Archaeologists Discover Almost 300 Skeletons Beneath Old Welsh Department Store

A team of archaeologists have discovered nearly 300 human skeletons, almost half of which were children, while excavating the site of an old department store in Wales, adding the possibility that the site was once a friary during the Middle Ages.

The discovery was made beneath the old Ocky White department store in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
The discovery was made beneath the old Ocky White department store in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

The discovery was made as part of a £6.2 million redevelopment project of the Ocky White department store in Pembrokeshire, Wales, which closed its doors in 2013. The excavation project is being handled by a team from the Dyfed Archaeological Trust.

Head of Field Services, Fran Murphy, told Sky News that the discovery was "incredibly significant."

Ms Murphy said: "Very rarely are there deep excavations in urban areas. The study of it will be such an amazing insight into society at the time.

"It's a little bit overwhelming at times when you see the sheer number of excavated bones."

Approximately 280 human skeletons have been uncovered so far, many of which were young children, and some babies. Researchers believe that the site was previously St Saviour's Friary, founded in 1256.

Murphy added: "It is a mass of burials of people of all ages and genders - people wanted to be buried there who lived in the town.

"From tiny babies, you can imagine the mortality rate was very high in that period, so there are large numbers of infant burials.

"Most of the burials are in shrouds rather than coffins."

Wales skeletons in Pembrokeshire
Experts have dated most of the remains to between the 13th and 16th centuries

Pembrokeshire County Council put the redevelopment on hold an initial discovery was made following the demolition of the Ocky White to allow an archaeological dig to take place.

Terry Edwards, the director of the company working on the project, said earlier in the year: "Historical and cultural artifacts are a part of our Welsh heritage and have an inherent value for education, research, leisure, tourism, and the economy.

"We have a responsibility to mitigate the potentially damaging effects of any development we work upon."

As well as the huge haul of human remains, researchers also uncovered numerous artifacts, including decorative floor tiles, carved stone, and roof ridge tiles - all of which adds further credence to the team's belief that the site was where St Saviour's Friary once stood.

Murphy said: "We know it's there because of a series of monastic references, mainly records about money.

"At its height, there were apparently eight friars who were part of the friary before it was dissolved and passed into private hands.

"It was dissolved in the 1530s with one of the friars scrubbing his name from the list of friars at the priory, which is peculiar and might have been a protest to its closing."

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