Tree removal at North Carolina church unearths centuries-old artifacts

Tree removal at North Carolina

NORTH CAROLINA – When not leading sermons, the Rev. Daniel Cenci is quite the history buff. Cenci’s two passions coincided when a plethora of centuries-old items were found June 20 in the yard of Christ Episcopal Church in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where Cenci has served as rector since 2019.

He said the church’s construction crew was digging up a century-old magnolia tree when the mundane quickly turned into something extraordinary around lunchtime. The crew had hit something while digging up a pit for drainage underneath the stump. When Cenci saw the almost dome-like shape of the structure the crew had hit, he thought it was a crypt or an unmarked soldier’s grave given the many battles fought in eastern North Carolina during the Civil War. Cenci enlisted the help of a nearby parishioner to poke around. Soon, the two had pulled out a bone that was eight inches long.

After telling the construction crew to go home for the day, artifacts like pottery, old and broken dishes, glassware, bottles and more bones were unearthed from the loose, sandy terrain filled with bricks. With guidance and inspection from a local museum and a specialist in early porcelain dating, the items were roughly dated from the early 1700s up through the mid-1800s. The bones didn’t belong to human bodies but to animals – including a possible jawbone from a wild boar.

“The guess right now is maybe (the spot) is either a root cellar that was associated with an early home or a cistern for water storage, again associated with another early home in the city,” Cinci said. The North Carolina Office of State Archaeology from the Raleigh and Greenville offices were called in to possibly further identify and date the items. Five days later, the ground was excavated, according to CNN affiliate WTKR.

After the state office agreed with the artifacts’ initial dating estimate, they were labeled and placed on plates in the church’s kitchen until they can be sent to the state office’s conservation laboratory for testing. Cenci was told that either a team from the Raleigh or Greenville archeology offices would return to the site, a graduate student from a local university would be tasked with continuing the excavation or the church could hire an outside archaeological firm. (CNN)…[+]