Medieval skeletons found under disused Kilkenny car park

Female remains believed to be of poor Anglo-Norman colonists who died young

Four medieval skeletons have been discovered under a disused car park in Kilkenny city.

The female skeletons have been dated to between 1250 and 1350 meaning they were likely among the first Anglo-Norman colonists in Co Kilkenny.

They were discovered just a foot underground during the digging of service trenches for electricity wires.

The service trenches were for the €6 million St Mary's Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny which is due to open in the next 12 months.

The area was formerly a car park which had been concreted over in the 1950s before the church and its grounds were bought by the council in 2009.

Archaeologists have determined that the women, aged between eight and 25, were the poor of the town.

They had been buried in the southwest corner of the city’s main graveyard around St Mary’s Parish Church. This area was reserved for the poor.

Tell-tale green stains on the bones of the skeletons suggest they were buried in shrouds rather than in coffins as the better off were at the time. The stains came from copper-alloy pins used to hold the burial shrouds together.

One of the skeletons, that of a teenage girl, showed evidence of hardship. Her spine was damaged from the prolonged lifting of heavy weights and one of her legs appeared to be shorter than the other, meaning she would have walked with a pronounced limp.

Their premature deaths showed how hard life was for the poor at that time. For these unfortunate girls, life was truly nasty, brutish and short.

The skeletons are being carefully recorded and analysed in the ground by the archaeological team and their osteoarchaeologist. Once exhumed they will be brought to a laboratory for further detailed analysis.

They may be reburied in St Mary's, following consultation with the National Museum of Ireland.