Knight's grave found under car park
The grave of a medieval knight and the foundations of a monastery built by a former king of Scotland have been found under an old city car park.
Archaeologists made the discoveries, with dozens of other artefacts, during the excavation of a building site in Edinburgh's Old Town.
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.
Also unearthed was 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.
The car park had been demolished to make way for the University of Edinburgh's Edinburgh Centre of Carbon Innovation (ECCI), which will work to create and support a low carbon economy through knowledge and skills. The green building has been designed to be highly efficient and sustainable by incorporating many low carbon measures including a rainwater harvesting tank which will be placed on the site of the former car park.
Astonished by his medieval discoveries was Ross Murray, from Headland Archaeology, who studied at the University of Edinburgh's archaeology department which 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."
ECCI director Andy Kerr said: "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 buildings on this site did in their time."
The skeleton's bones and teeth are to be further analysed by experts to learn where the person was born, what he ate, where he lived and how he died.
"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," said Richard Lewis, culture convener for the City of Edinburgh Council.