4,000-year-old graves found beneath a primary school in Scotland
Archaeologists have found two Bronze Age bodies beneath a primary school in Newhaven, Edinburgh, and they believe there may be many more.
The ancient remains were found during a routine survey ahead of a carrying out a building extension to the school. Archaeologists were stunned when they came across the burial plots, which have been dated to approximately 2,000 BC.
The skeletons were found lying on their sides in a crouching position, an ancient tradition relating to the belief that the deceased were merely resting before waking in the afterlife. They were often buried with pots containing food and drink to sustain them for the journey to the next world. “It’s a definite style which is very indicative of a prehistoric burial,” said John Lawson, archaeology officer at Edinburgh City Council.
An artist’s reconstructed of a Bronze Age burial. Image credit .
Crouched burials were often oriented north-south, and there were typically strict rules determining the position and grave goods of the deceased, depending on their gender and social status. Females were placed as a rule on their right side with their head towards the south; males were on their left side with their head towards the north, thus both would face east, towards the rising sun. News reports of the Newhaven discovery have not announced the positions of the two individuals that were found.
Dr Alison Sheridan, principal curator of early prehistory at the National Museums of Scotland, believes the two graves may be part of a nationally significant network of burial plots and that a Bronze Age settlement probably existed near to where Edinburgh is now. She hopes that, if the skeletons are well preserved enough, they will provide a treasure trove of information, such as age, gender, diet, where they came from, and possibly how they died.
“What’s interesting is that, although Edinburgh is quite built up, you occasionally get these magic moments which provide a window to the past,” she said.
Featured image: An example of a crouched burial. Photo credit