My husband is a construction worker who usually runs an excavator.
He's replaced more than a few sewer lines. I can imagine how he'd
react if, in the course of this essential work, he dug up an object
that turned out to be a human skull. That is exactly what happened to
a peer of his in Albany New York in 2005. His gruesome discovery led
to a fascinating real life mystery and Lois Miner Huey's Forgotten
Bones: Uncovering A Slave Cemetary.
A skeleton had been discovered at that place in 1998. After the
coroner judged that they wouldn't be messing up an active crime scene
archeologists set to work. They discovered evidence of other
skeletons in what was possibly a burial ground. Needless to say, the
sewer project was put on hold. But it was too far along to be
scrapped. The aged remains would have to be moved.
Documents showed that the property had been owned by a slave
owning farming family. Only they were far removed from the much
better preserved family burial ground. Could this be a slave burial
ground? If so, it would be only the third discovered in the North.
The bones could not talk, but they carried stories--ones that
could be read by STEM enhanced detective work. It's amazing, even to
an adult, how much information they carried. The well illustrated
narrative will pique many children's curiosity--maybe even set a few
on a promising career path.
On a personal note, when I was ten I wanted to be an archaeologist.
My mother set up an independent study with a professional for me. It
was capped off with my mom, Harriet, and me spending part of the
summer in Mexico visiting pyramids. We did home stays rather than
hotels. I remember attending the Girl Scout meeting of a host family
child and having the kids buy me strawberry and coconut ice creams
from a vendor with a cart. I collected insects for my collection.
The customs officials were in for a big surprise when they tried to
keep me from bringing them across the border. Mom had helped me get a
permit in my name. That was something they didn't see every day.
A great big shout out goes to all the professionals who use skills and
technology to open windows onto the past.
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