After more than 10 years of research, the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum has launched an interactive map of the city’s unmarked cemeteries, burial grounds, and graveyards—which, apparently, number in at least the low hundreds.
As the Inquirer’s Stephan Salisbury notes, “The sites cover Center City almost like a bad case of measles.”
The map is not only for history buffs or those looking to honor the forgotten dead. There are more protean purposes to the forum’s ongoing database: To warn developers of sites that might turn up human remains during construction and to spur public officials to better oversight when remains are discovered.
And, even as thorough as the map now is (some 200 points and counting), the forum warns that there is “no way” to locate every burial place in Philly.
An unknown number of burial sites—such as those created as private family cemeteries, those established by socially marginalized groups or communities, or which were in use for only short periods of time—may not have been well documented while they were in use, and therefore cannot be re-located and mapped today.
For now, though, the map is one of the most comprehensive of its kind for any city anywhere.