Coffins from 17th century uncovered under Edinburgh school

Amelia Soffe 5, Louise Doyle 10 and Osteoarchseologist Megan Stoakley examien the find. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Amelia Soffe 5, Louise Doyle 10 and Osteoarchseologist Megan Stoakley examien the find. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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Further evidence of human remains thought to date back to the 17th Century or earlier have been unearthed by archaeologists in an Edinburgh playground.

The outlines of at least nine coffins have been identified in the grounds of St Mary’s Primary School in Leith as part of an excavation.

The findings follow the discovery on an individual skeleton over the Easter break while investigative works took place for a new classroom building.

Experts said the find was evidence of Leith’s “rich archaeological history”.

John Lawson, archaeologist at the city council said, said: “These excavations have unearthed what appears to be a complex cemetery thought to date from the 15th to the 17th centuries, containing at least nine graves including adults and young children buried in coffins.

“The discoveries of these burials in this location, although always a possibility, is nevertheless a surprise. Further excavations will reveal more evidence which will allow us to accurately date these burials and how they relate to the history of Leith.”

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s cultural leader, said: “The new information coming from the site is proving to be even more significant than previously thought. The school community has been very interested in the excavation and the findings. The children have been eager to learn about the new discoveries and as the excavation continues, we’ll find out more about the former inhabitants of Leith.”

The area where the remains have been discovered has been fenced off but the school remains open for pupils. The new classrooms will still be built but will no longer open in time for the new school term due to further necessary archaeological analysis, expected to last until the end of June. All existing and new pupils will still be accommodated.