Human skull unearthed ahead of new hotel’s construction

Other items dug up in Edinburgh included a sequence of buildings spanning the last millennium.

Old Town: The new Virgin Hotel can now be built in Edinburgh.
Old Town: The new Virgin Hotel can now be built in Edinburgh.

A human skull was unearthed during an archaeological dig ahead of the construction of a new hotel in Edinburgh.

Other items discovered during the works included medieval rubbish pits, wells and leather, a 13th century trebuchet ball and an early cannonball.

A sequence of buildings spanning the last millennium – including hearths, wattle panels and structural timbers – were also unearthed, alongside shoes, textiles, knives, jewellery and clothes.

A costrel – a traditional early drinking vessel made of leather – was also recovered.

Unearthed: A medieval jug and 13th-14th century barrel were dug up.

Some of the discoveries potentially date back to the Bronze Age and chart the development of early Edinburgh in the shadow of Castle Rock.

Following the completion of the archaeological works, construction on the first Virgin Hotel in Europe will begin within weeks.

The building works were initially deferred following archaeological surveys carried out on the site.

The hotel, in the Old Town, is now expected to open next year.


Raul Leal, Virgin Hotels CEO, said: “We always knew that India Buildings was a special place and a very special development for Virgin Hotels, though I’m not sure we could have guessed just how amazing it really is.

“A unique insight has been gained into life in Edinburgh and the city’s development over nearly 1000 years.

“While we’ve been keen to get on with the India Buildings development, we know how important it is to take advantage of an opportunity like this to shine a light on the lives and history of the city’s earliest residents and communities.

“Virgin Hotels is proud to have played a part in work of such national importance.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with the city through to the hotel opening, and we will look at ways we can inform our guests of the rich history beneath the rooms in which they will sleep.”

Discovery: A costrel and medieval gaming dice were found.

The archaeological works have involved close cooperation with Edinburgh Council.

Culture and communities convener, Councillor Donald Wilson, said: “As a council we are fully committed to understanding and preserving the story of this great city, and I would like to thank Virgin Hotels, AOC Archaeology and CGMS for working so closely with our team on this fascinating project.


“It just goes to show how important it is that we take the opportunity with every major development in the city to investigate what’s underneath with a thorough excavation.

“The items found will help provide new insight into some of the earliest chapters in Edinburgh’s story, and I’m sure, will launch future scientific papers and exhibitions.

“We also look forward to seeing the first Virgin Hotel in Europe opening here in the near future.”

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