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History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings
news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site.
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Grave secrets: A new exhibition reveals the hidden secrets of 26 disinterred skeletons
It's all that's left of us after our flesh has decayed - but even a pile of old bones can still reveal how we lived our lives.
A new exhibition, Skeletons: London's Buried Bones, looks at the secrets etched into 26 disinterred skeletons, from that of a gout-ridden man who clearly loved his pipe, to a bon viveur who died at the ripe old age of 84, to a pregnant young woman.
Here, we tell their extraordinary, and often disturbing, stories.
Found in Cross Bones cemetery in Southwark, an unconsecrated area reserved for paupers and prostitutes, the tiny skeleton of this young woman shows that she had a very tough life.
The hardship of her childhood is written into her skeleton: the disrupted formation of her tooth enamel is indicative of great stress - either famine or disease - during her early years.
She also suffered from two conditions typical of London's poor: syphilis, which together with her burial place may indicate that she was forced into prostitution; and rickets.
Severe enough to have attacked her skull, the syphilis would have been visible as large open sores on her forehead, while the rickets is evident from the curvature of her leg bones.
THE INFANT SMALLPOX VICTIM
Smallpox was so prevalent in the 18th century that diarist Samuel Pepys described it as being 'as common as eating or swearing'.
It accounted for around ten per cent of all deaths, among them that of this nine-month-old baby.
The case had to be severe in order to affect the bones, and for this poor mite it clearly was, as you can see its legacy in the swelling around the elbow joint.
THE BON VIVEUR
This elderly man has an extra, bony growth on his spine that resembles dripping candle wax and has fused together the vertebrae in his lower back.
It is caused by a disease known as DISH, which is often seen in men who have a high protein diet, are obese and possibly suffering from type 2 diabetes.
There's also damage to his hip joints, where the bones have rubbed together, probably caused by heavy load-bearing, adding weight to the theory Wood was on the porky side.
In fact, he was buried in Chelsea Old Church, whose records tell us that as Chelsea parish beadle and butcher, he ought to have been able to feed himself royally.
By the time he died, satisfying his gastronomic urges had become problematic: Wood had lost all his teeth.
The cause of his death in 1842 was recorded as 'decay of nature'.
THE EXPECTANT MOTHER
This mother-to-be died sometime between 1700 and 1850 with what is thought to be her first child still in the womb - the slender size of her hips suggests that she had not given birth before.
She was only 22 weeks into her pregnancy at the time of her death, so she probably succumbed to an infection rather than complications relating to childbirth.The skeleton of her foetus is one of the youngest ever found in British archaeology and has been recovered with each of its minuscule bones intact, though the skull, which does not fuse until a child reaches toddler age, is in pieces.
Read the rest on DailyMail.co.uk.