed to the Black Death and is determined to prove her theory by extracting a tooth from the skeleton and sending it to Canada for special DNA tests. We’ll find out the results as we attempt to unravel a genuine medieval mystery.
S01:E03 - The Defenders of Masterby
Tim Sutherland once again returns to Scandinavia as is convinced that the picturesque village of Masterby hides another terrible Swedish secret. If the mass graves at Visby are marked by a single cross, what lies beneath the eerie single cross that stands there? What does it denote? What clues does it hold? Tim and Simon are going to put their theory to the test; they believe something terrible happened at Masterby. How will they do it? By a night time light survey of the mysterious cross, by a forensic search of the ground and by investigating the hows and whys of the enormous numbers of crossbow bolts found there. We’ll also demonstrate what a crossbow did and why it was a weapon of choice during that period. Leading Swedish archaeologist Maria Lyngstrom believes her ancestors fought and died in a battle lost to time. She joins Tim and Simon in the quest to finally find the truth about the defenders of Masterby.
S01:E04 - Richard III’s Lost Chapel
Towton, the scene of the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil, was the scene of Tim’s ground-breaking research and excavations. During his work there – which is featured in this film – possible evidence emerged of a chapel built by Richard III of England to commemorate Edward IV's great victory in 1461 during the Wars of the Roses. Richard’s reign was short and bloody and if the chapel could be found it would be one of the only examples of Ricardian building. But if it exists – where is it? Tim, Malin and Simon are determined to find out. Along the way, they’ll examine the bones of warriors who died on the field of Towton on that freezing March day in 1461. These finds have never been seen on TV before and not only will they tell us more about the Yorkists and Lancastrians who went into battle, they’ll help the team try and find the chapel of arguably England’s most notorious king.
S01:E05 - Disease and Pestilence
Illness and disease was a fact of life in medieval times. Hygiene and sanitation was practically non-existent, living conditions for rich and poor alike were generally dreadful. Life expectancy was short and an end hastened by some terrible infection or sickness was almost inevitable. Which begs the questions: how did medieval society deal with illness and cope with disease? A single woman’s found in Dixon’s Lane in York is going to help Malin Holst find some answers. It had been thought that the unfortunate lady had died of Leprosy – after all, there were four leprosy hospitals in York – but Malin’s detailed forensic study of the woman’s DNA reveals that Tuberculosis may have been involved too. It’s a common misconception that Leprosy is contagious, but those in contact with our Dixon’s Lane lady may have been in danger from a far more virulent disease. And this is without the traces of syphilis that Malin also finds in DNA of the skeleton. This episode will retell the story of the Dixon’s Lane Lady and provide the viewer with a fascinating snapshot of a time when life was cheap and sometimes very unpleasant indeed.
S01:E06 - The Hidden Dead
It was one of English history’s most celebrated victories. In the year 1415, an English army, outnumbered and weakened by illness somehow defeated a much larger French army which had the flower of the country’s nobility at its head. Perhaps 7,000 French noblemen fell that day and were buried in mass graves. Bodies and graves mark the spot of almost every other battlefield of the period – so why have the dead of Agincourt never been found? Tim Sutherland’s research and scientific study leads him to think he knows the answer and that he is able to identify where the hidden dead of Agincourt are buried. Now he’s going to try and confirm his theory. This is a wonderful medieval tale of mystery that takes us from the North of France to the Midlands of England. Along with their ultra-modern forensic equipment, the team is armed with evidence provided by Colonel Woodford, a veteran of the battle of Waterloo and the man who Tim believes is the only other person in history to have known the truth about the dead of Agincourt. Woodford had his evidence and his artifacts buried in a church….the perfect end destination for this episode featuring the Medieval Dead team.
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