(Crossrail Ltd London, UK)
Keywords: Europe; London; Black Death; forensic techniques
In March 2013, 25 individual graves were discovered during construction work for London‘s Crossrail project. The graveyard appeared remarkably orderly, neat rows of graves were laid out in at least 2 distinct layers. Historical sources refer to a large burial ground in this area of London set out specifically for victims of the Black Death in 1348, however many previous excavations in the locality had never revealed evidence for this supposed mass burial. Were these individuals a small sample of the thousands of victims of Europes Black Death pandemic attested to have hit London in late 1348? What was the relationship between the layers in terms of dates, and what was driving an apparent change in orientation of the graves between the initial layer the subsequent phase? Traditional archaeological methods enhanced with forensic tests including Carbon 14 dating, aDNA , isotope and osteological analysis have been carried out. What have these been able to add to the interpretation? Traditional archaeological stratigraphy, historical research and modern scientific techniques are all combined in this paper to build a case study illustrating the difficulties of working with small samples and the impact in particular of recent techniques in ancient DNA testing on our interpretations. A picture of disaster management and the causes and reactions to disease in 14th century London emerges and raises further questions regarding the location of the many thousands of victims that are still unaccounted for.