Archaeologists digging in England’s county of Cornwall have unearthed the largest collection of Dark Ages artifacts in Britain, including what appears to be a fifth or sixth century palace. While this news isn’t necessarily that groundbreaking, the site, in the parish of Tintagel, is where one 12th-century historian claimed that the legendary King Arthur was born.
While Tintagel is home to Tintagel Castle, the keep wasn’t built until the 13th century, roughly a hundred years after Geoffrey of Monmouth penned his Historia Regum Britanniae, in which he names the location as the place of King Arthur’s conception. While Geoffrey’s account of the kings of Britain is accepted as heavily fictionalized, the find of what appears to be an important structure in the area, dating to the time Arthur was said to be born, adds credence to the legend.
“It is showing there could indeed be some truth behind the earliest stories about King Arthur’s birth at Tintagel,” says Graham Phillips, author of The Lost Tomb of King Arthur. “It is going a bit further towards proving that he might have been real.
"If nothing else, it means the legend about where Arthur was born isn’t so fanciful after all and deserves further investigation. It is going to start a whole new line of investigation by historians.”
Many of the artifacts recovered at Tintagel hint at the importance of the area at the time, including amphorae, containers made of high-quality glass used to transport olive oil from the Mediterranean. “It is clearly a major site,” explains properties curator Win Scutt, from English Heritage, the organization funding the dig. “All we can say is: it is very high status and it is linked into Mediterranean trade like no other site in Britain that we know of. That implies that it is a royal site.”