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Excavations in Upper Scalloway garden to continue for ‘week or two’ more

At least four ‘pretty complete’ skeletons believed to be from the 1400s have been found

EXCAVATION work by archaeologists in a garden in Upper Scalloway where ancient human bones were found are likely to continue for another week or two.

Shetland’s regional archaeologist Val Turner said there are currently four fairly complete skeletons assumed to be from the 1400s which have been unearthed, but more might be found.

Human bone was found underground by Kristian Leith when he was digging ahead of installing a shed at his home last month.

Val Turner.

Initially two archaeologists who travelled up from the mainland to undertake excavations believed there may have been more than nine different skeletons buried underground.

Turner said on Thursday however, that archaeologists now believe that some pieces of bone found around the site may have come from already skeletons they already discovered.

“It’s kind of hard to say how many other people they’ve got pieces of,” she said.

“Whether it’s one person who is widely scattered, or more likely pieces of several burials.

“There are at least four pretty complete skeletons, and there will probably be more.

“It’s now looking as if the excavation will go on for another week or two because there’s so much to do.”

They are located on top of previously discovered remains of an Iron Age settlement, with the skeletons buried quite shallowly in what is a likely burial ground.

A number of artefacts have also been found, including a piece of bone comb and iron age painted pebbles.

“The painted pebbles are certainly unusual, and it’s interesting to have a bone comb as well,” Turner said.

“Often skeletons don’t survive in Shetland.”

Turner added that the skeletons are “aligned north/south, and Christian graves are normally aligned east/west, so that is a little bit strange”.

In the late 1980s a graveyard dating back to the 1400s, as well as an Iron Age broch, were found close by at Upper Scalloway when the area was being developed.

Turner believes that the latest find is more than likely connected to the 1980s discovery.

Any skeletons or bones which are found are usually reburied.

Turner, meanwhile, reminded people to stay away from the site while excavations are taking place.

There are over new 30 houses proposed for nearby land at Upper Scalloway, but Turner said this latest discovery should not affect those plans.

“We’ve done archaeological work in advance of those houses and there have been a few bits and pieces found but there’s nothing there that we’ve come across yet that’s a show-stopper,” she said.