Pennies found in eyes of some of the Gaillard dead

Workers with boxes at the Gaillard construction site.( Leroy Burnell/ ) Buy this photo

The removal of graves from the Gaillard construction site has found a number of clues about the past, including the presence of pennies that would have been placed on the eyelids of some of those buried there.

Eric Poplin, lead archaeologist, said this morning two of the individuals had coins on their eyes.

The remains also show that among the 37 graves found there was one infant, two juveniles and three others he referred to as “sub adults.”

One of the younger sets of remains also appears to have been buried in what was described as a quality coat.

Poplin’s comments come as work on the site is expected to wrap up Saturday, about three weeks after the first grave was found during construction of the $142 million Gaillard Center makeover.

The presence of coins on eyes is a both a European and Christian tradition, Poplin said.

But other cultures use the practice too.

Some cultures have added coins to the deceased to be shared with relatives in the spirit world or to pay for a soul crossing into eternity.

Some Old World cultures incorporated pennies as a prevention against seeing their own deaths reflected in the eyes of the dead.

The coins are believed to come from the late 1600s to the early 1700s. The graves are believed to be as old as the 1720s.

At least 26 of the 37 grave sites have been cleared.

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