According to legend, King Arthur rose to power in the fifth or sixth century C.E., overcoming adversity to usher in the golden age of Camelot - a singular bright spot in an era often referred to as the Dark Ages.
In reality, Arthur probably didn’t actually call Britain home during what is also known as the early medieval era. The ruler is widely believed to be either a folkloric figure or a composite of several historic kings. But hundreds of real-life kings and queens did wield power at the time - and now archaeologist Ken Dark says he’s identified the long-overlooked tombs of up to 65 of them.
The findings - published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland - are poised to expand researchers’ understanding of the enigmatic era, which began with the Romans’ departure from Britain in 410 and ended with the Norman conquest of England in 1066.
“Before this work, we were completely unaware of the large number of probable royal graves surviving from post-Roman western Britain,” Dark, formerly of the University of Reading in England and now an archaeologist at the University of Navarra in Spain, tells the Independent. “Ongoing investigations are likely to help change our understanding of important aspects of this crucial period of British history.”
Until now, archaeologists knew of just two potential burial sites of early Celtic rulers. At Anglesey in northern Wales, a stone dated to the mid-seventh century bears a Latin inscription that translates to “King Catamanus, the wisest, most illustrious of all kings.” At Tintagel, a site in Cornwall, England, long associated with King Arthur, five royal burial mounds closely mirror ferta, or graves found in Ireland.