Saturday 28 May 2016

The Tomb of King Arthur Discovered in Shropshire

The Real King Arthur Thrice Discovered: Book II
Three books are being published this year each promising to reveal the true identity of the real King Arthur: he was a Yorkshireman; or did he come from Powys on the Marches; or he came from Gwent in south Wales:
  • Simon Keegan, Pennine Dragon, New Haven Publishing, 14 March 2016,
  • Graham Phillips, The Lost Tomb of King Arthur: The Search for Camelot and the Isle of Avalon, Bear & Company, 19 May 2016,
  • Chris Barber, King Arthur: The Mystery Unravelled, Pen & Sword History, 30 June 2016.
In the first part we looked at Simon Keegan's book Pennine Dragon in which he argues for Arthwys ap Mar (Arthur of the Pennines), who ruled from York to Hadrian's Wall, as the legendary king Arthur who defeated the Saxons at the battle of Badon.

In this second part of The Real King Arthur Thrice Discovered we look at The Lost Tomb of King Arthur (Bear & Company, 19 May 2016), the culmination of author Graham Phillips 25 years of research into the Arthurian legend.

Part I - The Story So Far
A self-acclaimed historical detective and former radio journalist and broadcaster, Graham Phillips wrote five books between 1983 and 1995 with Martin Keatman, a partnership that started with the psychic adventure quest The Green Stone (1983) and ended with Robin Hood (1995). In the middle of this run of non-fiction works was King Arthur: The True Story (1992).

Phillips has since produced eight further books as sole author, from Search for the Grail (1995 – reissued as The Chalice of Magdalene in the US by Bear & Company in 2004), Merlin and the Discovery of Avalon in the New World (2005) to The End of Eden (2007).

He has appeared on several television programmes, notably with Tony Robinson and Michael Wood, and more recently on Forbidden Histories with Jamie Theakston on the Yesterday channel (April 2016). Phillips is a regular speaker at alternative conferences such as the Glastonbury Symposium (2015) and is scheduled for an appearance at Andrew Collin's Origins Conference later this year.

The Lost Tomb of King Arthur was published on 19th May leading to flurry of headlines citing Phillips's claim that he has discovered the tomb of King Arthur in a Shropshire field.

The publisher's blurb claims that Phillips, using new translations of primary source material, shows King Arthur was a real man, and by using a 'wealth of literary and scientific evidence' has identified Camelot as a real place and the legendary Excalibur a real sword.

The book is quoted as one man’s journey to uncover the final resting place of the historical King Arthur; using literary research and the latest geophysics equipment Phillips claims to have pinpointed the exact location of Arthur’s tomb.

The people of Stafford were given a preview of Phillip's latest work in a talk by the author on Tuesday  26th April  2016  at St Chad's Church in Stafford, an event organised by Phillipa Smart's Magenta Circle. Being held on my doorstep I was compelled to attend this presentation but over two hours sitting on the pews in St Chads was not the most comfortable of evenings.

Two weeks earlier we were given a preview of Phillips latest discoveries. Jamie Theakston's Forbidden History (Yesterday Channel) screened In Search Of The Real King Arthur on 8th April 2016. Theakston spent most of the program with Phillips on the trail of King Arthur in Shropshire. This program covered much of the same ground as the Magenta Circle talk.

Magenta Circle advertised the talk as “Best-selling author and historical detective Graham Phillips will be talking about his new book, The Lost Tomb of King Arthur, presenting compelling evidence that the fabled monarch was in fact a real-life historical figure who united the Britons to fight the invading Anglo-Saxons around 500 AD.

He will describe his exciting twenty-year quest to uncover the truth behind the legends of Camelot, Excalibur and the Holy Grail. But most astonishing of all, he will reveal the location he believes King Arthur was buried. With the help of eminent archaeologists, and the latest scientific equipment, Graham has what he argues to be definitive proof that the body of a warrior buried with his shield – just as ancient manuscripts describe Arthur’s burial – lies in isolated countryside in the Midlands of England. A body that dates from the exact time Arthur is said to have lived.”

