Michael Borgos, attorney for owners Danna and Ruben Ellsworth, said bones from as many as 11 unmarked graves have been found so far in an empty lot in the Adirondack village of Lake George, 55 miles (88 kilometers) north of Albany.
Human bones were initially found last Thursday as a construction crew used a backhoe to excavate a basement for a future apartment house. The bones included a skull, jawbone, pelvis and leg bones, according to David Starbuck, a local archaeologist called in by police to examine the remains.
Starbuck determined bones were from a male of European descent, and at that time he said they had been buried for decades if not longer. When he went back to the work site Friday with the owners, more bones were found in piles of dirt deposited next to the 60-foot-by-60-foot (18-meter-by-18-meter) hole for the foundation. Discoloring in the sandy soil indicated evidence of at least 11 unmarked graves where partial remains had been exposed by the backhoe, Borgos said.
Work was halted at the site, and state archaeologists arrived Monday to gather all the bones, which were taken to the New York State Museum in Albany, the attorney said.
Earlier, Starbuck found two uniform buttons on some of the bones. Insignia on the buttons indicate they came from the uniform of a soldier in the 1st Pennsylvania Battalion, he said.
The battalion was part of the Continental Army that invaded Canada in 1776, a year after the war started. During the fighting in Quebec, smallpox broke out among the American troops. Sickened soldiers were sent south to Lake George to recuperate in hospitals whose exact locations remain a mystery.
"The majority of soldiers who went to Lake George in the Revolution went there as smallpox patients," said Starbuck, who has led archaeological digs at several 18th century military sites in the region.
Discovering human remains and artifacts dating to that era isn't uncommon in Lake George. A popular summertime tourist destination since the late 19th century, the area saw heavy military activity a century earlier during the French and Indian War and American Revolution, including battles, sieges and ambushes.
The Ellsworths plan to work with local officials and historical organizations to ensure the remains receive a proper reburial, Borgos said. He described them as "responsible local developers" who immediately stopped work at the site and contacted authorities when the initial remains were found.