17th century mass graves discovered in Barcelona

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The works on the new AVE station of La Sagrera in Barcelona, which have discovered 68 graves with 358 skeletons, could lead to the appearance of more remains as the construction of the railway infrastructure progresses.

17th century mass graves discovered in Barcelona
Credit: Alejandro Garcia/EFE

According to Josep Pujades, who is in charge of archaeological interventions, the remains may have belonged to some of the soldiers of Philip IV’s troops who took part in the siege of Barcelona in 1651, in the Guerra dels Segadors (Reapers’ War) and who died as a result of plague. None of the bodies found have any indication of having died a violent death and in the great majority of cases they are men between 15 and 35 years of age.




“Since 2008, archaeologists have been working on all the interventions in the area. In 2011 a first grave was located and in months we found twelve graves with 182 corpses. We were facing multiple burials, some of which contain more than 60 bodies,” Pujades said.

17th century mass graves discovered in Barcelona
Credit: Massimiliano Minocri/El Pais

“When we see corpses piled up like this it is indicative of a major mortality crisis. We found fragments of ceramics that clearly indicate that it is a mid-seventeenth-century necropolis. Studying historical maps, we found that between this point and the centre of the city there was a large camp of Spanish troops that besieged Barcelona. We know that at this time there was plague and we believe that this is the cause of death of these men,” says the chief archaeologist.




Several small graves, with one or two bodies, were found that probably correspond to the first phase of the epidemic, while the other graves with dozens of dead, piled up, would correspond to the highest moments of mortality.

17th century mass graves discovered in Barcelona
Credit: Sergi Alcazar/El Nacional

The remains will be transferred to the Zona Franca, to the depots of the Museum of History of Barcelona, where they will undergo the relevant anthropological analyses. The few items that have been removed from the graves (some buttons, bits of leather and ceramic fragments) will also go to the Museum to be analysed.

The excavation will last a few more days, during which more bodies may appear. The graves themselves will be reburied by the works of the station.

Source: El Pais [September 04, 2018]

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