Archeologists who worked on the Bishop Street car park dig last year have revealed they found evidence the city centre was inhabited as far back as the Bronze Age.
A number of surprise findings were unearthed during the dig, which was one of three undertaken by the NI Environment Agency and Queen’s University Centre for Archeological Fieldwork (CAF).
There are now talks of a possible return to Derry to investigate all ancient church sites in the city, including a possible ground penetrating radar scan at the Long Tower, which is believed to have been the site of the 11th Century Templemore Cathedral.
Speaking to a packed audience in the Playhouse on Tuesday night, Dr Emily Murray from CAF said the Bishop Street dig had uncovered 17th Century burials which could be those of early Planters or Siege victims.
There was also evidence of wine trading from the vineyards of France, imported pottery from England, an ancient scabbard, 13th and 14th century artefacts and a cut building stone with carved markings. The first medieval deposits found within the Walls were also uncovered during the dig, along with prehistoric flint.
The site was chosen because it was felt to have been that of Derry’s 12th Century Augustinian monastery, which may in turn have replaced the earlier Columban monastery. Ancient maps from around 1600 show the Abbey and the Long Tower.
It was also believed to the site of Henry Dowcra’s fort- a precursor of the City Walls.
The first human bones were only uncovered in the “last bucket” of earth lifted during the initial exploration. As they dug on various trenches revealed Elizabeth I and Louis XIII and some earlier coins.
The highest up human remains were those of a juvenile, while others included a double burial and a pipe smoker with a groove in his upper teeth. A total of 15 skeletons were found and nine exposed. Six were removed and the rest left. One grave facing the opposite way from the others may have been a cleric or a criminal, Dr Murray said.
One skeleton had two mystery objects in its stomach area which have baffled experts who have ruled out animal or plant material.