PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A local sheriff’s office is donating time and high definition scanners to help catalog hundreds of human remains found in Old City last year.
The high definition thermal laser is capturing three-dimensional images of 250-year-old human bones. It belongs to the Ocean County, New Jersey sheriff’s office and they are helping to capture Philadelphia history.
In an exclusive look—through several layers of plastic —a 235-year-old wooden coffin emerges. Inside is Benjamin Brittonwhere. He was laid to rest in this very coffin back in 1782.
Last March, construction crews on Arch Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets uncovered a cemetery beneath a parking lot. The land once belonged to the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia and bodies were buried there between 1702 and 1859. They were supposed to be moved to Mount Moriah Cemetery in 1859 but many remained.
The coffins themselves—deteriorated wood, though the metal plates—are almost pristine.
This image is from a 1783 London coffin catalogue.
Below is from a coffin at the Arch Street site.
Kimberle Moran is a forensic archaeologist with Rutgers Univeristy in Camden. She’s heading the Arch Street bones project—a project that began last year when she received a phone call about a few discovered by construction workers.
“We really didn’t know what was going to happen if we didn’t get involved,” Moran said.
Now, Moran and her team are teaming up with Ocean County deputies to study the remains in the years to come after they are reburied at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Southwest Philadelphia. A final resting place for those who saw Philadelphia in her earliest days.
“You know this is really a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect the past with the present,” said Moran.