This mass grave with over 1,000 skeletons could be the largest mass burial site ever seen in Europe

the 17th-century find offers new insights into humanity's historic struggle against the plague

In the German city of Nuremberg, archaeologists have unearthed what is believed to be the largest mass burial site of plague victims in Europe, discovered during preparatory works for a new residential facility for the elderly. So far, the remains of over 500 individuals have been found, with expectations that the total might reach up to 1,500. These findings, dating back to the early 17th century, shed light on a grim period of European history.

During the construction of a new residential facility for the elderly in Nuremberg, Germany, archaeologists stumbled upon an astonishing discovery. They unearthed what is presumed to be Europe’s most extensive mass burial site of plague victims to date. The excavation has revealed the remains of more than 500 individuals so far, with the potential total reaching up to 1,500.

Preliminary estimates date the eight common graves to the first half of the 17th century. Interestingly, some of the bones have a greenish hue, a result of the site’s past use for waste disposal from a nearby ancient copper mill, according to Spiegel.

Melanie Langbein, an archaeologist at Nuremberg’s Department for Heritage Preservation, and Florian Melzer, the chief anthropologist, have pledged to safeguard and catalog every human find from the upcoming excavation areas. They anticipate that by the end of the spring operations, the site’s nature as the most extensive emergency cemetery for plague victims ever explored in Europe will be confirmed.

A disease that marked history

The bubonic plague, responsible for some of the deadliest pandemics in history, including the 14th century’s Black Death and the 6th century’s Plague of Justinian, left a significant mark on history. This highly contagious infection, transmitted by fleas, caused recurrent outbreaks over centuries, leading to localized epidemics in Europe for about 400 years after the Black Death, devastating urban populations.

Nuremberg was not spared from these tragedies, even having a cemetery, San Rocco, dedicated exclusively to plague victims. However, the discovery by In Terra Veritas archaeologists reveals a far more tragic and desperate reality beyond a mere cemetery.

Langbein explained that the victims were not buried in a regular cemetery, despite Nuremberg having designated areas for plague deceased. This indicates that the death toll was so high that it necessitated rapid mass burials, foregoing traditional Christian funeral practices. Although plague leaves no visible marks on bones, DNA analysis could confirm the presence of the Yersinia pestis bacterium.

Radiocarbon dating places some remains between the late 15th and early 17th centuries. The discovery of coins and pottery fragments from the early 20th century, along with a 1634 document describing a plague epidemic in Nuremberg, supports the plague as the cause of death.

Nuremberg’s mayor, Marcus König, emphasized the historical and archaeological significance of the find. It offers a unique insight into a wide cross-section of the population from that era, regardless of age, gender, or social status, highlighting the need for sensitive and appropriate treatment of the remains.

Source: In Terra Veritas

Condividi su Whatsapp Condividi su Linkedin