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The Thousand-Year Graveyard

The Thousand-Year Graveyard

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This multimedia resource from Science Magazine looks at how scientists uncover a tortured history of disease and death from the Middle Ages onward. It highlights the work of archaeologists and anthropologists who are excavating a graveyard at the Abbey of St. Peter (Badia Pozzeveri), in Altopascio, Italy, where a bountiful store of ancient skeletons was laid to rest in a single place for more than 1,000 years, from the 11th to the 19th centuries.

The resource is broken up into an introduction and four chapters, each detailing different aspects of the excavation and what the researchers discovered. Accompanying the written narrative are photographs of the digs, animation, videos, and slide shows. All of the pieces work together to provide you with a glimpse at medieval European life that the researchers are able to determine from the bones of monks, peasants, soldiers, and travelers buried in the graveyard. Taken as a whole, these pieces help explain the historical significance of the region and the investigative techniques used to examine the lives of the people buried over a thousand-year period.


Going Further


For Educators

This would be a good resource to use to show students how scientists out in the field perform their research. Encourage students to examine the investigative techniques used to study the lives of the people buried over the thousand-year period. You could ask your students to consider these questions as they go through the resource: What techniques seemed to work well for this type of work? What techniques could have been improved upon?

Your students also could use the resource as a way to understand health and disease in ancient times. They could consider things like how long people lived, what kinds of diseases people succumbed to, and even the different ways in which people were buried.

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