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12.4.03

Don't Bury The Bones

Museums backed by government have sent back vital collections and remains, most of which have been covered in soil. It is estimated that the Smithsonian alone has transferred more than 3,335 sets of human remains. In 1999 the Peabody Museum based at Harvard University returned remains of nearly two thousand individuals to the Pecos and Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico.

The Pecos were at their peak between 1300 and 1600 and ruled over a trade path between the Pueblo farmers of the Rio Grande and tribes of the buffalo plains. The bones have been studied since their discovery in 1915. The collection was the largest available skeletal population from a single community and was large enough to be statistically significant. As a result we have learned about the influence of diet and disease on populations. We know more about osteoporosis, head injuries, and the development of dental cavities. This was brought to an end upon return of the collection when the bones were covered in earth. We can learn nothing further from these bones.


If a large sample of a single community is what you're after, go to any white cemetary. Not only will you have plenty of skeletons, but you'll have the advantage of knowing who they all are. That way you can link the individuals to any medical or historical records that may be available. If nothing else the tombstones will tell you the person's age and give clues to who is related to who.

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