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Scanning Revs Up to Find Long-lost Henry I

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June 17, 2016

Archaeologists in England have begun scanning underneath another parking lot, in hopes of finding another long-lost king.

Just about four years after another team found the remains of King Richard III, archaeologists have turned their ground-penetrating radar to the earth beneath the grounds of Reading Abbey, hoping to find the remains of King Henry I, whose reign was way back in the 12th Century.

Henry was the third son of William the Conqueror, whose victory at the Battle of Hastings ushered in the Norman Conquest. After William II died, Henry became king. Henry I ruled 1100–1135.

Texts of the period state that the king was interred in front of the high altar of Reading Abbey, which Henry himself founded in 1121. The abbey was, of course, standing at that time. For many years, the abbey was a pilgrimage center, housing hundreds of relics and attracting many famous visitors, including other European monarchs. In 1538, however, the abbey, along with many others across the land, were ordered demolished by King Henry VIII.

Some of the abbey’s walls survive, along with some walls from other buildings on the grounds. Elsewhere, the grounds now accommodate a modern playground, nursery school, and, of course parking spaces. The previous location of the high altar is believed to be under modern construction.

Archaeologists have surveyed the area before, but not with the kind of modern technology now available. The team now doing the survey are relatively certain that they will find Henry’s burial place. The main question for the team seems to be how much of Henry and his burial trappings will be left after all these years.

Another goal of the survey is to discover what the grounds might have been used for even before the abbey was built.

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