Burials at St Bennets

An Examination of Burials and Wooden Coffins from St Benet’s Churchyard.

Between October 1989 and July 1990, excavations took place at 12-18 Swinegate, 14 Little Stonegate, and 18 Back Swinegate in York. A total of fifteen trenches revealed a complex sequence of deposits, dating from Roman times to the post-medieval period. The archaeologists discovered a number of exceptional artefacts, including a collection of well-preserved wooden coffins and associated human remains of late 9th to early-11th century date, relating to the cemetery of the lost church of St Benet’s.

In 2015, specialists from York Archaeological Trust and York Osteoarchaeology reviewed the original material from these earlier sites to create a new set of reports. These included a woodworking technology report, an osteoarchaeological report, and a small finds report on a collection of objects buried with one of the individuals.

The work led to a new exhibition of one of the female coffined skeletons at JORVIK in December 2015. Unfortunately, due to the flooding which closed JORVIK from early 2016, the skeleton was withdrawn from display but returned to JORVIK in the spring of 2017 when the museum reopened to the public. Another male skeleton, which may either have come from Africa, or have traits of African ancestry, is also on display in JORVIK, alongside the new isotopic research that sheds more light on this interesting individual.