After two years of investigations, it is now thought a mass grave uncovered in a car park in 1975 may have been a noble family of the Dark Ages. The mass burial was discovered in Cramond, which is believed to be the oldest occupied village in Scotland.
The mass grave was uncovered during excavation of a Roman Bathhouse found at the same site. A team led by City of Edinburgh Council archaeologist John Lawson used forensic, isotopic, and DNA techniques to examine the nine bodies found in the grave.
Lawson said in a statement: “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?” Lawson added.
The new evidence now disproves the early theory that the bodies were victims of the bubonic plague.
They have dated the individuals back to the 6th century A.D., which is 800 years earlier than first thought — and they belong to more than one generation of a single family.
“In 1975, work was underway 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,” said Councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh’s Culture Convener.
Researchers using state-of-the-art computer programming were able to recreate the faces of the 1,500-year-old skeletons. Because of multiple healed wounds, two of the nine bodies are thought to have been warriors.
Lewis said: “Thanks to developments in modern science, the Council has been able to revisit the remains and carry out an extensive investigation. The findings have revealed 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 the Game of Thrones,” he added.
There was at least one female in the group who had shown signs of a violent death, with fatal blows to the head, and two males had severe wounds. It is also thought that five or six infants were also placed in the grave, with the ages ranging from unborn to 4 or 5 years old.
According to the City of Edinburgh Council archaeologist, it is due to the positioning of bodies and unique nature of the burial that they believe these could be members of a long-forgotten “Royal family.” This raises the question, is Cramond in Edinburgh the site of a royal stronghold?
Lawson said: “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.”