A smashed skull discovered at the Holy Trinity Church

A smashed skull discovered at the Holy Trinity ChurchImage: Sheffield University

A 700-year-old skull has been found under church in Northamptonshire. The skull, which belongs to a medieval man, shows shows signs of a violent blow to the head 

The corpse was found in a myterious burial crypt at The Holy Trinity Church in Rothwell, which houses the corpses of 2,500 ancient men, women and children in a mysterious "hall of bones", which measures 4.5 by 9 metres – about half the size of the average house. It's buried deep underground, and you can only access it via a very narrow tunnel.

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Bones in the room are arranged in two central stacks, while skulls line shelves on the north and south walls. Experts believes they were arrange deliberately, as Medieval people often spoke to the remains of the dead to have confessions heard.

The Crypt at Church of the Holy Trinity

The Crypt at Church of the Holy Trinity

Most of the bones date from the mid-1200s to the mid-1300s, though remains from as recent as 1900 have been found there. Scientists are starting to study the bones, which were re-discovered in the 17th Century, with a new study seeing the team examine five skulls on shelves within the crypt. 

The recent discovery

One skull shows signs of serious fracture, suggesting a violent death – but scientists say it's unlikely a massacre took place at the site.

"We picked it out to try to redress some of the stories... suggesting when you find a lot of skeletal remains it is because there has been some sort of massacre," University of Sheffield scientist Dr Lizzy Craig-Atkins told the BBC.

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"But the fact there was only one in the study who suffered violence shows... there is a representative selection of bones you would find from any medieval community."

Like most of the bones housed there, Dr Craig-Atkins believes the smashed skull may have been buried in the church's graveyard and later moved to the crypt.

The discovery of the crypt

If local legend is to be believed, the crypt was hidden for centuries before a gravedigger fell through a window, broke the church's floor and eventually landed among the piles of bones.