Archaeologists working in advance of a major railway expansion project in Oslo have unearthed around 100 skeletons from more graves found in the area around the city’s Middelalderparken, a park on the site of Oslo’s oldest area dating back to the Middle Ages.
It’s not the first time archaeologists have made such discoveries in Oslo’s Bjørvika and Gamlebyen districts that are undergoing massive redevelopment. Archaeologists working with the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) nonetheless call the graves “a large and important discovery.”
The graves were uncovered in June where construction is getting underway on the Follobanen project, a major railroad improvement project aimed at expanding public transport capacity on rail lines south of the city. Archaeologists routinely examine the area first before the bulldozers take over.
Egil Bauer, who’s leading the archaeology project for NIKU, said the skeletons found this summer can help researchers learn more about what Oslo residents ate in the Middle Ages, what illnesses they had, their ages when they died and where cemeteries were located. “That can also tell us what rank they held in society,” he said.
The archaeologists believe the skeletons date from 1100-1400 when the area featured several churches. Around 3,000 people are believed to have lived in Oslo at the time.
The skeletons were found where the new double-track Follo train line to Ski is due to run into a tunnel but the discovery isn’t expected to halt construction on the major project that’s due to be finished in 2021.
“We have good cooperation with the archaeologists,” Erik Smith, project director for Follobanen, told state broadcaster NRK. He said the cemetery site will be “secured and stabilized,” adding that state railroad agency Jernbaneverket has expected to run into archeological treasures during construction. Earlier projects in the area have unearthed old shipwrecks and housing foundations.