200-Year-Old Crypts Buried Just a Few Feet Below Greenwich Village

Workers digging near New York’s iconic Washington Square Park have uncovered two burial chambers. The crypts house coffins and human bones thought to be about 200 years old.

So far the team has identified more than a dozen coffins in the vaults, which could have been part of the burial grounds of one of two now-defunct Presbyterian churches, according to archaeologist Alyssa Loorya, owner of Chrysalis, the company tasked with investigating the site.

Loorya soon hopes to be able to make out nameplates positioned atop the coffins. One of the crypts, which she says had clearly been disturbed by human hands, includes a pile of skulls and other bones that seem to have been stacked in the corner after the bodies disintegrated.

“We knew that we could be encountering some human remains,” says associate commissioner Tom Foley of New York’s Department of Design and Construction. That’s part of why the group has been working with archaeologists since beginning its $9-million project to install a water main running from the east to west sides of town. “As you peel away the asphalt and concrete face of this city, you find its history.”

From 1797 through 1825, the location served as a “potter’s field,” a public burial ground. Experts estimate that tens of thousands of decomposed bodies lay beneath the stones that line the park and its pathways. After the land became a city park in 1827, a military parade that featured cannons reportedly overturned stones and revealed yellow shrouds covering the remains of people who died during yellow fever outbreaks.

Foley has firsthand experience unearthing Manhattan’s historical mysteries. Previous construction projects came upon artifacts including … read more —> http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/

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