War of the Roses skeletons unearthed in York

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The skeletons of 12 young males found on a York site where medieval criminals were executed could have belonged to convicts or soldiers, say archaeologists who plan to exhibit one of the bodies at a Richard III centre next month.

War of the Roses skeletons unearthed in York
The find, which dates back to the time of Richard III, is the first
of its type

 to be found in the city [Credit: © York Archaeological
Trust]

Buried in an unusual formation beneath Tadcaster Road – known locally as the Knavesmith – the bodies were exhumed and radiocarbon dated to the 15th century as part of a £7 million project to replace thousands of kilometres of subterranean electricity cable.

“The Knavesmire was the site of York’s Tyburn, where convicted criminals were executed right up until 1802,” says Ruth Whyte, the osteo-archaeologist for York Archaeological Trust, whose experts believe the men would have been aged between 25 and 40.

“We knew this was a fascinating find as, unlike 15th century Christian burial practice, the skeletons were all together and weren’t facing east-west.

“Were these individuals criminals or could they have been Lancastrian soldiers? They may have been captured in battle and brought to York for execution, possibly in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton during the Wars of the Roses, and their remains hastily buried near the gallows.”

Two of the skeletons carried “significant” bone fractures, suggesting military fighting. The trust will care for the bones, which could form part of the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar.

Author: Ben Miller | Source: Culture24 [February 27, 2015]

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