The secrets of medieval skeletons discovered at Stirling Castle will be revealed during an evening with renowned forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black from the University of Dundee and leading archaeologist Gordon Ewart. The skeletons were part of a group discovered by Mr Ewart and his team when they were excavating a lost royal chapel at the castle.
Two of them – a knight and a woman – attracted international headlines when they were featured in the recent BBC 2 History Cold Case documentary. The episode in question showed how Professor Black and her colleagues analysed the skeletons before revealing that both had suffered severe wounds from medieval weapons and may have died during the Wars of Independence.
The “Secrets of the Skeletons” talks will take place in Stirling Castle’s magnificent Great Hall on Wednesday, September 22nd.
Professor Black explained how she and her team approached the project. “The expertise and equipment available at Dundee allowed us to use 21st-century scientific techniques to find out much more about the skeletons than was known before,” she said. “History Cold Case attracted an enormous amount of interest, so I’m really looking forward to the talk at Stirling Castle, where the skeletons were discovered.”
Mr Ewart, of Kirkdale Archaeology, will talk about the work he has done over many years to explore the past of the castle and its royal palace. Burials in a location of this kind were unusual and suggest extreme circumstances, such as a siege or plague which made it dangerous to leave the castle.
It is likely that only people of high status would be buried in such a prestigious place, according to Mr Ewart.
“Stirling Castle is one of the most remarkable places in Scotland,” he said. “It was at the heart of the kingdom’s affairs for centuries, and since the 1970s I have been involved in a series of archaeological projects to discover more about its past. It will be a pleasure to talk about the work we have done, and the insights which archaeology has given us into the castle, the skeletons, and more recently, the royal palace.”
The investigation by Mr Ewart’s team has been of fundamental importance to Historic Scotland’s £12 million project to recreate the palace’s appearance in the 1540s. Refurbishment work is currently underway and the palace will reopen to the public as a major Scottish visitor attraction next Easter.
Tickets for ‘Secrets of the Skeletons’ cost £15 for adults and £12 for concessions, or £10 and £8 for Historic Scotland members. They are available by calling Tracey Macintosh on 01786 431 312, or by visiting Stirling Castle Gift Shop. Teas, coffees and shortbread will be served at 6.45pm with the talk starting at 7pm.
See also: Face of a Medieval Knight revealed