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News: The Black Death
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Mass burial uncovered at Crossrail Liverpool Street site.
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by Archaeology Newsroom

Suspected 1665 Great Plague Pit unearthed in London

At Crossrail Liverpool Street site​

In August, a mass burial site suspected of containing 30 victims of The Great Plague of 1665 was unearthed at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street site in the City of London.

The discovery was found during excavation of the Bedlam burial ground at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street site, which will allow construction of the eastern entrance of the new station.

The excavation is being undertaken by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) on behalf of Crossrail.

Jay Carver, Crossrail Lead Archaeologist said: “The construction of Crossrail gives us a rare opportunity to study previously inaccessible areas of London and learn about the lives and deaths of 16th and 17th Century Londoners.

“This mass burial, so different to the other individual burials found in the Bedlam cemetery, is very likely a reaction to a catastrophic event. Only closer analysis will tell if this is a plague pit from The Great Plague in 1665 but we hope this gruesome but exciting find will tell us more about the one of London’s most notorious killers.”

A headstone found nearby was marked ‘1665’, and the fact the individuals appear to have been buried on the same day, suggest they were victims of The Great Plague. The thin wooden coffins have collapsed and rotted, giving the appearance of a slumped and distorted mass grave. The skeletons will now be analysed by osteologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), and scientific tests may reveal if bubonic plague or some other pestilence was the cause of death.

Mike Henderson, Senior Osteologist at MOLA, said: “The concentration of burials in this pit provides a new focus for scientific testing and study. We hope detailed osteological analysis will help determine whether these people were exposed to The Great Plague and potentially learn more about the evolution of this deadly disease.”

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NOTES
1. Crossrail