SOMERSET, Ky. – Skeletal remains found during construction in south-central Kentucky may be those of slaves or former slaves, the Pulaski County Coroner said.
Coroner Richard New said a man whose grandfather was caretaker at the property many years ago called and said there were three graves of slaves for former slaves on the land. Researchers from the Kentucky Archaeological Survey said the bodies appear to have been buried between 1880 and 1910.
"Slavery had been abolished by that time, but it's possible that they were former slaves," New said.
The bones were found two weeks ago when a bulldozer plowed up the ground for road work near Somerset. The construction site was initially blocked off as a crime scene, but investigators quickly realized the bones had been there for nearly a century.
Archaeologists found skeletal remains, remnants of wooden coffins, a shoe, several buttons and other small artifacts at the scene.
"The buttons are in remarkable shape. ... They'll be able to date the buttons and pinpoint really close the year that they were buried," New said.
The first set of remains — which include the skull and other bones that became visible when the bulldozer operator was working in the area — most likely belong to an 18-year-old black female, New said. A second set of remains is also believed to have been those of a woman, New said.
Archaeologists are searching for a possible third grave.
"We don't think there are a lot of graves there, but we do have some history of there possibly being three there, so we're looking for another," New said. "If we find a third grave, we can assume that the information this gentleman has provided is probably correct."