The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Preliminary analysis of human skeletal remains recovered from a mid-nineteenth century cemetery in downtown New Haven, CT

SARAH A. BROWNLEE1, GARY P. ARONSEN2, HOWARD ECKELS3 and NICHOLAS F. BELLANTONI3.

1Division of Anthropology, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, 2Department of Anthropology, Yale University, 3Connecticut Office of State Archaeology

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In July 2011, construction at Connecticut’s Yale-New Haven Hospital was interrupted by the discovery of human skeletons. These remains were exposed via trench excavation, and lay under a large concrete foundation slab poured in the 1970s. Review of historical records and maps indicate that these remains are associated with New Haven’s first Roman Catholic Church, from a cemetery dating between 1834 and 1853.

Four adult human skeletons were recovered, with few associated artifacts. Many of the skeletal elements have postmortem damage, but the remains are remarkably well-preserved overall. Two of the skeletons are female, one aged 25-35 years, and the other possibly 60-70 years of age. The other two are male, one also 25-35, and the other over 60 years of age. Both younger individuals have remarkably complete and unworn dentition, while both older individuals show antemortem tooth loss and extreme dental wear. The younger male shows marked calculus accretion and periodontal disease, and the older male exhibits multiple healed fractures to the cervical vertebrae and ribs, suggesting significant (but ultimately survivable) trauma. All individuals show indications of manual labor such as compressed vertebrae, strong muscle markings (especially on the males), and arthritic changes to many joints.

Here, we present data on stature, ethnicity, and health. We also describe ongoing collaborative work to identify and elucidate the context of these individuals within New Haven’s history and society.

This work was supported by the Connecticut Office of State Archaeology and the Yale University Department of Anthropology.

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