The question still remains: "Why were so many burials left behind?" As the project historian, I have been researching this question at local and national archives. According to the records of the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia (housed at the American Baptist Historical Society in Atlanta, Georgia), the entire burial transfer enterprise may have lasted only four months from November 21, 1859 to April 1, 1860. This is a rather short amount of time given to move burials from a cemetery... Read More

Posted December 5, 2017 by Nicholas Bonneau
Flowers and cards are tied to the fence surrounding 218 Arch St as a memorial to the dead buried there.

Anyone who works with human remains will say that they have experienced a wide range of reactions from people when their profession becomes known.  Most people find our work fascinating, but occasionally we encounter people who think our work is weird, scary, or sometimes downright offensive.

Death is an unavoidable part of being human.  It is shrouded in mystery − a topic we are taught to avoid.  It can conjure a sense of fear or dread as a force we do not understand and cannot... Read More

Posted October 4, 2017 by Kimberlee Moran
Archaeologists Kimberlee Moran and Anna Dhody Examine Artifacts

Salvage archaeology, sometimes called rescue archaeology, occurs when an archaeological site would otherwise be destroyed by construction or natural processes such as flooding. In these situations, archaeologists recover what they can, sometimes electing to only excavate a portion of the site. In the case of Arch Street, it was the project team's goal to rescue all human remains so that construction could continue. 

In March 2017, archaeologists worked with construction workers on... Read More

Posted October 2, 2017 by Allison Grunwald
Bones laid out on a table under lights, ready for photography.

In the early months of the Arch Street project, burial remains were quickly removed from the construction site, rescued from further damage by construction machinery. These early collections are housed in numbered boxes at Rutgers University, Camden. Once cleaned, these commingled remains will be catalogued, assessed, and analyzed. Before cleaning the remains, inventory photographs need to be taken to create a full... Read More

Posted August 16, 2017 by Allison Grunwald
A small dark brown wrinkled lump is actually a preserved brain.

The human body contains many types of soft tissue: skin, organs, muscles, etc.  These tissues are made of cells and when a person dies their cells die, too.  Cells undergo a process known as autolysis where enzymes within the cell are released and the cells break down.  In addition, bacteria, fungi, insects, and scavengers also act upon the body to help break it down and recycle it back into the ecosystem.  Even bone contains cells that decompose along with the rest of the body leaving... Read More

Posted August 11, 2017 by Kimberlee Moran