Medieval Mass Grave discovered in England

An archaeological dig near Durham Cathedral in England has uncovered at least 18 bodies “piled one top of another” in what appears to be a mass grave dating back to the Middle Ages.

The dig, being carried out by archaeologists from the University of Durham originally found four bodies. It was originally believed that the bodies were part of the cathedral’s graveyard, but further investigation has revealed an unorthodox and intriguing layout to the bodies which archaeologists say is proof of a mass burial.


Richard Annis, senior archaeologist, Archaeological Services Durham University, said, “We have found clear evidence of a mass burial and not a normal group of graves. One of the densest areas of the excavation was further north, which is further away from the edge of the presumed graveyard.

“The bodies have been tipped into the earth without elaborate ceremony and they are tightly packed together and jumbled. Some are buried in a North to South alignment, rather than the traditional East to West alignment that we would expect from a conventional medieval burial site.”


The same Durham University team will carry out further research into the remains, which will include dating the bones and looking for clues as to their origin. This work is expected to begin in the New Year.

Mr Annis added that no definitive interpretation could be offered at this stage in the investigation. “The process of post-excavation processing, examination and analysis is essential to allow us to draw proper conclusions about this group of human remains,” he said. “It is too early to say what they may be.”

The evidence of human remains was found in early November during building work at the University’s Palace Green Library, which is undergoing a £10 million re-development.

With the necessary permission from the UK’s Ministry of Justice, archaeologists are carrying out excavation works in the area before taking the bones away for further examination. By law, the bones must eventually be reinterred at an approved burial ground.


Medieval Mass Grave - photo courtesy University of Durham

Source: Durham University