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The mystery behind the mass grave found underneath University of Cambridge

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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/1/2015 (4 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

Skeletons found are all male, from 25 to 45 years of age

The silent skeletons of 1,300 12th century men bear mute witness to Our Common Fate. How they got there under the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom remains a mystery, but what researchers have found sheds a light into life during the Middle Ages.

Archaeologists digging under the Old Divinity School, a Victorian building owned by St John's College, founded in 1511, discovered the cemetery and the remains of 1,300 people.

Archaeologists digging under the Old Divinity School, a Victorian building owned by St John's College, founded in 1511, discovered the cemetery and the remains of 1,300 people.

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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
4/1/2015 (4 years ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: Middle Ages, Cambridge, mass grave, researchers


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It is surmised that some were sickly Cambridge University scholars, while others the homeless or infirm. There is evidence that the skeletons of these men were ones that had fallen on hard times.

Receiving spiritual succor during their last days, these men saw the last of their days in the medieval Hospital of St John the Evangelist, built in 1195.

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Buried in the hospital's own cemetery, whose exact location and scale were a mystery for centuries, their location became known after a lecture hall belonging to Cambridge college needed refurbishing.

Archaeologists digging under the Old Divinity School, a Victorian building owned by St John's College, founded in 1511, discovered the cemetery and the remains of 1,300 people.


Experts said the find is one of the largest medieval hospital cemeteries ever discovered on British soil. DNA analysis of the remains is helping cast fresh light on life and death in medieval times. Archaeologists broke out the floors of the Old Divinity School and the team of 20 dug down inside each room.

some 400 almost perfectly preserved human skeletons and the partial remains of up to 900 more were found in the first six months, all dating from the 13th to 15th centuries.


"It was known that the cemetery was in that area, but we didn't know for definite it was where we were working," Craig Cessford, of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, says. "It was a quite amazing find." run by Augustinian monks, pregnant women were excluded from the hospital.

Cressford says the skeletons were buried in neat rows and once the cemetery was full, more were buried on top.

A cemetery was found to have had gravel paths, suggesting that people visited their deceased loved ones.

The bodies did not exhibit many serious illnesses and conditions.

The Archaeological Journal, which reports on the findings in its latest issue, says this reflects how medieval hospitals' main role was "spiritual and physical care of the poor and infirm rather than medical treatment of the sick and injured."

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