Mystery as fully-sealed bottle of liquid discovered between skeleton's legs

Mystery as a fully-sealed bottle of liquid discovered between skeleton’s legs

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Mystery as fully-sealed bottle of liquid discovered between skeleton’s legs

Experts at Hull’s largest-ever archaeological excavation believe they’ve made significant progress in unraveling the mystery of a bottle discovered between a skeleton’s legs. The unique blue-colored glass bottle marked ‘Hull Infirmary’ appears to have been placed in a grave at the former Trinity burial cemetery on purpose.

The glass bottle discovered at the Hull burial has the words “Hull infirmary” on it and contains a mysterious brown liquid.

The fully intact sealed bottle also contained an unknown brown liquid. It was discovered earlier this year as part of the major excavation at the site where burials took place between 1783 and 1861.

A 70-strong team of specialist archaeologists have been working there since last year as part of the nearby £355m A63 upgrade scheme on Castle Street in the city centre. They are examining around 1,500 exhumed skeletons.

The site is one of the largest post-medieval cemeteries to have ever been excavated in the north of England and the discovery of the bottle initially raised a few eyebrows.

Osteology supervisor Katie Dalmon explained: “It’s quite normal to find artefacts such as rings, coins, items of clothing and even tableware such as plates in a burial plot but this bottle was quite unusual.

“Not only was it apparently specifically placed between the person’s legs but it was also sealed and was nearly full of liquid.”

The ‘Hull Infirmary’ inscription on the side of the bottle was the first clue in what has become an ongoing piece of archaeological detective work.

The hospital was first established in temporary premises in 1782 – a year before the burial ground opened – and then moved to a purpose-built home in Prospect Street in 1784.

Katie added: “We now know a little bit more about the identity of the body – it’s a woman who was in her 60s at the time of death. We also know she was suffering from residual Ricketts and osteoporosis.

“She was also buried in the middle of a burial stack with the bottle. It was deliberately placed with the individual and was not part of any backfill.”

Tests have also been carried on the mysterious liquid in an effort to establish what it actually is with samples being sent to experts from Nottingham Trent University to carry out a high-tech analysis.

Katie said: “The tests have confirmed the presence of sodium, potassium and phosphorus and have also discounted any pharmaceutical materials being present.

“The results leave us with the likelihood that the liquid is probably urine but they also raise a whole series of other questions.

“What could this mean? Why was it placed there and, if it’s not the urine, what could it be?”

She said another theory being examined was that the liquid might have been a type of phosphate-based tonic drink.

“These were popular in the 19th century when they were advertised as a cure for various medical ailments, including tuberculosis.

“We can’t be exactly sure at the moment so we are carrying out more tests to try to get a definitive answer.”

The team from Oxford Archaeology is expected to spend several years studying all the finding findings from the burial ground. Work on the actual site is due to end next month when the remaining giant tents covering the excavation area will be removed.


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