Burials and the Black Death in Hereford: New Library Excavation, Hereford Cathedral [Hardback]

Derek Hurst (Editor)

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ISBN: 9781789258684 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Publication: November 2022 | Language: English 352p, H297 x W210 (mm) B/w and colour
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Burials and the Black Death in Hereford

Details

Excavation at Hereford Cathedral took place in 1993, prior to the construction of the Mappa Mundi Museum and new archive library. This revealed extensive remains, some potentially dating back to the 7th/8th century, including timber-built buildings and a late Saxon cemetery. Around the year 1000, major change saw a roadway installed and a new, very substantial building erected, the latter possibly the bishop’s residence at the time. Its occupation ceased in the mid-11th century, the cellar being converted into a cesspit, where a late Saxon sword was discovered. The Welsh ransacking of Hereford in 1055 probably accounts for this drastic decline.

Subsequently a large gravel/sand quarry was excavated, thought to signify the construction of the Norman cathedral. Backfill to the quarry included a very large quantity of charnel (up to 5000 people), some dating to the later 8th/9th century. Strangely, towards the end of the charnel deposition, a few contemporary burials were also incorporated, some being irregular in their layout and so possibly signifying a major cataclysm, such as famine.

Thereafter, the site was given over to a cemetery from c. 1140 onwards, and excavation of over 1000 burials has provided a full cross-section of the medieval population. Almost 200 individuals were associated with three pits. These are considered to date from the first outbreak of plague in Hereford in 1349, notoriously the ‘Black Death’, and such mass graves would echo similar responses elsewhere, both in the UK and Europe-wide. The site has contributed to an international study, using aDNA analysis, to successfully identify the presence of Yersinia pestis, and so demonstrate its agency in this catastrophe.

In addition to detailed reporting on some notable individual artefacts, there is a thorough study of the human remains, while the interpretation of the entire stratigraphic sequence is underpinned by extensive radiocarbon dating and chronological modelling.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
Ron Shoesmith and Derek Hurst
2. The excavation site – Medieval (and earlier)
Derek Hurst
3. The human remains
a) The physical anthropology and palaeopathology of the burials from Hereford Cathedral
Anthea Boylston and Darlene Weston (with a section on the dental pathology by Alan Ogden)
b) The demography of the ‘Plague Pits’ compared with the other burials from Hereford Cathedral and with Black Death cemeteries from the UK and Europe
Darlene Weston
c) Multi-isotopic analysis
Peter Marshall, Gundula Müldner and Jane A. Evans
d) DNA analysis, including the identification of Yersinia pestis aDNA in the teeth of Hereford plague pit victims
Barbara Bachman and Darlene Weston
e) Disarticulated remains – The charnel
Jo Buckberry, Gemma Burton and Hannah Haydock
4. The Black Death period in Hereford – The local documentary evidence
Ian Forrest
5. The excavation site – Post-medieval (and later)
Derek Hurst
6. Radiocarbon dating and chronological modelling
Peter Marshall et al
7. Artefactual evidence
8. Environmental evidence
9. Overview/conclusions
Derek Hurst
Appendices

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