Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondHello, my name is Chris Gerrard, and I am an archaeologist in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University. I specialise in medieval and later archaeology and I was the academic lead in the project that is the subject of this course. And I am Julie Biddlecombe-Brown. I’m a Curator and former archaeologist. I now work at Raby Castle in County Durham, but during 2017 and 2018 I worked with Chris and the team to curate an exhibition telling the remarkable story that we are about to share with you.

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 secondsTogether we are your lead educators and we are here to welcome you to the course: ‘Archaeology and the Battle of Dunbar 1650: From the Scottish Battlefield to the New World’. But first we’d like to tell you a bit about it. We are going to focus on the discovery, research and analysis of the human remains of a group of individuals who were found during routine construction work on Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over six weeks we will be taking you on a journey, looking at this story and its impact in more detail.

Skip to 1 minute and 9 secondsBy the end of week 6 you will have built up a strong understanding of the story in Durham as it unfolded, and also of archaeological ethics and practice, particularly when human remains are discovered.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 secondsTo give you an idea about what is coming up: In Week 1 we will be looking at the initial discovery of the human remains on Durham’s World Heritage Site in November 2013. We will consider why archaeologists came to be digging at the site and some of the initial thoughts they had at the time of the discovery. In Week 2 we will be considering what we learned from the skeletons through scientific analysis; what this told us about who they were, when they died and what their lives may have been like. A variety of scientific techniques will be considered all of which joined together, something like a jigsaw, to give us the picture that helped us to identify these individuals.

Skip to 2 minutes and 2 secondsDuring Week 3 we will be looking at the research into the historical context for the lives of these individuals. How and why they came to be buried in Durham. Week 4 brings us to the stories we have unearthed about the lives of their surviving comrades. This story leads us across the United Kingdom, Europe and to the shores of New England. We will look at the evidence for their lives and experiences and the generations that followed them. During Week 5 we will be handing over to Professor Charlotte Roberts. Charlotte is a Professor of Bioarchaeology here at Durham University and she specialises in human remains, particularly from the perspective of health and well-being.

Skip to 2 minutes and 47 secondsDuring Week 5 she will be guiding you through some of the ethical issues involved in the excavation and study of archaeological human remains; how attitudes and practice differs across the globe; and some of the guidance provided in the UK for museums and archaeologists with respect to burial, display and storage. In our final week, we will look at some of the responses to this story and the impact it has had worldwide. From poetry and exhibitions, like the one I worked on, to theatre and music, this story has touched people’s lives in a way that we could not have imagined back in 2013.

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 secondsDuring this final week we will explore how and why an archaeological discovery can trigger a whole range of creative, emotional and academic responses. Throughout the course, we will be using a variety of videos, podcasts, and articles and images too to present this story. We’ve added some quizzes and plenty of opportunity for discussion. We look forward to working with you and hope that you enjoy this course.

Welcome to the course

Chris and Julie welcome you to this course and explain some of the major themes we will be exploring in the forthcoming weeks.

The nature of this course means that course material will include images and videos of human bones, and discussions about death, disease and war. All of the information is integral to the story of the Battle of Dunbar, but for those of you who might be exploring archaeology for the first time, you should expect such images.

Some of you may be exploring for the first time the stories locked in archaeological sites, while others of you might have been involved with archaeology many times before. Whatever your background, why not tell us what you’re most looking forward to about the coming weeks? Do you have a special interest in the Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site? Are you undertaking this course with a particular question in mind? Are you a descendant of one of the survivors? Don’t forget, here and throughout the course you can ‘pin’ and ‘like’ others’ comments, and reply to them too - use the Comments section below.

We hope you enjoy the course. If you’d like to know about any particular topic in more detail, have a look at the bibliography and further links at the end of the course in Step 6.18.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Archaeology and the Battle of Dunbar 1650: From the Scottish Battlefield to the New World

Durham University