“Miscommunication” Damages Archaeologically Sensitive Area and Unearths Human Remains

by | Nov 20, 2015 | Government

By Susan Larson. File photo copyright Fredericksburg.Today

What City Manager Bev Cameron called “a really terrible miscommunication” resulted in the disturbance of archaeologically sensitive land and unearthed human bones along the Rappahannock River in downtown Fredericksburg.

City Council authorized the removal of the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge on Sophia St. to prepare the area to be used as part of Riverfront Park.

English Construction, general contractor for the city’s new courthouse, had been using the lodge and the adjacent property as offices and an equipment staging area during construction.

With that project completed, English Construction began demolition of the lodge on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.

In 2013, Dovetail Cultural Resources had done an archaeological survey of the property. “We were aware of archeological resources [on the site], and believed we communicated adequately to our construction manager about this,” Cameron said. Bill Downey of Downey & Scott is the city’s construction manager.

“There was a really terrible miscommunication between the city’s construction manager and the general contractor,” Cameron said. “There was much more extensive excavation of the site [than there should have been].”

In addition, bones were discovered, Cameron said. The work was immediately stopped and the police were called.

“The medical examiner’s initial report said the bones were non-human,” Cameron said. The city asked forensic anthropologists for a second opinion. They said the bones are human.

“This triggered a much more serious situation,” Cameron said. The city is hiring archaeologists to determine if the site is a more extensive burial ground. Dovetail Cultural Resources Group is expected to begin an archaeological investigation as early as next week.

The city would like to review the dirt and debris hauled away, but there’s a problem. English Construction had contracted with another company to haul the debris, then fill in the hole of the building’s former basement. They don’t know where it all went.

“English Construction is in the process of trying to identify where exactly the dirt was taken,” Cameron said. He’s not hopeful. “We’re all continuing to investigate the situation,” he said.


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