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Work is halted at La Plaza over concerns about human remains found during dig

January 14, 2011 |  2:59 pm

Burial ground

Officials on Friday halted excavation at the planned Mexican American cultural center La Plaza de Cultura y Artes amid complaints that the work was continuing after skeletal remains were found there.

Officials said they took the action after finding an "unexpected number of human remains uncovered and their great historical significance."

The fragile bones of dozens of bodies had been found in the historic downtown spot,  buried beneath the site of a planned outdoor space and garden.  

Native American groups, archaeologists and the L.A. Archdiocese have voiced concerns over the removal of what may be the remains of the city's first cemetery. 

Spanish, Native American and Mexican people were among the early settlers buried in the Catholic cemetery, located south of La Placita Church. In 1844, when the cemetery officially closed, the bodies were supposed to have been moved and reinterred elsewhere, according to records of the archdiocese.

Officials released a statement Friday saying work was being stopped:

“We at LA Plaza have decided to halt work on the former camposanto area of our campus indefinitely, in light of the unexpected number of human remains uncovered and their great historical significance. From the moment we discovered human remains on our site, we have conducted the necessary archaeological excavation in strict accordance with the law, all professional archaeological and osteological standards, and in communication with the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the Native American Heritage Commission, and the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner. At this time, however, we believe it is in the best interest of both LA Plaza and the larger community to put this section of our project on hold. Moving forward, we will continue to work with all interested parties and proceed with the rest of our construction as planned. We believe this discovery and the resulting conversations will engender further education about the rich and complex history of Los Angeles, a history we are committed to exploring here at LA Plaza.”

-- Carla Hall

Photo: People who say they are descendants of settlers buried south of La Placita Church called for a stop to construction of the cultural center.

Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times