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16th century mass grave with over 100 children discovered in Poland


The remains of over 100 children, some with coins in their mouths, have been discovered in south-east Poland confirming local legends of a children's graveyard.

16th century mass grave with over 100 children discovered in Poland
The remains were uncovered by archaeologists after construction workers discovered human bones
during roadworks [Credit: Gminne Centrum Kultury w Jezowem/Facebook]
A total of 115 bodies were uncovered by archaeologists after construction workers discovered human bones during work on the S19 road in Jezowe near the town of Nisko in the Podkarpackie province.



Confirming the discovery, the General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways said: “Based on archaeological observations to date, we can conclude that about 70-80 percent of all burials are children.”

16th century mass grave with over 100 children discovered in Poland
Some of the children’s skeletons had coins in their mouths
[Credit: Arkadia Firma Archeologiczna/Facebook]
When archaeologists looked more closely at the bodies they were amazed to find some of them had coins placed in their mouths.

Katarzyna Oleszek, an archaeologist working at the site, said: “It's certainly a sign of their beliefs. The coins are called obols of the dead or Charon’s obol. It is an old, pre-Christian tradition. But it's been cultivated for a long time, even as late as the nineteenth century, it was practiced by Pope Pius IX.”

16th century mass grave with over 100 children discovered in Poland
The bodies were found in sandy ground and were arranged on an east-west axis, all with heads to the west
on their backs with the hands at their sides [Credit: Arkadia Firma Archeologiczna/Facebook]
Charon’s obol is a term for a coin placed in the mouth of a dead person before burial. The tradition goes back to ancient Greece and Rome. The coin was a payment or bribe for Charon, the ferryman who conveyed souls across the river that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead.



The bodies found in Jezowe do not date that far back, however. The coins found were minted in the time of Sigismund III Vasa, who was the king of Poland from 1587 to 1632. Also found were coins known as boratynki, which date from the reign of John II Casimir from 1648 to 1668.

16th century mass grave with over 100 children discovered in Poland
The find confirms archaeologists’ theories and the speculations of locals that children
were buried in a cemetery in an area known as the Church Mountains
[Credit: Arkadia Firma Archeologiczna/Facebook]
The find confirms archaeologists’ theories and the speculations of locals that children were buried in a cemetery in an area known as the Church Mountains. Apart from the coins no other items were found in the graves.

There were no buttons, nails or coffin handles, which Oleszek says suggests that the community that buried them was very poor. The area is now forested and there are no grave markers. Only a small chapel offers any sign of the former church.

16th century mass grave with over 100 children discovered in Poland
Oleszek said: “The arrangement of the skeletons, the state of their preservation, shows that the discovery is a Catholic
 church cemetery, which was certainly taken care of. No grave is damaged by another. The inhabitants knew exactly
where they had graves and took care of them” [Credit: Gminne Centrum Kultury w Jezowem/Facebook]
Oleszek said, “We know from sources that during a visit of the bishops of Krakow here in Jezowe 1604 there was already a large parish church, with a garden, a rectory, a school and a cemetery. It probably existed already since 1590.”



The bodies were found in sandy ground and were arranged on an east-west axis, all with heads to the west on their backs with the hands at their sides. The graves are most likely those from the children’s section of the graveyard.

16th century mass grave with over 100 children discovered in Poland
One grave contains the bodies of four children. They lay in close formation but not on top of each other. All their heads
are resting to one side in the same direction [Credit: Gminne Centrum Kultury w Jezowem/Facebook]
One grave contains the bodies of four children. They lay in close formation but not on top of each other. All their heads are resting to one side in the same direction. The fourth child, on the edge of the group, is much younger than the others.

“The arrangement of the skeletons, the state of their preservation, shows that the discovery is a Catholic church cemetery, which was certainly taken care of. No grave is damaged by another. The inhabitants knew exactly where they had graves and took care of them,” said Oleszek.

16th century mass grave with over 100 children discovered in Poland
The coins found were minted in the time of Sigismund III Vasa, who was the king of Poland from 1587 to 1632.
Also found were coins known as boratynki (pictured) which date from the reign
of John II Casimir from 1648 to 1668 [Credit: First News]
The bodies will be exhumed and after being studied by anthropologists they will be passed to the local parish church and buried again in the local cemetery.

Most of the bodies were buried in individual graves and the original order and layout of the graves will be preserved. The group of four children will again be buried together.

The bodies were discovered during work on a section of the S19 motorway, which is part of the Via Carpatia project that will link the Baltic states with south-eastern Europe.

In Poland, the route runs through Podlasie, Mazovia, Lublin and Podkarpacie and is set to be over 700 km long.

Author: Stuart Dowell | Source: The First News [June 27, 2020]

TANN

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