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Winchester Cathedral has announced plans to take the lids of its famous mortuary chests, with the contents inside being put under close examination.

Believed to contain remains of some of the earliest royals of Wessex, the tombs will be inspected in the coming weeks and the developments are likely to be closely watched by history enthusiasts staying in any of the nearby holiday properties in Hampshire. They are also thought to contain three bishops and a host of artefacts, which is why so many people are keen to lift the lid on the tombs.

When speaking about the developments, the Very Reverend James Atwell, the Dean of Winchester, said that it is particularly exciting to find out whether history has safeguarded the mortal remains of some of the earliest monarchs of a united England.

Archaeological advances making this possible

Winchester boasts an incredible insight into British history and while several inspections have been carried out on the cathedral since the 16th Century, advances in forensic archaeological study are making inspections more accurate than ever. One example is the introduction of radiocarbon dating, meaning that the date of remains can now be identified more precisely. With the cathedral renowned as the longest in Europe, it remains a popular landmark for people to visit during their stay in Winchester holiday cottages.

As part of the work, archaeologists are set to determine contents of each of the chests and the number of skeletal remains, uncovering details like their sex, physical characters and stature, as well as how long they were alive for.

It is thought that those buried in the cathedral include Canute, King of England, Denmark and Norway, along with his wife, Queen Emma of Normandy, and their son Harthacanute. With Canute being buried at Winchester’s Old Minster following his death in 1035, many are excited about uncovering the contents of his nearly 1,000 year-old tomb.