Archaeologists in the British capital have started work on the excavation of approximately 3,000 skeletons discovered at the site of a new train station.
Some of the remains belong to victims of the Great Plague, and the bones will be studied to “shed light on migration patterns, diet, lifestyle and demography” of Londoners. A group of 60 researchers will work six day weeks during the next month to remove the skeletons from the Bedlam burial ground, before they are eventually re-buried at a cemetery, according to Discovery.com.
London: Crossrail uncovering archaeological artifacts
The dig is being carried out near Liverpool Street station, where Crossrail is constructing a new station that will form part of the new east-west train line in London. The dig is being carried out by the Museum of London’s archaeology unit on the company’s behalf.
“Archaeologists hope that tests on excavated plague victims will help understand the evolution of the plague bacteria strain,” Crossrail said.
Authorities used the Bedlam burial ground between 1569 and 1738, during which time Shakespeare’s plays were written, the Great Fire of London occurred, and various plague outbreaks terrorized the population.
It is also hoped that the excavation will reveal more remains of an ancient Roman road, and Crossrail says that artifacts such as horseshoes and cremation urns have previously been discovered.
The history of Bedlam burial ground
The site was the first municipal burial ground in London and takes its name from the Bethlem Royal Hospital, also known as Bedlam, which is the world’s oldest psychiatric institution. Although it was once located near the burial ground it has since moved outside London.
Those who could not afford a church burial, or chose to be buried there for religious or political reasons, found what they thought would be their final resting place at at the site. Members of a 17th-century political group known as the Levellers are thought to be buried there.
Once the excavation is completed, a new ticket hall for Crossrail’s Liverpool Street station will be built.
“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,” said Crossrail’s lead archaeologist Jay Carver.
Construction of Crossrail is one of Europe’s biggest infrastructure projects, and as many as 10,000 artifacts have already been uncovered. 400 skeletons were discovered during preliminary excavations at Liverpool Street in 2013 and 2014.