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The skeletal remains of three people have been unearthed in the shadow of Toronto's notorious old Don Jail.

The archeologist leading the dig said Wednesday he believes they're prisoners sent to the gallows in the late 19th century.

"Our team found five grave shafts," Ron Williamson said a day after making the discovery. "We have now investigated three of those and have found evidence of three people in those grave shafts."

There could be as many as 10 or 11 bodies buried in what is now a parking lot between the old jail and a hospital, Mr. Williamson said.

The skulls, clearly on display as an archeological crew examined the site Wednesday, show signs of cranial autopsy - a common practice at the jail in that era, he said.

"We have some confidence that we know we're dealing with people who were hanged at the jail and buried in this area," Mr. Williamson said.

The crew focused their dig, part of the hospital's redevelopment of the site, in a specific area based on archival evidence that bodies would be found.

The fate of the jailhouse graveyard has not been decided.

The old Don Jail, which opened in 1864 and was closed in 1977, was the scene of more than two dozen executions before the death penalty was abolished in 1976.