REMAINS believed to date back to medieval times have halted a multimillion pound revamp of a university after they were unearthed by workers.
The four human skulls, along with other remains, were found near Durham University’s Palace Green Library.
They were discovered by a team of archeologists and contractors while working on the second phase of the development, which is set within a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Work has stopped while the university seeks the necessary legal permission from the Ministry of Justice so it can carry out an archeological excavation.
Once approved by the Government archaeologists intend to investigate the area further before taking the bones away for further examination and then, by law, they must be reinterred at an approved burial ground.
Richard Annis, senior archaeologist with archaeological services at Durham University, said: “It’s too early to say what the bones are but we think they are from the medieval era.
“It is possible they were originally buried in the cathedral graveyard.
“The original boundaries of that graveyard have moved as Palace Green has developed over the centuries.
“The history of this whole area is fascinating as it was once enclosed in the original Durham Castle walls, which stretched around the whole top of the Durham City Peninsula. “Further investigation should be able to date the remains to help establish what they are and where they came from.”
The university is spending £22million on major improvements to its library services over a period of years.
This includes a £10million investment in Palace Green library, establishing world-class exhibition facilities.
Education bosses say the changes will benefit researchers and visitors to the library, creating new spaces with specialised environmental conditions and security measures where the university’s treasures and special collections can be put on show, as well as visiting exhibitions.
The final phase of the work, which began last month, is expected to be complete by April.