Workers repairing an underground steam pipe at the University of South Carolina in Columbia found human bone fragments — believed to be the eery relics of a Civil War hospital that once treated injured soldiers fighting for both the North and the South.
“We don’t know what it is,” Richland County Coroner Gary Watts told South Carolina newspaper The State, adding that the fragments found range from a skull cap to half-inch pieces.
“It probably is Civil War remains, but we’re still going to do this as if it were a crime scene,” Watts told the paper.
The coroner's office and the State Law Enforcement Division are excavating the steam pipe trench and examining the soil.
The coroner says he expects to know Tuesday if the remains are from the Civil War era. He has an anthropologist working on the case. Watts says the bones could be amputated body parts.
The fragments were found behind DeSaussure College, the second oldest building on campus. It was completed in 1809.
The building now serves as the offices of the college of social work on campus. It is named for the attorney from Sumter County who fought in the Revolutionary War.
Later, Henry William DeSaussure helped establish South Carolina College - now USC - during his 18 years in the Legislature, a university spokeswoman told The State.
During the Civil War, the school rented many buildings to the Confederacy as a hospital to treat the wounded from both sides of the battle.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.