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Eric Poplin Evaluates Burials Discovered during Gaillard Construction Project

Feb 07, 2013

Archaeologist Eric Poplin has been brought in to assist the City of Charleston after human remains were uncovered at the Gaillard Auditorium construction site. The Gaillard Auditorium was originally built in the 1960s, but is being replaced by a new structure on the same site.  On Tuesday, February 6, a track-hoe operator inadvertently uncovered a human skull while digging a six-foot deep trench. Work on that portion of the site stopped, and once the police and county coroner confirmed that the remains were not the result of a recent crime, Brockington was contacted.

The next day, Dr. Poplin conducted exploratory excavations along the route of the proposed trench and quickly discovered a second set of remains near the first. The bodies are arranged head to foot, with each oriented so that the head points east.  That they are pointed east suggests that these are Christian burials, as they follow the common Christian tradition of orienting the dead for the Resurrection. In most small burial plots, individuals are laid side by side, so the fact that they are arranged head to foot suggests that there may be rows of graves.

Brockington personnel are currently doing archival research on the history of the Gaillard area to determine if there is any indication that a cemetery or small plot was located here in the past.  According to research already conducted by Dr. Poplin, historic maps show that this was a urban residential area as far back as the early 1800s, which may indicate that the burials are much older.  Another possibility is that the bodies were set in their unusual configuration because they were buried in a confined area and couldn't be placed side by side, possibly because it was a residential section at the time.

Dr. Poplin has gone on record with the Charleston Post and Courier and WBCD-TV in Charleston about the project.  In the next few days he will be continuing to research the area's history before advising the City of Charleston on how to proceed.


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