Oxford

Oxford archaeologists find 92 skeletons at medieval church site

Littlemore nunnery dig Image copyright john moore heritage services
Image caption The find near the Kassam Stadium came to light following a planning application for a new hotel

Ninety-two human skeletons have been found on the site of a medieval church in Oxford.

Archaeologists made the discovery near the Kassam Stadium after a valuation was carried out as part of a planning application for a new hotel.

Paul Murray, from John Moore Heritage Services, described the discovery of the burials as "amazing".

The derelict Priory pub is the only building that remains of a nunnery founded on the site in 1110AD.

Whilst its location was known to experts, the full extent of its contents is only now becoming clear.

Image copyright john moore heritage services
Image caption A woman, perhaps thought to be a witch, was found buried in a face down position
Image copyright john moore heritage services
Image caption Another woman, likely to be a prioress, was discovered in a limestone coffin

A series of "very unusual burials" were found at the site, including a woman found in a face down position, another who was a victim of blunt force trauma to the back of the head, and a stillborn child.

"It's unusual for someone so young to be buried within the church," Mr Murray said.

"And sometimes women found in prone positions are considered to be witches.

"Another possibility is that she sinned during her life and to atone for her sins she requested to be buried face down."

Isotope analysis is taking place at Reading University to determine more about the diets and lifestyles of the people buried in the church.

The bodies will eventually be reburied on consecrated ground.

Littlemore Priory was closed by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525 and turned into a farmhouse.

In 2012 ,a dig at the site unearthed a 4,000-year-old Bronze Age arrowhead.

Image copyright john moore heritage services
Image caption The derelict Priory pub is the only building that remains of a nunnery founded on the site

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