Workers repairing gas mains in Chester have dug up human remains thought to have come from a nearby graveyard and dating from the 1600s.
The discovery was made by workers from Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions, which is replacing the Victorian metallic mains.
And the company has also unearthed so many other artefacts that it has hired full time archaeologist Andy Lane.
Mr Lane said: “The remains of several individuals were discovered within the backfill of the former earlier 20th century gas main trench. The skeletons consisted of a number of skull and skull fragments, arm and leg bones, ribs, vertebrae and pelvis.
“A fragment of clay smoking pipe, dating from the late 19th to the early 20th century, was found within one of the skulls, indicating the level of disturbance that the bodies received. The clay pipe probably came from one of the workers laying the original gas main.”
Mr Lane believes the skeletons came from nearby St Bridget’s graveyard. “St Bridget’s was of one of many churches in Chester founded in the medieval period. This means that the skeletons may be up to 600 years old.”
The assemblage will be analyzed to create a valuable data set allowing archaeologists to form a picture of the early inhabitants within the historic city of Chester. The proliferation of archaeology creates the opportunity for exciting discoveries everyday”.
The work to replace cast iron mains in Chester is nearing the half way point, with over 2.5km of mains replaced, and approximately 3.5km still to complete.
Vicki Lloyd is Balfour Beatty’s construction engineer running the Chester works. She said: “Chester has been like no other project I have ever worked on and it is almost unique within the business because of the historic nature of the works environment and the proximity of important Grade I and II listed buildings.”