Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Museum of London's skeleton key to the bodies under city's streets
Tens of thousands of skeletons that lie hidden beneath the streets, houses and offices of London have been revealed for the first time on a map, in a collaboration between the Museum of London and The Times.

The electronic map allows readers to zoom in on streets to see how many bodies they walk over on the way to work. It pinpoints the location of many of the 37,000 skeletons the museum found in the capital. Curators have kept 17,000 of these in storage at the museum's headquarters in Central London, but reinterred the rest.

Interesting story and very cool interactive map. This is the best part and something I had not known about:
Archaeologists who unearth the skeletons occasionally take fright when they discover bodies. Mr White said: “At Christchurch in Spitalfields they found someone with smallpox scars in soft tissue. They dropped it and ran away. They sent it to one of the two laboratories in the world that can deal with smallpox.” The labs said that smallpox spores were present, but not enough to be a danger.

It is now routine to rebury unbreached lead-lined coffins without opening them in case the disease that killed the occupant is still a threat.

I had no idea. I don' take too seriously all the talk about deadly fungi and whatnot waiting to infect discoverers of tombs in Egypt, but this seems a bit more realistic.