A Journey Home

December 3, 2019

It has been 25 years since their skeletal remains were discovered and dug up with a backhoe during construction of a medical sciences building on East Marshall Street on Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus and then shipped to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History for study. And it has been roughly 175 years since their bodies — some of which likely were stolen from Richmond cemeteries by grave robbers — were used as cadavers for anatomical and surgical training at what became the Medical College of Virginia, and then unceremoniously discarded in a well, also known as a “sink” or “limb pit.”

Leading up to Monday morning’s gathering, four VCU forensic science students and two William & Mary anthropology students — under the guidance of Tal Simmons, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Forensic Science at VCU; Jones, chair of the Family Research Council; and Bruwelheide at the Smithsonian — spent the weekend at the Museum of Natural History working in pairs to conduct a meticulous inventory of each of the 17 boxes containing 636 major bone elements, not including numerous additional hand, foot, rib and vertebrae bones, as well as additional fragments and other contents.