Excavations of the Bedlam burial ground at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street site are believed to have unearthed a mass grave containing bodies of victims of the last major plague outbreak in London.
Crossrail has released images of the skeletons and an interactive video of the discovery at the site of a new eastern entrance to Liverpool Street station for the project.
“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,” said Crossrail lead archaeologist Jay Carver.
“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.”
The skeletons will now be analysed by osteologists from Museum of London Archaeology (Mola) to determine if bubonic plague was the cause of death.
“The concentration of burials in this pit provides a new focus for scientific testing and study,” said Mola senior osteologist Mike Henderson. “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.”
Excavation of the Bedlam burial ground, which was in use between 1569 and 1738, began earlier this year and so far 3,500 skeletons have removed.