Skeletons from Black Death Found at London Rail Site

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As a new railway was built in London, workers were surprised to find 13 skeletons who were thought to have been victims of the Black Death plague.

Their remains were found at Charterhouse Square in London during excavation work for the $22.7 billion Crossrail project.

Archaeologists believe the skeletons were part of a plague cemetery which was described in medieval records. Reports indicate up to 50,000 victims of the Black Death were buried there.

When the plague hit Europe in the 14th century, it wiped out a third of the population.

“The depth of burials, the pottery found with the skeletons and the way the skeletons have been set out all point towards this being part of the 14th century emergency burial ground,” Jay Carver, Crossrail’s lead archaeologist, said.

“This is a highly significant discovery and at the moment we are left with many questions that we hope to answer. We will be undertaking scientific tests on the skeletons over the coming months to establish their cause of death, whether they were plague victims from the 14th century or later London residents, how old they were and perhaps evidence of who they were.”

The skeletons were found over the last two weeks, and were laid out in two rows several feet below the road level.

They will be tested at the Museum of London Archaeology, and archaeologists plan to establish their burial dates.

Scientists hope that the skeletons can be used to map DNA signatures of the plague to help combat modern diseases.

“Many biologists are researching ancient diseases in the hope of better understanding the modern ones,” Carver said.

Other skeletons have been found before during the construction of the crossrail.

They have found more than 300 skeletons dating from the 16th to 19th centuries, around the former site of “Bedlam,” a notorious psychiatric hospital in east London.

The Crossrail has been under construction since 2009 and is set to start running in 2017. It will run across London from east-west.