In February 2017, Philadelphia crews working on an apartment building in the city's historic district got a shock when their backhoes started hitting coffins and unearthing fully intact human remains. The site was supposed to be a former burial ground from 1707, and all remains were supposedly exhumed in the 1800s and moved to a different cemetery, which apparently they weren't.
Crews found dozens of coffins in a former parking lot near 2nd and Arch Streets in Old City, Philadelphia. The discovery brought construction of a new apartment complex project there to a halt.
The site, in Philadelphia's Old City neighborhood, was reportedly a former cemetery for the First Baptist Church established in 1707, 69 years before the United States was a country. The First Baptist Church moved to a larger lot in the mid-1800s and the remains were said to be exhumed or re-interred at Mount Moriah Cemetery which is north of the city around 1860. Historians agree that someone didn’t do their job.
“It’s a business unfortunately and sometimes it’s cheaper to cut corners in a business,” Dr. Lee Arnold with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania said.
Arnold said the discovery is significant and he’s glad the remains are being treated with respect. The newfound remains, those of both children and adults, are in addition to some first discovered here by a PMC Property Group contractor in November 2016.
“We are finding some intact coffins and also finding some in really poor condition; they’re deteriorating,” said Anna Dhody, director of the Mütter Institute.
Construction should be complete by April 2018, but at this time work has stopped as crews and archaeologists focus on the careful excavation of the remains. Officials say that process should be completed soon.
“We’ll try to find out anything that these bones can tell us about who these people were in life,” said Kimberlee Moran, an associate teaching professor and director of forensics center at Rutgers University.
“This is a rare opportunity to learn as much as we can about the earliest residents of Philadelphia. Ultimately, we want to reinter them at Mount Moriah Cemetery with the rest of the remains from this time period,” Moran added.
Moran says deterioration is natural and not from construction work, but it will still take several months of lab analysis to determine the ages, genders, and ethnicities of the remains.
“If there are any living descendants, we are going to try to identify them,” Moran said.
The coffins were far below the standard six feet we know today, but that doesn’t mean they were buried deep. Layers of streets have been added over time.
“They wouldn’t have had to dig the bodies this low, six feet under was plenty. In winter it was almost impossible to bury somebody,” Philadelphia historian Ed Mauger said.
Lenny Ryan works across the street from the construction site and says given Philadelphia’s history, the discovery is not surprising.
“I’m sure if they excavated a lot of this city, they’d find a lot more,” Ryan said.
Since the discovery, crews have discovered around 60 human remains, many of them intact inside their coffins. Even though the site is presently cleared, different buildings have sat on this location throughout the years.
source -CBS Philly
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