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Crossrail Black Death skeletons pinpoint medieval burial pit

Skeletons found at Crossrail’s Charterhouse Square site in Farringdon were Black Death victims, new research has revealed.

A study into the 25 bodies, which were uncovered in March last year, showed the London site was used as a burial pit for plague victims for up to 100 years.

Historians found traces of the Black Death bacteria in the skeletons’ teeth, confirming the bodies had the disease prior to their death.

Records suggest tens of thousands of people were buried in the “emergency cemetery”.

Key findings

  • Many of the skeletons appear to suffer signs of malnutrition and 16 per cent had rickets
  • 40 per cent of the those tested grew up outside of London possibly as far north as Scotland – showing that 14th century London attracted people from across Britain just as it does today
  • The later skeletons from the 1400s had a high rate of upper body injury consistent with being involved in violent altercations
  • One individual had become a vegetarian later in life which is something a Carthusian monk would have done during the 14th Century
  • 13 of skeletons were male, three female, two children, the gender was undetermined in the other seven skeletons
  • Research is consistent with the burial ground being used by poorer Londoners
  • High rate of back damage and strain indicating heavy manual labour

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