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Mystery of Walrus Bones In London Cemetery

In 2003 during excavations for a new railway terminal, a team of archaeologists found a grisly mix of bones from at least eight human bodies in one coffin, many of them cut up and showing evidence of autopsy. However, the weird part is nine of the bone fragments were walrus bones. The bone fragments apparently came from a 4 meter long Pacific Walrus which may have weighed as much as two tons when alive. Phil Emery, team leader of the excavation and also an archaeologist with a company called Ramboll UK, said he was shocked when he discovered the bones.

Walrus bone fragments found in St Pancras old burial ground

Ten years ago the bones were first unearthed by Emery and his team, but the findings hadn't been released to the popular press until now. His team found a total of 1,500 human bodies during construction of the St Pancras International railway station, many of them were buried hastily because of a wave of epidemics that struck the quickly expanding city more than 150 years ago and one of the coffin is contained the Pacific Walrus bones, some pierced by a sharp tool. The biggest mystery is how did a two tons-walrus from the North Pacific ended up into a cemetery in London?

Emery said that during 1822 and 1854, London cemeteries were overwhelmed by the dead from a series epidemic diseases (cholera, typhus and smallpox). The human bodies came from the old burial ground of St Pancras Church and were interred there. Before 1822, the cemetery was characterized by small plots, as seen in most ordinary burial grounds. But thereafter, ceremony fell to the wayside as the cemetery was overwhelmed — plots were replaced with mass graves.

In 1832 the dissection of human corpses for science or medical education was made legal and it's thought that the research may have led to the grisly mixed burial. Often the corpses for the research would have been dismembered into tiny parts. The medical (anatomical and biological) research sometimes takes place in the same laboratories, which might easily have seen exotic creatures such as the walrus and then carved up there for science.

Phil Emery admit that the walrus bones is a bit of a mystery. The walrus bones for medical purpose is only a theory, he and his teams still investigate it. Now the walrus bones are on display at the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre in Hackney.

The Register - "Mystery of the 19th Century Dead Walrus Found in London Graveyard" written by Lewis Page;
Live Science - "Walrus Bones Found In Old London Burial Ground" written by Douglas Main

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