Phillips started the evening by recapping on his earlier work on King Arthur, covering much of the ground of King Arthur: The True Story (with Martin Keatman, 1992). In the opening session Phillips reiterated the three key points to his theory:
  • Owain Ddantgwyn was Arthur
  • Virocomium (Wroxeter Roman city) was Camelot
  • The Berth, at Baschurch, is the burial place of the kings of Powys, and Arthur
Taking each point in turn, firstly Phillips identifies Owain Ddantgwyn as the historic King Arthur based on the 'Denunciation of the Five Princes' contained in Chapters 28-36 of De Excidio Britanniae (The Ruin Of Britain) a 6th century text by Gildas. In Chapter 32 Gildas directs his tirade at Cuneglasus (Cynlas the Red):

“Why dost thou, also, wallow in the old filth of thy wickedness, from the years of thy youth, thou bear, rider of many, and driver of a chariot belonging to a bear's den, despiser of God and contemner of His decree, thou Cuneglas (meaning in the Roman tongue, thou tawny butcher)?” (Gildas: De Excidio Britanniae, trans & ed. Hugh Williams, Cymmrodorion, 1899).

Here Phillips places much emphasis on the word 'bear' and tells us that in Welsh the word translates as 'Arth', thus convincing himself that Gildas is making a reference to Cuneglasus who, as a descendant of Arthur, has inherited the 'bear's chariot'.

At Chapter 33 Gildas directs his longest rant toward Maglocunus:

“And thou, the island dragon, who hast driven many of the tyrants mentioned previously, as well from life as from kingdom, thou last in my writing, first in wickedness, exceeding many in power and at the same time in malice, more liberal in giving, more excessive in sin, strong in arms, but
stronger in what destroys thy soul----thou Maglocunus.”

But for Phillips, the key here is Gildas' reference to Maglocunus defeat of his uncle:

“In the first years of thy youth, accompanied by soldiers of the bravest, whose countenance in battle appeared not very unlike that of young lions, didst thou not most bitterly crush thy uncle
the king with sword, and spear, and fire?”

Geoffrey of Monmouth tells us that it was Arthur’s own nephew, Mordred, who rebelled against him and brought down the king. In Welsh genealogical tracts the father of Cuneglasus and the uncle of Maelgwn (Maglocunus) is Owain Ddantgwyn.  According to Phillips then, the historic King Arthur is  Owain Ddantgwyn; 'Arthur' was the ‘battle name’ of Owain. QED.

Maglocunus then is identified as Mordred, the man who brought down the King. Phillips claims that the descendants of Maglocunus, the Dragon of the Island, went on to eventually rule all of Wales, hence the red dragon as the national emblem. While the descendants of Cuneglasus went on to rule Warwickshire, whose emblem today is the Bear.

County Flag of Warwickshire
Secondly, Philips argues that Owain and his son Cuneglasus were rulers of Powys. As Viroconium (Wroxeter) was the largest city in Powys, refortified by a powerful Post-Roman Dark Age ruler, it must have been its capital and therefore it must have been Owain's seat of power. As Owain has been identified as Arthur, Viroconium must have been, according to Phillips, the historic Camelot.

Archaeological evidence suggests Viroconium was deserted in the early 6th century which Phillips argues correlates with the date of the battle of Camlann, according to the Welsh Annals (Annals Cambriae) in 537AD, and the fall of Arthur.

