SCIENCE

Medieval Graveyard With More Than 1,000 Skeletons Unearthed At Cambridge University

04/01/2015 03:16 pm ET | Updated Apr 01, 2015

A giant medieval graveyard containing the skeletal remains of more than a thousand people has been unearthed at the University of Cambridge in England.

(Scroll down for photos.)

Archaeologists dug up the remains of 400 individuals, along with the fragmentary remains of what could be as many as 1,000 more individuals, the university said on its website. The burials date mostly from the 13th through the 15th centuries, when a hospital stood opposite the graveyard.

One of Britain's biggest. Historians had been aware of the burial ground since the 1950s, the Guardian reported, though its scale was unknown.

The site represents "one of the largest medieval hospital osteoarchaeological assemblages from the British Isles," Dr. Craig Cessford of the university's department of archaeology and anthropology and the leader of the dig, wrote in a report describing the excavation.

"Wretched persons." Most of the bodies were buried without coffins, and many lacked even burial shrouds. Of the remains that have been identified, roughly half belonged to men and half to women.

There were few young women and no infants at all--perhaps not surprising given that a document dating from 1250 indicates the hospital was dedicated primarily to the care of "poor scholars and other wretched persons," according to the website.

Unfounded rumors. The graveyard had been rumored to have links to the Black Death, but Cessford's team found no evidence of the disease in the skeletons, the BBC reported.

The graves were excavated during the renovation of a Victorian-era building at the university's St. John's College between 2010 and 2012, though photos of the dig were released for the first time today.

The report describing the excavation was published in the latest issue of the Archaeological Journal.

  • Craig Cessford, Cambridge University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Craig Cessford, Cambridge University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Craig Cessford, Cambridge University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Craig Cessford, Cambridge University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Craig Cessford, Cambridge University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Craig Cessford, Cambridge University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Craig Cessford, Cambridge University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Craig Cessford, Cambridge University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology

Also on HuffPost:

Unearthed
Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS