LONDON, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- A team of British archaeologists have used carbon dating technology to take a journey back into time to the days of the legendary King Arthur.
The team from South West Heritage Trust revealed Monday how their excavations at near Glastonbury in Somerset have found the oldest evidence ever of religious monks being active in the British Isles.
Skeletons of monks found at the site of a monastery which legend says was visited by King Arthur, famed as a warrior backed by his knights of the round table.
Radiocarbon dating of bodies unearthed in a monastic cemetery has shown that the monastery began in the 5th or early 6th centuries, before Somerset was conquered by the Saxon kings of Wessex in the 7th century.
Run as a community dig by the South West Heritage Trust, the excavation was part of a project given a 2.3 million U.S. dollars heritage lottery grant.
The site is located in Beckery, a small island in the Avalon Marshes, a short distance from Glastonbury. The team re-investigated the site of a medieval chapel first excavated in the 1880s and again in the 1960s.
Site director Richard Brunning from the South West Heritage Trust said: "Archaeology is providing evidence that can get us beyond the uncertainty of the historical sources. The ancient origins of the site may explain why later medieval writers linked it to figures such as King Arthur."
King Arthur was a 5th century military commander who lead Britons into battle against invading Saxons, helping by his famous warrior knights.
Historians have always argued about King Arthur, some believing such a figure did exist while others say he was an amalgam of several characters in folklore stories from medieval England.
Hollywood has never had any doubts with numerous films telling of the romantic legend of King Arthur and his knights including the famous Lancelot as well as Merlin the Magician and the most famous weapon in the world, his sword Excalibur.
The latest excavation has uncovered skeletons to allow scientific dating, showing earliest monks died in the 5th or early 6th centuries AD, with burials continuing in the 7th to early 9th centuries. Experts believe the monastic use of the site may have ended in the later 9th century when Somerset was attacked by invading Viking armies.
The digs have revealed around 60 human remains, virtually all of them males proving it was a burial place for male monks.
The place name Beckery means "bee-keeper's island" in Old English or is Irish for "Little Ireland." Small islands were often chosen as sites for hermitages and monasteries in this early period.