Tag Archives: skeletons

War of the Roses skeletons discovery – Lancastrians executed by Yorkists?

War of the Roses skeletons discovery - Lancastrians executed by Yorkists?

Remains of executed Lancastrians?

The discovery of a dozen skeletons by workmen could belong to Lancastrian soldiers executed after one of the War of the Roses bloodiest battles.

The grisly find of 12 skeletons was made as electricity cables were laid on Tadcaster Road, near the Knavesmire in York.

The area was where criminals convicted in York were executed up until 1802 – including highwayman Dick Turpin – but archaeologists believe the bodies could belong to Lancastrian soldiers, possibly captured after the Battle of Towton.

Radiocarbon dating on two of the skeletons suggests they died around the 1460s.

The bones were discovered in November 2013 by Northern Powergrid and its contractor Interserve, who were working on replacing more than 6,500km of underground electricity cables.

York is one of only five designated UK areas of archaeological importance, which means any work disturbing the ground must be overseen, so the companies worked in conjunction with the City of York Council and York Archaeological Trust on the infrastructure project.

A team of archaeologists remained present on site at all times and, when workmen discovered the first bones, they were called over to examine the find and begin the process of carefully uncovering the skeletons.

 

The skeletons were identified as male and mostly aged between 25 and 40 at the time of their death. Two had significant bone fractures which could be evidence of fighting, perhaps associated with professional soldiers.

Ruth Whyte, osteo-archaologist for York Archaeological Trust said:

“We knew this was a fascinating find as, unlike 15th century Christian burial practice, the skeletons were all together and weren’t facing East-West.

“The Knavesmire was the site of York’s Tyburn, where convicted criminals were executed right up until 1802.

Were these individuals criminals or could they have been Lancastrian soldiers? They may have been captured in battle and brought to York for execution, possibly in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton during the Wars of the Roses, and their remains hastily buried near the gallows.”

 

Dave Smith, Northern Powergrid’s Project Engineer, said:

“When we started the 18-month project to replace cables dating back to the 1950s we never expected that we – and our contractor Interserve – would be so instrumental in helping unearth such a key discovery for the city.”

The skeletons have been handed over to York Archaeological Trust to protect and preserve. Arrangements are also underway to exhibit one of the skeletons as part of the city’s Richard III Experience at Monk Bar in March.

Source – Northern Echo,  27 Feb 2015

A&A forum banner

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Archaeology

Black Death skeletons give up secrets of life and death

The medieval Black Death led to better health for future generations, according to an analysis of skeletons in London cemeteries.

Tens of millions of people died in the epidemic, but their descendants lived longer and had better health than ever before, a study shows,  survivors benefited from rising standards of living and better diets in the aftermath of the disaster.

The improvements in health only occurred because of the death of huge numbers of people, said a US scientist.

It is evidence of how infectious disease has the power to shape patterns of health in populations, said Dr Sharon DeWitte of South Carolina University.

The Black Death killed 30-to-50% of the European population in the 14th Century, causing terror as victims broke out in lumps and black spots, then died within days.

The elderly and the sick were most at risk of catching the bacterial infection, which was probably spread through sneezes and coughs, according to the latest theory.

The outbreak had a huge impact on society, leaving villages to face starvation, with no workers left to plough the fields or bring in the harvest.

However, despite analysis of historical records, little is known about the general health and death rates of the population, before and after the disease struck.

Dr DeWitte investigated how the deaths of frail people during the Black Death affected the population in London after the epidemic.

She analysed nearly 600 skeletons buried in London cemeteries to estimate age ranges, birth rates and causes of death for medieval Londoners living before and after the epidemic.

Samples dating several hundred years after the Black Death suggest survival and general health had improved dramatically by the 16th Century, with people living much longer than before the epidemic broke out.

The study, published in PLOS ONE journal, highlights the power of infectious diseases to shape patterns of health and population levels across history, said Dr DeWitte.

It really does emphasise how dramatically the Black Death shaped the population,” she told BBC News.

The period I’m looking at after the Black Death, from about 200 hundred years after the epidemic. What I’m seeing in that time period is very clear positive changes in demography and health.

She said although general health might have been improving, the aftermath of the epidemic would have been “horrifying and devastating” for those who survived.

Those improvements in health only occurred because of the death of huge numbers of people,” Dr DeWitte said.

This study suggests that even in the face of major threats to health, such as repeated plague outbreaks, several generations of people who lived after the Black Death were healthier in general than people who lived before the epidemic,” she added.

The bacterium that caused the Black Death, Yersinia Pestis, has evolved and mutated, and is still killing today.

According to the World Health Organization, the modern day disease is spread to humans either by the bite of infected fleas or when handling infected rodents.

Recent outbreaks have shown that plague may reoccur in areas that have long remained silent.

Source  –   BBC News   08 May 2014

.

A&A forum banner

Leave a comment

Filed under Archaeology