By Ben Miller at Culture24
Bones found buried in an Edinburgh garden could reflect the city’s anatomical past
Drilled and threaded with wires, the smoothed-out remains of five people – possibly exhumed by grave-robbers during the 19th century, and ending up in the hands of a family with medical and religious passions – have been discovered by archaeologists in the garden of a house in Edinburgh.
Radiocarbon dating suggests the bone fragments originate from the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Scottish capital was renowned for anatomical research and study, with criminals carrying out murder sprees before selling parts to anatomists for dissection. Other bodies were donated privately or acquired after being unclaimed through workhouses following the 1832 Anatomy Act.
Morag Cross, a co-author on the work carried out by Guard Archaeology, believes the bones may have been owned by Dr David Thomson, who trained in Edinburgh and had a daughter involved with wire-working companies during her time at the house on Grove Street.
“The coincidence of wireworkers, medical practitioners and clergymen associated with the house and garden occurs in the late 1840s and in the late 1850s with the intermarried Peddie, Young and Thomson families,” she says.
Read about the excavation and research of this burial: ARO9: Anatomy of a Burial: Grove Street, Edinburgh by Maureen Kilpatrick and Morag Cross