Power workers dig up 12 medieval skeletons in York

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A POWER company has uncovered 12 skeletons in a medieval burial site in York, while laying cables for a new electricity network.

The human remains date to the time of the War of the Roses. The site is the first of its kind to be found in the city.

Ruth Whyte, an archaeologist  for the York Archaeological Trust  looking at the skull of one of the 12 skeletons found in the city.

Ruth Whyte, an archaeologist for the York Archaeological Trust looking at the skull of one of the 12 skeletons found in the city.

A team of archaeologists was brought in after contractors working for Northern Powergrid discovered the bones at the site on the Knavesmire, on Tadcaster Road, in November 2013.

The workers were renewing and replacing more than 4,062 miles of underground cable as part of a £7 million investment project in York’s power network.

The skeletons are male and were aged between 25 and 40 at the time of their death.

Archaeologists believe they could have been professional soldiers who were executed and buried near gallows in a non-Christian grave.

Analysis of two of the skeletons found that they could be dated to around the 1460s.

The skeletons have been handed to the York Archaeological Trust to protect and preserve and arrangements are under way to exhibit some of the remains as part of the city’s Richard III experience.

Dave Smith, Northern Powergrid’s project engineer, said: “In carrying out the works, we came across this unknown medieval burial site under the Knavesmire which is a significant and exciting find for York.”

Andrew Robinson, senior quantity surveyor at contractors Interserve, added: “It was a very unusual thing for us to come across. We do come across odd things but nothing of this magnitude at all.

“It was a little bit of excitement as well for the lads on site who were doing the excavation.”

Sonja Crisp, a councillor with City of York Council, said it was “brilliant” that the skeletons had been unearthed and spoke of the links with Richard III, whose remains were discovered in a car park in Leicester in 2012.

Last year, a group of Richard III’s descendants lost their battle to have the king buried in York. He will be buried at Leicester Cathedral next month.

Ms Crisp said: “It’s about the same time of Richard III as well so it’s sort of nice that this has happened round about the same time we have got the Richard III burial.

“It’s the same era and these could have been soldiers that were fighting in the War of the Roses, so I think it’s absolutely brilliant that this has happened.”

Ruth Whyte, an osteo-archaelogist for York Archaeological Trust, said it was an “interesting story”.

Ms Whyte said the skeletons were found buried together in an un-Christian grave. She said condition of the remains suggested they all had similar active lifestyles and may have been involved in fighting at the time.

John Oxley, an archaeologist at City of York Council, described the discovery as a “rare and unique opportunity”.

He said there was some evidence that the men had been captured in battle and then executed.