Two Black Death victims have been found under the streets of London, buried facing each other with their hands laid across each other.
It was a double grave rather than one of the mass graves common during the time, and it is puzzling to scientists why they were buried in such a manner. The grave, dating back to the time of the Black Death 600 years ago, had been discovered by workmen on the Crossrail tunnel site that is currently being constructed.
It is thought that both men were in their 40s when they died of the Black Death and were buried in the cemetery in Smithfield in the city center, close to the Charterhouse Monastery. Archaeologists excavated the site in 2013 to help make way for the Crossrail tunnel, which is due to open in 2018.
Over 25 remains of individuals were recovered, but this double grave intrigues researchers the most. People who were buried in double or triple graves usually had familial connections. The Plague was known for its swiftness in wiping out large numbers of family groups at a time. Until DNA testing comes back, all that can be offered are theories as to why the two men were buried in such a manner. If the testing comes up negative for familial ties, then the theory holds that they had a romantic connection or even that they were close friends.
It could be a puzzle that is never solved. What is known is that the hands were placed on top of each other on purpose by the people burying them. The oldest of the pair had a healed fracture on his arm which suggests at one time he had been assaulted.
Another theory is that due to being buried without coffins or even a burial wrapping, the posture of the bodies could be merely accidental. DNA testing revealed that both died of the plague; further testing would be needed to establish if they were related or not. Archaeologists are using the finding of the plague victims to further their information as to where the disease was spread and how the people dealt with it.
The Crossrail project has discovered many interesting things during their excavations. They have more than 40 construction sites running and have unearthed over 10,000 artifacts so far. In 2013, they uncovered Roman skulls in the tunnels beneath Liverpool Street Station.
Archaeologists and tunnel workers are working together to preserve the finds as they are being uncovered. In Eldon Street, workers found 4,000 skeletons in 2013 that were finally removed in 2014. Archaeologists have been given a unique view of the chronological layers of history as each new meter of soil is uncovered under the city streets. This year, the Museum of London is running an exhibition of the finds unearthed during the digging of the Crossrail project.