In July of 2013 an archeological team headed by Doug Mooney and Kim Morrell uncovered grave shafts in trenches that were cut from the top soil of the Weccacoe Playground. They explained the term “grave shaft” in their report. “The term “grave shaft” refers to the hole dug into the ground for a burial, and into the bottom of which a deceased person’s remains were placed. As used in this report, the term “burial remains” refers to the physical evidence of the burial itself, including preserved parts of the wooden coffin, associated coffin hardware and decorations, and human skeletal material. During this investigation, no intact human skeletal remains were exposed; however, in a small number of cases, evidence of decayed coffin wood was identified.” (page 1.7)
Mooney and Morrell went on to further explain –
“In terms of the burials within the cemetery, each of the four trenches completed uncovered evidence of intact burials. This evidence came in the form of grave shaft outlines and, in a handful of instances, of decayed coffin wood with associated coffin nails or lid screws. In total, the excavations resulted in the identification of at least 36 individual burials, all of which were oriented west to east in accordance with common Christian burial practices.
In Christian cemeteries, the orientation of burials with the head to the west and feet to the east takes on special significance, and is rooted in a powerful image of rebirth. In the New Testament, Matthew (24:27) foretells that Jesus, at the time of his Second Coming, will arrive from the east: “For as the lightning commeth out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (American Bible Society 1999). In accordance with this belief, burials in Christian cemeteries are oriented in the above manner, so that on JudgmentDay, when the dead are called to rise from their graves, they will sit up to face the resurrected Christ.” (page 4.3 of the Report)
The entire Mooney and Morrell report is available at –
#1 Part One of Phase IB Archaeological Investigations of the Mother Bethel Burying Ground,1810 – Circa 1864
#2 Part Two – Appendix