SAN JOSE (KCBS) – Construction crews at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose have turned up more than a dozen pine boxes which could contain the remains of hospital patients who died more than a hundred years ago.

Santa Clara County Deputy Counsel Michael Rossi said the pine boxes were found in February when crews were doing excavation work to prepare for the construction of a new loading dock at Valley Medical Center.

KCBS’ Chris Filippi Reports:

“We don’t have any visual confirmation of what’s in those boxes,” he said. “However, some follow-up research has indicated that there was a cemetery located in that portion of the Valley Medical Center campus between 1875 and 1935.”

Rossi said that upon discovery, the boxes were immediately reburied and that all told, there could be as many as 1,450 sets of remains in the area.

He said many hospitals used to have pauper cemeteries, otherwise known as potter’s fields, for the indigent and for those whose families could not be found.

Now, the county is seeking a court order to remove the boxes.

“Under the health and safety code, the country is required to obtain a court order to remove the human remains,” Rossi said.

Santa Clara County officials are looking to hire an archeologist to examine the remains. If any are identified, Rossi said that efforts will be made to contact relatives.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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