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Archeologists find hidden tunnels below Alcatraz prison

San Francisco, UNITED STATES: The main cell house (center) is flanked by the lighthouse (R) and the prision recreation yard (L) and Alcatraz Island, 14 June 2007 in San Francisco Bay of California. Sometimes referred to as 'The Rock', the island of Alcatraz served first as a military fortification, before it became a federal penitentiary in 1934. Now Alcatraz is national recreation area under the supervision of the Naitonal Park Service (NPS) with more than a million visitors a year taking the short ferry ride from San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf to experience the infamous maximum-security prison for high-risk convicts. Famous island residents have included 'Machine Gun' Kelly, Al Capone and Robert 'Birdman' Stroud. AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO — 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.

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