Archaeologists have discovered a rare “plague pit” in Lincolnshire. The mass grave contains 48 skeletons, just a few dozen of the thousands of Europeans claimed by the outbreak of Black Death during the 14th century. The pit was found near the site of an ancient monastery hospital at Thornton Abbey.
According to Express, the Black Death devastated the European population from 1346 to 1353 and caused the deaths of 75 to 200 million, as estimated. The presence of large burial site suggests that the Black Death seriously affected the local community. As a result, residents were not able to cope with the number of people who died.
Dr. Hugh Willmott is the director of the excavation since 2011. He is from the Department of Archaeology from the University of Sheffield. He explained that the finding is of national importance. According to his statement, half of England’s population perished during the Black Death. Furthermore, Willmott believes that local communities continued to dispose loved ones in such manner.
“One of the questions about the Black Death has always been where are all the dead people? We know, historically, that a third to a half of the population died, but actually, mass graves from the Black Death are extremely rare.
“The answer is — probably — that irrespective of how people are dying, they are still trying to bury them in the most normal way possible. So, even if you’re dying of the Black Death, you will get bury in the parish churchyard in an ordinary grave if at all possible.
“Mass graves represent a breakdown in the system. You only bury people in a mass grave as a last resort,” Willmott said.
There are only two other known mass graves in Britain, both in London.
Black Death killed quickly, usually in just a few days. Some died within hours of showing symptoms. There was nothing anyone still at the monastery could do to prevent the inevitable. People likely were brought, dead or nearly dead, by relatives.
A report from The Guardian said that carbon dating revealed that the site dated back to 14th century when Black Death occurred. Moreover, teeth samples were sent for DNA tests to Canada.
Yersinia Pestis, the bacterium responsible for the Plague, was discovered via tests. Also, Yesrsinia Pestis was identified in two sites from 14th century, both in London, where new emergency burial grounds were opened to cope with the extremely large number of urban deaths.
Scientists hope to look beyond the ultimate demise of the people buried in the Lincolnshire pit. Artifacts can offer insights into the lives of 14th century villagers. One of the artifacts recovered from the burial site is a pendant.
Further analysis and research is hoped to reveal more about the people, not only their deaths but also the lives they lived.