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Archaeologists Reveal Huge Find Made Beneath Cambridge University

A medieval graveyard containing more than 1,000 graves was found beneath a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, archeologists announced in a research journal.

The find, made under the Old Divinity School building at St. John's College, occurred three years ago as the Victoria-era building was being renovated.

Showing medieval skeletons and evidence of a well. (Image source: St. John's College Cambridge)

The photos and detailed findings, however, are only being made public for the first time.

According to the report published in the Archeological Journal, at least 400 skeletons were recovered fully preserved.

Members of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit excavate bodies beneath the Old Divinity School. (Image source: St. John's College Cambridge)

Members of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit excavate bodies beneath the Old Divinity School. (Image source: St. John's College Cambridge)

Most of the burials took place without coffins, researchers added.

Craig Cessford of the Cambridge University Department of Archeology and Anthropology, who led the dig and wrote the report, said it was “one of the largest medieval hospital osteoarcheological assemblages from the British Isles."

One of the over 400 13th-15th century bodies buried in the cemetery of the Hospital of St John the Evangelist, discovered beneath the Old Divinity School at St John's College. (Image source: St. John's College Cambridge)

The site formerly served as the burial ground for a hospital that took care for the poor and dates back to the early 13th century, researchers said.

“Evidence for clothing and grave-goods is rarer than at most hospital cemeteries," Cessford said, “principally because this was a purely lay graveyard with no clerics present. Items were found in graves that might represent grave-goods, but their positions were ambiguous and it is equally possible that they represent residual material from earlier activity at the site."

Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

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