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Another Grave Situation…

The process of excavation was getting carried out more or less in a smooth fashion, but… at one point of time, the workers, all of a sudden, discovered quite a number of human skeletons lying beneath the ground! Not one or two, but 1500 skeletons! The incident in the Japanese city of Osaka has surprised the Archaeologists…

Excavation works were going on at various places of Osaka city as a part of a development project, a couple of weeks ago. The Archaeologists found those skeletons near a graveyard, named Umeda Grave, on that day. Reports suggest that the skeletons have been found in the south-western part of the Umekita second-phase development area, a 17-hectare site on the north side of the local railway station.

The site of the former cemetery Umedahaka in Osaka’s Kita Ward

According to the Archaeologists, the area used to be an open field and a part of Sonezaki village around two centuries ago. At that period of time, Sonezaki was a farming community. They used to live far from the then urban centre Osaka Castle. A cemetery, called Umedahaka, was situated at the centre of the village. Officials believe that the bones are the remains of the people who were buried there.

The Archaeologists are of the opinion that these skeletons date back to the 19th Century. They are trying to find out why so many people were buried there… A section of Archaeologists believes that a mystery epidemic had claimed nearly 1500 lives in the 1800’s, and they were buried together at that site. A member of the excavation team said: “The bones belong to people who died sometime between the late Edo Period (1603-1867) and early Meiji Era (1868-1912).” The Archaeologists have noticed a kind of abnormality in the hands and legs of all of the skeletons! That is why the researchers suspect that many in the area had contracted a terrible disease in the late 1800’s. Later, the disease might have taken the form of epidemic…

All those skeletons have already been examined. It is believed that all of them were infected with Syphilis, a bacterial infection usually spread by sexual contact. Shinichi Sagawa, a Professor of Archaeology at Osaka Ohtani University and an Adviser on the Cemetery Research, stressed that the cemetery used to serve as a common grave site, adding that these findings were “valuable historical sources that tell us about urban city life back then”. He also said: “It seems Osaka at the time attracted people from around the country, the same way as it is now.

For her part, Mikiko Abe – a Teacher of Anthropology at the Osaka City University School of Medicine and Graduate School of Medicine – said: “We will conduct scientific analysis on the bones and refer to related literature, and hopefully understand more about the health conditions of these people and their living environment, which have rarely been documented.

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