Archaeology and the Battle of Dunbar 1650: From the Scottish Battlefield to the New World Course - Durham University


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Read more about this program on the school's website

Program Description


Discover how science, history and archaeology unlocked the stories of the soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar 1650.

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.

What topics will you cover?

  • The discovery of the soldiers and the evidence gathered from maps, historic buildings and the archaeology at the site.
  • The study of their human remains and the information extracted about pathologies, trauma and medieval conditions.
  • The role of archaeological science (radiocarbon, isotopes) in revealing more about life in the 17th century.
  • The historical background to the battle of Dunbar and its wider political context.
  • The fate of the survivors and prisoners of war sent across the Atlantic.
  • The controversy over repatriation, the reburial of the human remains and archaeological ethics.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to:

  • Interpret a range of on-site evidence above and below ground and draw your own conclusions.
  • Explain how skeleton science can develop biographies of individuals.
  • Evaluate the impact of archaeological science, for example, dating techniques and isotopic analysis.
  • Compare the differing contributions of archaeology and history in understanding past events.
  • Debate and report on the issues around the reburial of human remains from archaeological sites.

Who is the course for?

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.

Who will you learn with?

Andrew Millard

I'm Associate Professor of Archaeology at Durham University. I coordinated the scientific analysis for the Scottish Soldiers Project and did some historical research on the site and in New England.

Chris Gerrard

I am an archaeologist of the medieval and later periods (1000-1700 AD) with interests in the UK and southern Europe. I work at Durham University (UK) in the Department of Archaeology.

Charlotte Roberts

A former nurse and now a bioarchaeologist in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University, I combine my medical background with archaeology in studying health and well-being in human remains.

Julie Biddlecombe-Brown

Curator and former archaeologist specialising in exhibitions and interpretation. Recently appointed curator at Raby Castle, I look forward to uncovering new stories that surprise, inspire & delight.

Who developed the course?

Durham University

Durham University is a collegiate university with long traditions and modern values, proud to be an international scholarly community which reflects the ambitions of cultures from around the world.

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$259.99 for one year

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  • Access to this course for 8 weeks

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Last updated Sep 2020

About the School

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Learn 100% online with world-class universities and industry experts. Develop your career, learn a new skill, or pursue your hobbies with flexible online courses. Read less
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