Mysterious Skeletons of Woman and Girl Discovered in Lost Tower of London Chapel

Mysterious Skeletons of Woman and Girl Discovered in Lost Tower of London Chapel
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Mysterious Skeletons of Woman and Girl Discovered in Lost Tower of London Chapel

Under the Tower of the Chapel of London, archaeologists discovered two 500-year-old skeletons of a woman and a child. the Historic Royal Palaces curator reported,

The Royal Chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula is known as a cemetery place for the famous Tower prisoners, including three queens of England: Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey.

Historic Royal Palaces curator Alfred Hawkins inspects late medieval remains uncovered at the Tower of London.

The website of the organization says, all were executed in the 16th century and their headless bodies without a memorial was buried beneath the church.

The two complete skeletons were found during an excavation on the chapel site, shedding new light into the history of the Tower of London.

Alfred Hawkins, historical building curator, told in an announcement that “The individuals are the first complete skeleton to be examined by an osteoarchaeologist (bone-specialist) from within the Tower of London.

The Historic Royal Palaces wanted to make the chapel more accessible to the public, and needed to assess the grounds and what lies beneath them. Within the first two days of the dig, Hawkins and his colleagues came across fragmented remains that they later determined to be a dog.

Historic Buildings Curator Alfred Hawkins examining the remains.

“This burial was located beneath a mortar surface which was related to a building constructed before 1681, so we know the dog died before the construction of this building,” Hawkins said.

Continuing their dig, the team came across another mortar surface that was 22 cm thick, which indicates it was a base for a floor, according to Hawkins.

“This, combined with the documentary evidence and sherds (yes ‘sherds’ not ‘shards’) of medieval glazed tile, resulted in the possibility that we had found the floor of Edward I’s lost chapel which burnt down in 1513,” Hawkins said.

Beneath that surface, the skeletons of an adult female and a child were discovered. Both found lying on their backs facing up with their feet facing east, according to Hawkins.

The adult is believed to have been buried in a coffin since nails were located with the remains, while the child was likely wrapped in a blanket before burial.

Hawkins noted that the exact date of burial couldn’t be determined, but it was most likely between 1450 and 1550.

No burial goods, which were typical for the times, were found with the remains, but the fragments from a Roman jet bracelet were recovered.
“By looking for marks related to growth, damage, wear and disease we can create an image of how these individuals lived and died,” Hawkins said about the bones.

After exhuming the skeletons, they were analyzed by a specialist and the adult was determined to be between ages 35-45, and the child age 7.

The bones told the scientists a lot about the pair. Both showed signs of illness, and the adult had signs of chronic back pain. Neither had signs of a violent death, which indicates that the individuals most likely lived and worked within the Tower of London, the statement says.

“Their growth shows not a comfortable life, but one which is typical of the period in which they lived,” Hawkins said.

Both were reburied in the Chapel on September 10 during a special ceremony. Hawkins said hundreds of skeletons are exhumed daily in the UK, but these two stand out to him because “they have offered us a chance to glimpse that human element of the Tower which is so easy to miss.”

“This fortress has been occupied for nearly 1,000 years, but we must remember it is not only a palace, fortress and prison but that it has also been a home to those who worked within its walls.”
The excavation was featured during an episode of “Inside the Tower of London” that premiered on Tuesday.

“This is the best part of performing archaeological assessments and the joy of curating a royal fortress: by examining the physical remains of the past we are able to record, understand and share how our ancestors lived and died.”


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P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.