ARCHAEOLOGISTS have revealed how they discovered more than they bargained for when a York excavation unearthed the remains of a “forgotten” army’s soldiers.

The site at the junction of Kent Street and Fawcett Street, on which a medieval church was once housed, was the final resting place of 113 members of Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary force who fought during the gruelling Civil War siege of the city more than 350 years ago.

And the team which found the ten mass graves where the 11th century church of All Saints’ in Fishergate used to stand have now told the story of how they discovered the warriors, stripped of all their clothing and possessions.

In a report by archaeological experts Lauren McIntyre and Graham Bruce in the latest edition of Current Archaeology magazine, they revealed the 2007 dig concluded the soldiers were not killed fighting, but probably by disease, and that they never expected to make such a find.

The excavation found the skeletons tightly packed and neatly arranged in parallel rows, with most laid face-down in the dirt or on their side, but no buckles, buttons or jewellery were discovered.

In total, the graves contained 113 sets of remains, with at least 87 of them being male and most being aged between 35 and 49.

“The skeletons are likely to represent a military group who all died within a short period,” said the authors of the article.

“It is highly unlikely these men were killed in combat or as a result of violence. Considering the length of the siege and the number of men involved, it is very likely this group of people were killed by highly infectious disease.

“These mass graves are likely to contain the remains of Oliver Cromwell’s victorious army, responsible for the Royalists’ defeat at the Battle of Marston Moor and the shifting of control in the north of England.”

The report said the excavation was “valuable and fascinating” and “continues to generate interest”. The skeletons are being kept for analysis at the University of Sheffield’s archaeology department.