The big dig has begun at an old burial ground in London.
To make way for new construction near the city's Liverpool Street rail station, archaeologists have started excavating an estimated 3,000 historic skeletons now interred there on the site of the Bedlam burial ground.
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The burial ground was in use from 1569 through at least 1738 and is considered the most archaeologically valuable site in London, according to Museum of London Archaeology, which is overseeing the project.
"This excavation presents a unique opportunity to understand the lives and deaths of 16th and 17th century Londoners," Jay Carver, one of the archaeologists involved in the dig, said in a written statement. "The Bedlam burial ground spans a fascinating phase of London's history, including the transition from the Tudor-period City into cosmopolitan early-modern London."
The old bones may shed new light on the diet and lifestyle of the people who once lived in the area.
"It's a kind of act of remembrance in a way, that their mortal remains are giving us information", Niamh Carty, a specialist in the analysis of bones and one of the archaeologists involved in the excavation, told the BBC. She said the age, sex, and stature of the people buried there would be investigated.
The bones of plague victims buried at the site may yield fresh insights into the evolution of the bacteria that cause plague, according to the statement.
England's last great outbreak of bubonic plague occurred in 1665. It killed an estimated 100,000 people, or almost one in four Londoners.
Plans call for a team of 60 archaeologists to work six days a week. The excavation is expected to continue for the next four weeks.
The skeletons will be reburied at a cemetery near London, Discovery reported.