750-year-old skeletons will give picture of medieval Aberdeen

How an Aberdonian would have looked around 750 years ago is to be reconstructed by one of the world's top forensic anthropologists.

Prof Sue Black will work with skeletons discovered by archaeologists. Picture: Hemedia

Professor Sue Black, director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at Dundee University, is in talks with city chiefs on the project after a mass haul of medieval skeletons was made in the city centre earlier this year.

Professor Black described it as a “fascinating project” and is due to create a 3D map to give an impression of how the city forebearers may have looked.

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If the condition of the remains found underneath Aberdeen Art Gallery is good enough, a whole family could be reconstructed.

A bronze cast of the impressions could become the centrepiece to Aberdeen’s new art gallery complex, due to open in 2017.

Aberdeen City Council Leader, Councillor Jenny Laing, said the prospect of working with Professor Black elevated the gallery project to a new level.

She said: “Sue Black is the world’s leading forensic anthropologist and to have her engaged in this project elevates our work to a new level and opens the door to new possibilities.”

“These people pre-date Robert the Bruce and were alive when Henry III was on the English throne – it is fascinating to think that we could get a glimpse into their world and to consider how Aberdeen has changed through the centuries. The analysis that is being done will provide a unique insight into the people that have lived right here in Aberdeen centuries ago.

“It is all the more special to think that they are our forefathers.”

In March, 92 skeletons believed to date back to the 13th Century were unearthed from under Aberdeen Art Gallery during the £30 million redevelopment works.

It is likely that the discovery of the skeletons was linked to Blackfriars, a church and friary dating to around 1230 that was destroyed during the Reformation. Archaeologists found a collection of bones of at least 40 people in three coffins and a further 52 skeletons were found in individual coffins in their own graves

Artefacts and treasures such as coins, coffin fixtures and textile ceramics were also found and are currently being analysed in London along with the skeletons.

Details on disease, war or famine in that time period are now being searched for.