Davidson Day students make rare archaeological finds

Davidson Day School students are making rare archaeological finds on a dig at the 12th-century medieval castle of Zorita de los Canesa in Spain, their teacher, archaeologist Mat Saunders, said Thursday.

“Things have gone much better than expected,” Saunders told the Observer in an email.

The team has discovered a new section of the castle wall with carved stone cannon balls, several coins from the era of the Catholic kings, and most importantly, the crypts and bodies of dozens of individuals, Saunders said.

“One section that we’ve investigated is roughly 2 meters by 3 meters and is filled with human remains (no particular order, just piled high),” he said. “The other individuals are buried properly in carved tombs. The images that we’re getting are amazing.”

The team uncovered three castle windows with openings from which cannon balls or bullets from early rifles were shot, Saunders said later by phone. The walls were under 6 feet of dirt, he said.

The 14-member Davidson Day team is the first to excavate at the site, Saunders said, and Spanish media have “already been all over it,” referring to what the students have discovered since they flew to Spain on July 18.

The castle is about an hour east of Madrid.

The castle was occupied by Christians, Jews and Muslims over its life and was built from the stones of an ancient Visigothic city, Saunders said. The team is excavating a cemetery presumed to hold the tombs of medieval knights.

The team’s final day of excavation is Friday. They return home on Sunday.

“There’s so much more,” Saunders said. “We hardly put a dent in the courtyard. Next year, who knows what we’ll find.”

Saunders also has led student teams in recent years to the Central American country of Belize to unearth artifacts at a tomb of Mayan royals who ruled more than 1,000 years ago.