Work to expand the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy has revealed dozens of well preserved skeletons, suggesting that a necropolis extends beneath the renown museum.
The remains belong to about 60 individuals of various ages and sex who probably succumbed to a devastating epidemic.
In a five-month excavation, the archaeologists uncovered multiple graves. Several coins, found within the burials and dating between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century A.D., helped date the skeletons.
The burials were made in a hurry and with the clear purpose of using less possible space. Graves contained up to ten bodies.
In most cases, bodies were laid side-by-side in opposite directions, feet against heads, while small, empty spaces were fitted with the bodies of children.
Since the skeletons lack of signs of wounds or malnutrition, the archaeologists believe the cause of death was a lethal epidemic, such as the plague, cholera, dysentery or the flu. DNA testing should provide the definitive answer