If you think you’ve seen everything there is to be seen in Greenwich Village then take a seat and think again. This past Tuesday construction workers were working on the water mains and found a pile of human skeletons underneath Washington State Park in Manhattan.
It’s most likely that this is part of an unearthed burial ground, rather than any foul play, as the corpses appear to be around over 100 years old. The remains were found in an 8-foot-deep, 15-foot-wide and 20-foot-long vault that is believed to have functioned as a catacomb.
It’s not exactly anything new that people were buried under the park. The issue here is more that these bodies seem to be completely undocumented, especially considering they were in an elaborate catacomb. It’s currently believed that the catacomb was part of a church burial ground. While there are historical records of the park being used as a cemetery, specifically in the 1700’s, the corpses are believed to be too young to have belonged to any currently known documented case. Another popular idea is that it was part of a Potter’s field, which the park was historically known to be used as, complete with one recorded case of a hanging, as the park’s iconic Hangman’s Elm should make clear.
Aylssa Loorya, who serves as the principal project investigator of Chrysalis Archaeology, who is now investigating the findings, said “You never know what you can find beneath the city’s streets…You bury people to memorialize them and these people were forgotten.”
According to Loorya, the team will not allow the unearthed deceased to be forgotten. They will use various means, ranging from old newspapers and church archives to giving the skeletons autopsies with modern technology, to give names to the deceased.
The area will be blocked off until investigations are finished.