Unearthing a Crisis

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Home building recently gave new meaning to the term skeleton crew: sites recently being excavated in Texas by Lennar Homes and in Pennsylvania by Pulte Homes turned up long-forgotten graves. In Texas, there are approximately 50,000 cemeteries, according to the Texas Historical Commission. With statistics like this, it's easy to understand how a builder could encounter remains.

February 01, 2007

Home building recently gave new meaning to the term skeleton crew: sites recently being excavated in Texas by Lennar Homes and in Pennsylvania by Pulte Homes turned up long-forgotten graves.

In Texas, there are approximately 50,000 cemeteries, according to the Texas Historical Commission. With statistics like this, it's easy to understand how a builder could encounter remains. So how should a builder react?

An officer of a local cemetery association alerted Lennar its Texas site could have an old graveyard. The firm then hired an archeologist to examine the site, local news reports said, which turned up a grave shaft. All construction halted. Lennar then hired a local attorney to serve as a central contact for communication. The firm facilitated moving any remains to an established local cemetery.

Pulte Home's Pennsylvania division encountered bones, and the firm had no reason to believe that any graves existed on their 200-acre site. According to the local county coroner, there was no official record of any cemeteries or grave sites in the area. Mark Marymee, Pulte's director of corporate communications, outlines the firm's reactions:

  • Excavation immediately stopped.
  • The firm contacted environmental consultants, who in turn were able to identify appropriate anthropologists.
  • The company alerted the state's historical society and the medical examiner's office (coroner) about the discovery.
  • The firm cooperated with the coroner's office to help with missing persons and DNA research. The state's historical society had protocol to follow to assist in identifying any additional burial shafts and required a report documenting compliance.
  • After all facts had been collected, Pulte contacted the home buyer and disclosed all facts.
  • Excavation activities were re-started after final clearance from the coroner and the state historical society was received. Once Pulte's division receives the remains from the coroner, it will identify a suitable location and rebury the remains close proximity to the area they were discovered.

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