Stirling Castle skeletons show signs of brutal death

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scientist holding skull found at Stirling Castle
Image caption,
Tests showed that at least five of the nine people suffered brutal deaths

Tests on the medieval skeletons of five people found buried at Stirling Castle have suggested they suffered "brutally violent" deaths.

Their remains were found along with those of four others during renovations of the castle's royal palace.

Scientists used radiocarbon dating to determine the nine people died between the 13th and 15th Centuries.

Archaeologists believe they probably died in sieges, skirmishes or battles during the Wars of Independence.

Stirling Castle changed hands several times in the wars, sometimes being held by the Scots, other times by the English.

In one case, a man - thought to be aged between 25 and 35 - had 44 fractures on his skull.

The tests, carried out at the University of Bradford, also showed a woman - aged between 36 and 45 - had suffered 10 fractures to the right side of her skull, resulting from two heavy blows.

'Battle trauma'

Neat, square holes through the top of her skull also suggested she had fallen and been killed with a weapon such as a war hammer.

One set of remains, known as Skeleton 190, were from a young man - aged between 16 and 20 - who showed signs of a stab wound in the chest.

He was also struck on the base of his skull, on the jaw, the collarbone and ribs.

The skeletons were buried beneath a lost 12th Century royal chapel, which was excavated as part of Historic Scotland's project to refurbish the castle's 16th Century palace.

Richard Strachan, Historic Scotland's senior archaeologist, said: "The skeletons were a remarkable find and provided an incredibly rare opportunity to learn more about life and death in medieval Scotland.

"The new research has brought some quite incredible results.

"It was unusual for people to be buried under the floor of a royal chapel and we suspected that they must have been pretty important people who died during periods of emergency - perhaps during the many sieges which took place.

"The fact that five of the skeletons suffered broken bones, consistent with beatings or battle trauma, suggests this could be what happened."

The team said it was not certain where the deceased were from, or who they were fighting for.

However, tests so far are consistent with at least some of them being from the Stirling or Edinburgh area.

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