Grave of medieval knight and monastery site found under car park

The grave of a medieval knight and the site of a monastery have been found under an Edinburgh car park.

Archaeologists made the discoveries, with dozens of other artefacts, during the excavation of a building site in the city's Old Town.

A slab of sandstone, decorated with carvings of the Calvary cross and an ornate sword which signalled that it was the grave of a knight or other nobleman, was unearthed.

The skeleton's bones and teeth will be analysed by experts to learn where the person was born, what he ate, where he lived and how he died.

Three buildings of historical significance were previously located in the area, the 18th century Old High School, the 16th century Royal High School and the 13th century Blackfriars Monastery.

The latter was founded in 1230 by King Alexander II of Scotland, but destroyed during the Protestant Reformation in 1558 and the exact location of the monastery was unknown before this archaeological dig.

Richard Lewis, culture convener for the Edinburgh City Council said: "This find has the potential to be one of the most significant and exciting archaeological discoveries in the city for many years, providing us with yet more clues as to what life was like in medieval Edinburgh."

Ross Murray, from Headland Archaeology, studied at the university's archaeology department that used to be housed at High School Yards, a few feet from where the knight's grave was found.

He said: "We obviously knew the history of the High School Yards site while we were studying here but I never imagined I would be back here to make such an incredible discovery. We used to take breaks between classes just a few feet away in the building's doorway and all that time the grave was lying under the car park."

The car park had been demolished to make way for the Edinburgh University's Centre of Carbon Innovation, which will work to create and support a low carbon economy through knowledge and skills.

Carbon Innovation director Andy Kerr added: "We always knew that the building retrofit might uncover historical artefacts, given the site's history, but this knight is an extraordinary and exciting find. We want our new building to play a key role in shaping Scotland's future, as these historical building on this site did in their time."

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