Construction workers in Texas made an unlikely discovery on the site of a new technical centre, the long-buried remains of 95 people.
The first remains were actually discovered back in February in Sugar Land, a suburb southwest of Houston.
Now officials believe they have learned who these people were – freed black people forced to work in convict labor camps.
The Sugar Land property is owned by the Fort Bend Independent School District, which is using the land to build their new technical school.
Items recovered during excavation/exhumation of historic cemetary discovered at FBISD construction site. Remains believed to be that of former slaves forced into convict labor camp. @kprc2 pic.twitter.com/ZkxY3DsxRY
— Syan Rhodes (@KPRC2Syan) July 16, 2018
Superintendent Charles Dupre said in a statement:
“It’s a remarkable opportunity for our community and our school district to learn much more about the history of our local region,”
Reign Clark of Goshawk Environmental Consulting, the site’s archaeological project manager echoed the sentiment.
“It’s a rare opportunity,”
“We’ll be telling the story of what it was like to live here, work here, and, in some cases, die here.”
The discovery may not actually have come as such a surprise, especially in Texas.
Despite so much time having passed, researchers can still tell that the workers were malnourished or sick and had faced huge physical stress when they were alive.
Speaking to CNN, Clark said:
“We can tell from the state of the bone and muscle attachment features that these were heavily built individuals. Some bones were misshapen by the sheer musculature and labor,”
Although the end of the civil war in 1865 meant slaves were outlawed, businesses needed a different form of cheap labour after the economy in Texas dropped into a deep depression.
They turned to prisons, where inmates would be taken from state prisons and leased to businesses, essentially creating a new form of slavery.