The original box of bones

Bones from Arch Street

On January 26, 2017, Anna Dhody, Ani Hatza, and Kimberlee Moran arrived at 218 Arch Street to pick up the box of bones featured in Stephan Salisbury's November 4th article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  What was shown in November was half a banker's box of bones.  When the team arrived, the box was full.

The box was a collection of random, unassociated remains.  Some were human, some were animal.  The animal bones were typical of historic house-hold waste.  Domesticate animals such as cow, sheep, and pig were present as well as some deer bones.  Of the human bones, the vast majority were fragments of long bones.  Only two very small fragments of skull were present and one half of a pelvis.  What immediately struck our team was that quite a few of the human bones were sub-adult, meaning children, and a range of ages were displayed.  

The box was taken back to Rutgers-Camden and with the help of intern Polina Kapchits, the bones were laid out, counted, and "processing" began.  Processing involves creating a unique identifying number for each bone.  A photo is taken of each bone with a metric scale and the identifying number in view.  Next the bones are carefully cleaned of dirt and debris and all the bones are photographed again.  A spreadsheet is created that lists whether the bone is human or animal, what type of animal, what type of bone, if the bone is whole or partial, any damage or pathology, age at death and sex (for humans only), and any other notes that might be useful.  A database is created that links the numbers to the images to the spreadsheet.

In total, the box contained 132 bones, a nice little project, the team thought.  The idea was to work on the bones over three or four months, publish a little report, and re-bury the bones at Mt. Moriah in the First Baptist Church plot.  On February 20, 2017, that all changed.