Crossrail unearths 30 victims of Great Plague of 1665 at Liverpool Street
PUBLISHED: 16:34 17 August 2015 | UPDATED: 16:34 17 August 2015
A mass burial site suspected to hold 30 victims of the Great Plague of 1665 has been unearthed at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street site at the City of London’s East End.
The discovery was made during excavation of the Bedlam burial ground behind Bishopsgate, where the station is under construction.
“This mass burial is very likely a reaction to a catastrophic event,” Crossrail’s lead archaeologist Jay Carver explained. “Only closer analysis will tell if this is a pit from the Great Plague, but we hope this gruesome find will tell us more about the notorious epidemic.”
A headstone found nearby was marked ‘1665’, while discovering individuals buried on the same day suggest they were victims of the Plague. The thin wooden coffins have collapsed and rotted into a distorted mass grave.
The skeletons are being analysed by osteologists from Museum of London Archaeology and scientific tests may soon reveal if bubonic plague was the cause of death.
Senior osteologist Mike Henderson said: “We hope detailed osteological analysis will help determine whether these people were exposed to the Great Plague and hope to learn more about the evolution of this deadly disease.”
Excavation began earlier this year when archaeologists unearthed 3,500 skeletons from the 1500s to the early 1700s. The Bedlam burial ground was in use from 1569 to 1738, spanning the period of Elizabethan explorers, English civil wars, Shakespeare’s plays and the Great Fire of London.
The discoveries are the latest in a long treasure trove found by Crossrail of 10,000 artefacts at 40 construction sites spanning 55 million years. The earliest is 55-million-year-old amber found at Millwall Docks during excavations for the new Canary Wharf station.