Skeletons found under Florida wine shop could be some of America's first European settlers


  • Photo via Jon Dawson on Flickr.
Decades before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, European colonists were settling America's oldest city, St. Augustine.

In the last few weeks, archeologists have discovered the skeletal remains of adults and children underneath a wine shop in the historic Florida city.

According to First Coast News, last October Hurricane Matthew damaged a building in St. Augustine called Fiesta Mall. Before renovation started, the owner invited city archeologist Carl Halbirt to dig up the floor, which resulted in finding human remains.

Archeologists discovered the remains of seven people, including three children. They found an intact skeleton and another skull underneath the building, and located a leg and a skull from a third and fourth grave just outside the shop on Charlotte Street.

Halbirt told First Coast News he believes the bodies are buried under what used to be the church floor of the first parish church of St. Augustine, Nuestra Senora de Los Remedios, which was built in 1572.

Halbirt says it's the oldest parish in the United States.

Using pottery found around the burial site, Halbirt estimates the remains were buried between 1572 and 1586, just 20 years after St. Augustine was founded.

According to the St. Augustine Record, a bioarchaeologist from the University of Florida offered a preliminary identification for two of the bodies.

One appears to be male of African descent, while the other is probably a Spanish woman. Both appear to be relatively young. Many early settlers were buried underneath Catholic church floors, which were considered sacred ground.

First Coast News reports that the remains of the children indicate all were under 7 years old.

There may be additional bodies buried nearby, as Halbirt says he has found soil that has been stained, indicating there may be other graves.

The remains underneath the floor of the Fiesta Mall building will be left there out of respect for the dead, while those found in the street will be moved to a nearby Catholic cemetery because of the future installation of a city water line.

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