TAMPA, Fla. — Archaeologists detected 17 more graves underneath a public housing development in Tampa in search for the erased Zion Cemetery, the city’s first African American burial ground.

This comes after an earlier round of ground scans in August detected 127 coffins at Robles Park Village, off of Florida Avenue.

Tampa Housing Authority chief operating officer Leroy Moore said on Friday the agency is continuing to scan the site, which overlaps part of the old Zion Cemetery. USF Archaeologist Rebecca O’Sullivan said the cemetery was built to hold 800 people, and there is reason to believe more bodies are still there.

Cardno, the contractor THA hired to do radar scans of the site, reported to the Tampa Housing Authority on Thursday that the 17 graves were found underneath Kentucky Avenue. Cardno’s report stated the company will continue to analyze radar images, and there is reason to believe there are more graves underneath Kentucky Avenue.

A historical map shows Zion extends beyond THA property and onto private land. Part of the land is occupied by Sunstate Wrecker Services. Moore said THA will scan that company’s lot for graves as well. Manager Tony Huffman said the company is happy to help in any way. 

“It’s super surprising. We’re standing beside ourselves. We don’t know how anyone could do this to a cemetery.”

Scanning on that site will begin in early December.

RELATED: Forgotten African American graves could be buried at MacDill Air Force Base

RELATED: Hillsborough County Commission will hear from hidden cemetery whistleblower

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You can also email her at emorrow@wtsp.com.

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