Archaeologists Jane Lyden Rousseau and Joe Bagley didn’t enter the Old North Church crypt on Tuesday planning to make any discoveries.
The crypt is undergoing structural checks before it is renovated for tourism, and, as part of that work, one of its 37 tombs was briefly opened, according to The Boston Globe. Rousseau and Bagley were there to document the tomb’s contents from the outside, though records said that the tomb, built in 1808, had been cleaned out in 1840s.
“[There was] a good chance that we would open it up and find nothing; I was expecting that to be completely honest,” said Bagley, the City of Boston’s archaeologist.
Instead they found at least 20 coffins. They were of all sizes—from small coffins for infants to one that was 6 feet, 5 inches. There were also loose bones, including a skull fragment right inside the door, and wood shavings that were once padding inside the coffins.
“It’s so interesting to see a microcosm of life at that time in Boston, and also death at that time,” said Rousseau, according to the Globe.
Church records state that the tomb was reserved for lay leaders and their families, but there are no names. There are no plans to enter the tomb and move any of the coffins to identify the remains.
The archaeologists expect more tombs to be opened, and they will continue to document from the outside.
“We’re trying to leave everything in there as intact as possible,” Bagley said.