The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Examining Life and Community History with 19th Century Bioarchaeological Remains from Pontiac, Michigan


Anthropology, Wayne State University

Thursday All day, Park Concourse Add to calendar

The recovery and analysis of desecrated human remains from the Oak Hill Cemetery in Pontiac, Michigan, provided an opportunity to study the life history of a family of pioneers and contrast it to the current social climate of this city. Desecrated human remains and artifacts were recovered from the Southard family mausoleum by the Anthropology Department of Wayne State University during a community restoration project on the property. The human remains were inventoried and pathologies and body modifications were noted. A review of historical data pertaining to these individuals was completed and examined within the context of the bioarchaeological remains. The results of this study include an interpretation of the repeated, long-term desecration of these individuals, as well as personal aspects of the lives and health of this elite family as told through the combination of written and bioarchaeological data. When viewed within the present-day social context of the City of Pontiac, it was found that even though there have been demographic and political changes since their lifetimes, the data collected in this study indicate that many of the same ideologies pertaining to race, religion, and politics persist today.

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