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Archaeologists Find Thousands of Human Bones Under Medieval Church

A team of archaeologists trying to conserve a medieval church in Gdansk, a city in Poland, has made a shocking and rather terrifying discovery: underneath the structure, a hoard of human remains were stuck.

The archaeological finding, which was made throughout the span of two years, is something of an enigma. The scientists have discovered the remains of at least 64 people, which included men, women, and also children.

However, when it comes to dating the bones, the archaeologists find the process rather complicated because the remains come in all shapes and sizes.

Mysterious Findings

The bones were progressively recovered between the years 2018 and 2020 while the team carried out conservation works at St. Nicholas Church in Gdansk, found in northern Poland. The 12th-century church, one of the oldest such structures in the city, has announced back in October 2018 that it will close because of structural damage and the threat of collapse.

The same year, conservators​ came across the first batch of remains when working on the church’s western and southern walls. During the works and coming to 2020, even more human bones were recovered from within the structure.

Archaeologist Dr. Aleksandra Pudło said: “We found mostly hand bones, spine elements, forearm bones and many more.”

These remains most probably belonged to men and women aged 20 to 70. Among them were the remains of at least six unborn children, which means that heavily pregnant women were buried under the church.

Following the detailed analysis of some 2,600 bones, Dr. Pudło​ said that the archaeologists had discovered the remains of 64 different people. Still, the experts have not yet been able to date the bones because of them being disturbed and messed with during previous renovations.

People Were Taller in the Middle Ages

The remains were put to rest with artifacts found alongside the bones. These artifacts suggest that people were buried in the early modern period, sometime after the late Middle Ages.

Dr. Pudło said: “Based on these bones, we can estimate the height of Gdansk’s residents. In the Middle Ages, women measured about 160 cm (62.99 inches), and men were about 10 cm (3.93 inches) taller. In later centuries, the city began to get overcrowded, there were frequent epidemics, so living conditions were worse and, therefore, men and women were slightly smaller.”

The expert added: “Anthropological features also indicate the origin of the former inhabitants of Gdansk. People buried in the Middle Ages in St. Nicholas Church came mainly from the surrounding lands, as well as from Kujawy, Greater Poland, and even central Poland. A small influx of people from Scandinavia is also noticeable.”

After the comprehensive renovation efforts came to an end, the church was reopened to the public last month. On Saturday, September 5th, a ceremony was held by the local priests to bury some of the unearthed remains. A small wooden casket holding the bones and three skulls was carried to the church’s crypts and then buried there.

Prior Michał Osek said: “On September 5th, we celebrate the liturgical commemoration of the deceased benefactors of the Dominican Order.”

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