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Bodies of Evidence: How Science Unearthed Durham’s Dark Secret

9 June 2018 - 7 October 2018

Palace Green Library

Every city has its secrets and Durham is no exception. 

In November 2013, two mass burials were discovered in an area being developed as a new café for Palace Green Library. After over 350 years, a team of archaeologists from Durham University were able to confirm that the burials were some of a group of Scottish prisoners who died following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. This exhibition revealed how different pieces of a complex jigsaw of evidence were pieced together to establish the identity of the bodies, the science behind the discoveries, and the remarkable story of the survivors, some of whom were transported to New England to a new life at the edge of the known world. 

Bodies of Evidence brought together material from collections across the UK and beyond. The exhibition showed how Durham University scientists working with colleagues at Bradford, York and Liverpool John Moores universities used the latest scientific techniques to reveal more about the soldiers’ story – how they lived, why they died, and what became of those who survived. 

For more information about the Scottish soldiers research project, view the project trailer created by Durham University's Department of Archaeology. You can also find out more about the project on the Scottish soldiers website. 

The exhibition did not include any of the Scottish soldiers' remains; these have been reburied and were not displayed. 

A full programme of related activities ran alongside this exhibition, from talks and city walks, to family activities and musical events.

Archaeologists uncovering a skeleton