Royal Hospital Haslar skeletons

Sailors’ skeletons from Nelson’s navy among thousands at Haslar

A team of archaeologists who dug up skeletons in Gosport to reveal what life was like in Nelson’s navy will have their work shown on TV. Experts carried out an excavation at the former  Royal Hospital Haslar last May.

Now viewers will get to learn about some of the incredible stories behind the skeletons when the Channel 4 show Time Team is aired on Monday night.

Nelson’s Hospital: A Time Team Special will reveal what life was like in the navy hundreds of years ago.

Kim Duke, director of the Time Team special, said the forensic archaeology would give people a ‘fascinating’ insight into what life was like for men who served on warships hundreds of years ago.

She said: ‘The cemetery area was about nine acres, roughly the size of five football pitches.

‘Nobody knew how many were buried there.

‘The archaeologists exhumed some of the skeletons to analyse them.

‘They could tell what kind of diseases sailors had at the time, injuries they suffered.

‘It really gives a fascinating insight into life in Nelson’s navy.’

One of the skeletons analysed is believed to have suffered a long fall from the rigging of a ship, landing on the deck face first.

The skeleton has a broken jaw as well as five other broken bones.

Another shows a below-the- knee amputation.

Archaeologists believe the man would have died on the operating table as the point where the bone was cut off shows no sign of healing at all.

One grisly find was a skeleton which had its skull sawn in half.

The team believes this would have been carried out as part of a post-mortem examination.

The dig concluded that an estimated 8,000 bodies were buried at the site, many from Nelson’s navy and battles such as Trafalgar and Waterloo.

No grave stones or burial markers were used so it is impossible to identify the bodies.

Kim added: ‘The show offers an insight into the history of the hospital and also an interesting history of the British navy.’

A team from the  Centre for Archaeological and Forensic Analysis at Cranfield University carried out the excavation.

To learn more about the excavation watch the show on Monday at 9pm on Channel 4.

Antiquity: 2007 excavation

Update Time Team dig skeletons will be reburied

A university spokesman added: ‘The MoD has always intended to rebury any disturbed skeletons. The intention is to give them a proper navy burial later this year.’


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