Remains of 100 children with coins stuffed in their mouths found at construction site

A composite image of remains found of children on a construction site in Poland
Construction workers in Poland made a grim discovery after digging up a motorway (Picture: Facebook)


Skeletons of children with coins stuffed in their mouths have been discovered at a construction site in Poland.

Workers servicing a road on the country’s S19 motorway in the south-east Podkarpackie province uncovered a cemetery with 115 dead bodies – more than 70% of which were children.

The burial ground dates back to late 16th century and the coins are believed to be part of a pre-Christian tradition. People placed them in the mouth of the deceased as payment for a ferryman called Charon to bring the soul across the river that divided the world of the living and the dead.

The discovery lines up with both written accounts and legends of a cemetery in Jeżowe near the town of Nisk, dating back 500 years ago, archaeologists say.

The remains of a child discovered at a construction site in Poland
A total of 115 bodies were uncovered by archaeologists (Picture: Facebook)


One of the skulls discovered with a coin
Some were found with coins in their mouths, thought to be a pre-Christian tradition (Picture: Facebook)


The bodies of several children lined up on their sides
The bodies were lined up neatly, suggesting the site was a cemetery rather than a mass grave where bodies were thrown in a pit (Picture: Facebook)


Archaeologist Katarzyna Oleszek said: ‘It’s certainly a sign of their beliefs.

‘The coins are called obols of the dead or Charon’s obol. It is an old, pre-Christian tradition. But it’s been cultivated for a long time, even as late as the 19th century, it was practised by Pope Pius IX.’

Most of the coins were minted during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa, who ruled Poland from 1587 to 1632, or from the reign of John II Casimir, who ruled from 1648 to 1668.

Apart from the coins no other items were found in the graves, such as buttons, nails or coffin handles, which Oleszek says suggests that the community that buried them was very poor.

The remains of one of the children found in the mass grave
The bodies will be exhumed and moved to a local cemetery (Picture: Facebook)


An archaeologist examines one of the skeletons
Workers servicing a road on the country’s S19 motorway found the human bones (Picture: Facebook)


Image of the 16th century coins that were found
The coins were part of a tradition to bribe the ferryman to let souls cross the river believed to divide the living and the dead (Picture: Sharilyn Neidhardt)


However she does not believe it was a mass grave where bodies were tossed into a pit, as the skeletons were carefully buried.

‘The arrangement of the skeletons, the state of their preservation, shows that the discovery is a Catholic church cemetery, which was certainly taken care of. No grave is damaged by another’ Oleszek told The First News.

‘The inhabitants knew exactly where they had graves and took care of them.’

The bodies will be exhumed and after being studied by anthropologists they will be passed to the local parish church and buried again in the local cemetery.

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