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Possible location of Camelot identified

The fabled seat of the mythical King Arthur could actually have been a former Roman fort near the town of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, says a British literature professor. According to him, the Romans once called the fortification Camulodunum, which may have been transformed into the name Camelot through linguistic processes. In addition, the strategic location of the place fits perfectly with the historical circumstances in early medieval Britain, on which the Arthurian legend is probably based.

The knights of the round table, the beautiful Guinevere, a noble king ... It is controversial to what extent the romantic and dramatic story of the Arthurian legend goes back to real events, places and characters. The time window in question is between the early 5th and late 7th centuries AD. It was a decidedly nebulous epoch after the collapse of the Roman Empire: little is known about the history of Britain at that time. Written references to the Arthurian legend appear much later. It is also unclear whether Arthur really existed. It is possible that several legendary and perhaps also historical figures have condensed into its shape in the course of tradition.

Where is the legendary castle?

Just as mysterious is the extent to which the magnificent backdrop of the legend had a real background: Did Camelot Castle exist and, if so, where was it? There is speculation that late antique plants in Tintagel (Cornwall) or in Caerleon (Wales) formed the model for Camelot. Cadbury Castle in Somerset and the remains of a Celtic fortress on Glastonbury Tor are also considered possible candidates. Peter Field from Bangor University has now started the “fabulous” search again. His approach: He researched plausible places for the seat of power based on the strategic constellations in the warlike time around 500 AD. He combined this with linguistic aspects: which place name could have changed into the name Camelot when the legend came about.

So he finally came across the system at Slack, near the town of Huddersfield, of which there are hardly any visible remains today. Originally there was a Roman fortification here, which was probably important until the time in question. According to Field, it was once called Camulodunum, which means "Fort of the god Camul". Typical linguistic abbreviations could have turned this name into Camelot, says the literary scholar.

Camulodunum became Camelot

According to him, the location was also in a strategic position at the time: "I was brooding over some maps and suddenly I realized," says Field. At the time in question, the invading Anglo-Saxons had occupied large parts of the east and south coasts of Britain, but Celtic-speaking Britons still held the north and west coasts. The natural meeting place for these British Arthurian resistance fighters would have been Chester, Field explains. The area they had to hold on to if they didn't want to lose the entire east coast was York. Camulodunum was exactly on the Roman road from Chester to York and could therefore have had an ideal strategic location in the "Arthurian period", according to the scientist.

Field believes this location is the only one that once had an appropriate name and was in the correct area to qualify as the origin of Camelot. “Maybe I've cleared up a 1400 year old mystery,” says Field. However, further findings must first confirm whether this is actually the case.

Source: Bangor University
5th January 2017

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