Sixty British archeologists have begun excavating nearly 3,000 (of the estimated 20,000) skeletons believed to have been buried in a pauper’s cemetery at Bedlam between 1569-1738. The remains, discovered at the entrance to London’s new Liverpool Street Crossrail station are believed to include victims of the English Civil War, as well as the plague in 1665, Great Fire of London in 1666. The area (considered to be the first municipal graveyard in London) got its name from the nearby Bethlem Royal Hospital or “Bedlam,” known as “the world’s oldest psychiatric institution,” later relocated outside the city.
“The site reveals a great deal about how Londoners lived from the 16th to the 18th century,” Nick Elsden, project manager from Museum of London Archaeology stated to CNN. He also noted that they expect to also uncover remains of an ancient Roman road there, after unearthing several artifacts such as cremation urns and horseshoes there as well. “A large sample of the population from that period will enable us to look at the lifestyle, looking at Roman London and what the Romans were doing in the suburb area, outside the city walls,” he continued.
Twenty Roman skulls have also been found nearby. In fact, skulls from the Roman period have turned up periodically along the path of the River Thames over the ensuing centuries, “giving rise to speculation they were the heads of the victims of rebels fighting under Queen Boudicca against Roman occupation,” added lead archaeologist Jay Carver. He said the skeletons will be cleaned and closely examined by experts who will assess their remains to determine their ages, gender and what diseases they may have died from, as well as for clues regarding how they lived (i.e. diet, and possible migration patterns, etc.). Following the tests, the remains will then be re-interred at another London location.
These are just the latest in recent archeological finds regarding historic bodies turning up throughout England in recent years, including the discover of King Richard III found beneath a parking lot in Leicester (once the site of Grey Friars Church) in 2012. The location was also the final resting place of a 60-year old woman buried in a coffin inlaid with a crucifix 200-years before Richard III was interred there, although just feet from his grave. It is believed that the woman might have been Emma Holt based on records dating 700 years to the time when the monastery was founded in which Leicester based on record dating back 700 years to the time the monastery was founded in 1250, which show that the Bishop of Lincoln “offered a 30 days off the pains of purgatory for anyone who would say ‘a Pater and a Ave for the soul of Emma, wife of John of Holt, whose body is buried in the Franciscan church in Leicester.”
Two other unidentified women in their 40’s were also found buried at the site.