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Mass grave found near cathedral

Archaeologists have found a mass grave close to one of Britain's favourite cathedrals.

Bones from 18 bodies have been discovered by Durham University experts during building work at the Palace Green Library, part of the World Heritage Site in the historic city centre.

At first it was thought the bodies were buried in Durham Cathedral's medieval cemetery which was bigger than the current burial plot.

But further examination revealed an unorthodox and intriguing layout to the bodies which archaeologists say is proof of a mass burial.

Richard Annis, senior archaeologist, Archaeological Services Durham University, said: "We have found clear evidence of a mass burial and not a normal group of graves.

"The bodies have been tipped into the earth without elaborate ceremony and they are tightly packed together and jumbled.

"Some are buried in a North to South alignment, rather than the traditional East to West alignment that we would expect from a conventional medieval burial site."

Further research will be carried out on the remains, which will be tested to show their age. This will happen in the New Year.

Mr Annis added that no definitive interpretation could be offered at this stage in the investigation, saying: "The process of post-excavation processing, examination and analysis is essential to allow us to draw proper conclusions about this group of human remains.

"It is too early to say what they may be."

Once the bones have been examined - with permission from the Ministry of Justice - they must be reinterred at an approved burial ground.