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Cold case bones' secrets revealed

PUBLISHED: 12:21 14 January 2011

Archaelogists from the Norfolk Archaelogical Unit working on the Chapelfield development site.  Picture: James Bass Copy: For: EDP NEWS EDP Pics ©2003  Tel: (01603) 772443

Archaelogists from the Norfolk Archaelogical Unit working on the Chapelfield development site. Picture: James Bass Copy: For: EDP NEWS EDP Pics ©2003 Tel: (01603) 772443

Eastern Daily Press © 2003

A GROUP of skeletons, which lay undisturbed beneath Norwich for 700 years, will have their secrets revealed on television as a local archaeologist pieces together how they died.

In 2004, a huddled mass of bodies was unearthed at the bottom of a well as workers dug foundations for the Chapelfield shopping centre. Giles Emery, from the Norfolk Archaeological Unit, was called in to remove them and they were carefully placed in storage.

But now, seven years later, he is presenting an episode of History Cold Cases for the BBC and revealing exactly who the people were and how they died.

This week the 17 skeletons, 11 of which were small children, were in a tent outside Chapelfield while a BBC television crew filmed archaeologists at work for the upcoming show.

Mr Emery, who lives in Sprowston Road, Norwich, said: “We were about four or five metres down. That’s why they were such a surprise, because you don’t normally work at that depth.

“They were a real jumble. Because they were at the bottom of a well and over time they’d just compressed down.They were definitely medieval, they probably pre-date the Black Death. I’m hoping that through this TV series we’ll find a little bit more about them, because they’re a mystery.

“It’s been forgotten about all this time, 600 or 700 years, and we come along. That’s archaeology, bringing things back to life.”

He hopes to find out through DNA testing if they were all related, and has a hunch that they may have been visitors from outside of the area.

Celi Fowler, producer of the show, said the programme would help piece together how they lived, as well as how they ended up in their unusual resting place.

“Each episode features a different group of skeletons and it’s always a different part of history and a different location,” she said.

“We do a series of forensic testing on them. We do carbon dating, some CT scanning, which might show up trauma. We also do a facial reconstruction.”

She said that the show may involve more shooting in Norfolk, depending on what emerges from the research.

History Cold Cases will be shown on BBC2 in May or June.

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