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Big Medieval Cemetery Found Under Cambridge

It's one of the nation's largest
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2015 3:56 PM CDT
Big Medieval Cemetery Found Under Cambridge
St. John's College at Cambridge.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Historians have long known that a medieval cemetery existed on the grounds of what is now the University of Cambridge, but until a recent dig they didn't realize just how big it was. Archaeologists uncovered the full or partial remains of about 1,300 people beneath Old Divinity School at the university's St. John's College. The numbers make it one of Britain's largest medieval cemeteries, reports the Guardian. Most of the people were buried between the 13th and 15th centuries, when the cemetery was in operation near the ancient Hospital of St. John the Evangelist.

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Most were buried without coffins or shrouds, suggesting they were poor, notes the Telegraph. Unusual for cemeteries of this era was the lack of infants and young women, likely because the nearby hospital did not treat pregnant women and instead focused on "poor scholars and other wretched persons," reports the University of Cambridge. Archaeologists also found evidence of gravel paths, seeds, and a water well, meaning that the cemetery seemed to be a place where loved ones would visit and pay their respects. (Click to read about how a medieval potion might help against modern superbugs.)

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