Remains in Durham mass grave are Scottish prisoners of war

Human remains unearthed Credit: North News

Skeletons unearthed in a mass grave in Durham are the remains of Scottish prisoners of war, experts have found.

Durham University researchers say the bones come from soldiers captured after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650.

A mass grave was uncovered in the centre of Durham Credit: North News

The remains laid untouched for almost 400 years until they were discovered by archaeologists in 2013.

The Battle of Dunbar was one of the bloodiest battles of the 17th Century Civil Wars, when Oliver Cromwell's troops won an unexpected victory against Scottish supporters of Charles II.

An estimated 6,000 Scottish soldiers were taken prisoner after the battle.

The prisoners were marched 100-miles south to Durham Castle, where around 1,700 died of malnutrition, cold or disease.

Tests have revealed skeletons found are 17th century Scottish soldiers Credit: North News

The remains were uncovered in November 2013 during work on a new cafe at Palace Green, in the centre of Durham.

Tests on the jumbled remains of between 17 and 28 people led to the conclusion that they were Scottish soldiers.

Senior Archaeologist Richard Annis said it is an "extremely significant" discovery as the researchers now understand what happened to the bodies of the soldiers who died.

He said: "Their burial was a military operation: the dead bodies were tipped into two pits, possibly over a period of days. They were at the far end of what would have been the Durham Castle grounds, as far as possible from the Castle itself - they were out of sight, out of mind."

It is quite possible that there are more mass graves under what are now University buildings that would have been open ground in the early to mid-17th Century.

Richard Annis, senior archaeologist, Archaeological Services Durham University