Cambridgeshire

Cambridge University finds medieval graveyard under college

Bones found under St John's College Image copyright Craig Cessford
Image caption About 400 of the skeletons were complete, archaeologists said

One of the largest medieval hospital burial grounds in England has been uncovered under Cambridge University, archaeologists have said.

More than 400 complete skeletons were found together with parts from about 1,000 bodies during work on St John's College in 2010 to 2012.

The remains, dating from the 13th to 15th Centuries, are burials from the Hospital of St John the Evangelist.

Images of the skeletons have been made public for the first time.

No coffins

The dig beneath the Old Divinity School at St John's was led by Dr Craig Cessford, from the university's department of archaeology and anthropology, and a team from Cambridge Archaeological Unit.

Dr Cessford described it as "one of the largest medieval hospital osteoarchaeological assemblages from the British Isles".

Image copyright Craig Cessford
Image caption Many of the bodies were neatly laid out in rows
Image copyright Craig Cessford
Image caption The Old Divinity School was built on the burial site in 1877

Most of the bodies were buried in neatly laid-out rows between gravel paths. Seeds from flowering plants suggested the site was similar to cemeteries today, Dr Cessford said.

However, the majority of people were buried without coffins and many were not shrouded, suggesting the cemetery was primarily used to inter the poor.

Image copyright Craig Cessford
Image caption Most of the bodies were buried without coffins and many had no shrouds

Only a handful of grave goods, such as jewellery or other personal items, were found.

It had been rumoured the cemetery was linked to the Black Death, but Dr Cessford's team found no evidence of the disease when the skeletons were analysed.

The remains will be stored by Cambridge Archaeological Unit, enabling further research to take place in the future.

Image copyright Craig Cessford
Image caption A small crucifix was found but very few personal items were interred with the dead

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