The three Peverell brothers lived a really long time ago, but when did they live? OK, so Jo's neither a medieval historian nor a genealogist, and I am both, so I'm going to tell you when they lived more certainly than can the woman who created them. :p
What we know:
- Their surname was Peverell.
- Their first names were Antioch, Cadmus and Ignotus.
- Ignotus had a legible gravestone in Godric's Hollow.
- The Tale of the Three Brothers was recorded in ancient runes by Beedle the Bard.
The Peverell Surname
The furthest back this can be traced is to Ranulph Peverell who probably came over to Britain with the Norman Conquest in 1066. The family settled in Nottingham, and did very well for themselves. Ranulph's son William the Elder (ooh!) was apparently a favourite of William the Conqueror, and was given a great deal of land by him. There were probably Peverells in France for some time before this, but I can find no record in my limited online search. They were probably a relatively unimportant family who did well for themselves in the conquest. Family surnames like Peverell do not exist in France much before the tenth century. They were largely derived from place names. If anyone can find me a town in France called Peverell, I will give them a virtual cookie.
Antioch, Cadmus and Ignotus
Antioch is an ancient city in the southern part of what is now Turkey. Cadmus was the legendary founder of the ancient city of Thebes. Interestingly, his father may have been named Phoenix. Ignotus proves harder to track down. It sounds similar to Ignatius, and oddly enough, St Ignatius was the patron saint of Antioch. He died a martyr in the Roman arena at the beginning of the second century.
The Gravestone of Ignotus Peverell
It's a gravestone in England and it is legible, so that narrows our range of possible dates considerably. I am no expert on gravestones, but I do know that gravestones as we know them today are relatively modern. In the Medieval period, only very important individuals merited their own tombs, which would have been marked with a large slab of stone which usually doubled as a coffin lid. Commoners were buried in mass graves, which were exhumed after a few years, at which time the bones were transferred to catacombs, ossuaries and charnel houses. Before the Norman Conquest, however, personal stones were highly unlikely to exist anywhere in Britain. Wealthy Romans had personal gravestones, but I think we've esablished above that "Peverell" is not a Roman name.
Beedle the Bard
Beedle writes his Tale of the Three Brothers in ancient runes. The earliest runic alphabet, the Elder (ooh!) Futhark, dates back to the second century, and was used up through the eighth century. The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, which seems more likely for our friend Beedle, dates between 400 and 1100. The use of runic scripts died out after that time as Christianity brought Latin and the Latin alphabet to most of Europe.
So What Have We Got?
We have a possible tenth century surname, possible ancient first names, a possibly ancient or late medieval grave stone, and a mevieval runic tale. Now of course this is all based off Muggle history, and one could argue that runes continued to be used a lot later in the Wizarding world, but we all know that the current language of magic is Latin, and probably has been for some time. Based on all of the above, I would hazard a guess that the Peverell brothers were contemporary with the founders of Hogwarts. It may be that, even before the Norman Conquest, wizards from all over Europe were pouring into into Britain to visit this new centre of magical knowledge, and that the Peverells came with them and stayed.
Note: None of this is by any means certain. Though I have studied Medieval history and genealogy for some time, the above conclusions are drawn from only a couple of hours' research, and should therefore be taken with a grain of salt. If anyone wishes to argue any point with me, you are welcome to do so. I am perfectly happy to revise my theories in light of other evidence.