Around 200 well-preserved medieval Skeletons have now been recovered from one of Britain’s best beaches, archaeologists say, including 90 in the last three weeks alone.
The bodies, believed to belong to an early Christian community, are thought to date back as far as the 6th century and were laid to rest in the cemetery of a former chapel at Whitesands Bay in Pembrokeshire, Wales. They are well preserved because they have been buried in sand at what was once a medieval trading post with Ireland.
Excavation work is ongoing at Whitesands Bay, a Blue Flag beach near the city of St David’s, which used to be the location of the chapel, called St Patrick’s. The Skeletons were found just below the surface of the dunes where the chapel’s cemetery used to be, exposed by natural erosion and storms.
They are now being preserved by experts at the University of Sheffield.
Preservation of the bones is ‘absolutely incredible’ because the Skeletons have been immersed in the sand, according to Jenna Smith at Dyfed Archaeological Trust, which is leading the dig. ‘We’ve lifted over 90 burials in the last three weeks,’ Smith told the BBC. ‘It’s really important that we do so because it gives that snapshot in time which we don’t normally get in Wales.
The bone doesn’t normally exist. ‘And the main reason that we’re here is that we are here to stop the bones and the burials from eroding into the sea.’ Analysis by the University of Sheffield revealed the burials were of all ages and a mix of men, women, and children and are likely to date between the 6th and 11th centuries.
All the graves were aligned with the head pointing west and with no possessions, in keeping with early Christian burial traditions.
Some of the Skeletons were found to be in cists – graves lined and capped with stone slabs, a burial tradition common across western Britain in the early medieval period.