Phillips third point is that according to a Dark Age poem The Berth in Shropshire is the burial place of the kings of Powys, and therefore Owain Ddwantgwyn (Arthur). A poem in the Red Book of Hergest, known as The Canu Heledd, identifies Eglwyseu Bassa (“The Churches of Bassa") as the resting place of Cynddylan, a 7th century Prince of Powys. Phillips argues that this can only be Baschurch in Shropshire:

“The Churches of Bassa is confined tonight,
for the heir of the Cyndrwynin,
the land of the grave of Cynddylan the Fair”

He claims the same Dark Age poem refers to Cynddylan as a descendant of Arthur. Presumably, here he means the 9th-century poem The Death Song of Cynddylan (Marwnad Cynddylan) which refers to the “the young whelps of great Arthur”.

Wroxeter Roman City
But one big problem for Phillips theory is that Cuneglasus ruled from Rhos on the North Wales coast, not Powys. In 1997 it seems the fortress of Cynlas the Red, 6th century King of Rhos, was identified during excavations at Bryn Euryn on the east bank of the Conwy Estuary, in the township of Dineirth (The Bear's fortress). Excavations of the ramparts revealed the base of a massive defensive stone wall, thought to have originally stood at least 3m high.

Maglocunus (Maelgwn), the son of Cadwallon Lawhir ('Long Hand') brother of Owain Ddantgwyn, was said to have ruled from Deganwy, on the Creuddyn Peninsula by Llandudno and Rhos-on-Sea. According to the Welsh Annals, Maelgwn died of the “yellow plague” c.547. Tradition claims he was buried on Puffin Island (Priestholm) off the eastern tip of Anglesey.

This family was clearly located in Gwynedd, North Wales. At best Owain Ddantgwyn was probably a King of Rhos in the late 5th century, along way from Vironconium and Baschurch. Further, Cynddylan does not appear in the line of the rulers of Gwynedd.

However, these points are not new and have been the subject of much debate since the publication of King Arthur: The True Story in 1992. So much for the recap; the main points of his talk in Stafford was to be the site of Arthur's last battle at Camlann and the discovery of his tomb. We broke for the interval with the prospect of great revelation in the second part.

>> The Real King Arthur Thrice Discovered Book III: Unravelling King Arthur

> CC <

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Sunday 8 May 2016

The Real King Arthur Thrice Discovered: Book I

Three books due to be published this year promise to reveal the real King Arthur: he was a Yorkshireman; or did he come from Powys on the Marches; no he came from Gwent in south Wales:
  • Simon Keegan, Pennine Dragon, New Haven Publishing,14 March 2016,
  • Graham Phillips, The Lost Tomb of King Arthur, Bear & Company, 19 May 2016,
  • Chris Barber, King Arthur: The Mystery Unravelled, Pen & Sword History, 30 June 2016.
Phillips and Barber are well published authors needing no introduction, their latest Arthurian works claiming to be a summation of a life-times study of the legend, but this is Keegan's first book.

The Real King Arthur of the North
Pennine Dragon: The Real King Arthur of the North by Simon Keegan (New Haven Publishing,14 March 2016) claims to be the definitive work on the true King Arthur published in the 1500th anniversary of Arthur's greatest victory at Badon.1

A journalist from the Daily Mirror newspaper's Manchester office, author Simon Keegan expected to find Arthur in the south-west of England as the legend claims but after years researching the ancient texts he says it is possible to prove that Arthur was from the Lancashire-Yorkshire area.

The popular image of King Arthur is a medieval knights in shining armour possessing a magic sword and advised by a wizard could not be further from the reality of the historic Arthur was first recorded much earlier as a warleader fighting invading Saxons in the 6th century. Keegan therefore chose the statue of Constantine at York, apparently an ancestor of Arthur, for the cover of his book because he wanted to show what a true Romanised leader like Arthur would look like rather than a latter day medieval knight.

Keegan argues that Arthur was always identified as a man of the north in the earliest historical references and identifies Arthur's battles as being fought across the north of England and lowlands of Scotland. 

