By Daniel Fox
Skeletons discovered in a mass grave near Durham Cathedral were Scottish prisoners from the Battle of Dunbar, experts have revealed.
In an email sent to University students, Professor Chris Gerrard, Head of Department of Archaeology, announced the conclusion of nearly two years of research.
“The results have led experts to conclude they are the remains of Scottish soldiers taken prisoner after the 1650 Battle of Dunbar by Oliver Cromwell’s army” he wrote.
According to Professor Gerrard, the soldiers were “marched south to Durham and imprisoned in the then disused Durham Cathedral and Castle.”
The skeletons were uncovered in 2013 during work on Palace Green Library. Since then, experts have been working at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, to establish the provenance of the grave.
The remains were originally thought to be from Durham Cathedral’s medieval cemetery. However, there were no signs of ceremony and the bones were left jumbled together, leading researchers to suspect that this was not a conventional medieval burial site.
After detailed study, archaeologists have concluded that in fact, the remains date to a 17th century battle.
The Battle of Dunbar was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War and pitted English Parliamentarian forces against Scottish supporters of Charles II.
The Scottish prisoners were marched south to be incarcerated at Durham cathedral. Around 1700 people died of malnutrition, cold, or disease after the 100-mile march.
The bones have lain untouched for nearly 400 years; however, by law they must be reinterred at an approved burial ground.
The arrangements for the burial ceremony have not yet been announced, but Professor Gerrard guaranteed that all views would be welcome.
“Durham University, with Durham Cathedral, will be working with interested parties to determine the next steps, including commemoration, and we welcome any views or feedback you may have,” he concluded.
Photograph: North News