Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

New light cast on Edinburgh crypt mystery

Face and skull Image copyright Edinburgh council

Nine bodies found in a car park 40 years ago could be members of a noble family from the Dark Ages, new research has suggested.

The mass burial in Cramond, believed to be the oldest occupied village in Scotland, was uncovered in 1975 during an excavation of a Roman Bathhouse.

The evidence has disproved an early theory they were victims of the plague.

Instead the investigation has dated the remains back another 800 years to the 6th Century AD.

The discovery has also raised the question of whether Cramond could be the site of a royal stronghold.

Using state-of-the-art computer programming, researchers were also able to create lifelike facial images for the 1,500 year old skeletons.

By using forensic, isotopic and DNA techniques, the study reveals the burials belonged to more than one generation of a single family with two of the bodies thought to be warriors due to their multiple healed wounds.

Image copyright Edinburgh city council

At least one and possibly three family members suffered a violent, murderous end. One woman suffered shattering blows to the head and two men bear severe wounds which they survived.

Due to the unique nature of the burial and positioning of bodies, it is thought the victims could be members of a noble family, raising the question of whether Cramond in Edinburgh could be the site of a Royal stronghold.

Richard Lewis, Edinburgh city council's culture convener, said: "In 1975, work was under-way to construct a new car park when builders came across a mass burial at what would become one of Scotland's best preserved Roman buildings, the Bathhouse for Cramond Fort.

"For decades, the circumstances surrounding the burial were unanswered.

"Thanks to developments in modern science, the council has been able to revisit the remains and carry out an extensive investigation.

"The findings have unravelled a story even more mysterious than the one we started out with.

"With theories of ancient warriors, murdered nobles and a lost Royal stronghold - you could be forgiven for mistaking the resulting story for a plot from Game of Thrones."

John Lawson, Edinburgh city council archaeologist, said: "Many mysteries remain but thanks to CSI techniques, we've managed to make great strides in our understanding of Scotland's Cramond burials.

"The study has provided important evidence of life during this time of political turmoil and has helped us answer questions about the Dark Ages, but it has also opened up a whole new world of questions. Why did these people migrate to Cramond?

"What was so special about this area during the Dark Ages? Why were some of them murdered but given a special burial?

"If this grave was indeed the burial crypt of a noble or Royal family, it suggests Cramond just might be a royal stronghold of the Gododdin.

"If this is the case, these findings have a significant impact on what is known about the history of Scotland and Northern Britain during the Dark Ages."

A free exhibition on the discovery will open at Edinburgh city council's Museum of Edinburgh on Friday.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites