The unique soil conditions at the site of the battle, make Towton a treasure trove for archaeological finds; the dry conditions and the underlying band of magnesian limestone help preserve artefacts exceptionally well. The very first hand guns and the first bullet ever to be recorded on a European battlefield, have been discovered at Towton.
Arrow heads, spurs, belt buckles and strap ends have been found in profusion. From these discoveries, we know that arrowheads were welded and mass-produced without the aid of skilled blacksmiths. By recording the context of where these finds were positioned, we have been able to plot where the Yorkist arrow storm hit the unsighted Lancastrian archers. This gives us the confidence and substance to cite where the battle lines were drawn.
When Towton Hall was enlarged in the 1990’s, a mass grave was discovered under the foundations and the skeletons, men that died from extreme wounds, date from the battle. Skeletons known to have died on a specific day, pre 20th century are extremely rare. There is only one other known example, from the Battle of Wisby, in Sweden in 1361. Bradford University conducted a detailed forensic study of the remains and are of the opinion that these men were brutally executed. Nearly all the men had multiple head wounds, any one of which would have been enough to cause death. The absence of wounds on the forearms suggests that their hands were tied, as an instinctive reaction to any blow would be to raise your arms in defence. Serrated marks on the skulls, in the region of the ear lobe, implies that ears were cut off as souvenirs, a grisly reminder of how bitter this battle had become. When Edward IV commanded that no mercy or ransom should be given, he left visible proof that his instructions were carried out to the letter.
It is important that any of the finds are examined by professionals and recorded in context with the battlefield site. Artefacts that are ripped from the ground and sold on e-Bay lose so much in contextual perspective. That is why we are so stringent on licensing metal detector activity and work closely with North Yorkshire Police to clamp down on any illegal proceedings.Funding for major archaeological digs is hard to come by, and Towton Battlefield Society are often called on to subsidise this activity by raising funds through our volunteer helpers.