Archaeologists searching for King Arthur’s Round Table claim have found a “circular feature” beneath the historic King’s Knot in Stirling

The King’s Knot, a geometrical earthwork in the former royal gardens below Stirling Castle, has been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years.

Though the Knot as it appears today dates from the 1620s, its flat-topped central mound is thought to be much older.

Writers going back more than six centuries have linked the landmark to the legend of King Arthur.

Archaeologists from Glasgow University, working with the Stirling Local History Society and Stirling Field and Archaeological Society, conducted the first ever non-invasive survey of the site in May and June in a bid to uncover some of its secrets.

Their findings were show there was indeed a round feature on the site that pre-dates the visible earthworks.

Historian John Harrison, chair of the SLHS, who initiated the project, said: “Archaeologists using remote-sensing geophysics, have located remains of a circular ditch and other earth works beneath the King’s Knot”.

“The finds show that the present mound was created on an older site and throws new light on a tradition that King Arthur’s Round Table was located in this vicinity”.

Stories have been told about the curious geometrical mound for hundreds of years,  including that it was the Round Table where King Arthur gathered his knights.

Around 1375 the Scots poet John Barbour said that ‘the round table’ was south of Stirling Castle, and in 1478 William of Worcester told how “King Arthur kept the Round Table at Stirling Castle”.

Sir David Lindsay, the 16th century Scottish writer, added to the legend in 1529 when he said that Stirling Castle was home of the “Chapell-royall, park, and Tabyll Round”.

It has also been suggested the site is partly Iron Age or medieval, or was used as a Roman fort.

Extensive work on the royal gardens was carried out in the early 17th century for Charles I, when the mound is thought to have taken its current form.

The first known record of the site being called the King’s Knot is from 1767, by which time it was being leased for pasture.

Locals refer to the grassy earthworks as the “cup and saucer”, but aerial photographs taken in 1980 showed three concentric ditches beneath and around the King’s Knot mound, suggesting an earthwork monument had preceded it.

The new survey funded by Historic Scotland and Stirling City Heritage Trust – used the latest scientific techniques to showing lost structures and features up to a metre below the ground.

It also revealed a series of ditches south of the main mound, as well as remains of buildings, and more recent structures, including modern drains which appear at the northern end of the gardens.

Mr Harrison, who has studied the King’s Knot for 20 years, said: “It is a mystery which the documents cannot solve, but geophysics has given us new insights.

“Of course, we cannot say that King Arthur was there, but the feature which surrounds the core of the Knot could explain the stories and beliefs that people held.”

Archaeologist Stephen Digney, who coordinated the project, said: “The area around Stirling Castle holds some of the finest medieval landscapes in Europe.

This investigation is an exciting first step in a serious effort to explore, explain and interpret them. The results so far suggest that Scotland’s monarchs integrated an ancient feature into their garden, something we know happened in other countries too.

“We are looking forward to the next stage in September when we hope to refine some of the details”.

Source: The Telegraph


King Arthur’s Round Table Revealed

The mystical tale of King Arthur is one of the great themes of British literature. But is there any truth behind the myth and why has it become so influential throughout the centuries?

The King Arthur that we know today is a collection of different legends, written by different authors, at different times. They are all united by the common theme that King Arthur was a fifth century British general who fought against Anglo-Saxon tribes and ensured that Britain remained a paradise of the West. The first mention of King Arthur is in the History of the Britons, penned in 830, and attributed to an author called Nennius. He writes:

Then in those days Arthur fought against them with the kings of the Britons, but he was commander in those battles.

A more elaborate tale of King Arthur came about in the 11th century, when Geoffrey of Monmouth published his book The History of the Kings of Britain. Arthur’s entire life is outlined for the first time in this work, right from his birth at Tintagel, to his death, and the legendary figures of Guinevere and Merlin are introduced. This book had a tremendous impact at the time. To this day, approximately 200 manuscripts remain in existence.

Then, with the marriage of Henry II of England to Eleanor of Aquitaine, the stories of Arthur began to bloom in the courts of France and the legend took on romantic and spiritual tones. It was within this context that the mysterious Holy Grail first appears in the work of French court writer Chretien de Troyes. In his poem, Perceval, or the Story of the Grail (1181-90), it says:

A girl came in, fair and comely and beautifully adorned, and between her hands she held a grail. And when she carried the grail in, the hall was suffused by a light so brilliant that the candles lost their brightness as do the moon or the stars when the sun rises.

The tales of King Arthur became so embedded in the minds of the British people that by the time Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509, he commissioned the Winchester Round Table of Edward III to be repainted, with himself depicted at the top as a latter-day Arthur, a Christian emperor and head of the British Empire.

Another example of Arthur’s influence came in 1834 when the Houses of Parliament were rebuilt after a disastrous fire. Arthurian themes from Thomas Malory’s book the Death of Arthur (1486) were selected for the decoration of the queen’s robing room in the House of Lords.

Today the myth has lost none of its appeal and is still the subject of many books and films. However, despite the entrenchment of Arthur within Celtic folklore, evidence of his actual existence is slim. In the histories of the time, there is no mention of an Arthur. The one contemporary source, The Ruin and Conquest of Britain, written by the British monk and historian Gildas, gives somebody else’s name altogether as the leader of the Britons. Nor does Arthur appear in any of the Kings list at the time. But Gildas does mention an unnamed leader and King of the Britons– could this be Arthur?

The consensus amongst most historians is that Arthur probably did exist, either as an individual or a composite of several individuals. Since many of the Dark Age heroes were real men upon whom mythical talent and position were often thrust by storytellers, there is a strong possibility that Arthur was a Dark Age warrior of the Celts from which the rest of the mythological superstructure was formed.

Why, in light of no concrete evidence, has Arthur featured so heavily in British mythology? One explanation offered is that the figure of Arthur has come to represent British history in its entirety, the stories acting as a way of explaining how Britain has come to be, especially in reference to the relationship between the Saxons and the Celts. Certainly, the story has proven particularly popular during times of social unrest due to its unfaltering moral stability. If the past hundreds of years are anything to go by, the story of King Arthur shows no signs of loosing any of its magnetism.