1,500 Skeletons Have Been Found in Record-Breaking Mass Graves in Europe

kutna-hora-mass-graves-header_1024Archaeologists in Czechia have uncovered 30 mass graves from the High Middle Ages, containing between them a total of around 1,500 skeletons.

That’s a record number of skeletons in Bohemia from the High Middle Ages. And, according to lead archaeologist Jan Frolík of the Czech Academy of Sciences Institute of Archaeology, a record for the continent.

“The 30 graves, as far as I know, are the largest set in Europe,” he told Prague Daily Monitor.

The remains were discovered during repair work being conducted on the Sedlec Ossuary, a chapel in the Czech suburb of Kutna Hora decorated with an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 skeletons. (Therein lies a fascinating story in itself.)

The floor of the chapel is below ground level, and it was while performing excavation in the surrounding cemetery to access the lower part of the building that the skeletons were found, flanking the entire northern side of the ossuary, and partially the eastern and western sides.

It appears that the foundations of the chapel, built around 1400 CE, were dug without knowledge of the graves beneath.

The graves, pits measuring 2 metres (6.5 feet) square and 2.5 to 3 metres (8.2 to 9.8 feet) deep, are from two distinct time periods in the 14th century. The researchers connected the oldest pits to a famine that swept the region 1318 CE.

Photo: J. Frolík/CAS Institute of Archaeology

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