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So, for some reason, there are a whole lot of bodies/skeletons buried all throughout London. They're everywhere. Under the streets, under the roads, under buildings, everywhere. You can't swing a dead person without hitting another dead person, from what I can tell. So when you have a city full of skeletons, if you're the Museum of London and The Times Online, you team up and you make an electronic map that allows users to zoom in and see how many bodies they walk over on the way to work every day. Spiffy.
The skeleton map project will pinpoint the location of over 37,000 bodies that the museum has found in London. And when I say "in London" I mean just that. Buried right there IN London, right beneath the very two feet you're standing on (if you're standing on them in London). The curators at the museum have kept 17,000 of the ol' bones for themselves in storage, but have re-interred the rest. ("Re-interred" meaning, "back in the ground, wherever we feel like putting them", apparently.)
They went and got all cutsie with the map and put little skull logos to locate where, you guessed it, each skeleton/dead body is. AND, if 37,000 skeletons seems like quite a lot to wade through on your own (and it is), you're in luck because the 26 skeletons with the most fascinating stories will be put on display at the Wellcome Collection in London. That according to our good friends over there at the Times Online - UK.
But if you still can't wait to learn more about the best ones, here's a teaser. According to The Times, The most gruesome example is the skeleton of a young woman who died around the beginning of the 19th century. She had such severe syphilis that her skull still bears the scars of where the disease entered her bones." (Note to self: Do not get syphilis.) Ooh, but it gets better according to Bill White, who is the senior curator of the museum's bio-archaeology department. Bill said that "The woman would have had open sores on her forehead. By that time she would have been out of her mind, so she wouldn't have known much about it. She was in her twenties when she died. We think she may have been a prostitute, because Southwark, where she was found, was well known for prostitution at the time. She also suffered from rickets, probably from being kept indoors away from sunlight as a child, and had chronic tooth decay. " (Note to self - Part Deux: Your life is pretty darned good.)
Um, "probably from being kept indoors away from sunlight as a child"? What the hell does that mean? The most disturbing part of that (aside from all of it) is the word "probably". "Probably" as in "most likely". WAS it "most likely" that the individual was "kept indoors away from sunlight as a CHILD?" I would hope something like that would fall more in the "least likely" category, but apparently it does not. Of course, no word on WHY she was "probably kept indoors". Important information to the reader, one would think! But it's no where to be found.
Here's some more skeleton-y goodness to tide you over until October. Well, when the Chelsea graveyard (that's in Chelsea) was being explored, the archaeologists there discovered the Hand brothers, who, according to our friends at The Times Online again, were "imaginatively named Richard Gideon and Gideon Richard, and whose family invented the Chelsea Bun." (The Chelsea Bun is the distant cousin of America's beloved bun, the Cinnamon.) Richard Gideon was an odd duck. (NO. Not a platypus.) He was an officer in the Staffordshire militia who was known to his men as “Captain Bun”. (A title which I'm sure commanded loads of respect.) The Captain also enjoyed walking about his neighborhood in a fez and a long gown. (Clearly, this was long before "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".) Jelena Bekvalac, an osteologist at the museum said that his neighbors saw him as "a bit of an eccentric." Oh, do you THINK? The 1850s, in or around the London area and some guy is walking around with a fez and a gown and calling himself "Captain Bun". That's almost the very definition of "eccentric." Sadly, for reasons unknown, his skeleton will not be part of the 26 on display. (Though, could you imagine if it was? They could dress his ol' bones up with the fez and gown and give him a tray of Chelsea buns. It'd be quite a hook for tourists, you have to admit.)
There's another set of skeletal remains that will also NOT be on display with the 26 that are. These would be the remains that were found in a coffin in a graveyard at St. Pancras. And while it's not overly surprising to find remains in a coffin in a graveyard, it is a little surprising when you learn that the remains that were found were that of a walrus. Wait. What?
Correct. For some reason, a walrus, yes, a walrus was given a rather dignified burial, complete with coffin, in a cemetery where you almost never find ANY walruses. (Walruses? Walrusi? Walri? I swear, trying to figure out the plural of things like 'walrus' or 'octopus' is just a pain in the ass. All of your choices sound good! There's no way to tell!) And here's where it starts to get weird. The archaeologists don't have any clue as to why the walrus is there, who put it there, none of it. They just don't know.
Oh, but they DO know about a woman who "probably" was locked in a closet as a child and they DO know about the gowned Captain Fun Bun and his traipsing about town in his fez. THAT they know. But the walrus has them stumped? HOW is it possible to know EVERYTHING about the skeletal people and NOTHING about the walrus?! (Kind of makes me wonder if they were just making all of that other stuff up.)
Yep. It's a head scratcher alright, Chumley. It's a head scratcher.