Child Soldiers

I sometimes wonder if archaeologists will ever run out of work in Britain. It seems incredible there are still significant discoveries being made, but then, there is a lot of history here. This is from David Keys in the i newspaper:

“Physical evidence that children were used as soldiers in Britain’s mid-17th century civil wars has been discovered…

Investigations in Durham have identified the remains of up to 28 skeletons as Scottish prisoners of war including a dozen teenage soldiers, 5 of whom were aged 12 to 16.

They were taken prisoner after English parliamentarian forces defeated the pro-Charles II Scottish Presbyterian army at the Battle of Dunbar on 3 September 1650.

Scientific and other investigations carried out by Durham University show that they almost certainly died of malnutrition, disease and dysentery.

One 13 to 15 year boy who may have been suffering from scurvy had infections in his leg and foot bones. A 14 to 15 year old appears to have been suffering from malnutrition for several years – and severe tooth decay and a leg infection. A 12 to 16 year old had leg and foot infections – and probably also suffered from rickets.

The Battle of Dunbar was short and brutal. After less than an hour, a 12,000 strong English parliamentarian army, under .. Cromwell, defeated the 11.000 strong Scottish covenanting army which supported the claims of Charles II to the Scottish throne.

The Scottish army had suffered from desertion, political purges and a severe lack of fighting-age recruits. That almost certainly explains the presence of child soldier prisoners of war.

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