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 8 feet deep, 15 feet wide, and 20 feet 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 use a combination of DNA evidence, biometric data, and city records to identify people all the time.
Update 11/6: Here are some more photos released and it’s absolutely incredible how intact the remains are.
According to ABC7, there are actually two vaults, one of which is so well-preserved that some of the coffins have names and dates on them.
Photos via NYC’s Department of Design and Construction and Chrysalis Archaeology