Almost every construction project, other than interior remodels, requires that some amount of dirt be moved out of the way. Many people don’t realize that history could be buried right under their feet. The 12 stories that we’ve compiled throughout the year make it clear that you should keep your eyes open during excavation and dirt work.
The below list of items found by construction workers is in order of how old the items were, beginning with the most recent. What is the strangest item that you’ve ever found on a job site? Tell us in the comment section below!
12. Time Capsule from 1957 MIT
In 1957, a group of students buried a time capsule commemorating their newly constructed building. The capsule was filled with scientific papers and other odds and ends. You can imagine how poorly paper would hold up after being buried for over 50 years, so the professors came up with a way to vacuum seal a glass tube, which has perfectly preserved all of the contents for all those years. Leave it to a bunch of professors at MIT to design the perfect time capsule.
Full story: Time capsule from 1957 found during construction at MIT | Popular Science
11. Letter to Santa from 1943
As construction crews were getting ready to tear down an old chimney when they noticed a folded up piece of paper. As it turns out, the note was from 72 years ago, when a young boy named David wrote a letter to Santa. His wishes were modest, such as slippers, a silk tie, a pencil box, and chalk. Though Sanata may have not received that letter all those years ago, the construction workers who found the letter decided to make sure David, now in his late 70s, got his wishes.
Full story: Construction Workers Find Letter To Santa From 1943 | wimp
10. 121 Year Old Time Capsule and a Bottle of Whiskey
Crews from the construction firm Morgan Sindall were working on the Ruthvern Bridge in Kingussie, Scotland when they dug up a rusty metal box, the size of a typical shoe box. Inside that box was a newspaper clipping from September 1894, a paper scroll, and a bottle of what experts believe to be a bottle of whiskey.
Full story: Construction Workers Uncover 121 Year Old Time Capsule and Bottle of Whiskey in Scotland | Construction Junkie
9. Century Old Mass Burial Site
While working on Route 61 in Schuykill County a few days ago, the crews uncovered a 97 year old mass human burial site, which caused major construction delays. The human remains are believed to have belonged to victims of the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic, from which some 1,600 locals died in roughly one month. According to historians, it was not uncommon for people to be buried in large unmarked graves like this one, when so many people died in such a short period of time.
Full story: Pennsylvania Construction Workers Uncover Century Old Mass Burial Site During Excavation | Construction Junkie
8. Pre-1906 San Francisco Chinatown Artifacts
While constructing San Francisco’s new Central Subway, archaeologists have been working alongside construction crews to discover any interesting artifacts in the soils of the Historic city. On this particular project, crews uncovered pieces of history from before the major 1906 San Francisco earthquake, including sewing machine from an old Chinatown factory.
Archaeologists unearth slice of pre-1906 earthquake Chinatown amid Central Subway construction | San Francisco Examiner
7. A 200 Year Old Vault of Human Skeletons
For roughly 28 years (1979 through 1825), the Washington Square Park area served as a public burial grounds, which was also known as a “potter’s field.” So when crews were digging to install a new water main in the area, they knew what they had a chance of finding. The two burial chambers belonged to a pair of Presbyterian churches, which are no longer in service.
Full story: Construction Workers Find 200-Year-Old Bodies Buried Just a Few Feet Below Greenwich Village | Smithsonian
6. An American Revolution-Era Warehouse Building and War Ship Underground
Just 8 feet below ground, construction crews in Alexandria, Virginia, who were making way for a new 250-room waterfront hotel, found the remains of a fully intact foundation of a warehouse that historians believe to be the city’s first public building. The warehouse, which was built in 1755, was approximately 100-by-24 foot in size and the foundation was constructed with large wooden beams. The wood flooring is believed to have been re-purposed from a ship’s mast.
Only two months later, crews made another significant discovery when they dug up a 50 foot long war ship believed to be used around the time of America’s Revolutionary War. Also found was a 3 person privy, aka restroom, from around the same era.
Full story about warehouse: History buried where a trendy riverfront hotel will soon stand | The Washington Post
Full story about war ship: The discovery of a 300-year-old ship at a construction site has archaeologists ecstatic | The Washington Post
5. 700 Year Old Mummy
During a road widening project in China, workers ran into a large box, and after they opened it, they immediately called archaeologists to help them out. Inside was a perfectly preserved body of a 700 year old woman, who was wearing shoes and a ring.
Full story: Road Workers Found This Strange Box While Doing Construction, When They Open It…WOW! | Your Nation News
4. 1,800 Year Old Sarcophagus
After Israeli workers uncovered an estimated 1,800 year-old sarcophagus in Ashkelon, Israel, they decided to hide it behind a few boards and metal sheets, for some reason. Because they pulled the coffin out of the ground with a tractor, it suffered quite a bit of damage. Israeli authorities heard about the discovery after a tip was sent in and the workers could now be facing up to 5 years in prison for not reporting an ancient discovery and damaging an antique.
Full post: Construction Workers Found, and Then Tried to Hide an Ancient Sarcophagus | Smithsonian
3. 10,000 Year Old Stone Tools
As crews were preparing to prep a site for construction near Redmond Town Center in Washington, archaeologists had uncovered over 4,000 stone tools used by locals nearly 10,000 years ago. The tools included stone flakes, scrapers, awls, and spear points used to kill bison, deer, bear, sheep and salmon.
Full story: 10,000-year-old stone tools unearthed in Redmond dig | The Seattle Times
2. 200,000 Year Old Ice-Age Era Fossils
San Diego Contractor Cornerstone Communities was developing a 636 unit subdivision in Carlsbad, California when Pleistocene Epoch, aka the ice age, fossils were discovered. Among the fossils found were a skull and partial skeleton of either a giant bison or antique bison, wooly mammoth bones, and parts of antique horses and turtles.
Full story: Contractors Dig Up 200,000 Year Old Fossils, Wooly Mammoth Bones During Excavation | Construction Junkie
1. 4 Million Year Old Whale Fossils
Scotts Valley, near Santa Cruz is now roughly 6 miles away from the Pacific Ocean, but it used to be under water. In September of 2015, construction crews were working on building single family homes when they uncovered an ancient whale fossils. Scientists believe that the fossil of the 25 feet long whale is roughly 4 million years old and were stunned by how well it stayed in tact.
Full story: Scientists Unearth 4 Million Year Old Whale Remains in Santa Cruz Mountains | NBC Bay Area