Burials at St Benet’s
An Examination of Burials and Wooden Coffins from St Benet’s Churchyard.
In 2015, specialists from York Archaeological Trust and York Osteoarchaeology reviewed the material from the excavations that had taken place at 12-18 Swinegate, 14 Little Stonegate and 18 Back Swinegate in York. These excavations took place between October 1989 and July 1990, and they represent two of the most interesting, though little known of the Trust’s excavations. A total of fifteen trenches were excavated at this time and these revealed a complex sequence of deposits dating from Roman times to the post-medieval period, together with a number of exceptional artefacts including a collection of well-preserved wooden coffins and covers, and associated human remains of late 9th to early-11th century date relating to the cemetery of the lost church of St Benet’s.
The project reviewed the original material to create a new set of site reports as well as new research that completed a woodworking technology report on the remains of the coffins and associated wood. In addition new work to carbon 14 date seven of the skeletons, four within coffins or under wooden covers and three that lay in graves with no associated coffins, was carried out as well as new osteoarchaeological reports on these seven skeletons, plus a small finds report on a small collection of objects buried with one of the individuals.
The work led to a new exhibition of one of the female coffined skeletons at JORVIK in December 2015. Unfortunately due to the flooding which closed JORVIK from early 2016 the skeleton was withdrawn from display but will return to JORVIK in the spring of 2017 when the museum reopens to the public. Another male skeleton, which is assumed may have come from Africa or has traits of African ancestry is also going to be on display in the new version of JORVIK alongside the new isotopic research that hopes to shed more light on this interesting individual.
It is hoped that this initial re-examination of this extremely interesting site in the centre of York could lead to further investigation of the Viking Age in the city, specifically the identification of further human remains from this period.
Pathology Images – SK3379
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Grave Goods Images – 15042
Skeleton and coffin installation images
Time-lapse video of wooden coffin and female skeleton installation at JORVIK Viking Centre