Ancient burials and graffiti unearthed in Lincoln Cathedral dig

An archeological survey at Lincoln Cathedral has uncovered two medieval skeletons, rare graffiti and other important artefacts.

The series of excavations was conducted at Lincoln Cathedral from May as part the Lincoln Cathedral Connected project – a £16 million scheme to improve the Cathedral’s setting and visitor experience.

Examinations of the two burials found on site have so far revealed both skeletons were adults, and one has been identified as female.

These were carefully re-covered and have been left in situ.

Two burials were discovered in the dig. So far, one has been identified as female.

Two burials were discovered in the dig. So far, one has been identified as female.

The finds also included rare medieval graffiti, showing hand carved Daisy Wheels. Daisy Wheels are often found on the walls of religious buildings and it’s believed they were carved by stonemasons perhaps as part of a protection ritual.

The medieval graffiti is very different to what you'd think of as graffiti today.

The medieval graffiti is very different to what you’d think of as graffiti today.

Archeologists also found Roman and medieval pottery, medieval building materials and animal bones – thought to be from the kitchen of the Dean’s House which used to stand on the investigated area.

Archaeology-3-copy

The earliest material found was a spread of mortar and construction debris, thought to be associated with the building of the cloister in c1300–1400.

Some of the latest features were postholes from scaffolding, likely to have been used during the demolition of Dean Flemyng’s Gate Tower in the 19th century.

One of the archeological pits on the north side of Lincoln Cathedral.

One of the archeological pits on the north side of Lincoln Cathedral.

Water tank breaking ground on site.

Water tank breaking ground on site.

Fifteen separate areas were investigated by Lincoln firm Allen Archaeology Ltd, all located to the north and west of the cathedral in areas which will be enhanced by Connected’s restoration and renovation plans.

Mark Allen, director of Allen Archaeology and supervisor of the excavations said: “The Cathedral has seen little modern development, so the chance to investigate what remains below ground using modern techniques is exceptional.

“We are particularly impressed with the medieval graffiti. The examples we found are carved deep into the stone and would have taken some time and effort to create, suggesting that their creation was tolerated by the cathedral many, many years ago. Very different to how we perceive graffiti today.”

 Image: Simpson Brown Architects

Image: Simpson Brown Architects

As reported previously, the Lincoln Cathedral Connected scheme includes conservation of buildings and landscape, a new shop and cafe and an interpretation centre.

The project has been earmarked £12.4million by the Heritage Lottery Fund to complete restoration work to the iconic West Front, landscaping of Dean’s Green to create a new outdoor public space, a visitor centre and exhibition spaces to display some of the cathedral’s treasures.

The Deanery will be transformed into a learning centre as part of the plans.

The Deanery will be transformed into a learning centre as part of the plans.

Anne Irving, programme manager of Lincoln Cathedral Connected, said: “The results of this archaeology survey are very exciting and provide a unique opportunity to look at what remains below ground around the Cathedral. Not only are we able to learn much about the Cathedral’s history and our ancestors, but it will help to inform our plans for improving visitor experience.

“I’d like to thank the team at Allen Archaeology for their expertise and guidance on the digs which were overseen by Professor Philip Dixon, Cathedral archaeologist, and advisors from Historic England.”

As well as the archaeology survey, the work also included a geo-environmental and geotechnical site assessment undertaken by Manchester-based multidisciplinary environmental consultancy, RSK.

The data from this investigation will be used by the project architects to develop the foundation designs for the proposed Connected renovations including the new visitor centre.