PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–Archaeologists at Rutgers University in Camden are busy at work, cleaning and cataloging hundreds of remains discovered at a construction site in Old City earlier this month.
“We had about a week to get all those remains out, so it was very much a salvage operation,” said Kimberlee Moran, a forensic archaeologist with the school.
Moran invited Eyewitness News along for an exclusive tour of the lab where work is just beginning on the earliest residents of Philadelphia.
The site was once the First Baptist Church Burial Ground. People were buried there from 1707 to 1860. The bodies were supposed to be moved to Mount Moriah Cemetery in 1860, but someone did not do their job. Hundreds of corpses were underground for almost 200 years, until construction crews discovered the coffins and bodies in early March.
“We want to know about our ancestors. We want to know how they lived their life. We want to return them back to their families and if there’s living relatives let them know,” said Polina Kapchits, who is working with Moran.
The remains will be interred at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Southwest Philadelphia, where they should have been since 1860.
Archaeologists hope to discover the gender, race and age of each body. Ideally, Moran would like to find living descendants.