Stirling Castle in Scotland was the scene of several brutal sieges and battles in its violent history. Now a new exhibition looks at the castle’s past and the grim discovery of several skeletons in the Royal Chapel showing signs of violent death.
One man had 44 skull fractures from repeated blows with a blunt object, and up to 60 more over the rest of his body. The Middle Ages were a pitiless time, and despite what modern romance novels say there wasn’t much chivalry. The skeleton of a woman had 10 fractures to her skull, resulting from two heavy blows. Neat, square holes through the top of her skull suggest she may then have fallen and been killed with a weapon such as a war hammer. At least five skeletons in the chapel showed signs of violent death. Carbon dating shows they died in several incidents between the 13th century and c.1450.
One of the skulls can be seen in this photo courtesy of Historic Scotland. Holding it is Dr. Jo Buckberry of Bradford University, who carried out the research on the skeletons.
The chapel was excavated as part of Historic Scotland’s restoration of the castle’s 16th century palace. The fact that the people were buried here indicates they were important.
One has been tentatively identified as Sir John de Stricheley, who died in 1341. Sir De Stricheley and the lady’s skeleton were featured last year on BBC2’s History Cold Case series.
Stirling Castle was an important castle on the boundary between Scotland and England and was besieged numerous times during the Wars of Scottish Independence (1296-1328 and 1332-1357). Several battles occurred nearby.
The exhibition, including facial reconstructions of Sir De Stricheley and the lady, will open June 4.
[Castle photo courtesy Finlay McWalter]