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Experts reveal faces of medieval people who were discovered during trams work

FORENSICS experts have revealed the face of a teenager who died in Leith some 600 years ago, with his remains found during work for the Edinburgh Trams.

UNEARTHED: Experts have now revealed details of the residents and what they may have looked like from the remains found.
UNEARTHED: Experts have now revealed details of the residents and what they may have looked like from the remains found.

The boy, aged 13-17, was one of nearly 400 men, women and children whose remains were found in closely spaced rows during preparation work in 2009.

The remains, dating as far back as the 14th century, were discovered by archaeologists on the site of a long-forgotten section of the South Leith Parish Church's graveyard, near Constitution Street.

Following a five-year project to analyse the bodies, forensic artists have now revealed the age, sex, build and pathology of the medieval residents of the former burgh, and what they might have looked like. Analysis showed the teenager grew up in or around Leith and Edinburgh and died some time between 1393-1445. He had a predominantly meat and dairy diet with some fish and may have been one of the first burials associated with South Leith Parish Church, which was founded in 1438.

Others included a woman aged 25-35 who died around the same time, possibly from plague or another infectious disease. She was just 4ft 11in tall - 4cm shorter than the average height for the time, and was buried in one of three communal graves, alongside two other women and a child aged between seven and 12.

A man of 25-35, who lived in the mid 16th to 17th century, was also identified.

The bodies, including traders and sailors, were discovered during an archaeological dig by the City of Edinburgh Council and Headland Archaeology.

John Lawson, Edinburgh City Council archaeologist, said: "This is one of the largest and most important urban excavations of human remains undertaken in Edinburgh and Scotland in recent years.

"The forensic reconstructions have really helped to identify these remains as those of members of the public, rather than merely deeming them as archaeological remains, and how alike they are to modern day inhabitants of Leith and Edinburgh."

The subsequent unearthing of graveyard burials are thought to be amongst some of the most significant medieval finds in Scotland.

A team of experts from the University of Dundee carried out a painstaking process to reconstruct the faces of the 14th to 17th century remains, most of which had been buried in wooden coffins and others in shrouds.

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