Historical experts have known about Britain’s Beckery Chapel, an ancient monastery, since the 1880s. Yet it wasn’t until recently that they realized just how significant this burial site in Somerset, England, truly was.

Using the most state-of-the-art technology and radiocarbon dating, archeologists began reexamining the bones and artifacts there and discovered something they didn’t expect: Beckery is actually likely the oldest monastery in all of Britain.

The skeletons buried at Beckery Chapel in Britain—which all belonged to men, save for one female (likely a nun)—were recently examined with radiocarbon dating. Scientists discovered that the remains dated back to the late 5th or early 6th century. This would make it the oldest site of its kind in Britain!

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Beckery Chapel was already an important location in English folklore. It’s believed to be the place where King Arthur had a vision of Mary Magdalene and the baby Jesus, according to William of Malmesbury, an English historian who wrote about the supposed event in 1135.

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Originally, the chapel was discovered in 1880s. Nearly a century later, in the 1960s, the cemetery beneath it was excavated, revealing nearly 50 skeletons that likely belonged to monks, except for three: two children (novices at the monastery) and a woman (a nun).

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“The ancient origins of the Beckery site may explain why later medieval writers linked it to figures such as King Arthur and Saint Brigid,” explained Richard Brunning, the site director and a senior archaeologist at the South West Heritage Trust.

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Scientists hope to discover more about the bodies buried in Beckery. Where did they come from? How old were they when they died? Did they actually meet King Arthur or just hear about him?

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It’s wild to think that King Arthur could have stepped foot inside that building. So much history likely took place there, and it’s only now truly being uncovered. It makes you think: what other sites around the world could reveal similar secrets using modern technology?

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