Friar crushed by cart: bone analysis hints at causes of medieval deaths

Research from three Cambridge grave sites suggests poor people were at greatest risk of injury

A friar crushed by a cart, another the victim of an attack by bandits: it sounds like the plot of a medieval mystery. But according to new research these are some of the possible misfortunes to have befallen those in centuries gone by.

An analysis of bones from 314 individuals aged 12 or older, dating from around 1100 to the 1530s, and found in three different sites across Cambridge, reveals that bone fractures were common among those buried in a parish cemetery – where many ordinary workers would have been laid to rest. But the team also found evidence of horrific injuries among those buried in an Augustinian friary, suggesting the clergy were not protected against violent events.

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