Apr 8, 2013 9:00 AM
WACO - More than 200 skeletal remains in a forgotten cemetery unearthed six years ago during a museum expansion project in Waco are still awaiting reburial.
The city is to rebury the remains during an interfaith ceremony after the Texas Historic Commission approves a company's archaeology report expected later this year, officials said.
The graves were exhumed in 2007 and 2008 after city officials discovered they stood in the way of completing an office building behind the Texas Ranger Museum. The construction cut through a forgotten section of a historic cemetery that dates back to the 1850s. Some graves were moved in the 1960s, but apparently the headstones had been moved - not bodies.
Archaeologists with the Atkins firm have begun writing a report, which could be about 1,000 pages long and will include information about each burial, including the likely age, ethnicity and gender of the deceased and the burial goods and practices surrounding the remains. Some of the burials were double- or triple-stacked, reflecting a poor state of record-keeping over the life of the cemetery, officials said.
"That was not uncommon for the time, especially in city cemeteries," said Nesta Anderson, principal investigator for Atkins on the project. "There are almost always unmarked burials, because there might have been a temporary marker that didn't last."
Anderson said it's unlikely that the firm will be able to positively identify many of the remains, but each body will be buried in an individual grave and have an identification number that will allow others to do further research.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime project," she said. "It's unfortunate it came about in the way it did, but we learned a lot about the people who chose to live in the city of Waco and were buried there."
So far, the city has spent $2.2 million on archaeological services at the site, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.
The Waco City Council also awarded a $196,000 contract to a Dallas firm to build a new decorative wall and other landscape work around the historic cemetery, which will be rededicated and spared from further development. Roads in the cemetery will also be removed.