Skull of young Anglo-Saxon girl, front view with cuts and back view with unfused sutures
[Credit: Garrard Cole, Antiquity] (click on the imagfes to enlarge)

An Anglo-Saxon teenage girl appears to have had her nose and lips cut off — and possibly her head scalped as well — analysis of an old skull has revealed.

The skull was retrieved from the spoil heap of an excavation in Oakridge, Hampshire, the remains have been radiocarbon dated to 776–899 AD — predating written accounts of this form of punishment.
The disfigurement was given to adulteresses, slaves who stole and criminals guilty of more severe acts, the researchers reported.
Examination of the skull, which was excavated in the 1960s, showed that it belonged to a 15–18 year old, who likely died directly from her injuries.
“This case appears to be the first archaeological example of this particularly brutal form of facial disfigurement known from Anglo-Saxon England,” the team — led by archaeologist Garrard Cole of University College London — wrote in their paper.
The marks on the skull included evidence of a cut across the nose that was so deep it had sliced into the surrounding bone, similar signs of a cut across her mouth — and a wound consistent with either an attempted scalping or aggressive hair removal. These wounds show no signs that the woman healed from her punishment — suggesting that she likely died shortly afterwards.
Isotopic analysis of the skull indicated that the teenager was unlikely to have been local to Oakridge.
There were no signs of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery on the site, suggesting that this was an isolated burial.
According to documentary sources, isolated burials in this period were often associated with the socially outcast. The victim’s place of burial may have formed part of the punishment, as some law codes encouraged the use of banishment in addition to facial mutilation.

One erupted molar and two unerupted ones in the maxilla
[Credit: Garrard Cole, Antiquity]

 According to the team, the wounds inflicted on the skull (highlighted with arrows) show no signs that the woman healed from her punishment — suggesting that she likely died shortly afterwards. These marks included evidence of a cut across the nose that was so deep it had sliced into
the surrounding bone, similar signs of a cut across her mouth — and a wound consistentwith either an an attempted scalping or aggressive hair removal

[Credit: Garrard Cole, Antiquity]