London Crossrail Project Unearths Black Death Burial Pit

black death“Bring out your dead!”

If you lived in London in 1348-50, you’d hear that call a lot. All of Europe was swept with the Black Death, a virulent plague that killed an estimated one-third of the population. London, like other congested urban areas, got hit hard.

Now archaeologists working in London have uncovered a mass grave of Black Death victims, a Crossrail press release reports. Digging ahead of the planned London Crossrail transportation project, the team discovered a mass grave of 13 bodies at Charterhouse Square, an area known as a burial ground during the plague. Pottery from the mid-14th century found at the site helps confirm the identification.

The bodies were laid out neatly in rows, hinting that the burial ground was from the early stages of the Black Death. When the plague was going full force, bodies were simply dumped into giant pits.

Now archaeologists are examining the bones to learn more about how the people lived, including diet, physical health and work-related wear and tear on the body. They also hope to find surviving DNA from the plague to give scientists a better idea of how it developed. Researchers stress that the plague bacteria cannot live for long in the soil and the excavation poses no health risk.

This is only the latest in a series of finds by the Crossrail workers. Earlier we reported on their discovery of a 3,500-year-old Bronze Age trackway. The Crossrail project is a high-speed train system that will link 37 stations along 73 miles of track through London. It’s due to open in 2018.

Sadly, the 14th century plague was only the first wave of a persistent contagion. The Black Death returned to London several times, the worst being in 1665-6, when it killed 100,000 Londoners.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Sections of Mexico unsafe for travel, consulate issues warning

mexico unsafe for travelJust when we thought it might be safe to travel to Mexico again, more bodies found in mass graves prompt a new travel warning for U.S. citizens and law enforcement. Mexican authorities have charged 14 people in connection with bodies found in newly-discovered mass graves warning us that parts of Mexico are still unsafe for travel.

The story starts back to August of last year when bodies were found in mass graves at a ranch in San Fernando, Tamaulipas in Mexico, just 90 miles south of Brownsville, Texas. Buses heading north towards the U.S. were stopped and boarded by gunmen who demanded identification then took Mexican national passengers away. Authorities have not confirmed but believe the intent was to hold them for ransom or use them to smuggle drugs into the U.S. 72 bodies were found then.

Last week, 59 bodies were found on Wednesday then another 13 more bodies were found on Friday at the same ranch. Bus lines followed the lead from cruise lines to cancel routes into the troubled area sparking demonstrations around Mexico. Protesters condemned the drug gangs themselves and the Mexican government’s war on drug gangs.

“The investigation is in progress and we must be very careful, especially not to cause alarm among the population that is worried about the whereabouts of their loved ones, but we can deduce that, unfortunately, that they are fellow Mexicans,” said Morelos Canseco Gomez, a top security official in the northern state of Tamaulipas reports CNN.

If you have been keeping up with the news you know that Mazatlan, Mexico has been in the spotlight recently as cruise lines stopped calling there over safety concerns. Gadling readers both agree and disagree with the decision by major cruise lines to stop calling in Mazatlan and the general safety level in the country saying:

“There is no place in Mexico that is safe right now. Death is random as well as directed toward a target. Collateral damage happens anywhere there is some beef between these diablos”

“I’m glad to see some cruise lines are not putting their passengers and crew in harms way by avoiding certain vacation destinations. As tourists we should withhold our travel dollars until safety and security become a necessity and not a luxury.”

“Americans are being targeted in Mexico — and murdered. These murders are occurring in taxis, at airports, and on the streets. Rich Americans are fleeing Mexico for their lives.”

“I agree stay the hell away from Mexico…i went there in November and all you do is get hassled to buy stuff…drug…whores…anything”

Here is the travel alert issued late Friday by U.S. consulate officials:

“The United States Consulates General in Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Monterrey advise American citizens that the U.S. government has received uncorroborated information that Mexican criminal gangs may intend to attack U.S. law enforcement officers or U.S. citizens in the near future in Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and San Luis Potosi. This information is being distributed to all U.S. government employees in the three states. No other information is available. If more detailed information is developed, we will advise American citizens immediately.”


As Mexico’s war against drugs continues, look for travel alerts and warnings to continue also. be prepared for transportation companies to cancel routes and itineraries too, also concerned over the safety of their personnel and passengers. How much of that will happen is uncertain, but many agree, Mexico needs to gain control of the situation for the protection of it’s citizens and visitors.

“The mass graves found yesterday once again show the Mexican government’s failure to deal with the country’s public security crisis and reduce criminal violence, which has left many populations vulnerable to attacks, abductions and killings,” said Rupert Knox, a researcher on Mexico at Amnesty International told CNN. “All too often, such human rights crimes have gone unpunished, leaving criminal gangs and officials acting in collusion with them free to target vulnerable communities, such as irregular migrants.”

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