Northern Ireland news

Medieval burial site believed to have been discovered near grave of St Patrick

The human remains discovered are thought to date back to the 14th or 15th century. Picture from BBC
John Monaghan

A MEDIVEVAL burial site is believed to have been discovered after 12 skeletons were found near the grave of St Patrick.

The human remains, thought to date from the fourteenth or fifteenth century, were found by archaeologists at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick.

It was reported that the first skeletons were uncovered in March as excavations were ongoing in preparation of the installation of a replica St Patrick's Cross.

Archaeologists have also discovered other items including glazed pottery dating back to the eighth or ninth century, the kitchens of a thirteenth century monastery and oyster shells and cattle bones.

Tourists and visitors have been catching a glimpse of the site, while teams leading the dig have encouraged anyone who wishes to get involved to help out.

The discoveries are being guarded by experts and are due to be removed and examined at Queen's University. All the remains are expected to then be brought back to the site for reburial.

Excavation director, archaeologist Brian Sloan, said the details that would emerge as a result would be "fantastic and very worthwhile".

"It is a slow process as we must be careful when dealing with human remains and, as there may be hundreds more buried here, we will disturb the site as little as we can."

A macro-biologist will also assess the remains for the first time to determine the health records of those buried.

"This is being trialled to see if the bacterium from the soil shows us what health issues they had, while teeth will tell us where they grew up," he said.

"We will find out if they were local or from middle Europe because this was on the pilgrimage trail in medieval times. This site is one of the most important places in Ireland considering the association with St Patrick."

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