Animated Loading
Having trouble loading this page?
Get help troubleshooting.

Archeologists find hidden tunnels below Alcatraz prison

Published
Alcatraz Island is seen Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in San Francisco. Archaeologists have confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians: the famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification. SFGate reports researchers have found a series of buildings and tunnels under the prison yard of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which once held Al Capone. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Archaeologists confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians and say that famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification.

Researchers found a series of buildings and tunnels under the prison yard of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which once held Al Capone, SFGate reported Tuesday.

A study published last week in "Near Surface Geophysics" said archaeologists used ground-penetrating radar and terrestrial laser scans and historical maps and photographs. They found fully buried structures, ammunition magazines and tunnels.

"This really changes the picture of things," study author Timothy de Smet, an archaeologist at Binghampton University, told PBS. "They weren't erased from the island — they are right beneath your feet."

Archaeologists are now planning more study to discover what else lies just below the surface.

Historians believe workers built over existing structures when the prison was built in the 20th century.

Alcatraz first came to the attention of the U.S. government after it took control of California from Mexico in the 1840s. Its location in San Francisco Bay made it attractive for military fortification purposes.

During the Civil War, Fort Alcatraz was the official military prison for the West Coast.

In the 1930s, the first federal prisoners — deemed by the media to be the worst of the worst — began arriving. The last inmate left in 1963.

File - In this July 1, 2015 file photo, people walk through the citadel, also known as the the dungeon, during a tour of newly restored areas on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. Archaeologists have confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians: the famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification. SFGate reports researchers have found a series of buildings and tunnels under the prison yard of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which once held Al Capone. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
File - In this July 7, 2011, file photo, Jim Breeden of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, walks through the dungeons below the main cell house during a night tour on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. Archaeologists have confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians: the famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification. SFGate reports researchers have found a series of buildings and tunnels under the prison yard of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which once held Al Capone. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
File - In this July 7, 2011, file photo, Jim Breeden of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, walks through the dungeons below the main cell house during a night tour on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. Archaeologists have confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians: the famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification. SFGate reports researchers have found a series of buildings and tunnels under the prison yard of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which once held Al Capone. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
File - In this July 7, 2011, file photo, Jim Breeden of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, walks through the dungeons below the main cell house during a night tour on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. Archaeologists have confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians: the famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification. SFGate reports researchers have found a series of buildings and tunnels under the prison yard of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which once held Al Capone. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
File - In this July 1, 2015 file photo, people walk through the citadel, also known as the the dungeon, during a tour of newly restored areas on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. Archaeologists have confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians: the famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification. SFGate reports researchers have found a series of buildings and tunnels under the prison yard of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which once held Al Capone. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
File - In this July 1, 2015 file photo, people walk through the citadel, also known as the the dungeon, during a tour of newly restored areas on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. Archaeologists have confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians: the famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification. SFGate reports researchers have found a series of buildings and tunnels under the prison yard of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which once held Al Capone. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
Alcatraz Island is seen Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in San Francisco. Archaeologists have confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians: the famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification. SFGate reports researchers have found a series of buildings and tunnels under the prison yard of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which once held Al Capone. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Alcatraz Island is seen Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in San Francisco. Archaeologists have confirmed a long-time suspicion of historians: the famed Alcatraz prison was built over a Civil War-era military fortification. SFGate reports researchers have found a series of buildings and tunnels under the prison yard of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which once held Al Capone. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)