Battle of Towton study shows gruesome side of medieval combat

During England's War of the Roses, the Battle of Towton was a turning point in long-going warfare between the Houses of Lancaster and York. Now new forensic studies are helping researchers to understand the concept of medieval warfare in a new way.

In 1996, workers discovered a mass medieval grave at Towton Hall, near the historic battlefield. The remains showed signs of violent death. Recently, experts have begun to re-examine the battle, in which as many as 75,000 men, perhaps 10% of the country’s fighting-age population, participated, and to rethink medieval combat in general.

“Imagine one of those movie scenes with people closing in on a cornered individual,” says Christopher Knüsel, one of the original team of archaeologists and now at the University of Exeter. “Usually the camera has to pan away because you cannot show some things. Here you see it.”