Tyne and Wear HER(5187): Newcastle, Old Infirmary Burial Ground - Details
Newcastle, Old Infirmary Burial Ground
Religious Ritual and Funerary
The infirmary burial ground was set up in the 18th century and the last burial was in 1845. In 1996 the burial ground was excavated in advance of the construction of the International Centre for Life. A large quantity of disarticulated bone was found along with 43 articulated inhumations. Many burials had been wrapped in shrouds or blankets held together with pins. The burials were layered and intercut. Two well-preserved coffins survived in a waterlogged condition, containing skeletal remains. Hair survived on some of the burials. Evidence for dissection of human cadavers, presumably as teaching practice for the infirmary's medical students was noted. If this is the case it is likely that the anatomical training was being carried out surreptitiously since such practice was not legally condoned until the Anatomy Acts of the later 19th century. An entire left leg with pelvis had been added to one of the burials. Jumbled human remains were also found in two charnel pits outside the burial ground. Many of the long bones and skulls had been cut with saws. These probably represent amputation waste and autopsied/dissected cadavers on which medical students had practiced amputation and other medical techniques. This burial ground is the most substantial post-medieval assemblage of human skeletal remains to be available for study in the north-east of England to date. It offers the opportunity to study the anthropology of the working class of an emerging industrial society and the development of medical and autopsy technique. The skeletal remains were examined by Duncan J. Robertson of the University of Sheffield. There were more adults than sub-adults represented in the burial ground and more males than females. The inhumations examined displayed evidence of infections, traumas (such as compression episodes of the spine) and developmental anomalies. Dental lesions and caries were present. Degenerative joint changes were evident particularly on the vertebrae.
<< HER 5187 >> J. Nolan & D. Robertson, 1999, The International Centre for Life, Final Report; Gernaey, AM, Minnikin, DE, Copley, MS, Power, JJ, Ahmed, AMS, Dixon, RA, Roberts, CA, Robertson, DJ, Nolan, J & Chamberlain, A 1998 Detecting Ancient Tuberculosis, Internet Archaeology 5 http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue5/gernaey_index.html