I recently visited a fantastic exhibition at Leeds City Museum where the ancient skeletons of a mystery Iron Age man and woman are displayed together for the very first time in their special exhibitions gallery along with 10 other skeletons.

The pair were recovered from a single grave during archaeological excavations beside the A1 near Bramham between 2007 and 2008 which was once the location of a late Iron Age settlement known as Wattle Syke. They were buried together in a double burial, where both bodies were drawn up into the foetal position and placed alongside each other, and both died around the first century AD, the man aged around 25-35 and the woman over 45.

Kat Baxter, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of archaeology, selected and reassembled the remains from the Leeds collection, including the two from Wattle Syke, ready for the exhibition.

■ Jelena Bekvala, Museum of London osteoarchaeologist with the 2,000 year-old skeleton of an Iron Age woman found near Bramham, Leeds

She said: “The truth is, we’ll never know exactly why these two were buried together; perhaps they had a special relationship or they were related. But whatever the reason, it’s very likely that they did have some sort of a strong connection.

“One of the things that makes these skeletons so fascinating is that they were once people living where we are today, they each have their own individual story and they’re all a direct and very real connection to our past.”

The exhibition includes the remains of a soldier discovered in a mass grave from the Battle of Towton. As you may be aware, this is the largest battle ever fought on English soil with casualties estimated at around 28,000 in total between the Yorkists and Lancastrians. The soldier most likely was fighting for the Lancastrians and may have even been brutally executed after the battle, receiving multiple injuries which are clearly visible on his skeleton today.

Other skeletons on display include a Medieval anchoress from the Church of All Saints in Fishergate, York, and a Medieval man who lived after getting shot in the back by an arrow or crossbow, only to die later from the Black Death.

■ The skull of a female found at Wattle Syke, near Collingham. The woman was found in a double burial, alongside a younger male. Her teeth are heavily worn, and there is evidence of three abscesses. Image © Leeds Museums and Galleries

They were all analysed by experts at the Museum of London and the bones show the diseases the people suffered from in life such as tooth decay and osteoarthritis and even syphilis, as well as battle wounds and sometimes what caused their death.

The exhibition is really interesting, if you are visiting the city centre I definitely recommend having a look. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, I also suggest you visit Towton Battlefield as this famous battle provided inspiration for George R.R. Martin when he wrote the books!

Skeletons: Our Buried Bones, is a UK-wide touring exhibition from Wellcome Collection and the Museum of London and is staying in Leeds until 7th January 2018.


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