Monday, May 21, 2007

zürich archeology

Another advantage of working in Old Town Zürich near the Grossmünster: walk outside for lunch, and stumble upon an archeological dig--simply amazing. I almost walked right past this scene behind the Grossmünster, thinking that it was yet another one of the many construction sites around town. But then I noticed the small crowd, a TV camera, photographers and radio reporters and thought something was up and had to check it out.
One of the archeologists was explaining their findings to the journalists, and oh, how I wish I could understand more Swiss German! Two people were kind enough to translate a few things for me, so special thanks to those two, whoever they are...
Here's a brief summary of what I understood: About three weeks ago, the city started digging a pit near the church in order to install an underground waste disposal bin, when they found a mass grave with human bones--they don't know how many yet, because they don't know how deep the grave is. The archeologists already knew that during the middle ages there used to be a cemetery in the area surrounding the church. Once the cemetery was full, 'bone storage houses' were built in order to store some of the human remains. Some of the skulls and long bones were left on display so that people could continue to mourn the dead. During the Zwingli Protestant Reformation in the early 1500's, these bone houses were destroyed and the bones were dumped in mass graves. The archeologists believe that what they found came from one of the destroyed bone houses (as opposed to the cemetery itself) because there is very little earth in between all remains, indicating that they were dumped, rather than buried one by one. Though the bone houses date back to at least the 15th-16th century, the human remains are probably much older than that, possibly dating back to the 11th or 12th century. I was told that once the archeologists finish excavating the bones, they will be turned over to the 'cemetery services' (??? don't know if there is a name for the city authority that handles human remains & burial services...???) and the remains will be given a proper burial in the presence of a priest.
Now I feel like I really should: 1) learn more German and 2) take a course on the history of Zürich.

I actually took a bunch more pictures, but am quite busy today. I'll try to post some of the other shots on my 2nd page after I get home--so check back later tonight.


Fénix (Bostonscapes DP) said...

Very interesting, both the photos and the story behind them.

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Anonymous said...

It is often the unexpected that makes life as a photographer so interesting. Your find is stunning.

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Carol E. said...


Z said...

Great job! I, for one, am glad that you stumbled (quite literally?) upon this because I probably wouldn't have know about it otherwise.

Gesa said...

ohhhh... observing the observer! well done.

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