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Skeletons found at Cornish chapel dated to Dark Ages

Skeletons uncovered at an historic site have been dated to the Dark Ages, in what is being called a "nationally significant discovery".

Skeletons found at Cornish chapel dated to Dark Ages
The adult skeletons were female, one aged at least 45 and the other probably 20-25, 
while the children were aged one to five, with one aged under six months 
[Credit: Cornwall Archaeological Unit]
Archaeologists said the "amazing" finds at St Piran's Oratory in Cornwall are thought to confirm an early Christian presence there.

The surviving building is thought to date to the 11th or 12th Century.

Tests on the skeletons of two children, excavated last year, show they date from the 8th or 9th Century.

Skeletons found at Cornish chapel dated to Dark Ages
The bones of two skeletons showed familial traits and appeared to 
have been buried together, suggesting a close relationship 
[Credit: Cornwall Archaeological Unit]
James Gossip, from Cornwall Archaeological Unit, which led the excavations, said the skeletons of two adults and 10 children had been found to the north-west of the Oratory, buried approximately 24in (60cm) down.

He said: "The first sample, taken from the skeleton of a child buried on its side in a flexed position, produced a date suggesting burial in the 8th or 9th Centuries.

"The second, also a child, appears to have been buried around the same time, but more probably in the 9th Century.

Skeletons found at Cornish chapel dated to Dark Ages
James Gossip said further analysis of the skeletons should 
provide details on origins, migration and diet 
[Credit: Cornwall Archaeological Unit]
"If this is the case then these burials relate to an earlier structure, the presence of which has long been suspected."

Mr Gossip said: "Due to the scarcity of religious structures scientifically dated to the early medieval period these findings are of national significance and help to confirm the early medieval origins of a religious centre at the Oratory site."

Eileen Carter, a founder member of the St Piran Trust, which cares for the Oratory, said: "We are thrilled. These results are very important as they point to the existence of a place of Christian worship at this time."

Skeletons found at Cornish chapel dated to Dark Ages
St Piran's Trust, set up in 2000, raises funds to excavate and 
interpret the church and the earlier Oratory of St Piran 
[Credit: Cornwall Archaeological Unit]
Ian Saltern, also from the trust, said: "It is hoped that further archaeological work may reveal additional, perhaps earlier, burials."

Mr Gossip said: "More detailed analysis of the skeletal material, which can be used to provide information on origins, migration and diet, will add significantly to our knowledge of the early origins of this iconic site and the development of the early Church in Cornwall."

Source: BBC News Website [August 18, 2015]

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