Pennine Dragon claims the historic Arthur was a Yorkshireman, identified as Arthwys ap Mar, King of Ebrauc and the Pennines, whose father was King in the York area and whose kingdom stretched from Hadrian’s Wall down to Yorkshire and Lancashire with Camelot identified as the Roman fort at Slack, Outlane near Huddersfield situated alongside the Roman road, although today under the carpark of the local golf club, adjacent the M62. Keegan claims we find that Arthwys was at precisely the right time and place and is the only possible man who could have been the King Arthur of legend.

The Antonine Itinerary records a place named 'Camboduno' somewhere in the West Riding of Yorkshire on Iter II (the second major road in Britain) situated between Calcaria (Tadcaster, North Yorkshire) and Mamucio (Manchester). This appears to be the same station named as 'Camulodunum' (Camulod) listed in the 7th century Ravenna Cosmology, the name possibly transferred from the native hillfort of Almondbury, some five miles away, after the ancient Celtic War-God, Camulos.

The Roman fort at Slack, Outlane, as it may have looked 2,000 years ago
 superimposed on the landscape now, in context with the M62

Initial excavations revealed the Roman fort was established in the 1st century and abandoned in the 2nd century, yet further work by Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society has shown there was activity on the site for at least another 200 years, into the Arthurian period. Keegan sees this fort as a strong contender for the original Camelot.

Other locations identified with the Arthurian legend such as Badon, Camlann, Avalon and the Round Table are all, predictably, identified in the north. Keegan also claims to have identified fifty Arthurian characters as real historical figures from the area. He identifies Lancelot and Galahad as LLaenauc and Gwallawg respectively, kings of the ancient British kingdom of Elmet.

In Pennine Dragon Arthur's wife, the Guinevere of legend (Welsh: Gwenhwyfar), is identified as St Cywair (born 455 AD), an Irish Saint known as the Queen of the Pennines. And just as the legendary Guinevere ended her days in a monastery, Cywair (Welsh: Gwyr) apparently finished her days in the church now called St Cywair's in Llangower, at the south end of Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) in Wales. The ancient church at Llangower is dedicated to her memory with her feast day still celebrated there on 11th July. Nearby is a holy well named Ffynnon Gower claimed to possess healing properties, the water regarded as a cure for all ailments. There is a late 17th century reference to an associated standing stone, Llech Gower.

In Welsh tradition Gwyr was a 5th century Irish princess who married the king of the North Britons and the mother to St Pabo and Llywarch Hen, the early Welsh bard. According to local tradition there was another well in this area but the well keeper forgot to put the cover over it which caused the flood which formed Llyn Tegid.

Pennine Dragon’s 'Camelot' Protected Status
Since the publication of Pennine Dragon in March 2016 the Roman fort at Slack, situated on a strategic location on the Roman road from Chester to York, named 'Camulod' or 'Cambodunum' which Keegan identifies with Arthur's Camelot, has received further protected status from Historic England (formerly English Heritage) who has extended the schedule to include the area of the Romano-British vicus.

At Slack, as with many other military sites of the Roman period, the vicus, the area of civilian settlement, has received little attention and the potential for continuation of civilian activity on the site not fully examined.

Work on the vicus at Slack by the Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society during three seasons of excavation in 2007, 2008 and 2010 made very significant discoveries which has produced evidence for the period of Roman occupation from about 80 AD to 340 AD, extending it well into the 3rd and possibly 4th centuries leading to reconsideration of the later use of the site.

Radiocarbon dating and pottery analysis from the vicus area adjacent to the fort has provided evidence of considerable late activity indicating that the settlement lasted for perhaps 200 years after the fort was demilitarised.2

Arthur of the Pennines
In the genealogical tract 'The Descent of the Men of the North' (Bonedd Gwŷr y Gogledd), extant in several manuscripts, notably the 13th century manuscript Peniarth MS45, can be found the pedigrees of twenty 6th-century rulers of the 'Old North' (Hen Ogledd). This text records the great grandson of Coel Hen (Old King Cole c.385-415) as Arthwys ap Mar who lived from about 460-520, mirroring the flourit of Arthur of Badon.

