Archaeologists in London have begun digging up some 3,000 skeletons including those of victims of the Great Plague from a burial ground that will become a new train station, the company in charge said.
A team of 60 researchers will work in shifts six days a week over the next month at the Bedlam burial ground to remove the ancient skeletons, which will eventually be re-buried at a cemetery near London. Crossrail, which is building a new east-west train line in London, said the dig near Liverpool Street station was being carried out on its behalf by the Museum of London’s archaeology unit. The company said in a statement that the bones would be tested to “shed light on migration patterns, diet, lifestyle and demography” of Londoners at the time. “Archaeologists hope that tests on excavated plague victims will help understand the evolution of the plague bacteria strain,” Crossrail said.
The Bedlam ground was used between 1569 and 1738 — a period that spanned Shakespeare’s plays, the Great Fire of London and numerous plague outbreaks. The excavation is also expected to further uncover the remains of an ancient Roman road, where Crossrail said that several artifacts such as horseshoes and cremation urns have already been found. The area was London’s first municipal burial ground and was named after the nearby Bethlem Royal Hospital or “Bedlam” — the world’s oldest psychiatric institution, which has since relocated outside London. The burial ground was used by Londoners who could not afford a church burial or who chose to be buried there for religious or political reasons. Members of the Levellers, a 17th-century political grouping that advocated popular sovereignty and religious tolerance, are believed to be buried there. via 3,000 Skeletons Recovered at London Train Station Site