A memorial stone near the site of the cave-in. Alisha Lewis

A cave-in that first appeared in a driveway at the Arkansas School for the Deaf this summer has revealed a possible metal crypt just six inches below the surface, an object that could be part of an old cemetery known to have been located on the residential school’s grounds in the early part of the 20th century.

The cave-in is located at the east edge of the school, abutting the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired property and near an area where an old stone honoring the memory of the dead buried on campus, including teachers and students, lies. It’s not certain the stone’s placement still marks the early cemetery.

The cave-in has been covered and secured, archeologist Dr. Andrew* Beaupré of the Arkansas Archeological Survey, who has investigated the feature, said.

Alisha Lewis, chief communications director for the Arkansas Department of Education, said school officials initially suspected a collapsed culvert caused the cave-in, which was small at first. When the hole widened, the school realized it was not a culvert and decided to call in state archeologists. Lewis said Beaupré was using the investigation as a teaching tool for the students and that the archeologists have been sensitive to the issues surrounding the possible cemetery. Lewis said its possible that some of today’s students are related to those buried at the school.

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Archeologists may do remote sensing in January of the area, a non-invasive form of searching for underground features, to try to determine if the metal feature is part of the historic cemetery. Until then, the school and the survey are researching the cemetery’s history.

The metal feature appears to have been crushed. Because of its proximity to the surface, if the metal is part of a crypt, several feet of dirt would have been removed from the area at some point in the past.

* This story originally referred to Dr. Beaupré as Steven.