The caskets were unearthed in a construction process for a new science building in the center of the USF campus.
A human skull was the first discovery made by a construction worker, which showed up in the shovel of the backhoe he was using at the project.
The site has been determined to be an old Masonic cemetery. After the appearance of the skull, it was not long thereafter that a full-blown excavation occurred in the center of the campus of the university.
Archaeologists, under the leadership of Allen Pastron, came up dry however; little to no remains were found in all of the coffins.
The only recovered pieces include the complete skull, a partial skull, and some bone fragments.
Pastron offers this explanation for why no remains were left in the coffins: “My preliminary suspicion is that the coffins were opened before – probably at the time the San Francisco cemeteries were moved to Colma (starting in the 1920s) – and that the bones were taken out. We really are just beginning.”
While an unearthing such as this one is a bit unsettling, it is not the first time cemetery remains have been found on the University of San Francisco grounds.
The school’s original campus, located on Lone Mountain and originally the host of the San Francisco College for Women, was built on top of Calvary Cemetery, a Catholic Cemetery from 1860.
While the cemetery was moved to Colma during the 1930s and 1940s, remnants are still found from time to time during construction.
This is especially true considering the College was not built until 1932, around the time when the cemetery was being moved.
The cemetery has also fueled rumors that much of the Lone Mountain portion of the University of San Francisco is haunted.