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Blood Red Roses: The Archaeology of a Mass Grave from the Battle of Towton AD 1461, second edition Paperback – December 12, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1842172896 ISBN-10: 1842172891 Edition: 2 Revised

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Oxbow Books; 2 Revised edition (December 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842172891
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842172896
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 8.5 x 11.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,062,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A thorough and elegant volume...
The photographs are excellent, and Caroline Needham’s drawings outstanding...
Blood Red Roses is distinguished by its unusual combination of broad scope, painstaking detail and sensitivity.' (Corrine Duhig Antiquity, 75, 2001)

This book tells the fascinating story of the piecing together of the evidence as to how the soldiers died...Not least this book is a medieval murder mystery. Draw your own conclusion from the wealth of evidence provided. (BBC History Magazine, 2001)

This book presents a compelling study of the remains of those killed in the bloodiest battle on English soil. This well-written volume is for anyone interested in military history, medieval warfare, skeletal biology and bioarchaeology. The editors draw together a wonderful collection of superbly written essays that detail the various aspects of how skeletons should be studied, including the range of important contextual information that informs our understanding of the past. As a bioarchaeologist, I was especially impressed with the studies dealing with health and disease, traumatic injury, and activity reconstruction.' (Clark Spencer Larsen, Ohio State University Clark Spencer Larsen, Ohio State University)

The archaeologists, anthropologists, pathologists, and historians of Bradford should be thanked for the care and skill they brought to this work. In this lucidly written and beautifully edited book, the scholars of Bradford have helped the dead of Towton to speak, to tell us who they were, and how they lived, fought, and died.' (Frederick Butzen Journal of the American Medical Association 286, No. 21, 2001)

This book showcases the broader role of mortuary and forensic data as an adjunct to history, particularly since the nature and location of the mass grave raised several cultural-historical questions. These revolve around the non-Christian manner of interment, the particularly brutal manner of death (e.g. excessive and mutilating head trauma), and the 2-km distance of the grave from the traditional location of the battlefield.'

'The editors target both a professional and lay audience and succeed extraordinarily well, considering the breadth and depth of the subjects covered. Though professionally written, the text is not peppered with jargon or paradigm issues. Each chapter has a comprehensive bibliography. For the professional archaeologist/bioarchaeologist, the raw data for each individual are provided in tabular and/or descriptive format, either in the text or in an appendix. There is also careful description of the unconventional recovery technique (e.g., use of the electronic distance meter dovetailed with rectified vertical photography) and a thoughtful reassessment of archaeological field techniques effective for location battlefield sites (which typically have a long history of looting). For the avocational historian, there is a comprehensive glossary of pathological terms and several pages of simple line drawings of basic skeletal anatomy, with the bones and essential landmarks labelled. Additionally, each chapter provides a clear overview of the goals and of the data analysis, and concludes with an outline of the main points. Therefore, there is no ambiguity about the role particular research has in contributing to the total picture. This includes the role the Towton analysis plays in corroborating history and providing a point of departure for archaeological or forensic (e.g. massacre episodes) analyses.' (Maria O. Smith American Journal of Physical Anthropology 117, 2002)

This book is magnificently produced ... . It advances forensic analysis of burials and of mass graves, in particular, and points the way for future analysis of catastrophe cemeteries and of multi-disciplinary historical studies, generally.' (William J White The Ricardian 12, 2002)

... an impressive report which will stand as a model of its kind, superseding that of Thordeman (1939) who examined over a thousand skeletons in four mass burial pits from the battle of Wisby in 1361.'

'The value of this report lies in the thoroughness with which the burials are placed within the context of the battle and the skill with which the battle is set within the historic landscape.' (Lawrence Butler Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 2002)

The book is well produced and ... eminently readable. It is amply illustrated with many excellent diagrams and plates.' (Mark Brennand Assemblage 2001-06-00)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By The Yorkist on February 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Blood Red Roses" is not for the casual reader who has a mild interest in archeology. It is, rather, a collection of analytical reports on the excavation of a mass grave from the mid-fifteenth century. To the layman, the language is dry and academic. To someone like me, who has spent time with a trowel in the trenches, it's fascinating. This is an exceptional book that sheds a bright light on the world of the Wars of the Roses. No historian of the era should be without it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. McKenzie on June 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Highly recommended for students of medieval and English history, military history, archeologists, and physical anthropologists.
The tremendous, brutal Battle of Towton (1461) near York, decided the Yorkist claim to the throne. Over 70,000 knights, archers, and infantrymen participated. There were more than 25,000 casualties, mostly violent deaths. It was the greatest battle ever fought in Britain.
This book includes a brief historical summary and a longer discussion of 15th-century warfare with color illustrations of modern "re-enactors". The core of the book is a detailed description of about 30 men buried in a shallow mass grave a few miles north of the battlefield. These were probably Lancastrian infantrymen killed while fleeing the field by Yorkist horsemen.They died of multiple cuts and blunt trauma to the face and skull. Archeological excavation was precise. Osteological analysis is exceptionally detailed. For example, a comparison of aging methods by bone growth, etc. is very valuable to the specialist. (Most were about 30 and had lived a rather rough life.) This volume is meant for the serious amateur historian or the specialist. It can be heavy going and is expensive. But it is worth it.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Baraniecki Mark Stuart on September 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
The book is really a set of academic papers (each in a different speciality) that aim to add to our knowledge of British medieval warfare and the battle of Towton in particular. The focus of the analysis is a mass grave found at the battle site with the text going perhaps unnecessarily deeply into the methodology of excavation, bone analysis etc. and producing a series of rather confusing results.

Some questions are; Why were the men a mile from the centre of the battle? Why did they have mostly front facing head wounds and very few lower body injuries? Why was so little recovered from the battle site, especially since the few arrow heads found were well preserved?

The authors make a good presentation of the usually neglected common soldier showing his physical condition (from a small sample) and leaning heavily on the unique "Bridport Muster Roll" for typical 15th century arms and equipment. This says that 25% of the recruits arrived with shields (bucklers and pavises) but the book curiously attributes the lack of lower body wounds entirely to various types of body armour. Equally the strong left arm elbow bone structure is attributed to holding a longbow without considering that it could be caused by shield use. Personal experience with a true weight medieval shield shows that it puts a heavy stress on the arm and elbow.
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Blood Red Roses: The Archaeology of a Mass Grave from the Battle of Towton AD 1461, second edition
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