Archaeologists have in the last two months uncovered the unmarked graves of as many as 40 Confederate soldiers in Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Va. That adds to the tally of about 50 unmarked Confederate graves found in the same part of the cemetery last year—a section known as Yankee Square that was originally created as a place to bury Union soldiers, though their remains were exhumed and moved in 1866, Fox News reports. The team's goal is to match up the graves with the "detailed" undertaker's notes that were made at the time, allowing the archaeologists to identify the soldiers buried there with markers noting each man's military unit and when he died. “It’s always been an unsatisfying answer for me to say, 'We know your ancestor is here somewhere, but we don't know exactly where,’” the cemetery’s assistant director told the News & Advance earlier this month.
The graves are shallow ones, and the team has only needed to dig about 10 inches below the surface—not to the point of reaching a body, but until a red clay patch appears amid the orange dirt. The red clay indicates the presence of a body, as the deeper, darker dirt that was dug out to create the graves was often used to cover the body. "We can see any time that a hole or disturbance is put in the ground because the soil’s not the same," says one team member. The team has also determined that that crisp outlines of the graves indicate that they haven't been disturbed since they were made. But it did make two mysterious discoveries: some graves were placed perpendicularly over older graves, and others had a circle-shaped brown patch on top of them—perhaps the remnants of a patch of flowers. (Read about how archaeologists managed to uncover graves the Nazis tried to hide.)