During an exhumation at St. Peter's Burial Ground in the town of Blackburn in Lancashire, England, archaeologists uncovered 1967 bodies that date back to the 19th century, 800 of which were children aged six years and under.
BBC reports that the exhumation was scheduled ahead of the construction of a new road. A spokeswoman for the Darwen Borough Council said that St. Peter's Burial Ground, which opened in 1821, saw "intense use" up to the 1860s, and that the section of the burial ground where the bodies were found represents 30 percent of the site. The children were found buried with coins from 1821, as well as pieces of glass bead jewelry.
Headland Archaeology, the team handling the removal of the bodies, said that analysis of the remains is still in its early stages, but they believe that the children died from infections to their lungs and guts. "They would have died quite quickly so the signs may not turn up in their skeletons," an expert with Headland, Dave Henderson, said, adding that the population "grew very quickly" at the time and that overcrowding played a factor in the living conditions.
Going into the project, the archaeologists only expected about 200 graves, but discovered twice as many, and some were filled with the remains of multiple people. "One grave had 13 bodies in it," councillor Phil Riley said. "It shows the poverty and poor health of the people before the introduction of clean water and the terrible level of infant mortality." The cemetery was in use until 1945. The church it was attached to was razed in 1976.