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Durham University

Special Collections

Palace Green Library Events

Face to face with the Scottish soldiers – how skeleton science pieced together their story

7th August 2018, 13:00 to 14:00, Palace Green Library (Learning Centre)

13:00 - 14:00

Free - booking required

Anwen Caffell, Assistant Professor (Teaching) in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University

Andrew Millard, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University

The excavation of two mass graves at Palace Green had recovered the remains of several people, but we didn’t know who they were or why they were buried at the edge of the Castle grounds in the heart of Durham City. Were they victims of an epidemic disease, such as plague, or could they be linked to the imprisonment of Scottish soldiers after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650?

To help answer these questions we turned to the evidence locked in the skeletons themselves. Disentangling and examining the bones of each person allowed us to establish the age and sex profile of the group. Evidence for poor nutrition, injury and disease that left their mark on the bones and teeth told us something of these people’s lives. Their likely origins were investigated through analysing chemicals trapped in their teeth, and the date they died was established through combining radiocarbon dating with clues from their teeth and where they were found. In this talk we will explain how the evidence we gathered suggested we had found the graves of Scottish soldiers who had died during their imprisonment in Durham. We will share recent findings about their diets in childhood and later life, and show how pulling all this evidence together creates ‘osteobiographies’ that reconstruct the life histories of each person and shed light on life in 17th Century Scotland.

Tickets are free for this event, but booking is required via Eventbrite:

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