Bronze Age remains found in school playground

School janitor Robert Murray at the site where the bodies were found. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
School janitor Robert Murray at the site where the bodies were found. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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TWO Bronze Age bodies have been discovered beneath a primary school playground.

The stunning find was made by archaeologists carrying out a routine site survey as part of work to extend Victoria Primary in the north of the city.

Experts – who described the bodies as being in “pretty good condition” – have hailed the discovery as a landmark and said it could signal the presence of a nationally important network of burial pits in the Newhaven area.

Excavation of the site is at an early stage but experts said the crouching position of the bodies - presumed to be those of adults - meant they could be dated to “between two and three hundred years either side of 2000BC”.

Detailed tests will now be carried out to learn as much as possible about the remains and the metre-long pits in which they were discovered late last month.

John Lawson, archaeology officer at the city council, said the discovery came as a shock.

He said: “It was completely unexpected to find them in that location. They are lying on their sides, with the knees crouched up to the chest, which is very different to how bodies are buried today – it’s a definite style which is very indicative of a prehistoric burial.”

Mr Lawson said it was too early to say whether the two individuals had died naturally or in a more grisly manner.

But he said the pits were likely to hold a wealth of information which could transform understanding of Edinburgh’s ancient past. “Newhaven was always regarded as an area of archaeological significance, primarily because of its late medieval foundations in the early 1500s,” he said.

“There was the ship building – the famous Scottish naval ship Great Michael was built there – and then obviously you have the fishing port.

“It was a complete surprise to find prehistoric remains there could be more there.” Staff and pupils at Victoria Primary said they were keen to include the subject of the bodies in lessons as soon as possible. Headteacher Laura Thomson said pupils and teachers alike were very interested in the discovery.

She said: “We came in one day expecting to see our playground put back to normal but instead they said there had been a significant find there.

“When I told the children, they were really quite excited that this was happening on our doorstep – we’re hoping that there’s a good window of opportunity before they get started on construction to use this as a learning tool.”

She added: “Back in our staff room, we have this book called Forgotten Burial Sites of Newhaven – perhaps we should write a new chapter.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com