Possible Lancastrian Soldiers’ grave analysis.

Possible Lancastrian Soldiers’ grave analysis.

Northern Powergrid

2013 - 2014

Forensics and Science

Recent excavations near the Knavesmire in York by York Archaeological Trust, revealed two multiple inhumation graves.  Further analysis of the 12 individuals by the Dickson Lab, revealed 10 were males aged 25-45yrs old, one was a child under 12 and the other an adolescent of 17-19 years.

Neither grave was aligned with the east-west orientation that usually implies Christian burial.  Collectively, the multiple inhumations, lack of associated religious symbolism and notable gender bias strongly suggests two separate groups of hanged criminals.  Radiocarbon dating assigned a date range to one grave containing four adult males of cal AD 1467 ± 30, which spans the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487).  At cal AD 1516 AD ±30 the second ‘mass’ grave was of early Tudor date.  Skeletal analysis revealed pathology including significant degenerative wear to imply heavy, physical working lives.  The earlier pit assemblage was particularly notable, with multiple healed rib and long bone fractures and an unhealed broken arm, all in a small group of men of very similar age.  Could they have been executed Lancastrian soldiers?


Image Gallery from the Analysis

  • Skeleton 1
  • Skeleton 2
  • Periosteal new bone formation on the tibia of Skeleton 3; a sign of generalised infection`
  • Dental calculus (mineralised plaque) on the mandible of Skeleton 1
  • Lipping on the vertebral body of a lumbar vertebra from Skeleton 3, demonstrating degenerative joint disease
  • Horizontal lines in the teeth (enamel hypoplasia) showing childhood lifestyle stresses in Skeleton 1
  • Dickson Lab staff members Sharon and Nicola sample sorting
  • Ruth Whyte with one of the exhumed skulls
  • Ruth Whyte and Northern Powergrid Project Engineer, Dave Smith examining the skeleton
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