The thousands of skeletons are part of the Bedlam burial ground, which was used from 1569 to at least 1738. Archaeologists are particularly interested in bodies buried in 1665 and later. Some of the people buried there are believed to have been plague victims. They hope tests will give more insight into the evolution of the plague bacteria strain.
Here’s what Jay Carver, Crossrail Lead Archaeologist, had to say about the excavation.
“This excavation presents a unique opportunity to understand the lives and deaths of 16th and 17th century Londoners. The Bedlam burial ground spans a fascinating phase of London’s history, including the transition from the Tudor-period City into cosmopolitan early-modern London. This is probably the first time a sample of this size from this time period has been available for archaeologists to study in London. The Bedlam burial ground was used by a hugely diverse population from right across the social spectrum and from different areas of the City.”
The skeleton excavations are expected to last about four weeks. After that, archaeologists will also dig through the area for additional Roman artifacts. A Roman road runs right under the site. Several artifacts have already been recovered including horseshoes and cremation urns. Hopefully, archaeologists can find some cooler artifacts.
Nick Elsden, Project Manager from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) expressed excitement about excavating an area of London that would normally not be possible.
“Construction for Crossrail is providing rare and exciting opportunities for archaeologists to excavate and study areas of London that would ordinarily be inaccessible, such as under established road-systems. There are up to six metres of archaeology on site, in what is one of the oldest areas of the city, so we stand to learn a great deal.”
Public visitor sessions on site will start every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 1:00pm local time and last for an hour. You’ll be able to watch the excavation as it happens and see finds from the dig in a display cabinet according to Crossrail.
Every Thursday evening between 6:00pm-6:30pm, a weekly archaeology team briefing will be held. These events will be ticketed with about 30 people allowed per briefing.
It’s not everyday you can go watch an excavation as it happens. They tend to happen away from the public’s eye. Definitely head down to Liverpool Street if you get the chance.