14th February 2014:
Oxford Archaeology’s excavation at Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford will feature in a forthcoming episode of Grave Trade, which starts on 16th February at 9pm on the History Channel. The series follows the work of staff of a funeral directing business and archaeologists to reveal how people have dealt with death and burial through history.
At Radcliffe Infirmary, the History Channel team spent a day on site to learn about the archaeological work and record staff excavate some of the 370-odd burials. This was followed by a visit to the burials department laboratory, where the TV crew found out about the exciting results of the preliminary analysis.
As expected from a hospital cemetery, the remains have revealed much information about dissection and early medicine. The majority of the burials were complete skeletons laid out in simple coffins, though a number of amputated limbs were also recovered from shallow pits. Evidence of amputations were fairly common, but there were also signs of trepanation and several craniotomies. Evidence of disease and trauma was present on the majority of the skeletons, including syphilis, leg ulcers, bone cancer, and some quite horrendous fractures, and there was even one potential murder victim.
A preview of the Radcliffe Infirmary episode can be found on the History Channel website. Click here for the short video, which shows archaeologists at work at the site.