A team from the University of Sheffield has uncovered the grave of medieval priest at Thornton Abbey, Lincolnshire, who died 700 years ago (almost to the day!). The stone coffin, which depicts a priest in robes, is marked with the name Richard de W’Peton and a the biblical inscription (‘that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth’) as well as the date of his death: 17th April 1317.
The team has been able to establish that W’Peton was around 35-45 years-old at the time of his death and had stood at around 5ft 4ins tall.
In an interview with The Telegraph, PHD Student Emma Hook, who discovered the grave, said:
“Although he ended his days in the priesthood, there is also some suggestion that he might have had humbler origins in more worldly work; his bones show the marks of robust muscle attachments, indicating that strenuous physical labour had been a regular part of his life at some stage.
Nor had his childhood been easy; his teeth show distinctive lines known as dental enamel hypoplasia, indicating that his early years had been marked by a period of malnutrition or illness.”
A 3D scan of W’Peton’s skull also revealed evidence of an extremely well-healed blunt force trauma to W’Peton’s skull which he suffered many years before his death; yet, the team could find no evidence pointing to how he died in 1317.
However, Dr Hugh Willmott from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology, who has been working on the excavation site at Thornton Abbey since 2011, said W’Peton may have succumbed to the Great Famine, which hit Europe between 1315 and 1317 and greatly affected medieval hospitals like Thornton Abbey.
Dr Willmott concluded his interview with The Telegraph by stating that:
“For now, such a narrative can only be a matter of speculation, but it does seem clear that – whatever caused his death – at the end of his days Richard was held in high regard, afforded an elaborate burial in the most prestigious part of the hospital chapel, in the very place he would have spent his final years working among the poor and dying.”