Crews working on water mains below New York City’s Greenwich Village made an appropriately spooky find for the week after Halloween: A 19th-century burial vault containing the remains of least a dozen people.
NYC’s Department of Design and Construction reported the discovery yesterday as they began excavating the site, which is on the east side of Washington Square Park. Anthropologists and archaeologists will work with the crews to identify the remains as well as with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission determine the historical significance of the grave.
The vault is 2.4m deep, 4.5m wide, and 6m long — not exactly huge by any standards, but it’s pretty amazing that anything that could remain undisturbed for two centuries in a part of the city that’s laced with dozens of transportation and utility tunnels. Although such finds are rare, they’re not unheard of: Remember the 18th-century ship that was found under the World Trade Center site in 2010?
Although it might seem like an impossible task to ID the remains of people who died hundreds of years ago, forensic anthropologists can use a combination of DNA evidence, biometric data, and city records to identify people all the time.