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York archaeologist to star in new series of Medieval Dead

Posted on 17 October 2016

A battlefield archaeologist from the University of York has helped shed new light on the so called Swords of Castillon – a batch of medieval weapons discovered in a river in France.

Credit: Tim SutherlandSome of the swords on display

Tim Sutherland, an international expert in conflict archaeology, teamed up with Sheffield-based documentary producer Jeremy Freeston to investigate the story behind the swords.

The weapons, discovered in the River Dordogne in France in the 1970s, have intrigued historians and collectors for decades.

Were they used at the Battle of Castillon in 1453? And how did they end up on the bottom of a river?

The intriguing story is just one of six featured in the documentary series Medieval Dead, now in its third series and which is broadcast on Tuesday 18 October at 7pm on Yesterday.

The University of York has worked with Dragonshead Productions Limited on the previous two series, which blends medieval history with archaeology and forensic research.

The current series was filmed on location in the UK, France, Italy, San Marino, Israel, Switzerland and Ireland.

Tim Sutherland said: “These swords have been the star exhibits whenever they come up for auction in prestige antique salerooms.

“They appeared on the market in the 1970s and we always knew there was a cracking story to tell. Jeremy used real detective work and painstaking research, talking to auction houses and dealers, to get the full picture of what happened.

“The most likely explanation is they were on a boat or barge that sunk on the Dordogne, probably stored in a huge barrel.

“We used some brilliant archaeology to investigate the story and establish the truth behind the rumours and myths.”

Another episode explores the archaeology of the crusader castle which was captured and destroyed by Saladin in 1179AD. If it had been completed it would have been the largest crusader fortress in the Holy Land.

In another programme the team visit Carl Wark, an enigmatic stone enclosure in the Peak District, Derbyshire.

The programme follows the story of Carl Wark's excavation in 1950 and come to some unexpected evidence of the site's use by armed forces in times much more recent than the Anglo Saxon period.

The series was written and directed by Jeremy Freeston, one of the UK’s most experienced history and specialist factual filmmakers, a veteran of C4’s Secrets of the Dead (Gladiatrix, Murder at Stonehenge) and Granada TV’s Battlefield Detectives (Massacre at Waterloo, Charge of the Light Brigade, Stalingrad) and Rescue Emergency (Iranian Embassy Siege, The Brighton Bombing).

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