Mind Bomb 30: 4 mass graves that hid in plain sight
1. Singapore's Civilian War Memorial
In Singapore, the Civilian War Memorial is a monument dedicated to civilians who sadly perished during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore between 1942 and 1945.
The 68 metre tall monument better known as "Chopsticks" attracts a lot of locals and tourists alike as it stands out in an area that changes as fast as Singapore had developed since those painful days.
A fact more outstanding than the monument itself is what actually lies underneath - a burial chamber containing ashes of thousands of civilians that the monument is dedicated to.
These unknown civilians were exhumed from 5 separate mass graves that were discovered in 1962. It is estimated that over 1,000 people were machine-gunned and buried in 2 mass graves that were found at 10.5 milestone Changi Road.
These grisly discoveries ultimately led to the erection of the Civilian War Memorial.
And that is just 1 of 4 mass grave that hides in plain sight which I am about to share with you.
2. The Catacombs of Paris
An ossuary is a site commonly used to house the dead when burial site is scarce. One of the most famous of such ossuaries is the Catacombs of Paris.
The catacombs hold about 6 million dead residents! That's more than the entire living population of Singapore, which is about 5 million.
Reaping the profits from the dead, the Catacombs has been a tourist attraction since 1874. Now, it is also 1 of the 14 City of Paris Museums.
The Catacombs are actually just a small section of a much larger series of underground tunnels known as les carries de Paris or the quarries of Paris. A sort of homage to the catacombs origins.
The catacombs was a peculiar conclusion when Paris was faced with a lack of burial grounds and numerous cave-ins caused by the haphazard mining techniques in the post-12th century.
This prompted the creation of the Inspection of Mines service, which aimed to consolidate and map out the underground networks.
When a basement wall in a property adjoining a cemetery gave way under the weight of the mass grave behind it in 30 May 1780, there was talk to move the Parisian dead to the newly renovated subterranean passageways.
It took 2 years to transport the majority of Paris cemeteries over to the catacombs and at first it was just a pell-mell bone repository. But Louis-Etienne Hericart de Thury, head of the Paris mine inspection service from 1810 undertook the transformation of the catacombs from a underground cavern into a mausoleum.
The stacking patterns of the skulls and femurs was borrowed from the existing cemetery decorations with a special room that showcased various skeletal deformities that stood out from this population of the dead.
A rooms dedicated to the displaying the various minerals found under Paris, monumental tablets and archways complete the museum "feel".
There is thus, a reason for the attractive factor of this unusual tourist attraction - a curiosity itch worth scratching.
3. The Church of Bones
The Sedlec Ossuary, also known as the Church of Bones, is the only entrant on this list where the dead rest above ground.
Over 40,000 human skeletons decorate the church's interior. Arguably the most captivating is the chandelier of bones that hangs in the center of the church that is located in Sedlec, Cezch Republic.
The origin of this unique 'artwork' is humble and less dark compared to everything else on the list. In 1278, the King of Bohemia sent the abbot of the Sedlec Cistercian Monastry to Jeurusalem, who returned with a jar of "Holy Soil" from the Golgotha.
This made the cemetery a popular final destination. Soon after, Europe felt the infamous strangle on the human population with the infamous plague, the Black Death. Thus in the 15th century, the Sedlec Ossuary was built to meet demand.
It was not until the 1870 when a woodcarver named Frantisek Rint was appointed to place the bones in order.
And he did, in a spectacular and equally eerie way. Just imagine what it would be like to be in his mind when he was thinking where to arrange the thousands of bones - Thats over 824,000 bones for those who are counting!
I'll just place the link to the official tour info here in case you wish to have a truly unforgettable travel experience.
4. Uffizi’s Secret Mass Grave
The newest addition in this list is the Uffizi's Secret Mass Grave. Key word being secret since it was only recently discovered in 2013.
The name Uffizi refers to the world famous art gallery located in Florence Italy where the mass grave was discovered by accident.
It was construction workers who were preparing to equip the Uffizi gallery with a new elevator. It may not be uncommon to find relics of the past buried in European soil, after all, these modern cities are built literally 'on-top' of their ancient past.
Even so, nothing could prepare these workers from discovering a grave with 60 full and partial skeletons from 1,500 years ago.
These unknown people were mostly victims of a dreaded plague as what remains of them were without evidence of violent deaths nor malnutrition.
With coins dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., the most famous plague, known as the Black Death could not the culprit that laid these people down.
Thus, this mass grave may shed light on a forgotten chapter in what would be one of the darkest periods in the city's history.
Archaeologists believe that hundreds, maybe even thousands more may still be buried under the gallery. And while research goes on in understanding what happened to these people, the ones that were once forgotten and lost in time will now always be honoured.
Using the recordings of the entire procedure of the excavation, a 3-D exhibit will be created and housed in the new museum space to honour those that once laid underneath the gallery.
The bodies themselves will be carefully excavated and removed. After contributing what they can to the telling of this forgotten chapter, they will be buried, somewhere else in Florence, where they will rest in peace as do all dead.