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Construction workers unearth dozens of colonial era coffins in Philadelphia

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PHILADELPHIA – At first, they found just a few bones.Then they dug up an entire coffin. And then another.A construction crew working on a new building in Philadelphia on Thursday uncovered dozens of coffins buried 6 feet below a parking lot.The site of a new apartment complex has been temporarily transformed into a quest to unearth the city’s past. Archaeologists are sorting through the remains, hoping to glean a better idea of what life was like in colonial Philadelphia.Historians say the coffins were part of the First Baptist Church burial ground established in 1707 in the historic part of the city on what is now Arch Street. Records show that they should have been moved across town to the Mount Moriah Cemetery about 1860, but the job was never completed.“It costs money to move the graves and sometimes it doesn’t happen,” Lee Arnold of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania told CNN. “Businesses decide to cut corners. The problem is that when you’re talking about the remains of loved ones, cutting corners is tragic.”So far, researchers have found 38 coffins on the site, which is 40 feet by 25 feet wide. They said they have no idea how many are trapped beneath the dirt.‘Everyone was a bit surprised’Executive Vice President Jonathan Stavin of the PMC Property Group, the owner and contractor of the location, said that the company believes the number of remains found will grow.“Everyone was a bit surprised. We were not expecting to find as much as we found. There are layers to this,” he said.The company plans to build a 10-story, 116-unit apartment building on site. Stavin said officials are financially committed to helping with the eventual reinterment of the bodies at Mount Moriah.“It’s the right thing to do,” he said.Facing harsh, snowy weather, researchers are racing to find and remove the remains as efficiently as possible, and are hoping to finish excavation by Saturday.However, Anna Dhody, the director and curator of the Mutter Institute and Museum, said the deadline may be extended.“It’s not OK to leave any (remains) behind,” she said. “We’re not stopping until we’re done.”Archaeologists are delving down into a layer of hard bedrock or clay that Dhody said has no telltale signs of disturbance.“We’re fairly confident there’s nothing under that depositional layer,” she said.To get the job done, experts in the field are employing the construction workers to do the bulk of the heavy dirt lifting. Trained researchers are then doing the more detailed excavation work.“This is a positive thing for any possible future projects because we’re training them to look for future archeological sites,” said Dhody. “Philadelphia is a historical city. It’s not the first time something like this has happened and it won’t be the last. Construction workers are our first line of eyes. Getting them involved and interested is key to preserving our history.”Beyond the four-layer deep cache of stacked coffins buried on PMC Property Group’s plot, Dhody told CNN that there may be other remains in the area.“There’s parts of the cemetery that we can’t access because of another building,” she said. “There might be people buried there that we’ll not be able to access.”

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Construction workers unearth dozens colonial coffins Philadelphia Archaeologists disturbance bedrock Dhody telltale Museum surprised found development manufacture plan planning structure system architecture arrangement assembly build cast composition conception constitution contour cut disposition edifice elevation erecting erection fabric fabrication figuration figure form format formation foundation improvisation invention makeup making mold origination outline prefab prefabrication raising rearing shape systematization turn type putting up roadwork disarrangement truth destruction disfigurement disorganization ruin ruins construction framework make-up style adjustment attachment building collection connecting fitting together joining manufacturing modeling molding piecing together setting up shaping welding domicile home house hut pile superstructure ziggurat adherence bond cementation cling clinging comprehensibility concordance conformity congruity connection consistency 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interval life lifetime millennium span course hour juncture moment period quarter reign spell while year being career continuance endurance expectancy extent history length life span longevity orbit pilgrimage record season survival continuation ages end death lives Era TSIF ERA crate sarcophagus casket catafalque pall funerary box pine box pine drape coffin grave hearse pyre support burial burial chamber burial place catacomb cemetery charnel house crypt monument sepulcher vault box mausoleum pit trough bag baggage bin case chest coffer foot locker locker luggage portmanteau suitcase wardrobe bier tomb trunk extremities ladylove lead life floodlit filed for filed off led life flatly filled for wildlife flotilla field view folded over lead a life filter off filters off led a life feel dearth of feel a dearth of fall all over fell all over filled in for lead (a life) philadelphia TSIF Philadelphia paleontologist classicist excavator archaeologian paleologist prehistorian brawl confusion 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