Unearthing History: New Jersey’s Intriguing Parking Lot Grave


A startling find was made in a New Brunswick, New Jersey parking lot in 2019. While working on a project to extend the Rutgers University campus, a group of archaeologists discovered a burial that had the bones of four people who lived in the 18th or 19th century. The burial site was beneath a paved area, close to a historically significant structure that was used as a hospital during the American Revolution. How did these individuals come to be buried in such an unusual location, and who were they?

The Mystery of the Parking Lot Grave

The burial in the parking lot wasn’t the region’s first archaeological discovery. Since a mass grave of Revolutionary War troops was found nearby in the 1950s, the location has really been known to hold remnants of colonial history. The four people buried in the parking lot, however, differed from the troops in a few respects. In keeping with Christian custom, they were interred in a single, rectangular trench with their feet facing east and their heads facing west. In addition, the fact that they were interred with sentimental belongings like coins, buttons, and pipes suggested that they were actual people with identities and pasts rather than just faceless war dead.

The names and origins of the four people confounded the archaeologists who dug up the parking lot burial. They were unable to locate any records or papers that named them or provided an explanation for their burial. Because of the poor preservation of the bones, they were also unable to ascertain their precise ages, genders, or reasons of death. Nevertheless, they were able to remove a few DNA samples from the teeth and sent them to a lab for examination.

The DNA Analysis and Its Implications

Some shocking and fascinating details about the four people buried in the parking lot were uncovered by the DNA research. The findings demonstrated their genetic diversity and lack of relatedness to one another. Three of them were of mixed ancestry, with traces of Native American, European, and African genes; one was of European lineage, the other of African descent. Additionally, the study indicated that they were alive throughout America’s turbulent social and political climate, which spanned the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Regarding the parking lot cemetery, the DNA research produced more questions than it did answers. How could these four individuals—who belonged to distinct racial and ethnic groups—end up interred together in a way that adheres to Christian doctrine? What roles did they play in the society in which they lived, and what were their stories? Were they strangers, adversaries, lovers, or friends? Were they the victims of disease, violence, or unfair treatment? Were they buried there out of need or choice in the parking lot?


An intriguing and enigmatic piece of history, the parking lot cemetery in New Brunswick, New Jersey, provides insight into the lives and deaths of four people throughout the colonial era. The cemetery allows us to investigate the richness and diversity of the human experience, challenging conventional narratives and presumptions about the past. The burial also serves as a reminder that history may be found in unexpected and commonplace locations, like parking lots, in addition to books and museums.

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