Hundreds of bodies found at 'Bedlam' burial site

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Archaeologists have discovered as many as 1,000 bodies at the former burial site of Bethlehem Hospital in London, which opened in 1247 as the world's first institution dedicated to mental illness.

The find was made near Liverpool Street station during excavations for the Crossrail development. While some of the remains will go on display in the Museum of London, government regulations demand that the bodies are ultimately reburied locally, at a place yet to be decided.

"We are talking about several hundreds, possibly thousands of sets of remains," said the Crossrail archaeologist Jake Carver. "We have made a larger hole at the site than anything previously created here."

Some 400 bodies were found at the site during the 1980s when the Broadgate Centre was being developed. Many of those remains were reinterred beneath the building itself, but Mr Carver predicts that the larger numbers of corpses this time will make that impossible.

"We need to agree a suitable place to rebury them," he added. "In similar situations it has been the East London Cemetery which has had the space. But we will not finish the work for another year or two.

"Prior to the corpses' reinterment we will try to undertake analyses to find out more about those buried there. What genders were they, what ages, and did they suffer from particular pathologies?"

The area will be covered by the Crossrail ticket hall at Liverpool Street. Historical records identify the site as the Bethlehem Churchyard, part of the land holdings of Bethlehem Hospital, nicknamed "Bedlam" and known for its inhuman treatment of patients.