L.A. Subway Project Unearths 108 Skeletons

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Bones found at a subway construction site turned out to be the remains of Chinese railroad workers from the 1800s. Workers made the discovery outside a Los Angeles cemetery. They found skeletal remains of 108 people, some of the 10,000 Chinese who came to America to help build the railroads.

Their bones will now be studied and DNA tests performed.

"It could tell you migration patterns, information that was lost, who came over from where," said archaeologist Anna Naruda.

Their discovery also unearthed Los Angeles' dark history of bigotry. The Chinese workers were not allowed to be buried next to the city's more prominent families but were given a corner of Potter's field.

And now the disturbance of this lost grave has caused controversy.

The bones were first unearthed last summer but it wasn't until September when it was revealed they were bones of Chinese immigrant men buried in a pauper's grave.

Chinese historians are accusing Los Angeles' Metropolitan Transportation Authority of hiding the find so its $898 million project to build a subway extension would not be interrupted.

"We never told them because we didn't know who they were until the lab analyzed the remains," said MTA spokesperson Jose Ubaldo.

Still, the bones were found with Chinese tablets revealing the dead person's name. There were also rice bowls, jade, Chinese coins and opium pipes.

Chinese historians now want an apology and the MTA to give the men a dignified burial.

"Sure there's anger, deep disappointment," said Sue Lee of the San Francisco Chinese Historical Society. "Chinese contributed so much to the building of the West, built railroad, reclaimed the land for agriculture, yet something like this happens."

One Los Angeles County supervisor is calling for an investigation into why the MTA did not detect the grave before starting the subway project.

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