“Til death do us part” isn’t quite enough for some. Archeologists from the University of Leicester have been excavating the "lost" chapel of St. Morrell in east Leicestershire and have recently announced the discovery of 11 human skeletons so far, all of which date back about 700 years. Two of these skeletons include a man and a woman who were buried together and have been holding hands since the 14th century.
“We have seen similar skeletons before from Leicester where a couple has been buried together in a single grave,” Vicki Score of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) said in a press release. “The main question we find ourselves asking is why were they buried up there? There is a perfectly good church in Hallaton. This leads us to wonder if the chapel could have served as some sort of special place of burial at the time.”
St. Michael was the main church in the town of Hallaton, though the the Chapel of St. Morrell wasn’t too far away. Hallaton was a very busy and bustling town during the Middle Ages, with frequent fairs and attractions that would have drawn in tourists and tradesmen. It is possible that the recovered skeletons were people who were ill, foreign, or possibly criminals, who would not have been allowed inside St. Michael’s church.
Whatever the reason for them to be buried away from the main church, the bodies were still positioned east-west, as was the Christian tradition of the day. This was done to prepare the dead for the Resurrection. Clergy members were buried facing the opposite direction, as to be facing the congregation.
In addition to the lovers holding hands, the archeologists discovered an older man who appears to have died as a result from a blow to the head, likely from a pole axe during battle. A younger man was found with damaged teeth and his knees drawn up to his chest.
The team has also uncovered materials from the chapel itself and have determined the chapel’s floor plan. Stone masonry, plaster from walls, tile, and silver coins dating from the 12th-16th centuries have been found at the site. The crew plans to continue excavating the chapel and will also continue on with cemetery. Unfortunately, most records and any images regarding the church have been lost over time, so the full context of this site may be open to interpretation.
[Hat tip: LiveScience]