Paper: Bones unearthed at construction site over former Tartu cemetery

Archaeologist at a dig site. Photo is illustrative.
Archaeologist at a dig site. Photo is illustrative. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Due to its location on the site of the former St. George's Cemetery (Püha Jüri kalmistu), Tuule 2B, the future site of a two-story, four-unit apartment building in Tartu's Raadi District, is currently being combed over by archaeology students from the University of Tartu; bones from nearly two dozen bodies have already been unearthed.

While much of the land between Narva Highway and Tuule Street underwent rescue excavations between 2004-2012, in the course of which the remains from nearly 180 burials were exhumed, as the planned building is now slated to be build one meter closer to Narva Highway than initially planned, the remaining one-meter-wide and 20-meter-long strip of land needs to be thoroughly investigated as well, regional paper Tartu Postimees writes (link in Estonian).

Thus far, archaeologists have already found the skeletal remains of 20 people, including men, women and children, together with Swedish and Russian coins and a brooch that all confirm the fact that people were buried at St. George's Cemetery between the mid-17th and 18th centuries, until the oldest section of the nearby Raadi Cemetery was taken into use.

While it has previously been suggested that a leprosorium, or leper colony, may have been located in the area in the Middle Ages, not a single burial identified at the site thus far has provided any clues that would confirm the theory, although indications of other infectious diseases such as syphilis and tuberculosis have previously been identified, and may be identified in the recently unearthed skeletal remains as well.

The skeletal remains have been found very close to the surface, with some bones found as soon as the turf was peeled back, likely due to the fact that the mound of earth likely heaped upon the site following the closure of the cemetery was in later times scattered.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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