A large medieval cemetery containing around 1,300 skeletons has been discovered in the central English city of Leicester, archaeologists said Tuesday.

The bones were found during a dig before the site is developed as part of a 350 million-pound ($630 million) shopping mall.

University of Leicester archaeologists say the find promises to shed new light on the way people lived and died in the Middle Ages.

"We think, probably outside London, this must be one of the largest parish graveyards ever excavated," said Richard Buckley, director of University of Leicester Archaeology Services.

"Archaeology will tell us a lot from the rubbish people throw away. We can really learn about the lives they were leading."

"But it's very rare that we get a look at a [whole] population itself. It's quite a tightly dated group."

He said the graveyard was probably used from the 12th century until the demolition of a church at the site in 1573.

Communal graves and a high number of child skeletons already provide evidence of high infant mortality and contagious diseases in the area, Buckley said.

What is believed to be Britain's largest medieval cemetery was found at Bishopsgate London in 1999. It contained more than 10,000 bodies.