Medieval Mass Grave With 1,500 Skeletons is Biggest Burial Pit Ever Discovered in Europe

The Sedlec Ossuary, also known as the "bone church," in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic. Petr Josek Snr/Reuters

Archaeologists uncovered 30 mass graves containing over 1,500 skeletons this week, according to the Prague Daily Monitor. The graves, located in what is now the Czech Republic, are believed to contain the skeletons of victims of starvation from famine as well as epidemics in Bohemia dating back to the 14th century.

"We must realize that such a mass grave represents a sample of a population within a very short period, which is extremely valuable to us. The 30 graves, as far as I know, are the largest set in Europe," Jan Frolik, the Czech archaeologist who led the research, told the Monitor.

The bodies were buried densely: each grave contained 50 to 70 people. And the graves measure about 8 feet deep. So as Radio Prague reported, the skeletons in some graves were stacked "26 layers thick."

Archaeologists discovered the mass graves on the grounds of the Sedlec Ossuary, also called the "bone church," in the city of Kutná Hora, about an hour outside Prague. Researchers were excavating the cemetery in order to conduct repair work on the ossuary, which has a floor below ground level. The graves were concentrated on the northern side of the ossuary, with some found on the eastern and western sides as well.

The bone chandelier at the Sedlec Ossuary. Petr Josek Snr

The chapel itself contains, among other gruesome wonders, a chandelier composed of nearly every bone in the human body, a giant family crest constructed out of human bones, and two huge chalices made of (you guessed it!) bone.

According to Atlas Obscura, the site attracted countless numbers of bodies from the 13th century on, since it was believed to contain "holy soil." The morbid decorations were commissioned in 1870 by a woodcarver who was tasked with finding a way to make use of the astronomically high number of bones that were brought to the ossuary.

Frolik told the Monitor that "It may be expected that further mass graves will be found during the research of the interior."