This article came from Chronicle published October 1980. Page: 8


The Kimmeridge Woman

Author: Mrs G.L.Brice


Recently we visited Christchurch Priory, near Bournemouth, and on our way discovered the Red House Museum where we made the acquaintance of the Kimmeridge Woman. Although pleased to meet her she took not the slightest interest in us, understandable, of course, since she had been dead for over one thousand seven hundred years!

There she lay in a glass case, her poor old bones bare for all to gaze upon. Most humiliating, especially as she had lost her head. ‘Lost’ is perhaps the wrong word, ‘mislaid’ might be more appropriate, for when her grave was discovered near the Dorset coast in July, 1947, her head was not attached to her shoulders, but lay beside her poor old bony knees. This is a puzzle archaeologists cannot solve – did she lose her head before or after death? Was she executed as a criminal or was this decapitation part of a ritual burial, to allow the soul to escape from the body? We do not know, and the lady is not telling.

One thing she had in common with modern man; she suffered severely from arthritis. Poor old thing – imagine arthritis without our merciful drugs to dull the pain. Although so secretive she still gives us a clear and melancholy message: However clever man has become with all his knowledge of science and technology, his skills in medicine, his conquering of space, yet at the end of his days he will become a mere handful of dust, or a few white brittle bones, like her, the ancient Kimmeridge Woman.

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