Two Black Death victims, hand in hand for 600 years


Blackleaf
#1
Two male Black Death victims who have been holding hands beneath the streets of London for more than 600 years were unearthed by Crossrail diggers.

The pair were found facing each other with their hands entwined in a double grave in a 15th century burial ground for victims of the plague in central London.

The discovery has puzzled archaeologists, who have suggested that the men may have been family members or lovers.

Hand in hand for 600 years: Two male Black Death victims are found with fingers entwined by London Crossrail diggers


The two men, believed to be in their 40s, were found in a 15th century

Archaeologists said the men may have been related by blood or lovers

One of the men was found with a healed fracture on his arm which researchers suggested could have been a injury of self defence from an assault


By Daisy Dunne For Mailonline
22 February 2017

Two male Black Death victims who have been holding hands beneath the streets of London for more than 600 years were unearthed by Crossrail diggers.

The pair were found facing each other with their hands entwined in a double grave in a 15th century burial ground for victims of the plague in central London.

The discovery has puzzled archaeologists, who have suggested that the men may have been family members or lovers.


Two male Black Death victims were found hand in hand (circled) in a double grave by London Crossrail diggers. The discovery has puzzled archaeologists, who have suggested that the men may have been family members or lovers

Both men are believed to have been in their 40s when they died of the deadly disease.

Researchers said the pair fell victim to the plague in one of the epidemics that ravaged the capital in the years following the most deadly outbreak in 1348.

They were buried in a cemetery with more than 50,000 other corpses in Smithfield in the capital's centre.

The burial site is close to The Charterhouse monastery, which was founded in the 14th century as a place to pray for the dead.

Archaeologists excavated the site in 2013 to make way for the Crossrail tunnel, which open to customers in 2018.

The team uncovered the remains of 25 individuals but were particularly drawn to find out more about the men found lying hand in hand.

Don Walker, a senior osteologist at the Museum of London Archaeology, told MailOnline: 'It wasn't unusual in Medieval times for two or more people to be buried together side by side, and we usually interpret this as a familial connection.

'We know that this site was used to bury Plague victims and we know that the Plague moved very quickly, often killing several members of a family at the same time.


The pair were found facing each other with their hands entwined in a double grave in a 15th century burial ground near Smithfield in Central London


Skeletons of a mother and child (pictured above) were previously excavated from Bedlam Hospital cemetery by Crossrail workers on March 6, 2015. The burial ground will be the site of the new Liverpool Street station


'Because of this, we believe it's most likely that the two skeletons were actually family members.

'But to prove this, we will need to carry out DNA testing on the two skeletons to find out if they are related.

'If they aren't related, then it's possible that there could be another explanation from them being buried together, including a romantic connection.'

He added that the hands were found to be deliberately placed on top of one another, meaning their position in the ground was put together after their death.

'We know they couldn't have died holding hands,' he said. 'When they were discovered, they were found with one hand clasping on top of the other in a deliberate manner.'

One of the men, believed to be the older of the two, was found with a healed fracture on his arm which researchers suggested could have been a injury of self defence from an assault.


Other Crossrail finds: Pictured is a map showing some of the key finds across the capital such as Victorian ginger jars near Tottenham Court Road and medieval animal bones near Liverpool Street

'One possible interpretation is that they were related in some way, for example by blood or marriage,' Archaeologist Sam Pfizenmaier, who led the excavation, said to the Guardian (external - login to view).

He added that because the skeletons were found without any coffins or ceremonial wrapping, the position of the two men may have been accidental.

Scientists discovered that the skeletons were victims of the plague after they extracted DNA from their bones.

Analysis of the DNA revealed that the men and women found had been exposed to Yersinia pestis, the pathogen that causes Black Death.

Mr Walker said: 'We are still learning about the spread of medieval plague and the evolution of the disease as a whole.

'Charterhouse helps us to understand how Londoners reacted to their first experience of the Black Death.'

WHY WERE THE MEN HAND IN HAND?

Researchers are still unsure as to why the pair were found with their hands entwined.

Don Walker, a senior osteologist at the Museum of London Archaeology, told MailOnline: 'It wasn't unusual in Medieval times for two or more people to be buried together side by side, and we usually interpret this as a familial connection.

'We know that this site was used to bury Plague victims and we know that the Plague moved very quickly, often killing several members of a family at the same time.

'Because of this, we believe it's most likely that the two skeletons were actually family members.

'But to prove this, we will need to carry out DNA testing on the two skeletons to find out if they are related.

'If they aren't related, then it's possible that there could be another explanation from them being buried together, including a romantic connection.'

CROSSRAIL TEAM UNEARTH 20 ROMAN SKULLS


Crossrail workers unearthed 20 Roman skulls, pictured, at the site of Bedlam hospital in east London in 2013

The Crossrail project has already unearthed a number of exciting discoveries, including more than 10,000 artefacts at more than 40 construction sites.

In 2013, workers made an 'unexpected and fascinating discovery' in tunnels underneath Liverpool Street Station, where the historic River Walbrook flows.

The Crossrail team unearthed about 20 Roman skulls which were found buried in clusters in the sediment of the historic tributary.

