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U.Va. Discovers Possible Grave At Parking Lot Site

June 5, 2002-- An archaeologist has discovered what may be an unmarked 19th-century grave on the site of a planned University of Virginia parking garage, U.Va. officials announced today.

The survey was conducted as part of pre-construction procedures, said Colette Sheehy, U.Va.'s vice president for management and budget. Pending state approvals, construction of the 1,200-car garage along the railroad tracks near Ivy Road and Emmet Street has been scheduled to begin in late July.

"Last week, with the guidance of an 1895 deed showing a 32-foot by 32-foot area reserved for a cemetery on the property, our archaeological consultant examined several exploratory trenches in the area," Sheehy said. "So far, he has found changes in the soil and a hand-cut nail attached to wood fragments that suggest someone may have been buried here more than 100 years ago."

The possible gravesite is located at the back of the property, along the north edge of the garage's proposed footprint, adjacent to the railroad tracks.

Sheehy said a 1954 deed recording the sale of the property stated that "said parcel has never been used for burial purposes and is hereby abandoned by the said parties of the first part for such purposes." U.Va. purchased the 7.2-acre site, which includes a former residence near Ivy Road, in 1983.

The University is working with the state Department of Historic Resources (DHR) in performing the due diligence investigation. Over the next few weeks, the University’s consultant, Benjamin Ford of Rivanna Archaeological Consulting, will do further exploration to determine whether the apparent graveshaft contains human remains and whether there are other shafts in the area, Sheehy said.

DHR regulations and state law provide that if human remains are found, they can be removed and reinterred under certain circumstances.

In 1993, the University discovered the Foster family cemetery while expanding a small parking lot off Venable Lane. Those 12 graves were not opened and remain in place. An unmarked gravesite also was studied and preserved in the mid-1980’s near the Gooch-Dillard dormitories then under construction.

Last summer, an archaeological survey of the B-1 parking lot on Jefferson Park Avenue, in advance of the planned College of Arts & Sciences building there, revealed no sign of graves.

Contact: Louise Dudley, (434) 924-1400

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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