8 more graves, Revolutionary War cannonball among finds at Gaillard

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Another eight graves and what is believed to be a Revolutionary War-era cannonball were found this week by archaeologists at the Gaillard Auditorium construction site.

Crews have found 37 graves so far. The additional graves found this week were east and west of the already located graves, officials at the mayor's office said.

On Thursday, crews found a 4-inch cannonball between two of the graves. The cannonball is hollow with a hole in the side where water was present, officials said.

There was no danger of explosion.

GALLERY: Archaeologists search for graves, artifacts under Gaillard Auditorium

"I've been building for 40 years and I've never uncovered unknown grave sites as these. It has really been interesting to watch how these remains are being removed. The archaeologists really care about these people and are so respectful. The whole situation has really been a great testament to teamwork between us, the owner, the community and the media," said{}Bob Ferguson, the senior vice president at{}Skanska.

Skanska/Trident is handling the construction project. The company's crews found the initial gravesite while excavating ground beneath a driveway at the auditorium.

The find adds to the mystery of what used to sit on the property. Archaeologists said there used to be a meat market near the area in the 18th century.

A search of property records dating back to 1818 shows that the site was never a recorded cemetery or grave site.

Senior archaeologist Eric Poplin said he believes the bones most likely predate 1852 and are adults. He said the graves were oriented east-to-west in length, which he believes suggests a cemetery of some sort.

He said the bones could date back as far as the 1760s.

"It's pretty cool, I mean finding and digging up dead people requires a lot of skill for archaeologists," said Poplin. "You try to be as considerate as possible with people's ancestors. You try to take as much skill as you can when you're dealing with this."

Poplin also says he can tell people were aware that the land was a cemetery.

"The arrangement of the graves, they're in two rows," said Poplin. "That suggests that it was used possibly over some time that people came and went. They recognized where graves were but, not exactly."

Poplin says if the bones are in good condition, he will be able to research more information on the individuals.

"There are certain measurements that we will take of the bones before we lift them out. And, that will help us determine the sex, the age and the individuals -- and a little bit possibly race," said Poplin. "There may be evidence of diseases also that the bones can have on them. And, if we see those, we would document them."

Poplin says there's even question of how the bones were laid to rest.

"Sometimes we can see evidence of coffins. The wood will rot and you can see it in the grave. You can see where the coffins were, the nails. We really haven't dug far enough into any one grave to say if they were coffins or not. But, either practice, wooden boxes or cloth were used during that time."

City officials met last{}week to come up with an excavation plan. Mayor Riley hopes that plan will be put into place within the next week.