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London Black Death skeletons: Bizarre details of skeletons offered in teeth

Black Death skeletons give up so much information from the days of the bubonic plague 600 years ago.
Black Death skeletons give up so much information from the days of the bubonic plague 600 years ago.Getty Images

The London Black Death skeletons uncovered during an archeology dig are telling a story with their teeth. While excavating for a new London railway skeletons were unearthed and their molars have identified their cause of death, the medieval Black Death, according to Washington Post on March 31.

The bones found by construction workers have been untouched in their mass grave under London’s Charterhouse Square. An osteologist with the Museum of London, Don Walker, offered up the information they were able to extract from first testing one of the skeleton’s teeth.

Walker outlined a biography for the man who died of Black Death about 600 years ago. He moved to London from another part of England. This particular skeleton was breast-fed as a baby. During his childhood he had bad tooth decay and grew up to be a laborer.

This particular skeleton died at an early age from the bubonic plague in early adulthood. He was one of many to die in the 14th century from the Black Death when bubonic plague ravaged Europe. After examining this one skeleton’s molar, scientists did the same for 12 other skeletons that they uncovered at the same time.

The tests came back that most of the teeth showed that these people were exposed to the bubonic plague and most likely died from it over 600 years ago. They used the DNA extracted from the death to come to this determination.

These bones are expected to be part of a cemetery that was created to bury Black Death victims when the plague came through the area centuries ago. The scientist also learned that the skeletons were “by and large poor people.” Many showed signs of malnutrition which would have coincided with the “Great Famine,” which hit the area some 30 years before the Black Death.

Many of the skeletons showed that they had back injuries. This would suggest that they lived by working hard labor. The skeletons were in three layers, which suggested the cemetery was used in the three outbreaks of Black Death. The skeletons are believed to be from the bubonic plague outbreaks in 1348-1350, again in 1361 and yet again in the 15th century.

The findings of three layers of skeletons buried at three different times. Jay Carver, Crossrail's lead archaeologist said:

"It suggests that the burial ground was used again and again for the burial of plague victims."