Archaeological investigations continue in Edinburgh

While for many reading the website the most interesting thing about the Trams to Newhaven project will be what comes at the end ff it – i.e. an operating tram line in 2023! – there is also some interest to be found during the initial construction phase, especially with the continued archaeological investigations. As part of these works forensic artists have started to reconstruct the faces of remains uncovered to give an insight into what life was like in Leith and Edinburgh up to 700 years ago.

Masters graduates from the University of Dundee have been working alongside GUARD Archaeology (sub-contractors for the project) using special 3D scanners to build up digital versions of skulls which had been discovered in excavations outside of South Leith Parish Church. This allowed for lifelike representations to be created of the former residents which is the first step in the aging analysis of bodies. The first two images show a man and a woman who were both aged between 35 and 50. Early forensic analysis indicates that the woman may have suffered from nutritional deficiencies.

Cllr Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “These images give us a fascinating insight into the lives of the people who lived in our city centuries ago. The work being carried out now will not only shed light on the area’s past but will help to conserve it for many years to come. This is all part and parcel of the broader project to bring trams to Newhaven, and I’m glad that we’ve been able to involve residents in exciting developments like this, as we progress with such a major scheme.”

During the excavation works outside South Leith Parish Church, more than 360 bodies dating from 1300 to 1650 were exhumed while the apparent remnants of the original medieval graveyard wall. The bodies were removed as they may have been affected by the main tram works. All will now be subject to examination and analysis which it is hoped will reveal information on the origins, health, diseases and diet of the people of medieval Leith.

John Lawson, City of Edinburgh Council Archaeologist, said: “These fantastic reconstructions help us connect directly with our forebearers. Often, we as archaeologists just see the physical remains but the work undertaken by Dundee University’s forensic artists helps put the flesh, so to speak, back onto these remains and by doing so I feel brings them closer to us today.”

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