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Department of Archaeology

Latest News

Videos from Scottish Soldiers commemorative event available online

Two videos, filmed during the Scottish soldiers’ commemorative event on 12 May 2017 are now available to view on line.


The first video shows the speeches given by Professor Stuart Corbridge, the Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, Professor David Cowling, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Arts and Humanities and Professor Chris Gerrard, Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project Team Lead, at the commemorative event. You can view the speeches online here.


The second video shows the public lecture by Dr Pam Graves from the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project Team and Professor Emerson Baker of Salem State University, USA, which was held in the evening of 12 May 2017. The video of the public lecture is available to watch here.

(31 May 2017)

Scottish soldiers commemorated in Durham

The seventeenth Century Scottish soldiers, who were imprisoned and died in Durham following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, were commemorated with a series of events in the City on Friday 12 May 2017.


Durham University hosted an event to dedicate a new plaque, as a lasting memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives in Durham. A minute’s silence was also observed.


Permanent memorial


The plaque has been installed in the courtyard of the café at the University’s Palace Green Library, within the City’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was during construction work for this courtyard that the remains of the soldiers were discovered in a mass grave in 2013.


Speaking ahead of the event Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, said: “The plaque will serve as a permanent memorial to the soldiers’ presence here on Palace Green.


“Since the discovery of the remains in 2013, experts from the University’s Department of Archaeology have undertaken a significant programme of research to learn more about the lives of the soldiers, including what became of those who survived.


“It is our intention through this project to give these individuals a voice in our history.”


An existing plaque within Durham Cathedral, installed in 2011 in memory of the Scottish soldiers, has also been updated to remove the reference to the soldiers’ place of burial being unknown. The updated plaque was rededicated today, with special prayers and a blessing during the Cathedral’s Evensong service.


Canon Rosalind Brown, of Durham Cathedral, said: “The updated plaque within Durham Cathedral, and the new plaque at Palace Green Library, provide an important commemoration of those soldiers who lost their lives and one which we hope honours their memory in a dignified manner.”


Battle site links


The plaque at Palace Green Library is mounted on stone cut from the quarry which now operates on the site where the Battle of Dunbar took place in 1650. The plaque’s inscription and imagery were designed in consultation with stakeholders, including direct descendants of soldiers who survived the battle and subsequent imprisonment.


Public lecture

In addition to events to dedicate plaques at Palace Green Library and Durham Cathedral, a public lecture about the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project was also held at Palace Green Library.


The lecture was jointly delivered by Dr Pam Graves of Durham University’s Department of Archaeology and Professor Emerson Baker of Salem State University Massachusetts. A video of this lecture, together with a video of the commemorative event held at Palace Green Library, will be available on line shortly.


Future exhibition


Research on the remains is ongoing and has so far revealed fascinating details about the early lives of the soldiers and their health.


The research findings are helping to piece together the stories of the soldiers.

Professor David Cowling, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Arts and Humanities at Durham University, said: “Through the discovery of these remains, and the ongoing research on them, we have been granted a privileged insight into the lives of the soldiers.


“The University plans to share their stories through an exhibition at Palace Green Library in 2018 which will be entitled Lost Lives, Hidden Voices: Unlocking the Story of the Scottish Soldiers 1650-2018.


“Our hope is that this exhibition will give people the opportunity to learn more about the lives of these soldiers, and the fascinating archaeological research which has helped us to get to know them better.”




Once research on the remains is completed they will be reburied at the Elvet Hill Road Cemetery in Durham City, close to where the remains were originally found.


The decision on where to rebury the remains was taken following extensive consultation and mindful of the University’s ethical, moral and legal responsibilities. More information about the decisions taken on reburial is available here

(12 May 2017)

Story of the Scottish Soldiers spreads on both sides of the Atlantic

Over the last few weeks the story of the Scottish soldiers who journeyed to America has spread both in the UK and the United States.


Following the Project Team’s trip to Massachusetts in October 2016 the American daily newspaper the Boston Globe featured a story about the Scottish soldiers who were sold as indentured servants in the US, and their descendants who live on today. The full article, which was part of the regional ‘North’ edition of the Boston Globe in early January, is available here. The story has also been the subject of an article in the Scotsman newspaper, which you can read here.


The Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project Team is in touch with a number of descendants of those soldiers who were transported to the United States. The aim is to explore their stories further to learn more about the history of these men. 


Project Team member Dr Pam Graves has written a paper entitled ‘The Dunbar Diaspora’ which explores the background and aftermath of the Battle of Dunbar. This paper includes details of what became of those soldiers who survived imprisonment in Durham, including those who were sent to the United States.


(27 Jan 2017)

Final design for commemorative plaque announced

The final design for a plaque to commemorate the Scottish soldiers who were imprisoned, died and buried in Durham has been announced following the consultation earlier this year.


