Cast of ancient skull of Bede the Father of English history rediscovered

A cast of the skull of Bede – the ‘Father of English History’ – has been rediscovered by Professor Jo Story from the School of History within the anatomical collections of the Duckworth Laboratory in the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies (LCHES) at the University of Cambridge.

An exhibition showcasing the cast of the skull and the story behind the excavation of Bede’s tomb in 1831 and the preservation of the skull found there, will be opening on 8 September at Bede’s World, Jarrow, Tyne and Wear.

Bede (also known as The Venerable Bede) lived from 672–735. He was one of the most influential scholars in medieval Europe. His most famous work, completed in AD 731, is the 'Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum' or 'The Ecclesiastical History of the English People'. It is the key source for understanding early British history and the establishment of Christianity in England, and it was the very first work of history to use the AD system of dating which is still in use today.

Professor Story said: “The story of ‘The skull of Bede’ is one that takes us to the heart of 19th-century ideas about race and the peopling of the British Isles in antiquity. It traces the thread of evidence that links the cast in the Cambridge cupboard back to the excavation of Bede’s tomb in Durham Cathedral in 1831, and from there back to the destruction of the medieval shrines of saints in Reformation England, to the devotion to the memory of Bede throughout the middle ages, to the creation of Durham Cathedral in early twelfth-century Norman England.”.

The ‘Skull of Bede’ by Professor Jo Story and Richard Bailey is free to view online from 4 September until 31 December 2015.

Information about Bede’s World is available here.