Faculty Analyze Human Remains Found Underneath Mall Parking Lot

Anthropological science professors and co-directors of RU's Forensic Science Institute Cliff and Donna Boyd were recently called to the Old Cloverleaf Mall in Midlothian, Chesterfield County, Virginia.  Construction crews were excavating the parking lot and found human bones and artifacts. "The parking lot had apparently been placed over an old, unmarked (probably family) cemetery dating to the 19th century," says Cliff Boyd. 

A cultural resource management firm was hired to remove the small cemetery. It asked the Boyds to assist in the recovery and analysis of the remains.  In all, six burials were identified, excavated and removed so construction could proceed.  The team found buttons, and coffin remnants such as wood, coffin handles, hinges and nails -- in addition to the skeletal remains of six individuals. All artifacts were photographed and mapped in place before removal. 

The Boyds and their undergraduate student assistants will analyze the human skeletal remains to determine their age, sex, ancestry and stature. They will also look for any evidence of diseases and assess the individuals' overall health.  The remains will be reburied in a modern cemetery after the analysis is complete.

"We often have students helping us with this work -- it is great training in skeletal analysis for them to actually look at, measure and study bones from a site like this.  We will probably be working on this through the fall semester," says Cliff Boyd.

Each year, the Boyds are called to many potentially historically significant sites similar to this one and to modern crime scenes when human remains are involved.  The Boyds and RU's Forensic Science Institute are known throughout the Commonwealth and the country for expertise in skeletal analysis and processing of forensic evidence.

Aug 14, 2012
Ann Brown