Remains of suspected family of medieval knight found at former surgical hospital in Edinburgh

By Ben Miller | 03 March 2015

Suspected family of medieval knight found on site of former surgical hospital in Edinburgh

A photo of an archaeologist in high-visibility clothing looking at a grave on mud land
A knight's grave could have been found at the High School Yards site in Edinburgh© Headland Archaeology
Eight individuals found beneath a car park in Edinburgh’s Old Town could be the family of a medieval knight buried under an elaborately-decorated sandstone slab, say archaeologists whose skeleton count at a 13th century Blackfriar’s monastery has reached double figures.

One adult female and one child skeleton have been discovered close to the remains of a suspected knight, whose grave carried the carving of the Calvary Cross and an ornate sword – telltale signs of a member of the nobility. Four infants and a skull were also unearthed.

“This site just keeps getting more and more interesting,” said archaeologist Ross Murray, who found the grave and is an ex-student of the University of Edinburgh’s former archaeology building, which was based yards from the site until 2010.

“It is turning out to be a real treasure trove of archaeology. We just can’t seem to stop finding skeletons and bones.

“These new finds look likely to be the possible relations of the suspected medieval knight.

“The skull of the skeleton found immediately beneath the location of the knight looks like that of a female.

“The remains found on the other side of the ornate slab belong to an infant from the same period.”

All of the remains were laid to rest within the confines of an ancient wall, which archaeologists believe could be the remains of a family crypt. The grounds, which will become the new Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation building, were a base for schools during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Sir Walter Scott and the inventor of the blackboard, James Pillans, were the Old High School’s most famous pupils more than 300 years ago, while a pair of murderers, Burke and Hare, are said to have carried out their crimes just behind the main building in the adjacent Surgeon's Square.

The excavation is expected to continue for another fortnight, helping to create the new Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation in the culmination of a development which has taken more than three years.

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