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Article contents

A Black Death mass grave at Thornton Abbey: the discovery and examination of a fourteenth-century rural catastrophe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2020

Hugh Willmott*
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, UK
Peter Townend
Affiliation:
Network Archaeology, Lincoln, UK
Diana Mahoney Swales
Affiliation:
Centre for Anatomy & Human Identification, University of Dundee, UK
Hendrik Poinar
Affiliation:
McMaster Ancient DNA Centre, McMaster University, Canada
Katherine Eaton
Affiliation:
McMaster Ancient DNA Centre, McMaster University, Canada
Jennifer Klunk
Affiliation:
McMaster Ancient DNA Centre, McMaster University, Canada
*
*Author for correspondence: ✉ h.willmott@sheffield.ac.uk

Abstract

The discovery of mass burial sites is rare in Europe, particularly in rural areas. Recent excavations at Thornton Abbey in Lincolnshire have revealed a previously unknown catastrophic mass grave containing the remains of at least 48 men, women and children, with radiocarbon dating placing the event in the fourteenth century AD. The positive identification of Yersinia pestis in sampled skeletal remains suggests that the burial population died from the Black Death. This site represents the first Black Death mass grave found in Britain in a non-urban context, and provides unique evidence for the devastating impact of this epidemic on a small rural community.

Type
Research Article
Information
Antiquity , Volume 94 , Issue 373 , February 2020 , pp. 179 - 196
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2020

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