The Bone Chests

The Bone Chests: Unlocking the Secrets of the Anglo-Saxons

British History, Early Britain
Hardback Published on: 14/09/2023
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Bookseller Reviews

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The Bone Chests
Well Researched, Thoughtful, and Intriguing.
This book is wonderfully researched and easily laid out for an untrained audience. Jarman successfully sets the scene for each figure discussed in this boo... READ MORE
Rosemary Kelly


From bioarchaeologist and bestselling author of River Kings, a gripping new history of the making of England as a nation, told through six bone chests, stored for over a thousand years in Winchester Cathedral. In December 1642, during the Civil War, Parliamentarian troops stormed the magnificent Winchester Cathedral, intent on destruction. Reaching the choir, its beating heart, the soldiers searched out ten beautifully decorated wooden chests resting high up on the stone screens. Those chests contained some of England's most venerated, ancient remains: The bones of eight kings, including William Rufus and Cnut the Great - the only Scandinavian king to rule England and a North Sea Empire; three bishops; and a formidable queen, Emma of Normandy. These were the very people who witnessed and orchestrated the creation of the kingdom of Wessex in the 7th century; who lived through the creation of England as a unified country in response to the Viking threat; and who were part and parcel of the Norman conquest. On that day, the soldiers smashed several chests to the ground, using the bones as missiles to shatter the cathedral's stained glass windows. Afterwards, the clergy scrambled to collect the scattered remains. In 2014, the six remaining chests were reopened. A team of forensic archaeologists, using the latest scientific methods, attempted to identify the contents: They discovered an elaborate jumble of bones, including the remains of two forgotten princes. In The Bone Chests, Cat Jarman builds on this evidence to untangle the stories of the people within. It is an extraordinary and sometimes tragic tale, and a story of transformation. Why these bones? Why there? Can we ever really identify them? In a palimpsest narrative that runs through more than a millennium of British history, it tells the story of both the seekers and the sought, of those who protected the bones and those who spurned them; and of the methods used to investigate.

  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • ISBN: 9780008447328
  • Number of pages: 272
  • Weight: 640g
  • Dimensions: 240 x 159 x 36 mm

Customer Reviews

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The Bone Chests
The Bone Chests has a great concept - there are old wooden chests in Winchester Cathedral with pre-Norman Conquest names on them and bones inside. Do the ... READ MORE
Verity Halliday
The Bone Chests
Impeccable, illuminating and intriguing
Using the investigations into the contents of the Winchester Cathedral bone chests to unravel the twists and turns of England’s rulers during the so-called... READ MORE
Small Adventurist
The Bone Chests
Using old bones and science to answer historical questions and, perhaps, ask new some ones.
(This review is based on a free review .pdf from the publisher via Net Galley UK.) This book tells the story of Wessex, Mercia and then England in the fiv... READ MORE
Matthew K Spencer
The Bone Chests
A wonderful mix of history and mystery
In Winchester Cathedral sit a set of bone chests, boxes supposed to contain the bones of a series of Anglo-Saxon monarchs. Over the past ten years, archae... READ MORE
Jo-anne Atkinson