Several female medieval skeletons discovered in Kilkenny

The remains are those of two young children and young adults

Several female medieval skeletons discovered in Kilkenny

Image: Kilkenny County Council

Four medieval skeletons have been found during a dig at St Mary's Church in Kilkenny.

All of the skeletons are female: there are two children (aged around 8-years-old), a young adult in her teens/early 20s, and an adult aged around 25 plus.

The teenage girl appears to have not had an easy life, as her spine was damaged from 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.

While one of the child skeletons also showed evidence of a severe iron deficiency, which was probably caused by malnutrition.

The four skeletons can be dated to around 1250-1350 AD, based on pottery found in their graves. This would mean they are of the first few generations of Anglo-Norman colonists in Kilkenny.

Image: Kilkenny County Council

Kilkenny Archaeology were monitoring excavations on behalf of contractors for a service trench for the new Medieval Mile Museum.

The new museum has been designed to maximise the preservation in situ of human skeletal remains - but in this case the skeletons were found at a depth of just 0.35m from the surface.

This means they had to be archaeologically excavated, with the consent of the National Monuments Service, as the services required a deeper trench.

The skeletons, which are very well-preserved, are being carefully recorded and analysed in the ground.

Once exhumed, they will be brought to a lab for further detailed analysis.

When this is completed, it may be possible to return the burials to St Mary's following consultation with the National Museum of Ireland.

Image: Kilkenny County Council

Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, managing director of Kilkenny Archaeology, said: "Their place of burial, in the south-west corner of the city's main graveyard around St Mary's parish church, would typically imply they were not wealthy, and instead they were probably the poor of the medieval town."

"Further proof of this comes from the fact none of the skeletons were buried in coffins and they were instead buried in simple shrouds."

"These have rotted away without trace but green stains on the bones of the skeletons are the remnants of copper-alloy pins that would have fastened the shrouds around the bodies."

No causes of death have yet been identified.