More than 90 skeletons have been found by workers renovating Aberdeen’s Art Gallery.
The mediaeval cemetery, believed to date back to the 13th century, was discovered just weeks after 30 skeletons were found at the nearby Robert Gordon’s College.
The latest find has been hailed as “hugely significant” as it backs up experts’ view that Schoolhill was the location of Blackfriars Abbey, founded at some point between 1230 and 1249.
After discovering initial signs of a burial site, the archaeologists – led by project manager Martin Cook – discovered a huge quantity of bones crammed into three wooden coffins below the back of the premises, which they believe to be the remains of at least 40 people.
The three coffins were discovered to have been placed within a brick-built chamber, or charnel house, which suggested to the team that the bodies had been uplifted, packed away and re-buried in the 19th century, possibly ahead of the development of the art gallery in 1884.
And beneath the gallery itself, they discovered 52 human skeletons, with indications they had been laid to rest in coffins, within their own graves.
Mr Cook, of AOC Archaeology, said: “We were hugely excited, discovering anything like this is exciting for us archaeologists but when it’s clear evidence of a mediaeval cemetery it’s very interesting. We think this site is the same burial ground or cemetery as the site previously excavated at Robert Gordon’s, it could very well be attached to the Blackfriars site.
“It’s hugely significant to find a mediaeval cemetery like this, because you rarely find them in Scotland.”
The discovery has delayed the £30 million redevelopment of the art gallery by six weeks. In that time archaeologists will exhume and organise the bodies, as well as examine the dozens of other relics unearthed, which include coins, scraps of clothing and ceramics.