Hundreds of volunteers have helped unearth a female skeleton which could be 1,000 years old and point to a long-gone medieval church
These are the remains of a well-preserved adult female found in an ancient burial ground at Hillsborough Castle, the Queen’s residence in Northern Ireland where archaeologists believe the cemetery could have been connected to a medieval church which once stood there.
Her skeleton could be 1,000 years old. She was unearthed by volunteers during the first day of digging at the castle, built during the 1780s on grounds now thought to have been used long before medieval times.
Slate roof tiles, nails and mortar discoveries could also be signs of a settlement in Hillsborough before the Georgian village that exists today.
Rosanagh Fuller, of Historic Royal Palaces, says the finds - made with the help of more than 300 local volunteers - are “extremely exciting”. Further analysis is expected to reveal more about a previously unknown part of the castle’s story.
- A Bioblitz and a Magical Weekend take place at the castle later this month. Find out more.
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Three castles to see in Northern Ireland
The Inniskillings Museum, Enniskillen
Enniskillen Castle, situated beside the River Erne in County Fermanagh, was built almost 600 years ago by Gaelic Maguires. Guarding one of the few passes into Ulster, it was strategically important throughout its history.
A striking feature of the landscape from land, sea and air, Carrickfergus Castle greets all visitors with its strength and menace. It represents more than 800 years of military might.
Castle Ward, Downpatrick
Explore this exceptional 332-hectare (820-acre) walled demesne, dramatically set overlooking Strangford Lough, and marvel at the quirky mid-Georgian mansion, home of the Ward family since the 16th century. An architectural curiosity, it is built inside and out in the distinctly different styles of classical and gothic.