By Bob Uphues
A week after a sewer construction crew unearthed skeletal remains underneath a Riverside street, archaeologists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uncovered other artifacts that may or may not be related to the human bones found there on Sept. 14.
Brant Vollman was one of two Army Corps archaeologists who visited Riverside on Sept. 21 to inspect a construction trench dug in the 100 block of Bloomingbank Road as part of the First Division storm sewer separation project.
"It was a unique opportunity," said Vollman, who works out of the Army Corps' Rock Island office.
He and an intern investigated the trench, which was along the curb line of the street, not only to see if they could recover more remains or other items related to them, but to see if there were signs that the crew might have stumbled onto a more extensive burial site.
After sifting through the sandy earth inside the trench, the archaeologists came away with a small four-hole button, a "possible" metal nail and a likely prehistoric flake of stone that Vollman described as something that resulted from making a stone tool.
"Are they associated with the burial?" asked Vollman "I don't know."
The additional artifacts were turned over to the Cook County Medical Examiner, which was already in possession of the human bones unearthed on Sept. 14.
That agency is conducting additional testing to determine how many individuals the remains belong to, whether the remains are Native-American or of a European settler. It's unclear when the medical examiner's report will be completed.
Riverside officials contacted the U.S Army Corps of Engineers after finding the first set of remains because the Army Corps issued the permit for the work. While the Army Corps has jurisdiction over construction within U.S. waters, it has permitting authority when work areas touch historic properties. The entire village of Riverside is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its landscape design.
"The burial came up as a real surprise to everybody," Vollman said.
The discovery of human remains halted work on the new sewer line until the Army Corps' archaeologists could investigate the site. The work zone has since been turned back over to Riverside, and construction may resume.
That section of Bloomingbank Road was the final area slated for digging. Only about 40 more feet of street needed to be dug up to complete the project.
If crews had unearthed more remains, Riverside officials were instructed to cease work immediately, leave the remains in place and contact the Army Corps of Engineers.
But work crews were able to complete the excavation on Sept. 22 and, according to Village Engineer Orion Galey, all of the underground work for the sewer separation project is complete.
"We're doing restoration now," Galey said.
Workers have started concrete restoration to curbs and sidewalks. That will be followed by roadway patching. Galey said he expects construction in the First Division to be wrapped up in two weeks.