The discovery of a unique mass grave of men, women and children in rural England — dubbed a plague pit — shows the overwhelming crisis and quick calamity Black Death brought to medieval communities.

The 48 skeletons — from newborn to elderly — found just below the topsoil near the ruins of a monastery in northern England reveals the “breakdown” of a society, overwhelmed by the sudden death of perhaps a third of the population from the bubonic plague pandemic.

“It’s a population in crisis,” said Hugh Willmott, an archeologist with the University of Sheffield who led the dig at Thornton Abbey in a rural area near the east coast.

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