More than 200 skeletons have been discovered in a medieval mass grave beneath a supermarket in the middle of the French capital, with archeologists unsure of how they died or why the bodies were placed there.
The grisly discovery was made beneath a Monoprix supermarket on Rue Sebastopol in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris, which stands on the site of a medieval hospital torn down in the 18th century.
When the store’s management decided to carry out redevelopment work on its basement, it gave archaeologists a chance to see what was buried beneath.
What they found was dozens of skeletons of men, women and children aligned head to toe and buried up to six people deep.
“We expected it to have a few bones to the extent that it had been a cemetery but not find mass graves,” store manager Pascal Roy told AFP.
When new buildings went up on the site of the former hospital the bodies buried in its cemetery were moved to another location, say archaeologists, but for some reason many were left behind.
'Major mortality crisis'
So far, bodies have been discovered in eight different pits, the first seven of them containing the remains of between five and twenty individuals. But it was the eighth pit that most took the excavators by surprise, with more than 150 skeletons laid out in two rows. And they say more remains are likely to be discovered as the excavations continue.
When and how the people died is still unknown, but the evidence so far points to a major and sudden loss of life.
“The fact that so many people were buried together, that the grave is this large, tends to show us that there was a major mortality crisis,” said Isabelle Abadie, who is leading the dig.
“The crisis may have resulted from an epidemic, famine, or extreme fever.”
Paris was hit by several epidemics of plague in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as well as an outbreak of smallpox in the seventeenth century.
Carbon dating and DNA analysis will now be carried out on the remains to find out more about the people they belonged too and how they came to be there.
Date created : 2015-03-01