Crews find centuries-old human remains while digging pool in French Quarter

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 10, 2011 at 10:29 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 11 at 12:01 AM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS – Human remains from some of New Orleans' first settlers have been uncovered in the French Quarter. The discovery was made at the site of a luxury condo where a pool was being built.

Foreman Glenn Angelo said the old, unearthed coffins aren't the coffins of today. They’re simply made.

"They look like a side of a cypress tree, really,” Angelo said. “Really crude, basic, very narrow."

“Basically the closer you get to the river, you're going to find old things and the older the things are likely to be,” said Dr. Jill Yakubik with "Earth Search"

Yakubik headed up a team of archaeologists and anthropologists that helped excavate the site near N. Rampart and Toulouse for four weeks this past summer.

"In the surrounding area around New Orleans, it’s not unusual to find graveyards,” she said.

Yakubik confirms that a total of 15 coffins were removed from the N. Rampart site. She said it’s where the colony's first cemetery was located, dating back to the early 1720s.

“There also have been instances where there have been established cemeteries where they have been forgotten either family cemeteries or cemeteries that went into disuse over time,” Yakubik said.

Once Yakubik and her team could confirm that the remains at the construction site were human, a state law required the property owner to apply to have them removed.

“No burials can be excavated without a permit,” she said.

The remains are being stored and analyzed at LSU, and other items are being washed, processed and analyzed inside a lab, where Yakubik and her team hope to uncover some of the city's lost secrets.

“It's pretty neat uncovering something from the 1700s,” Angelo said.

Yakubik believes the coffins belonged to settlers and slaves. Her team hopes to secure funding for DNA testing to learn more about the lives of these people and possibly track down the first generation of slaves to New Orleans.

 

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