A fascinating collection of skeletons capturing more than 2,000 years of human history will go on display today in a ground-breaking new exhibition in Leeds.
Skeletons: Our Buried Bones brings together 12 skeletons from Yorkshire and London, some of which have never been seen by the public before and each offering a unique insight into the health and heritage of people living in different eras.
The exhibition has seen curators painstakingly reassemble each skeleton, displaying them anatomically and side by side in the museum’s special exhibitions gallery.
All the skeletons going on display have been analysed by specialist osteoarchaeologists from the Museum of London, revealing more about their stories as well as health conditions and injuries they suffered and how they may have died.
Among the remains which feature in the exhibition are a soldier discovered in a mass grave near the site of the Battle of Towton, a brutal conflict during the Wars of the Roses in 1461.
He sustained severe injuries which show he suffered an extremely violent death and he may have been executed after the battle.
Also part of the exhibition will be the remains of a Medieval anchoress from the Church of All Saints in Fishergate, York and a Medieval man who survived being shot in the back by an arrow or crossbow, only to be killed later by the Black Death.
His remains were excavated from East Smithfield, the first dedicated Black Death cemetery in London.
Katherine Baxter, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of archaeology, said: “From a historic and scientific perspective, what this exhibition allows us to do is to build a very vivid picture of how each of these people lived, some of the illnesses and injuries they suffered and how they died.
“But by learning more about these individuals and their lives, we’re also able to engage with their stories on a human level and forge a very real and very powerful connection to our past.
“Each of these skeletons is representative not only of a distinct chapter in our heritage, but of a person who played their own unique role in shaping the world we know today and who then became part of the fascinating history beneath our feet.”
Other skeletons on display include the ancient remains of a mystery Iron Age man and woman found buried together during archaeological excavations beside the A1 near Bramham between 2007 and 2008.
They were buried together in what experts call a double crouched burial, with both bodies were drawn up into the foetal position and placed alongside each other.
Also on display is a soldier from Oliver Cromwell’s army, thought to have died in York as the result of a mass outbreak of infectious disease.
Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said: “The subject of this exhibition is both fascinating and poignant and I’m sure it will prove a thought-provoking experience for visitors.
“It’s inspiring to see Leeds City Museum welcoming such a bold and captivating exhibition which pushes the boundaries of heritage and culture and helps us to think more about the human stories behind our history.”
Skeletons: Our Buried Bones will be at Leeds City Museum from today until January 7, 2018.