Old hu­man body parts found in Alexan­dria

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY PA­TRI­CIA SUL­LI­VAN pa­tri­cia.sul­li­van@wash­post.com

Hu­man re­mains thought to be from the 1700s or 1800s have been found on the site of a res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment un­der con­struc­tion on Alexan­dria’s wa­ter­front, just in time for a cityspon­sored ex­ca­va­tion tour Satur­day.

City of­fi­cials said the re­mains were dis­cov­ered Thurs­day by ar­chae­ol­o­gists work­ing un­der con­tract with de­vel­oper EYA, which is build­ing the res­i­den­tial-re­tail project Robin­son Land­ing on the site of an old newsprint ware­house, Robin­son Ter­mi­nal South, that was once owned by the former Wash­ing­ton Post Co.

City gov­ern­ment spokesman Craig Fifer said there’s no rea­son to be­lieve other hu­man re­mains are at the site; dur­ing the 18th and 19th cen­turies, it was not un­com­mon to bury peo­ple out­side for­mal grave­yards.

City and con­tract ar­chae­ol­o­gists will over­see the test­ing of the re­mains this week to de­ter­mine what should hap­pen next, both at the site and with the bones them­selves, Fifer said. Vir­ginia law out­lines spe­cific pro­cesses for dis­pos­ing of re­mains.

On Satur­day morn­ing, city ar­chae­ol­o­gists are sched­uled to lead a pre­vi­ously arranged, reser­va­tions-only tour of the area.

Fifer said oth­ers who are cu­ri­ous about the site should not show up for the tour, be­cause only 18 peo­ple can fit on the side­walk at a time. The hu­man re­mains are not on dis­play.

An EYA spokesman said the dis­cov­ery is not ex­pected to se­ri­ously de­lay the Robin­son Land­ing project, which is still in the early phases of ex­ca­va­tion and back­fill.

The site was once a point that jut­ted out into the Po­tomac River named Point Lum­ley. The cove was even­tu­ally filled in, and on that land, a ship­wright built a wharf.

A ship­yard and a flour mill op­er­ated there for a while, and a bone mill, where an­i­mal bones were pro­cessed into fer­til­izer. A 1987 fire re­garded as the most dev­as­tat­ing in the city’s his­tory de­stroyed much of the prop­erty, but the build­ings were even­tu­ally re­placed and used for a va­ri­ety of marine, in­dus­trial-type op­er­a­tions.

The prop­erty has al­ready given up ar­ti­facts in­clud­ing his­toric stone foun­da­tions for build­ings, brick shafts and ev­i­dence of wooden box priv­ies. The site is ad­ja­cent to an­other lot where a ware­house foun­da­tion and rem­nants of a 300-year-old ship were found in late 2015.

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