Dozens of historic human remains, coffins unearthed at construction site

PHILADELPHIA -- Dozens of historic human remains, including coffins, have been discovered at a Philadelphia construction site.

This is quite a find on Arch Street, between 2nd and 3rd streets.

A few months ago, construction crews discovered a few bones. Now, entire coffins are turning up. They've discovered an 18th century cemetery, and anthropologists and archeologists are working to excavate, remove, and study what they can.

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Dozens of historic human remains have been discovered at a Philadelphia construction site.

"One of the goals of this project is to very carefully recover the remains and then give them a full analysis so that we really understand who we have here," said Kimberlee Moran of Rutgers-Camden.

In November, a few bones turned up during excavation for what will eventually be a residential building.

On Tuesday, experts from Rutgers-Camden and the Mutter Museum arrived on site. They're finding entire coffins.

"They range in conditions. We are finding some intact coffins, and we're also finding some remains - the coffins - a lot of them are in really poor condition and they're deteriorating," said Anna Dhody of the Mutter Museum.

This address was once home to the First Baptist Church Burial Grounds, established in 1707. The remains were supposed to have been exhumed and relocated to Mount Moriah Cemetery near Cobbs Creek in the mid-1800s.

"Yes, where they were supposed to have gone in 1859. We've already reached out to the friends of Mt. Moriah and they've agreed to work with us to reinter the remains," said Dhody.

Working on a tight construction deadline, the developer, PMC Properties, hopes the forensic team can complete their work by the end of the weekend. In the meantime, the site is drawing attention from curious passersby - just now learning what was buried beneath.

"It's interesting. I hope they find out who the families are and they can pay respects to them," said Alison Demaio of Perkasie, Pa.

"I am very, very glad that they have taken time to stop, sort it out, and not just do the next wrong thing," said Bobbie Horowitz of Mt. Airy.

PMC Properties tells Action News that the city doesn't really have any laws or regulations regarding old cemeteries like this and they could have continued construction, but are working to handle the situation with respect for those buried there.

The bones will be cleaned and studied before being reinterred at Mt Moriah Cemetery.

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