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Date 15 April 2009 - 22 September 2009

Event ID 633884

Category Recording

Type Excavation


NT 27041 76070 Part of the post-medieval graveyard associated with South Leith Parish Church was excavated

15 April–22 September 2009 in advance of tram track construction in Constitution Street. The street runs adjacent to the graveyard wall and was built in 1790 to improve access to the harbour.

The excavations yielded 260 graves containing some 302 inhumations in a variety of grave types. Despite the proximity to a known graveyard, the density and preservation of the graves was unexpected, as burials

had not been thought to extend much beyond the existing graveyard wall. No finds of human remains had been

reported previously, despite evidence that many burials had been cut by modern services.

The graves, orientated NW–SE, were arranged in closely spaced rows. The majority were single, supine extended inhumations interred in wooden coffins or in earthen graves. Also present were shrouded bodies placed in simple graves, group burials in irregular pits and superimposed double burials, usually of a child and an adult. Most artefacts were iron coffin nails, with a few shroud pins. A copper buckle was found in one grave, along with textile remains of clothing.

Documentary and pottery evidence point to a date between the 16th and 17th centuries for most graves, and all predate the construction of Constitution Street in c1790. However, there is a strong possibility that earlier

medieval burials are present, possibly associated with the 15th-century hospital and chapel that stood on and close to the present church. Radiocarbon dating and further stratigraphic analysis may give us a more accurate picture of their chronology.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended). Reports: CECAS and RCAHMS

Funder: TIE

Sorina Spanou – Headland Archaeology Ltd

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