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Skeletons are considered to be unequivocal symbols of death, but the scientific analysis of human skeletal remains from archaeological excavations offers unique and extremely valuable insights into the lives of past populations. Excavations in the townland of Johnstown, Co. Meath, were carried out between April and October 2002 by Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd on behalf of Westmeath County Council in advance of construction of the M4 Kinnegad–Enfield–Kilcock road scheme1 (Illus. 1 and 2). The excavations uncovered an extensive burial ground that had been in virtually uninterrupted use for a period of almost 1,500 years (Clarke 2002). The osteological analysis of over 400 skeletons from Johnstown revealed evidence for hardship, accidents,