The largest "plague grave" in Europe: archaeologists discover a mass grave dating back to the 17th century

By SSPDailyMar 22, 2024 21:23 PMNews
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The largest "plague grave" in Europe
The largest ''plague grave'' in Europe. Source: stsellov.xyz

While inspecting a future construction site in Nuremberg, archaeologists discovered giant mass graves in which thousands of victims of the Black Death of 1632-1633 were buried. SSPDaily learned more about this discovery.

This was reported by Spiegel magazine.

Archaeologists did not expect any special discoveries when they went to Großweidenmühlstraße in Nuremberg in mid-August 2023. According to the plan, a nursing home was to be built there. Historical sources mentioned that there could be remnants of city defenses from the Thirty Years' War in the area. According to the law, such historical artifacts must be documented before construction work begins.

But the experts were wrong. They discovered not only the remains of the fortress but also a huge mass grave with plague corpses from the 17th century. The team has already discovered almost 650 skeletons, with further excavations expected to reveal hundreds more.

According to the archaeologists, no one has ever found so many remains of plague victims anywhere in Europe.

"The discovery surprised all of us," Melanie Langbein of the Nuremberg Office for the Protection of Monuments said.

According to her, historians are not yet aware of documents that mention a mass grave behind the former city wall. The only mention is of a plague hospital that was located near the excavation site. However, Langbein believes that not only the dead from the hospital were buried in this area but also the corpses found in the city.

The researchers note that people were buried in the mass grave without observing Christian customs. This was probably done to save space and remove contagious corpses as quickly as possible. This may indicate that the outbreak of the epidemic, which archaeologists found evidence of, was very large.

"The Black Death" in Nuremberg

The plague struck Nuremberg in the Middle Ages and early modern times many times. Melanie believes that the found mass grave dates back to the plague outbreak of 1632-1633. This is evidenced by radiocarbon analysis of the bones and two coins found in 1619 and 1621.

Archival documents mention this outbreak of the Black Death. The unknown author of the note gives the exact number of plague victims - 15,661 people - which is more than a third of all Nuremberg residents at the time.

The plague killed people regardless of age, origin, or wealth. Therefore, such burials are a great opportunity for research. They are a representative sample of the population of all ages and classes.

A detailed anthropological and archaeogenetic study of the bones and teeth could help answer many questions about how these people lived, what their diet was like, the level of medical care, and common diseases.

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