Medieval Child Skeletons Unearthed in Northern Ireland

Among 14 skeletons uncovered in an ancient burial ground within meters of St Patrick’s grave, the remains of a young child and a teenager.

The medieval skeletons were Discovered beside Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down, in August 2018.

Archaeologists first thought they had found the lost cemetery of Thirteenth-Century Benedictine monks.

But they have said the oldest skeleton is that of a five or 6-year-old child who died almost 1,000 years ago.

Archaeologist Brian Sloan believes there is “more to be found” in Downpatrick

The most recent skeleton is that of a young woman, believed to be a late adolescent, buried between 1317 and 1429. Experts said she was suffering from severe tooth abscesses at the time of her death and believe she may have traveled to the on-site monastery in search of medicine or prayer.

A community dig was led by archaeologists from Queen’s University in Belfast, working with volunteers to prepare the ground for the erection of a replica high cross.

Visitors from around the world flocked to the area as the dig unfolded.

‘Rich picture of medieval life’

In the buried kitchen of a 13th century Benedictine Abbey, as well as a flint tool dating back to about 7,000 BC, ancient pottery and animal bones were also recovered. Also found were blackberry seeds, sloe pips, fish bones, and bread-making charred wheat grains.

Medieval jugs found during the dig have been carefully pieced together

Excavation director Brian Sloan said subsequent analysis, including radiocarbon dating of 3 of the skeletons, had uncovered a “rich picture of medieval life”.Although analysis of the skeletons is ongoing, he said evidence showed the young child had lived and died before the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1177 AD.

He said the young woman had lived sometime between 1317-1429 AD when the site was occupied by the Benedictine Abbey.

Mr. Sloan said the other archaeological finds had offered an insight into life in the abbey and a glimpse into an 8th Century Christian monastic site.”We can use this evidence to build up a picture of the diet and everyday activities of the monks who lived and prayed here,” he added.”



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