PORTLAND – Construction crews building a new elephant habitat at the Oregon Zoo discovered human remains believed to be part of a century-old cemetery.
The remains of nine people were thought to belong to residents of the Hillside Farm, part of Multnomah County's poor farm, a 160-acre farm located on the site in Washington Park, which operated from 1868 to 1911.
This is the second time the zoo has come across human remains during a construction project. In 2008, remains were discovered while the zoo was building the Predators of the Serengeti exhibit. Those remains were buried nearby.
Zoo managers were reportedly aware of the property’s history, and historical documents show a cemetery was located near the zoo’s southern border but precise boundaries were unclear.
Workers halted construction in the area while an archaeological investigation and recovery was under way. Officials plan to re-inter the remains at a nearby site on zoo grounds.
“Based on the information available, we believe these were residents of a poor farm operated by the county here more than a hundred years ago,” said Heidi Rahn, director of the Better Zoo Program, which oversees construction projects funded by the 2008 zoo bond. “We are treating these remains with the utmost dignity and respect, and we will return them to a resting place close to where they were found.”
Construction on the exhibit will proceed once the remains have been recovered.