Photos and video show 14th century skeletons unearthed during work on the Leith tram

A fascinating 14th century medieval body cemetery was discovered during the ongoing Trams to Newhaven project.

Archaeologists began excavating the site outside the South Leith Parish Church on Constitution Street yesterday, following previous investigations revealing the church graveyard stretched well below the road surface current.

On the first day, the professional team of GUARD Archeology Ltd had already exhumed more than ten bodies dating from 1300 to 1650, as well as found the visible remains of the original wall of the medieval cemetery.

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A fascinating 14th century medieval body cemetery has been discovered. PHOTOS: Lisa Ferguson

After excavation, the remains will be examined in the hopes of uncovering new information about the origins, health, diseases and diet of the inhabitants of medieval Leith.

The original archaeological work began in November 2019, but came to a halt at the end of March due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures.

The first finds in the first four months of digs included whale remains that left experts baffled.

The whale bones, which could date back 800 years, have been identified by experts at the National Museum of Scotland and may have uncovered new evidence of the town’s centuries-old ‘defenses’ against sea attacks. Carbon dating tests should be done to determine if the bones can date back to medieval times and the earliest settlements of Leith.

The professional team of GUARD Archeology Ltd had already exhumed more than ten bodies

Other key finds include a 17th-century cannonball and the remains of a large stone wall, found under the junction of Bernard Street and Constitution Street, where a statue of Robert Burns has been temporarily removed for welcome the work.

In light of yesterday’s excavation findings, Deputy Head of Council Cammy Day said: “This is an extremely fascinating and essential part of the larger project to bring the streetcar to Newhaven, highlighting in light of centuries of history here in Leith.

It is crucial that we conserve the remains found here, and a team of archaeologists are doing the painstaking work of doing so. Plus, a closer look at the excavated tombs will give us invaluable insight into the life of Leithers’ past.

Transport and Environment Advisor Lesley Macinnes supported the excavation work as a vital part of moving the project forward: coming. “

The original archaeological work began in November 2019, but came to a halt

Town archaeologist John Lawson said: “The historic harbor and town of Leith is one of Scotland’s most important urban archaeological sites with evidence of occupation dating back over 900 years.

“Although they have only just started, the excavations by our team at GUARD have already provided significant new evidence regarding the history of the cemetery and the earlier town with the discovery of what we believe to be the remains of its wall. of original medieval cemetery.

It is hoped that new discoveries are made and that we learn important new evidence for the lives of the medieval inhabitants of Leith so that we can tell their story to modern Leithers. ”

Major construction of the tram on Leith Walk from Elm Row to Crown Place is currently underway, as part of the City Council’s £ 207.3million Trams to Newhaven ‘project.


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