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3,000 Skeletons Found In U.K. Mass Burial Site, Will Be Excavated And Studied

03/11/2015 09:23 EDT | Updated 03/11/2015 09:59 EDT

British archaeologists announced earlier this week that they have begun excavating the skeletons of some 3,000 people interred in the 16th and 17th centuries, who just so happened to be in the path of the Crossrail transit line, "a world-class new railway for London."

Buried at a site known as Bedlam (appropriate considering the chaos the excavation is causing), the skeletons will be thoroughly examined by scientists before being reburied in a field in Essex, just east of London.

Used from 1569 until approximately 1738, including during the Great Plague in 1665, Bedlam was opened after graveyards around London started to overflow. It was near Bethlem Royal Hospital, a psychiatric institution, and was used to bury London’s impoverished population, religious non-conformists, and inmates from the hospital.

"This excavation presents a unique opportunity to understand the lives and deaths of 16th and 17th century Londoners," Jay Carver, one of the archaeologists involved in the project, said in a written statement. "The Bedlam burial ground spans a fascinating phase of London's history, including the transition from the Tudor-period City into cosmopolitan early-modern London."

A team of 60 archaeologists will work for six days a week, and the excavation is expected to continue for the next month. To date, Crossrail archaeologists have unearthed more than 10,000 artifacts across more than 40 construction sites.

It is the United Kingdom's largest archaeology project.

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