A set of 13 bodies believed to date back to the time of the Black Death has been uncovered during excavations to construct the new Crossrail railway network.
The remains, discovered in a 5.5m-wide shaft near Charterhouse Square in London, were found alongside pottery dated to the mid-14th century. Experts believe that the neat arrangement of the skeletons points to their burial in the early stages of the disease, before its development into a pandemic caused bodies to be interred unevenly in mass graves.
Jay Carver, project archaeologist for Crossrail, said: “We’ve found archaeology from pretty much all periods — from the very ancient prehistoric right up to a 20th-century industrial site — but this site is probably the most important medieval site that we’ve got. This is one of the most significant discoveries, quite small in extent but highly significant because of its data and what is represented in the shaft.”
Lyndon Johnson tapes document Nixon subterfuge
Recently declassified tapes of telephone calls made by former US president Lyndon Johnson reveal more details of Richard Nixon’s dealings in disrupting talks to end the Vietnam war. The recordings, which were made in 1968, indicate that Johnson considered Nixon to have “blood on his hands” as a result of his intervention in the peace talks, the potential success of which the then-nominee believed would damage his campaign for the presidency.
12th-century bones given Jewish ceremonial burial
The bodies of 17 people thought to have been killed as a result of religious persecution in the 12th century have been given a Jewish ceremonial burial in Norwich. Evidence that the skeletons, which were discovered in a well in the city in 2004 and include the remains of 11 children, are those of people of Jewish descent led to the decision to inter them on land regarded as sacred.
Roman artefact discovered in castle cupboard
A sculpture of a Cotswold ‘altar god’ which is thought to date from between 150 and 350AD has been found in a cupboard in the basement of Sudeley Castle. The artefact, which shows a figure wearing a cap, tunic and cloak and holding a bow and arrow, was first discovered in an archaeological dig on the Gloucestershire estate in 1875 but subsequently went missing for more than 100 years.
Women voted ’75 years before they were legally allowed to’
An 1843 poll book uncovered in Lichfield appears to offer evidence that women in the area were voting in elections decades before they were legally allowed to do so. The document features the names of 30 women who cast a vote, including those who owned property or land and widows who had inherited their husbands’ businesses.
Wymondham Abbey awarded £1.5m for redevelopment project
A Norfolk abbey in continuous use for more than 900 years is to be renovated and expanded to feature a visitor centre following a major funding award. The £1.5m Heritage Lottery grant for Wymondham Abbey, officially known as the Church of St Mary and St Thomas of Canterbury, will also help recreate a medieval herb garden and allow public access to a wildlife reserve on the site.
Richard III ‘would have wanted Catholic burial’
$3 Chinese bowl sells for $2.2m at auction
A five-inch-wide bowl bought for $3 in a garage sale in 2007 has sold for $2.2m at auction. The artefact, which was displayed on the mantlepiece of a family in New York state who had no idea of its real worth, is thought to have been made 1,000 years ago during China’s Northern Song Dynasty.
Image credits: Crossrail (death pit); Sudeley Castle (altar god); University of Leicester (Richard III)