A construction worker doing work for a road project uncovered a mass grave on a piece of land owned by Schuylkill residents in Pennsylvania.
If the fact that the grave makes up a huge number of unidentified human bones doesn't catch enough attention, the bones also mark the resting spot for some area residents killed in the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic.
This discovery may cause some delay in the construction project along Route 61 near Schuylkill Haven, which is about 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
According to historians, Spanish influenza hit Schuylkill County hard in 1918, making 17,000 people ill and causing the death of nearly 1,600 locals.
"There was a genuine panic, everything closed, schools, hospitals, the only thing left open were drug stores," said Tom Drogalis, the Schuylkill Historical Society's executive director.
Officials at the time resorted to a mass grave of unidentified Spanish influenza victims most likely because there were so many people dying so quickly from, as the CDC calls it, the mother of all pandemics. It wouldn't have been uncommon for people to be buried under a big piece of land, without any markers.
Drogalis added that they had several mass graves at the time, with one known to be located in Schuylkill Haven on the site of what once had been a poorhouse. "They did, indeed have several mass potters' graves, if you will, at the time," Drogalis said.
Right now, the bones are being collected by crews for testing, hoping they will be able to identify who exactly the bones belong to through DNA matching.
Femur, tibia and a jaw bone were some of the bones revealed by the mass grave, said Joseph Pothering, Schuylkill County deputy coroner.
A team of forensic archaeology experts from Mercyhurst University in Erie will be conducting the research to find out how long the bones have been buried, attempt to identify who the bones belong to and further study the remains. With the many bones unearthed, forensic takes could take weeks to complete. According to Schuylkill County officials, once the results from the forensic tests are back, a proper burial will be held in Schuylkill Haven for the remains.
In 1997, Joan Bachman purchased the piece of land where the bones were recently found. Only thinking of it as a place for their kids to hang out and for her husband to have something to do when he retired, Bachman said she didn't expect that buying a piece of land could lead to this.