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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 11:44 GMT
Skeletons found in school yard
The bones are a record of Christianity in north-east England
Archaeologists have discovered one of the earliest Christian burial sites underneath a school playground in north-east England.

A total of 80 Dark Ages skeletons have been found in the grounds of Bishopsmill Special School in Stockton, Teesside.

The cemetery dates back to between the 7th and 9th Centuries, with the bodies buried east to west - which marks the graves out from earlier pagan burials that faced north to south.

Peter Rowe, sites and monuments officer for Tees Archaeology, said the dig could reveal how and when Christianity took hold in north-east England.

He said: "This is one of the best finds in recent years. We have had other very early Christian burial sites in cathedral towns such as York and Ripon, but this is the furthest north.

"We know there was a monastery built in Hartlepool in about 640, so these bones could belong to some of the first converts who died 30 or 40 years later."

Tees Archeaology inspected the site this week, after the school applied to Stockton Borough Council for planning permission to build an extension.

The pupils at the school have not seen the skeletons because the school is closed until the extension is built.

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