The commemorative plaque will feature the following inscription:


“In memory of the Scottish soldiers captured at the Battle of Dunbar and imprisoned in Durham, who died and were buried here in the autumn of 1650.”


This will be accompanied by images of both the Saltire and the thistle.


The final design brings together the wording and imagery options that received the most votes during the online consultation that was undertaken earlier this year. In total over 90 responses were received to the online consultation.


The stone for the plaque will be sourced from the site of the Battle of Dunbar and will be carved in County Durham.


Once completed, the plaque will be mounted on the wall of the courtyard in the Palace Green Library Café. It was during construction of this courtyard that the remains of the Scottish Soldiers were found in 2013.


An event to commemorate the soldiers and unveil the plaque is planned for 2017. If you would like more information about this event please email the project team at


Once installed the commemorative plaque will be accessible for all to view without any obligation to visit the museum or the café.

(9 Dec 2016)

New paper on the fate of the survivors of the Battle of Dunbar

The Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project Team has published a new paper examining the fate of the 17th Century Scottish soldiers who survived the Battle of Dunbar and were held captive in Durham City.


Drawing on over 40 sources of documentary evidence, the paper offers new insight into how those who survived imprisonment in Durham were sent to work at sites across England and as far afield as the USA and Barbados.


The paper uses sources including correspondence and state papers from the time, as well as research published on the subject since, to track the fate of the surviving soldiers.


The new publication also explores the men who made up the Scots Army, the Battle itself and its aftermath in detail.


The paper, entitled “The Dunbar Diaspora: Background to the Battle of Dunbar and the aftermath of the Battle” is available to read online in the Academic Papers section of the website.

(31 Oct 2016)

Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project Team takes research to USA

The Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project Team is taking its research to the USA from 25-28 October 2016.


The team will spend four days in Massachusetts, where it is known that 150 soldiers, who survived the Battle of Dunbar and imprisonment in Durham, were sent to work as indentured servants at sites including Saugus Ironworks.


During the week the team will host a number of meetings, talks and lectures including:



  • Meetings with descendants of soldiers who were transported to New England to share knowledge and learn more about the history of these men.
  • A public lecture in conjunction with Saugus Ironworks National Park.
  • Lectures at prestigious US universities Harvard, Brown and Boston University, to share their fascinating research with other academics.

The team will also visit sites of archaeological significance in Maine relating the Scottish Soldiers.

You can follow the team’s activities in Massachusetts via the Durham University Department of Archaeology’s twitter account @ArcDurham and the project hashtag #ScotsSoldiers. The team will also be writing a post about their trip for the Scottish Soldiers Research Blog in November. 

(25 Oct 2016)

Consultation opens on design for plaque to commemorate Scottish soldiers

Durham University has launched a consultation on the proposed design for a plaque to commemorate the Scottish soldiers who died following the Battle of Dunbar.


The consultation offers the opportunity for participants to vote for one of three inscription options for the plaque, as well as on options for imagery to accompany the wording. The options reflect the suggestions received during earlier stages of the project. 


You can participate in the consultation on-line here. Anyone who is unable to participate via the on-line tool should contact the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Team by email at


The plaque, which will be made from stone cut from the site of the Battle of Dunbar, will be installed as close as possible to the site where the remains of the soldiers were discovered in 2013.


The consultation runs from 24 October – 6 November 2016. The final design for the plaque will reflect the majority outcome of the consultation.

(24 Oct 2016)

Remains of 17th Century Scottish soldiers to be laid to rest in Durham

Following extensive consultation, Durham University has decided that the remains of the soldiers, discovered in a mass grave on the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, will be reburied in Durham City.


It is intended that the soldiers’ final resting place will be the Elvet Hill Road Cemetery in Durham City, less than a mile from where their remains were discovered in November 2013. They will also be commemorated with a plaque near to the site where they were discovered.


Reburial will take place once the current programme of research on the remains is completed; this is likely to be sometime in late 2017.


Durham University will apply to the Ministry of Justice to extend the timescale of the exhumation licence, to allow this research to be completed. More information about the research is available on a dedicated Scottish Soldiers Project Research Blog.


A small sample of teeth will be retained from the skeletons to allow for future research as new techniques and opportunities become available.


The University’s Project Team has undertaken wide-ranging consultation to help inform its decisions about what should happen next to the remains.


Professor David Cowling, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Arts and Humanities at Durham University, said: "The decision on where to rebury the soldiers was very complex.


"We were acutely aware of the strength and depth of interest amongst many about the fate of these soldiers, whilst at the same time recognising our ethical, moral and legal obligations.


"All options were explored fully by the project team and in the end it was felt that the case for reburying the remains in Durham was strongest."


More about these decisions is available on the Reburial and Commemoration pages.

(24 Aug 2016)