Working under the direction of archaeologists, the construction workers carefully removed the human skulls, as well as a collection of ancient Roman pottery.

For safety reasons the archaeologists had to leave the work to the tunnellers as the skulls were buried as deep as six metres below ground.

The discovery of the skulls and pottery was made below the site of the historic Bedlam burial ground.

Bedlam hospital was a psychiatric asylum and patients who died while at the hospital were buried in a cemetery first established in the 16th century.

Historically, Roman skulls have been found along the Thames tributary Walbrook during various excavations in the region.

Prior to the discovery of the Roman skulls, workers also found about 4,000 skeletons buried in the Eldon Street area.

These skeletons were found in August 2013 and were carefully removed during major archaeological excavations last year.


Read more: London Crossrail diggers find men buried hand in hand | Daily Mail Online
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter (external - login to view) | DailyMail on Facebook (external - login to view)

 
Curious Cdn
#2
You have to wonder if these two guys were buried alive. Who would bother to go to the gruesome trouble of clasping their hands together when they had to deal with deal with thousands of plague victims?
 
Blackleaf
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by Curious CdnView Post

You have to wonder if these two guys were buried alive. Who would bother to go to the gruesome trouble of clasping their hands together when they had to deal with deal with thousands of plague victims?

My betting is that they weren't holding hands at all and, despite the PC MSM and the archaeologists getting all excited by the prospect and needlessly creating the theory, they weren't gay at all (being gay in medieval England was a capital offence - punishable by being burned alive - and so I doubt gay men would have been buried holding hands).

The REAL occurence here is that the two men were thrown hastily into the grave and they just happened to become a bit jumbled.
 
Curious Cdn
#4
being gay in medieval England was a capital offence - punishable by being burned alive
Perhaps, also, by being buried alive.

BTW, the Roman era skulls ... where is the rest of them? Are those the skulls of Romans or of Britons? What's with that?
 
Blackleaf
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by Curious CdnView Post

Perhaps, also, by being buried alive.

No. Being burned alive was the punishment for two men being caught indulging in heinous sexual activity with each other.

Quote:

BTW, the Roman era skulls ... where is the rest of them? Are those the skulls of Romans or of Britons? What's with that?



Crossrail tunnellers have discovered about 20 Roman skulls while building a utility tunnel at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street station site.

Working under the direction of Crossrail’s archaeologists, the construction workers have carefully removed the human skulls and Roman pottery, found in the sediment of the historic river channel of the River Walbrook.

The skulls have been found below the Bedlam burial ground established in the 16th century, where 3,000 skeletons will be carefully removed during major archaeological excavations next year.

For safety reasons, the archaeologists have had to leave the archaeology work to the tunnellers as the skulls were located up to six metres below ground.

Roman skulls have been found along the historic Thames tributary, the River Walbrook, throughout London’s history and led to speculation they were heads decapitated by Queen Boudicca’s rebels during the rebellion against Roman occupation in the 1st Century AD.

However, later archaeology suggested that the River Walbrook had possibly eroded a Roman cemetery located under Eldon Street in the Liverpool Street area and the skulls and other bones had been washed downstream.

The latest skulls have been located in clusters indicating they had been caught in a bend in the river. The location of the skulls indicate that they were washed out of the burial ground during Roman times.

Lead archaeologist Jay Carver said: “This is an unexpected and fascinating discovery that reveals another piece in the jigsaw of London’s history. This isn’t the first time that skulls have been found in the bed of the River Walbrook and many early historians suggested these people were killed during the Boudicca rebellion against the Romans. We now think the skulls are possibly from a known Roman burial ground about 50 metres up river from our Liverpool Street station worksite. Their location in the Roman layer indicates they were possibly washed down river during the Roman period.”

The tunnellers have also discovered wooden medieval structures believed to have been part of the walls of the Bedlam burial ground.

Crossrail’s contractor, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), will analyse the finds over the coming months and hope to find out more about the age, sex and diet of the people associated with the Roman skulls.

Crossrail has previously discovered human bone in the foundations of a Roman road that passes through the site which also may have come from the same nearby Roman cemetery.

During the past few months, Crossrail’s archaeologists have made a number of discoveries that have helped piece together London’s history including:

  • The discovery of a Mesolithic ‘tool-making factory’ which included 150 pieces of flint, dating some 9,000 years ago, found at North Woolwich;
  • Skeletons from a suspected Black Death burial ground in Charterhouse Square near Barbican station;
  • The first piece of gold on the project, a 16th Century gold coin that was used as a sequin or pendent, similar to those worn by wealthy aristocrats and royalty, found at Liverpool Street; and
  • The first of 3,000 skeletons that will be relocated from the Bedlam burial ground at Liverpool Street.

Since Crossrail construction began in 2009, more than 10,000 archaeology items, spanning more than 55 million years of London’s history, have been found across over 40 construction sites.

httpwwwyoutubecomwatchvYPrscxWTEA



Roman skulls discovered on Crossrail at Liverpool Street - Crossrail (external - login to view)
 

Similar Threads

3
Debate - May leads Dion hand in hand
by Graeme | Sep 15th, 2008
no new posts