Monday 20 February 2017

Four young female skeletons discovered in 'remarkably good' condition at Irish church

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 10/08/2016 | 09:27

Four medieval skeletons have been discovered in Kilkenny city. Photo: Kilkenny County Council
Four medieval skeletons have been discovered in Kilkenny city. Photo: Kilkenny County Council
Four medieval skeletons have been discovered in Kilkenny city. Photo: Kilkenny County Council
Four medieval skeletons have been discovered in Kilkenny city. Photo: Kilkenny County Council

Four medieval skeletons have been discovered by archaeologists working on a new museum in Kilkenny city.

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The remains were found in an area designated for a service trench at St Mary’s church during construction on the Medieval Mile museum on July 28.

Kilkenny Archaeology, working with main contractors Duggan Brothers, were excavating a disused car park to install electricity cables when they discovered the skeletons at a depth of just 35cm from the surface.

Evelyn Graham, project liaison architect for Kilkenny County Council, told RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland that the skeletons are in “remarkably good” condition.

Four medieval skeletons have been discovered in Kilkenny city. Photo: Kilkenny County Council
Four medieval skeletons have been discovered in Kilkenny city. Photo: Kilkenny County Council

She said Dr Linda Lynch, osteoarchaeologist with the team, was immediately able to determine that they were female, based on their bone structure and size.

There are two children, who are estimated to have been around eight years old at the time of their death, a young adult in her teens or early twenties, and another adult aged around 25.

The causes of death have not yet been identified.

“They had some deformities in their skeletons due to hard work at a young age. The skull of one of the children had some evidence of iron deficiency, they were able to tell that straight away but they’re going for full analysis at Linda’s lab,” said Ms Graham.

“It’s evident that they were not wealthy people. We have a fantastic collection of renaissance and medieval tombs in and around the church, with very elaborate coffins and carved tombs, but it’s likely that these poor souls were buried in simple shrouds with evidence of copper alloy pin fasteners on the bones.”

Ms Graham said it was “not surprising” that the bones were found on the site, as it was previously a church and graveyard.

Four medieval skeletons have been discovered in Kilkenny city. Photo: Kilkenny County Council
Four medieval skeletons have been discovered in Kilkenny city. Photo: Kilkenny County Council

“The graveyard extends even further out beyond the walls that are there today. People say there are up to 30,000 souls buried in and around the parish church, many of them dating from the Black Death in the mid-14th century,” she said.

The skeletons have since been removed by the archaeology team to Dr Lynch’s laboratory for further analysis.

Ms Graham said she hopes the bones will be returned to the museum to be showcased“in a respectful fashion”.

The Medieval Mile museum in Kilkenny city is due to open in December.

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