A SKELETON discovered by Fairford schoolboys earlier this summer was that of an African woman who died around 1,000 years ago according to experts.

Police officers were called to an area of the River Coln in Fairford on Sunday, July 7 after Farmor's School pupils Christian Thompson and Robbie Cribley made the eerie discovery of a human skull.

The boys found themselves at the centre of international media attention and it was as they were being filmed by a crew from the BBC that they stumbled upon the rest of the woman's remains.

Since then, nearly the entire skeleton has been recovered, except for the small bones of the hands and feet which are likely to have disintegrated.

A forensic anthropologist has been examining them to help identify when the individual died.

This week it was confirmed that the remains are that of a woman, aged between 18 and 24, from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Tests suggested she died sometime between 896AD and 1025AD during the Anglo-Saxon period.

Christian, 13, who discovered the skull with his friend Robbie, said he was fascinated by the new information.

"I'm pretty amazed and excited too," he said. "I don't know how she could have ended up in a Fairford river but I reckon she must have died of a disease or been murdered.

"Maybe the skeleton wasn't discovered for so long because the river was only a little stream then back then."

It is still unclear what will happen with the skeleton but there is hope that the body will be buried near to where it was discovered.


What was Fairford 1,000 years ago?

A THOUSAND years ago Fairford and the surrounding area was embroiled in conflict.

England was beginning to take shape from Anglo-Saxon Wessex but faced the threat of constant invasion from Danish controlled Mercia and Viking raiders.

The House of Wessex became dominant during the 9th century and in the following century, united neighbouring kingdoms including Mercia and Northumberland to form The Kingdom of England.

England fell to the Vikings in 1013 and was ruled by the House of Denmark until 1042.

Members of Fairford History Society say they are puzzled that the remains were those of an African woman living in Fairford between 896AD and 1025AD.

"It's intriguing to imagine how a Sub-Saharan African woman came to be found 1,000 years later in the River Coln," said chairman of Fairford History Society Geoff Hawkes.

"It really seems extraordinary. There is scattered evidence of, in early times, people travelling considerable distances but Africa to Fairford is a long journey."

Fairford History Society member Alison Hobson was equally mystified.

"There was an Anglo-Saxon settlement at Horcott Quarry which would have had lots of Anglo-Saxon activity," she said. "As for the skeleton being an African woman I don't know where she could have come from."

Do you have a theory of how the remains could have ended up in the River Coln? Contact megan.archer@wiltsglosstandard.co.uk.