KINGMAN, Ariz. -- That bodies are buried under a high school football field and adjacent parking lot is more than folklore.
Many long-term residents have known that part of the Kingman Unified School District campus was built over the top of the partially relocated Pioneer Cemetery. That was the primary burial ground from 1900 to 1917 for the city, which is about 100 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
Earlier this week they were reminded that some of the bodies are still there.
Human bones and suspected coffin fragments were unearthed Wednesday as construction crews dug a trench in an effort to install a new sewer to serve the campus and portions of the downtown area. Fifteen to 20 bones and bone fragments were found in a four-foot stretch of the trench near the football field where games have been played for decades.
The disturbed remains were no longer confined to wood caskets that apparently deteriorated into dust long ago according to Oz Enderby, director of construction for the school district.
The Mohave County medical examiner was called to recover the remains and work was stopped as required by law.
The coroner, school district representatives and county officials huddled Thursday to determine what should be done with more than 100 feet of trench left to dig across the former cemetery plot.
Enderby said the state museum director was notified.
He also said it might be necessary to attempt to contact families of anyone known to still be buried on campus.
Enderby said it's entirely unclear when crews can resume digging across the cemetery but any excavation activity will be gentle.
"We won't be digging as boldly as you might dig a normal sewer," Enderby said. "We'll also have a full-time medical examiner on site."
The medical examiner will handle any additional remains discovered. Enderby said the law requires uncovered remains to be placed near the point of discovery and there's been some talk of commingling remains within an on-campus cemetery memorial.
Museum and library documents indicate that families who could afford to do so paid to relocate buried loved ones once the Pioneer Cemetery closed in 1917. Most of the bodies, however, remained at the cemetery that was eventually covered by campus construction.
School district Superintendent Roger Jacks said the discovery of a burial plot map might serve as a sort of road map of grave sites on campus. The parchment map is dated 1941.
Enderby said the map shows that about 10 percent of the graves were relocated and more than 100 other bodies were apparently left at the cemetery.
He said officials will do their best to afford dignity to the dead when authorized to complete the trenching effort.
"This whole business will be handled appropriately," Enderby said.
"This is a unique situation that calls for proper respect and reverence."