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Archaeologists find traces of violent history on Anglo-Scottish border

Archaeologists from the Border Reivers Archaeology Unit have uncovered traces of the violent history along the Anglo-Scottish border.

Excavations at the Swinton Kirk parish church in the village of Swinton, located north of the Scottish border, have uncovered human remains consisting of 124 bone fragments that show signs of multiple injuries at the time of death.

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An anthropological study has identified up to five individuals among the fragments, two of which are adults, while the other three are children/young adults.

The church, which dates from 1100 (with significant alterations in 1593), was used as a refuge during the Anglo-Scottish Wars and the systemic raiding by the Reivers.

The Reivers were English and Scottish raiders that attacked settlements on both sides of the border land between the late 13th century to the beginning of the 17th century.

The Wardens of the Marches governed the Marcher law, which granted individuals who had been raided the legal authority to retaliate with a raid of their own within six days to reclaim their property.

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Swinton was attacked by English forces at least four times in the 15th to 16th centuries, evidenced by the remains of a defensive earthwork bank around the parish church.

Among the bone fragments, osteoarchaeologists have found two fragments from the lower leg bone that has indications of sharp force trauma from a blade. According to the experts, the trauma occurred peri-mortem (around the time of death).

An archaeologist from the Border Reivers Archaeology Unit said: “Living human bone has a completely different consistency and texture from dead bone. The living bone is more like a very hard dense wax or wood and is not as brittle as dead bone, it breaks and cuts in a completely different way.”

One of the shin bones uncovered also has slashing marks, while a thigh bone has teeth marks likely from a large canid (dog or wolf).

Header Image Credit : Border Reivers Archaeology

Sources : Border Reivers Archaeology

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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