Excavation begins of medieval human remains unearthed during tram works

The excavation of human remains which could date back as far as 1300 has started in Edinburgh.

Archaeologists are on-site outside South Leith Parish Church where previous investigations have shown its medieval graveyard extended across the road.

The team are removing any human remains likely to be affected by work to extend the city’s tramlines to Newhaven, with 10 bodies already exhumed.

Archaeologists hope to find out more about the lives of the people in medieval Leith (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Depute local authority leader Cammy Day said: “This is an extremely fascinating, essential part of the broader project to bring the tram to Newhaven, shedding some light on centuries of history here in Leith.

“It’s crucial that we conserve the remains found here and a team of archaeologists are carrying out the painstaking job of doing this.

“What’s more, further examination of the excavated graves will give us an invaluable glimpse into the lives of Leithers past.”

The exhumed bodies date from between 1300 and 1650, while apparent remnants of the original medieval graveyard wall have also been found.

Any remains will be subject to examination and analysis to reveal information on the origins, health, diseases and diet of the people of medieval Leith.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “The Trams to Newhaven project is now up and running again and progressing well, as the main works get under way on Leith Walk.

Construction was suspended on the discovery of the remains, having started in 2019 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“This element of the scheme is just as important as track-laying or landscaping and allows us to conserve a small piece of the area’s heritage for generations to come.”

Works from Elm Row to Crown Place are currently under way, with traffic management involving Leith Walk being reduced to one city-bound lane between London Road and Crown Place for the duration of the works.

Construction commenced in November 2019 with Edinburgh Trams timetabled to take their first passengers to and from Newhaven in spring 2023.

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