Arthwys ap Mar does not appear in all the genealogies, indeed to some extent he is as shadowy a figure as Arthur. When he is listed it is always as son of Mar, grandson of Ceneu, great grandson of Coel. However, these pedigrees show evidence of manipulation by Welsh genealogists to provide links to the British Heroes of the Old North. Thus, the name 'Ceneu' appears as a phantom entry arising from a misunderstanding of a reference to 'ceneu' in the poem Gweith Argoed Llwyfein by Talisien. Sir Ifor Williams has argued that the word 'vab' (son of) had been erroneously added by a Welsh scribe who assumed Ceneu vab Coel to be a personal name. Subsequently, Ceneu as a descendant of Coel was accepted by copyists and scholars alike, when according to Williams it should read as “And a whelp of Coel would be a hard-pressed warrior before he would hand over any hostages.3

However, similarity of name and time falls a long way short in providing proof that Arthur of the Pennines is THE King Arthur of Badon. But it does raise the interesting possibility as to whether some deeds ascribed to Arthwys in long-lost ancient northern texts were known by Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth who later ascribed these feats to Arthur in their respective works.

In his Historia Regum Britanniae (c.1136) Geoffrey writes of a pre-Arthurian king named Archgallo who wanders hopelessly, deposed and dejected, with just ten knights through the Forest of Calaterium. Geoffrey places the Forest of Calaterium in Albany (Scotland), the place he has Brennius battle with Belinus, located remarkably close to the Forest of Caledon (Celidon) the site of another Arthurian battle.

Alternatively, it has been suggested that Calaterium may have been the Forest of Galtres (Thompson and Giles), an ancient Royal Forest north of York which extended up to the City walls, now long obliterated owing to deforestation in the 17th century, placing Archgallo directly in the territory of Arthwys ap Mar. Archgallo is almost certainly based upon Arthur of the Pennines; Geoffrey even has him crowned at York. Geoffrey seems to have taken Archgallo's family, such as Elidurus and Peredurus from the line of Arthwys featuring his son Eliffer Gosgorddfawr (of the Great Host) and his twin sons, Gwrgi and Peredyr who are remembered for their victory over King Gwenddoleu at the Battle of Arfderydd (Arthuret in Cumbria).

Geoffrey seems to be recalling a long-remembered story of the North which may have contained an element of truth in the record of the battles of Arthwys. It has long been suspected that Geoffrey had access to a now lost Northern Chronicle which recorded the deeds of Arthwys, some of which he seems to have confused with Arthur of Badon. For example, Geoffrey locates Arthur's battle on the river Douglas just outside of York.

In truth the Arthurian battle sites listed in Nennius (Historia Brittonum, Section 56, c.829)  are unidentifiable and can be made to fit almost any location; they can certainly be made to suit a northern identification and therefore used in an argument for an Arthur of the North who battled against the Saxons.

The story of Arthwys of the Pennines may certainly be homogeneous with that of Arthur to a degree, and this may be as close as we will get to the discovery of a historic King Arthur; indeed Geoffrey of Monmouth seems to have conflated the two characters in writing of the northern deeds of Arthur.

Yet Arthur is never referred to as 'Arthwys' in vernacular sources and although the Welsh personal name Arthwys is well documented it is an entirely separate name from 'Arthur'. Indeed, the Welsh form of Arthur is exactly that: Arthur – not Arthwys.4

>> The Real King Arthur Thrice Discovered Book II: The Lost Tomb

1. It is arguable if Arthur, the Dux Bellorum, actually fought at Badon, but to distinguish that character from the subject of Keegan's book he is referred to here as Arthur of Badon.
2. The Romans in Huddersfield - A New Assessment, British Archaeological Reports Vol 620, 2015.
3. Tim Clarkson, The Men of the North, 2010.
4. Caitlin (Thomas) Green, The Historicity and Historicisation of Arthur.

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