Page last updated at 11:13 GMT, Saturday, 19 July 2008 12:13 UK

Tales from beyond the grave

Skeleton (Museum of London/Wellcome Collection)
A new skeleton exhibition tells the tale of London's past
Beneath our feet, stories of the past lie waiting to be told.

Over the last 30 years, the Museum of London has excavated, examined and archived 17,000 skeletons. Now, 26 of them are to go on display at the Wellcome Trust in London.

They each have a story to tell about life in the capital hundreds of years ago.

THE GREEN LADY

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Research osteologist Jelena Bekvalac reveals why this skeleton is green

This female skeleton was discovered at the Royal Mint, London, and dates to between 1350 and 1400.

The woman died between the ages of 26 and 35; but as her body lay buried, the copper waste produced from the coin manufacturer concreted her neck vertebrae together, and also stained her teeth and skull green.

THE SYPHILITIC CHILD

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Archaeological conservator Jill Bernard points out key features on the skull

This medieval skeleton of an 11-year-old child was removed from the old site of St Mary Spital in London. It dates to between 1400 and 1540.

The child was born with syphilis, passed on through the placenta from its mother; its bones are pitted and thick where the disease had eaten away at them.

The date that syphilis arrived in Britain is still a subject for debate. This skeleton may shed more light on the issue when the remains are subjected to radiocarbon testing.

THE ARTHRITIC MONK

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Jill Bernard explains how the monk's injuries would have affected his life

This individual was excavated from a Cluniac monastic burial site at Bermondsey Abbey, where he lived some 500 to 900 years ago.

He suffered a fracture to his right hip, which healed but did not knit back together properly. Despite the great pain this injury would have caused, the monk's leg bones do not appear wasted - suggesting that he continued to walk.

Examinations have also revealed that he had osteoarthritis in both shoulders.

Skeletons: London's Buried Bones runs at the Wellcome Collection at 183 Euston Road from 23 July to 28 September




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