SEVEN hundred years of history have been uncovered beneath a disused car park in a South Yorkshire town.
Ghosts from the medieval past of Bawtry, near Doncaster, have been freed from just 4ft under the asphalt after an archaeological dig unearthed a dozen intact skeletons.
Experts from Sheffield University have spent weeks at the site off Tickhill Road and now hope to learn more from the remains about the history of what is believed to have been a medieval hospital burial ground.
The discovery of the cemetery was originally made a few years ago when workmen were widening the entrance to Pemberton Grove and their excavator unearthed some human bones.
A smaller dig took place after that but the one just completed under the supervision of Dr Dawn Hadley, lecturer in medieval archaeology at Sheffield University, has been more extensive and thorough.
A team of 20 students, some from abroad, have enjoyed the hands-on experience of unearthing real skeletons in scenes worthy of the television Time Team series.
They know a hospital run by monks was on the site but there were no written records of burials from before the early 17th century.
But the skeletons of adults, children and babies have already been scientifically dated to the 14th century and one of them is a confirmed case of scurvy, a vitamin deficiency disease brought on by poor diet and common among impoverished people of that era.
Because Bawtry was an inland port during the 13th and 14th century it could be some of the remains may have belonged to foreigners.
"By analysing the remains over a period of time we will hope to find out more about their lives and how they died. It is possible they were not all local," said Dr Hadley.
"Hospitals in medieval times were not like modern ones, in that they cared for people who were not necessarily sick, such as the elderly, waifs and travellers."
The dig found no evidence of coffins or other artefacts, and the burials were all tightly packed together, with probably more underneath.
"It is difficult to tell how many burials were on this site but I would estimate around 100. They were only 1.2 metres below the surface of the old Masonic Hall car park," said Dr Hadley.
After a detailed analysis the skeletons will be re-buried in consecrated ground under a special licence, possibly back in Bawtry.
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