Human remains thought to be from the 1700s or 1800s have been found on the site of a residential development under construction on Alexandria’s waterfront, just in time for a city-sponsored excavation tour Saturday.
City officials said the remains were discovered Thursday by archaeologists working under contract with developer EYA, which is building the residential-retail project Robinson Landing on the site of an old newsprint warehouse, Robinson Terminal South, that was once owned by the former Washington Post Co.
City government spokesman Craig Fifer said there’s no reason to believe other human remains are at the site; during the 18th and 19th centuries, it was not uncommon to bury people outside formal graveyards.
City and contract archaeologists will oversee the testing of the remains found this week to determine what should happen next, both at the site and with the bones themselves, Fifer said. Virginia law outlines specific processes for disposing of remains.
On Saturday morning, city archaeologists are scheduled to lead a previously arranged, reservations-only tour of the area.
Fifer said others who are curious about the site should not show up for the tour, because only 18 people can fit on the sidewalk at a time. The human remains are not on display.
An EYA spokesman said the discovery is not expected to seriously delay the Robinson Landing project, which is still in the early phases of excavation and backfill.
The site was once a point that jutted out into the Potomac River named Point Lumley. The cove was eventually filled in, and on that land, a shipwright built a wharf.
A shipyard and a flour mill operated there for a while, and a bone mill, where animal bones were processed into fertilizer. A 1987 fire regarded as the most devastating in the city’s history destroyed much of the property, but the buildings were eventually replaced and used for a variety of marine, industrial-type operations.
The property has already given up artifacts including historic stone foundations for buildings, brick shafts and evidence of wooden box privies. The site is adjacent to another lot where a warehouse foundation and remnants of a 300-year-old ship were found in late 2015.