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November 7, 2006

Excavators uncover 19th century sarcophagus

Monday afternoon, Darvis McIntosh was bulldozing the cut for a street in what will be the Lanie Brooke subdivision off Barnes Mill Road when the blade of his dozer hit a cylindrically shaped iron object.

“I called for my son Joseph who was working with me to run over and see what it was,” McIntosh said. “I thought I might have hit a piece of sewer pipe.”

Joseph was in for a shock when he peaked inside the iron case that was partially ripped open by the bulldozer.

“It’s a body!” he said. “You’ve uncovered a grave.”

“I shut off the bulldozier and got in touch with the property owner, David Lawson,” McIntosh said.

Lawson, a builder/developer, called the Madison County Coroner’s office and the Kentucky State Police, who came to investigate. They called Dr. Emily Craig, the state medical examiner.

When Craig arrived, she quickly determined that the grave was not a crime scene and called Dr. David Pollock, with the Kentucky Archeological Survey.

“The body had been encased in a cast-iron sarcophagus, a burial method used in the 19th century,” she said. “Since the grave had historical significance, I called the archeologists, so we could remove the body before rain began to fall.”

The body was about 5 feet below the surface, but it had been placed between two huge slabs of limestone, Pollock said. The crevice between the limestone slabs had helped preserve the burial site, he said.

McIntosh used a trackhoe to lift one of the slabs and pull it away so the archeologist and Deputy Coroner Carlos Coyle, with the help of the workers, could gently lift the sarcophagus, place it in an orange Stokes basket and carry it to a waiting emergency vehicle.

Shaped like a human body, the close-fitting sarcophagus resembled an Egyptian mummy. Inside the iron case, the body had been wrapped in a cloth shroud.

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