Search for King Arthur and Camelot: History of the Search Part 3
About the search for King Arthur and the city of Camelot, history and background of the English legend.
The Continuing Search for . . . Camelot
THE SEARCH: Cadbury gradually became Camelot at least in popular opinion. William Camden in 1586 reported in Britannia that "the local people call it Arthur's Palace." William Stukeley visited "Camalet [sic] Castle" in 1723 and drew a picture of it. But it was not until 1955 that a chance discovery of various pottery shards and pieces of glass dating from the 6th century in Cadbury Castle reawakened the possibility of scientific proof of a connection between Arthur's Camelot and Cadbury Castle. Soon after, C. A. R. Radford, leading figure in Dark Ages studies, wrote in his The Quest for Arthur's Britain that the collection of artifacts discovered there "provides an interesting confirmation of the traditional identification of the site as the Camelot of Arthurian legend." By 1965 some of England's most distinguished archaeologists and antiquaries revised their idea that Camelot as Cadbury was a discredited tradition. The Camelot Research Committee was formed with Dr. Radford, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, and other professionals, and Leslie Alcock, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and of the Royal Historical Society, was appointed Director of Excavations.
Alcock and a body of some 100 workers, now certain that Cadbury was "a military site in use at the time when Arthur was a warrior," and accepting "the historical reality of Arthur and the authenticity of Camelot as working hypotheses," began 5 years of careful expert digging at Cadbury, "a steep-sided, free-standing hill with a grassy summit ridge rising above wooded flanks."
CONCLUSIONS: The results of these excavations, the most extensive ever made of any historical site in Britain, are presented in Alcock's book Was This Camelot? In sum, he writes, "We did not find the fabulous Camelot, nor add anything directly to historical knowledge about Arthur as a person." But the question is still wide open. Cadbury-Camelot revealed itself to be a major defensive work replete with revetments, trenches, defense lines, ramparts, and roundhouses. Unique to Britain were an iron gate-tower and a timber feasting hall 60' by 30' which could have been Arthur's. But aside from Arthur, the excavators found 4,000 years of history at Cadbury-Camelot. Ax-hammers, silver rings, needles, awls, wine jars, bronze knives, shields, and buckles uncovered there belonged variously to the Iron Age, the Neolithic period, the late Bronze Age of the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. There, too, was King Ethelred the Unready's mint whose silver coins of the 11th century paid the Vikings to cease their predatory raids on the Saxons. Although no silver horseshoes were found, which would have confirmed the legend that Arthur's knights make ghostly rides each night of the full moon, one huge bronze A was unearthed. Scholars say this letter was part of a temple inscription. But Arthurian romancers still believe that this stands for "Arthur" and proves, at last, there was a spot called Camelot.
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