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Archaeology and the Battle of Dunbar 1650: From the Scottish Battlefield to the New World

Durham University via FutureLearn


Discover what happened to the Scottish soldiers at the Battle of Dunbar 1650

In November 2013 archaeologists observing building work near Durham Cathedral in England made an unexpected discovery: skeletons in two mass graves. Over the next two years, researchers worked to establish the identity of the human remains. Today we know them to be Scottish prisoners who died after the Battle of Dunbar on the coast of Scotland in 1650.

On this course you will learn how the latest archaeological science techniques revealed how and why these men disappeared from history. You will join researchers seeking to solve a 350 year old mystery, and explore the resulting controversies.

This course is for anyone interested in history or archaeology. It will be of particular interest to those in (or interested in) the North East of England, Scotland, and the United States; descendants of the Dunbar survivors; and those working in archaeology and heritage.


  • Welcome and discovery
    • Welcome to the course
    • Discovery!
    • Durham and archaeology
  • What can we learn about people in the past from their remains?
    • Skeleton analysis
    • Skeleton science
  • What happened during the Civil Wars in the 17th century and how does Dunbar fit into that story?
    • Historical background
    • Invasion and battle
    • The march south and events in Durham
    • Scotland in the 17th century
  • What happened to the Dunbar prisoners who survived?
    • The Dunbar diaspora across England
    • The Dunbar diaspora in Europe
    • The Dunbar diaspora across the Atlantic world
    • After indenture
  • Archaeology and ethics
    • Archaeology and ethics
    • Commemoration and reburial
    • Displaying and curating human remains
  • The past in the present
    • Engaging a broader audience
    • The story in the past
    • The past in the present: creative outputs
    • Education
    • Archaeological techniques applied to recent mass graves
    • The heritage experience
    • Check your understanding

Taught by

Chris Gerrard


4.8 rating at FutureLearn based on 175 ratings

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