Recent archaeological finds include medieval chapel, prison underneath castle

Several archaeological finds were announced in the last week, including the discovery of a chapel belonging to the medieval bishops of Aberdeen, a prison underneath the castle of Lincoln, and the remains of a dozen bodies from the fourteenth century.

As archaeological work finished at the Scottish town of Fetternear, researchers discovered the remains of a chapel which was part of a palace belonging to the bishops of Aberdeen during the 13th and 14th centuries. Archaeologists have been working on this site since 1995 and have found more than 5,000 artifacts, including the remains of a bridge.

University of Wales Lampeter archaeologist Penny Dransart told the The Press and Journal, “There had been indications an area of the site could have been the private chapel of the bishop, and we appear to have confirmed that during this month’s final dig. A few years ago we uncovered a very fine carved bone figure there, and now we have found pieces of glass from what were clearly lancet windows. Glass would have been very rarely used at that period outside a religious site, and the rectangular layout of the building – and its east-west axis – matches similar ancient chapels found elsewhere. It is an another exciting find from Fetternear, which has proved a fascinating excavation. We have done as much as we can now, and the site will probably be infilled to preserve it for the future.”

The Lincolnshire Echo reports that archaeologists working on Lincoln Castle have come across the remains of an underground prison. The castle, which was built in the late 11th century by William the Conqueror, was the site of two important medieval battles, in 1141 and 1216, and was often used as a gaol. The archaeologists believe that they have discovered the site of a prison that existed before 1787, when a new one was built.

Cecily Spall, an archaeologist with FAS Heritage, who are working at the site, said, “We have found two pieces of building already. The latest are positioned in the form of two trenches where stone walls once stood. We have to carefully take the trench down in separate layers. Every so often, we will come across a wall or floor surfaces. We have two of these walls within each trench, perpendicular to each other, and we think they both relate to the old jail. One theory is they converted medieval buildings already at the castle to be the jail.”

Angie Clay, site co-ordinator at Lincoln Castle, added, “To the best of my knowledge, the castle has never had an archaeological dig before. We had a geophysical survey and it showed patches of what could be walls. It was just carried out on the main lawn and that basically has given us the area of the trenches. We have always known there was something here, but there’s never been an opportunity to do this. We are not expecting to find vast amounts of materials. But any finds we do discover, there have been a few bits of pottery, will be with our conservators in our collections team.”

In another report, twelve skeletons have been discovered in South Yorkshire town of Bawtry. The archaeologists believe they were buried in a cemetery of a medieval hospital. The skeletons are of adults, children and babies from the 14th century and early tests have revealed that one of the was ill with scurvy, a vitamin deficiency disease brought on by poor diet.

Dawn Hadley, lecturer in medieval archaeology at Sheffield University, believes that because Bawtry was an inland port during the later Middle Ages, some of the remains might come from people who were traveling to England. She told the Sheffield Star, “By analysing the remains over a period of time we will hope to find out more about their lives and how they died. It is possible they were not all local. Hospitals in medieval times were not like modern ones, in that they cared for people who were not necessarily sick, such as the elderly, waifs and travelers.”

She believes that there might be as one hundred other medieval bodies on this site, which until recently was being used as a parking lot.

Source: Sheffield Star, Lincolnshire Echo, The Press and Journal

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