Imagine one morning, you are displaying your freshly baked baguettes in your store and later discover more than 200 bodies under your floors?
Recently, that’s almost what occurred at the Monoprix Réaumur-Sébastopol supermarket, located in the second-arrondissement neighborhood of Paris.
The skeletons were discovered during renovations to the basement. As workers lowered the floor level, they were shocked to find the bodies of men, women and children, all neatly arranged in what looked to be mass graves.
This was also the site of an ancient cemetery attached to the Trinity Hospital of the 13th century.
Trinity Hospital, founded in 1202 by two German noblemen, was meant to provide care for the sick, and also a place where weary pilgrims and travelers could rest and enjoy themselves, according to a presentation given at the French Society on the History of Medicine in 1893.
But then during the historic height of the Black Death, the hospital also had to open a cemetery, in 1353.
During that catastrophic time period, hundreds of people a day died in the Hôtel-Dieu de Paris, the city’s oldest hospital, and burial space was tough to find in the crowded city. Occasionally, the overflow bodies were buried at the Trinity Hospital site, which also became lucrative for the hospital.
The bodies extend even beyond the boundaries of the excavation. The pits contain skeletons that did not show obvious signs of injury or disease.
The researchers estimate that given the huge number of skeletons found, it seems likely the bodies were buried during some mass medical crisis, for when too many people were dying all at once to provide individual burials.
In the 1500s, the Trinity Hospital was then converted to a place where children were trained as apprentices. 200 years later, the site fell into disrepair.
Then, during the French Revolution, the hospital was destroyed and the remaining structures were turned into stables for animals.
And now a supermarket in modern day.
Following this discovery, the team plans to use radioactive isotopes of carbon to estimate when the buried people lived. By combining this data with ancient texts and historical maps of Medieval Paris, researchers hope to reveal how and when these ancient people died.
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