The bones of 13 early settlers in Portugal Cove that were displaced from their graves 10 years ago by a new housing development were put to rest again in the community on Wednesday.

The bones spent the last 10 years in storage at Memorial University, where researchers confirmed they are approximately 200 years old.

Katie Harvey, the event organizer, said she made sure the remains were taken out of their plastic storage bags and packaged into material that would decompose.

"We already tore their graves apart … so they shouldn't be put back in the ground in little sample-sized baggies, they should be respected and put in the ground in something that's going to break down and be able to go back to the way it was," Harvey said.


The bones were packaged into material that would decompose over time. (CBC)

The bones came from an old graveyard that Portugal Cove residents said they warned developers about when construction began.

When the project started to unveil the remains, the town moved quickly to designate the graveyard a heritage site.

Resident Karen Robinson said the remains are from people who deserve respect.

"These people we're burying today, they've been through a lot. They came at a time when it was very poor here — it was a struggle just to make a go of it," Robinson said.

"And then all their headstones were tossed over the side, off the cliffs here, and people rescued then and they were thrown over again. Then they were dug up for the housing development. Then they were just put in a box and stored at the university for years."

She said reburying the bones was an important gesture for the town.

"It's, like, who were they, didn't they count for anything? And, of course, they counted for everything."

People in the community say there are still more bones in the ground underneath the newly-developed homes.