Plague Grave Weighed Down with Stones and Sand Shows Fear of Body Snatchers

excavation-bedlam-burial-groundArchaeologists have discovered a centuries-old grave at a medieval burial site in London where plague victims, religious dissenters and poor people were laid to rest from the 1500s, and uncovered early evidence of people trying to stop grave robbing.

The New Churchyard, or Bedlam burial ground, is a huge graveyard in the center of London that was used for almost 200 years starting in 1569. An estimated 25,000 people had been buried there by the time it closed. In recent years, archaeologists have uncovered thousands of skeletons from that period, including many thrown into plague pits—mass graves where victims of the Black Death were often buried.

During excavations, the team from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) came across a sand-filled coffin with heavy stones placed on top of it. “We realized immediately this burial was something highly unusual,” archaeologist Robert Hale said in a statement.

“Archaeological evidence associated with body snatching is extremely rare. Our subsequent historical research has exposed a truly fascinating and illicit side to this burial ground.” The archaeologists will publish the study reporting this research in full later this year.

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