The chilling discovery was made in the city of Płock, Poland, where the 11th-century cemetery remained hidden under a residential area and car park. Archaeologists excavating the site believe it covered an area of up to 10 acres, and have been unearthing individual graves since 2016. Their most recent efforts have uncovered 187 burial pits, adding to last year’s discovery of 78.
To date, 276 skeletons have been pulled from the ground but more are expected to be found in the coming weeks.
Dr Tomasz Kordala, lead archaeologist and deputy director of the Masovian Museum in Płock, said: “We are coming to the end of this year’s works.
“And we have about half-an-acre left to dig through.”
He added: “If we include the burials we came across a year earlier, as well as the ones uncovered four years ago, then the number of graves we have confirmed so far is 276.
Archaeology news: 276 skeletons have been found in hidden medieval cemetery
Archaeology news: Many of the remains were buried with personal effects
“Surely, more of them will come by the time the examination ends.”
According to the archaeologist, about 30 percent of the buried people were found in fairly well-off pits, as gleaned from the personal effects found around them.
The items have also allowed the archaeologists to date the cemetery to the Early Medieval period, between the 11th and 13th centuries.
Unfortunately, many of the pits have been damaged or destroyed by modern-day pipe-laying and construction.
Dr Kordala said: “I believe many dozens of graves were destroyed by these types of communal works.”
Among the personal effects found at the cemetery, the archaeologists found glass beads, temple rings and scissors.
They also recovered a bronze bowl and the remnants of a wooden bucket with metal clasps.
Dr Kordala said: “The equipment of the graves, that we have found so far, indicates the cemetery functioned from the end of the 11th century, through the 12th century and into the 13th century.”
The cemetary was placed more than 430 yards (400m) from Wzgórze Tumskie – the historical point from which Płock was estabilished.
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Dr Kordala said: “We now know it was a big cemetery that covered at least 10 acres and the number of graves is well over 300.
“A great number of early medieval residents of Płock are buried here.”
The cemetery was first accidentally discovered in 2016 under the parking lot of a former Citizens’ Militia outpost.
Archaeologists under Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) then uncovered 11 skeletons.
IPN’s search was aimed at uncovering the remains of Poles murdered by the Soviet regime in the 1940s and 1950s.
During their excavations, they found some 20th-century artefacts, suggesting Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, carried out atrocities in the area.
Subsequent excavations, however, chanced upon the medieval cemetery.
It is possible the cemetery was linked to a church believed to have once stood some 330 yards (300m) away.