Archaeologists find what they think are remains of Franciscan friars

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Skeletons uncovered at Marischal College.

Archaeologists have uncovered seven skeletons and five additional human skulls in the grounds of historic Marischal College in Aberdeen.

The skeletons, all men, are thought to be Franciscan friars.

The excavations are being carried out by Aberdeen City Council archaeologists in advance of the creation of the council’s new £80.4million headquarters.

One of Aberdeen’s major religious houses, the Franciscan Friary, occupied the site from the late 15th century.

Assistant archeologist Alison Cameron said: “This is quite an unusual find. We have been working at the site for a while now and we knew there was a possibility of finding burials.

“They were all buried with their hands clasped as if in prayer and may have been bound into that posture with cloth, which has since decayed in the soil.

“There is a huge possibility that there are more to be found but there is a lot of area that we won’t be digging so that is a nice possibility for other archaeologists to find.”

Archaeologists have confirmed that the skeletons were all male and at least two of the men were elderly when they died.

One had very worn teeth with many gaps, suggesting a lifetime of chewing and grinding food.

Bones found in the abdomen area of another of the skeletons revealed the man had eaten fish not long before he died. The fish bones will be sent to an expert who will determine the species.

The remains of at least five additional skulls were found, suggesting that at least 12 individuals were buried there.

Walls and cobbled surfaces associated with the friary have also been uncovered, including parts of the early 16th-century friary complex. Elsewhere walls of 17th-19th-century university structures have emerged and been recorded.

Numerous other objects were found, including two complete pottery vessels dating from the 15th or 16th centuries.

The bones have now been lifted and the skeletons will be cleaned and sent to Glasgow University where human bone specialist Paul Duffy will determine the age and stature of the men.

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