The 27 graves found at the Gaillard Auditorium construction site may provide a treasure trove of information about how people lived in the Lowcountry of the early 1700s, the project’s lead archaeologist said.
Archaeologist Eric Poplin said the graves, believed to date to the 1720s or 1730s, could be the most significant recovery of its kind in downtown Charleston.
“These will be the earliest excavated graves in the history of the city,” said Poplin, of Brockington Cultural Resources Consulting.
The process of removing the 27 sets of bones is under way this week, though it could be hampered by weather if rains persist. Once all the remains are recovered — plus any potential artifacts or personal items — they could tell a variety of stories about the Colonial period of South Carolina, including information on the local diet, what types of repetitive work the people did and the group’s general health. The bones could even help give insight on instances of trauma, violent death or even the presence of venereal disease.
“Syphilis shows up in bones,” Poplin said.
Also to be learned is the death makeup of those buried there, including the ratio of males to females, and adults to children.
The first of the graves was discovered about two weeks ago when crews digging a trench for a water pipe accidentally hit a human skull about 10 feet down. The subsequent search uncovered 26 other grave sites set out in two rows next to Anson Street.
The recovery is expected to take about two weeks. Meanwhile, work is going forward elsewhere on the $142 million Gaillard makeover, but away from the recovery pit.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.