Archaeologists working at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall believe they may have discovered the birthplace of King Arthur. Researchers at the site unearthed over 150 fragments of ancient pottery, and, more importantly, a meter-thick section of palace wall dating back to the 6th century, around the time the legendary king was born.
The castle is widely believed to have been Arthur’s birthplace, largely due to the discovery of a slate at the site inscribed with the word “Artognou” – a variant of Arthur.
The medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth also asserted in his book “Historia Regum Britannae” that Tintagel was the birthplace of King Arthur. That said, many modern historians view this book as unreliable.
Geophysical surveys conducted previously this year determined that the walls, and other buried structures at the site, were built between the 5th and 7th centuries. Researchers believe that the palace belonged to the rulers of the ancient British kingdom of Dumnonia.
Those lucky enough to have lived there led an opulent lifestyle, with archaeologists finding evidence that they had Greek olive oil, Turkish wine, French cups, and African plates. Other items discovered included Roman amphorae, fragments of fine glass, and expensive tableware.
These findings are re-writing our understanding of Tintagel Castle’s history and its role in ancient British society.
The Arthurian legend is the subject of much debate in the archaeological community, which is split over the issue of whether or not he really did exist. On the one hand, sources such as the Historia Brittonum and Annales Cambriae mention Arthur and describe him as an important figure who led the fight against the invading Anglo-Saxons in the late 5th and early 6th centuries.
On the other, he receives no mention in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, nor any other significant document written between the 5th and 9th centuries. Some consider the legend of Arthur to be a complex piece of Norman propaganda, created for political reasons.
Whatever the case, we may well never know the truth. What is certain is that the legend of King Arthur has had a profound impact on English culture and society, and still fascinates and excites us to this day.