Development Of London Railway Reveals Great Plague Burial Ground

The Great Plague, in its day, claimed an estimate 25% of London’s population, and is now making a return as archaeologists have begun excavating over 3000 skeletons from a Bedlam burial ground. The site is connected to construction of the new Liverpool street station, as part of new development for a London commuter railway. At the moment, there are no details on how long the excavation could take.

The burial ground was used from 1569 to 1738, which included the years of the plague. Experiments will now be conducted on the remains being unearthed in order to determine the evolution of the disease, as well as its origins.

An elite team of 60 archaeologists are working together six days a week to expedite all discoveries and remove skeletons. The findings already up to this point are some of the most important history-defining moments for London, if not the scariest. With the evidence being recorded, there is a possibility that many unexplained stories about the disease will come to light about London’s 16th and 17th historical cemeteries.

The Great Plague was the last active variant of the bubonic plague in England in 1666, which was extended from the epidemic that began in 1347. The disease is passed through a bite by an infected rat flea. At the height of the epidemic, civilians were kept prisoner in their own city and not allowed to pass through the front gate unless they had a certificate of good health signed by the Lord Mayor. In the worst of circumstances, even people who left the village were turned away by neighboring towns out of fear, and left to die of starvation in spite of the disease. Even without formal training, doctors in the middle of the epidemic had no choice but to administer whatever treatment they could.

The first stage of the excavation will be a four week exploration of the skeletons. Then when evidence is sufficient, archaeologists will move on to other items of interest in the area. Specifically, a plethora of Roman artifacts have been found, as a Roman road was discovered underneath the site. Most likely, the entire site will be finished in September, in order to make way for an eastern ticket hall. Laing O’Rourke is the lead contractor who will be point on the project.

The construction of Crossrail is resulting in one of the most extensive archaeological programs ever undertaken in the UK. Jay Carver, a lead archaeologist, commented that this excavation is a unique opportunity and a fascinating phase of London’s history. Thus far, the program has discovered more than 10,000 artifacts in more than 40 construction sites.