Fun With Anthropology! Hurricane #Sandy Uncovers Colonial Bones

November 2, 2012, 9:34 pm

What accounts for the skeletal remains embedded in a tree that was toppled on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut during Hurricane Sandy?

A passerby saw what she thought was a rock embedded in the interior roots of the 100 year old tree.  When she looked closer, she realized it was a skull and called the cops. A medical examiner, and then a Yale anthropologist, were called to the scene.

Workers cut away some roots, brushed off some dirt, and yessiree, Bob, there it was: “Visible among the roots of the tree was the back of skull, upside down, with its mouth open” writes reporter Thomas MacMillen. “It was still connected to a spine and rib cage.”

According to the New Haven Independent, a Connecticut web newspaper,  the bones “belong to at least two different centuries-old skeletons. And counting.”

The New Haven Green was originally an eighteenth century common space, used for burying folks, military drill, worship, government, a market, grazing livestock and whatnot. The current theory is that these are bodies that were legitimately buried not stashed, and that the tree was later planted on top of them after the gravestones were moved in the late eighteenth century. Another blog has proposed the theory that these bodies were victims of the smallpox epidemic that raged through New England between 1775 and 1782.

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