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Department of Archaeology

Latest News

Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project shortlisted for prestigious award

The Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project has been shortlisted for Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at this year’s Times Higher Education (THE) Awards.


The awards, which are in their 13th year, are known as the ‘Oscars of Higher Education’. There are 19 categories in total, covering the full range of university activity.


Speaking about the shortlisting, Professor Chris Gerrard, Research Team Lead for the project said; “It is wonderful to see the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project recognised in this way.


“The project has been fascinating to work on and the whole team has been committed to restoring a voice to the soldiers and giving those connected with their story the opportunity to reconnect with their heritage.


“We are looking forward to the awards ceremony in November.”


THE editor John Gill said: "Once again these awards have attracted hundreds of entries from the length and breadth of the nation, and from institutions of every hue.


“All those shortlisted can be immensely proud to have made it through this first phase, and we at Times Higher Education look forward to honouring the winners for their talent, creativity and commitment at a time for the academy when these qualities are increasingly essential."


The project team is continuing their work to complete research on the remains of the Scottish Soldiers. It is hoped that further announcements about research findings will be made later in 2017. Reburial of the remains will take place once the research programme has been completed.


The Times Higher Education Awards ceremony will take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in London on Thursday 30 November 2017.

(7 Sep 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 and a video of the commemorative event held at Palace Green Library, are available online here


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)