Crania from the Green Ground on Portugal Street
A team of Natural History Museum anthropologists have been digitising and analysing a collection human remains from London in order to learn more about the lives and deaths of people who lived in the capital.
While studying bones from a post-medieval cemetery known as the ‘Green Ground’ on Portugal Street, we dug deeper into the history of this cemetery.
Syphilitic lesions on a cranial fragment from London.
In the Natural History Museum’s collections there are a number of human remains from various sites throughout London. Many of these originate from post-medieval burial grounds which were closed in the 1850s. Although many of the bodies were moved to outer-London cemeteries, some were left behind. It is, therefore, not unusual to accidentally uncover post-medieval burials during building works in the capital.
Roman adult, probable female from Cannon Street with heavy dental calculus on right premolars and molars
Today many people, both children and adults, dread going to the dentist. Whether it’s the odd smells, the gritty taste of the polishing paste, or the fear of being told you need a root canal, most people find it to be an unpleasant experience. For me, however, as an Anthropologist who has seen just how bad dental health can be, I look forward to my dentist visits! It only takes looking at the teeth of people from the past to make me brush my teeth and floss everyday.
A team of scientists at the Natural History Museum have been carrying out detailed analysis of human remains recovered throughout London which are cared for in the museum’s collections. They have uncovered fascinating insights into lives and deaths of the people that once lived in the capital.
Drawings of the human skull from Gray’s Anatomy (1858)
Museum scientists are analysising a collection of human remains from London to learn more about the lives and deaths of bygone Londoners . A central component of their work is to identify the age and sex of the people they are studying along with any diseases or other pathologies that they had. Here, Rosalind Wallduck explains how anthropologists estimate the age and sex of a deceased individual from their skeleton.
Adult male from St George’s in the Borough with a healed nasal fracture
Although our bodies have an amazing ability to heal themselves evidence of trauma can still be seen in bones years after the incident occurred. Evidence of trauma is commonly found in archaeological remains and can often give us clues as the to the types of injuries people suffered from in the past.
Burial Act of 1852
Walking around modern day London it may be hard to believe that the remains of hundreds of thousands of Londoners lie beneath our feet. The city once contained hundreds of graveyards and crypts that were overflowing with the remains of London’s dead.