The history of unwed mothers forced into hard labor is a well-documented dark chapter in Irish history. For nearly four decades, thousands of these “fallen women” toiled at a place called “the Home” in Galway to atone for having out-of-wedlock children.

While many of the women eventually left “the Home” after serving their time, some of their children apparently were not so fortunate. The Irish Mail on Sunday reports that almost 800 babies were piled onto a mass grave at the structure, which was closed in 1961. According to the Washington Post, a septic tank served as the gravesite, which had no markers or coffins.

The Post reports that historian Catherine Corless made the discovery after tracking down never-before-released documents.

“The bones are still there,” Corless told the newspaper. “The children who died in ‘the Home,’ this was them.”

The Post reports that police are investigating the grim findings.

The Irish Mail on Sunday reports that the causes of babies’ death included “malnutrition, measles, convulsions, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and pneumonia.” According to Irish Central, in the 1930s, the death rate for babies born outside wedlock in Ireland was 25 percent.

“If you look at the records, babies were dying two a week, but I’m still trying to figure out how they could [put the bodies in a septic tank],” Corless told the Post. “Couldn’t they have afforded baby coffins?”

“The Home” – which was run by the Bon Secours nuns in Tuam – was destroyed long ago and houses and a children’s playground now occupy the location.

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