In 1831, James Raine, Cannon Librarian of Durham Cathedral, excavated Bede's tomb in the Galilee Chapel. As well as recording what he'd found, Raine took a mould of Bede's cranium and produced three casts.
Until recently, these casts were thought to be lost. However, in 2012 one was found in the Duckworth Collection at the University of Cambridge.
The museum has acquired a copy of the Duckworth cast for display and it is the focus of our newest addition to our permanent display. The Skull of Bede looks at the early medieval cult of Bede, the excavation of Bede's tomb by James Raine, and finally the story behind the cast.
Coinciding with this exhibition, the Society of Antiquaries of London and Cambridge University Press have kindly made our article on the 'The Skull of Bede' open access until the end of December 2015. The article examines Raine's excavations of Bede's tomb, the reasons why he made the cast, and how it fits into mid 19th C antiquarian scholarship on the peopling of the British Isles. It also unrolls the thin thread of evidence linking the cast in the Cambridge cupboard, with the bones in Durham Cathedral, and back through the medieval devotion to Bede, to Jarrow in 735.
J. Story and R. N. Bailey, 'The Skull of Bede', The Antiquaries Journal 95 (2015), pp. 1–26 – OPEN ACCESS LINK