The chilling fate of those who’ve perished only to have their final resting place be an unmarked grave is sadly the circumstance for many of our ancestors, some that’ve yet to even be discovered.
A handful of lost souls caught a break nearly 30 years ago when human remains were uncovered lying underneath a Health building at Virginia Commonwealth University back in 1994. The search continues today to find enough DNA on those over 50 bodies found that can hopefully be linked back to living descendants.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch did an insightful report on the decades-spanning initiative, which is believed to involve the remains of enslaved people hundreds of years ago. VCU researchers hope to not only give these bodies the proper burial they rightfully deserved, but also determine some of their physical features in life such as hair color, eye color and even birthplace.
More on how it all originally came to a head below, via Richmond Times-Dispatch:
“In 1994, construction workers laying the foundation for the Kontos Medical Sciences Building made a discovery. Twenty-five feet below ground, near the end of East Marshall Street, they found a well filled with human remains, leather shoes, glass bottles and mud.
VCU called its chief archaeologist, L. Daniel Mouer, who could smell the decomposition. He found bones and what appeared to be hair and skin.
But VCU refused to delay construction and gave Mouer only a weekend to excavate the remains. When the deadline arrived, a backhoe plowed into the earth, pulling up the bones and dirt, and Mouer watched in disbelief. What couldn’t be collected quickly was left behind.
What was recovered included more than 400 bones belonging to at least 44 adults and nine children. Two rib bones belonged to an infant, and two more to a newborn. Many of the skeletons were incomplete.”
After the skulls were studied, it was determined that majority were of African descent. In an even more gut-wrenching speculation, researchers believe the bodies were given such careless treatment because they were robbed from their original graves and used as medical cadavers by students in the 1800s at Hampden-Sydney College. After use, the med students were believed to have disposed of the bodies in a well where the remains were eventually found. The skeletons revealed that many of the marks and cuts that were made came from that of amateurs, showing absolutely no respect to the Black souls those bodies once housed.
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