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Secrets of Bones from New Haven Green to be Divulged at New Haven Museum

Dr. Gary Aronsen (left) and Dr. Nick Bellantoni in the lab

New Haven, Conn. (October 6, 2021)—Former state archeologist Dr. Nick Bellantoni (Connecticut’s “Indiana Jones”) and Dr. Gary Aronsen, director of the Yale University Biological Anthropology Laboratories, will reveal the results of the investigation into human remains and time capsules discovered on the New Haven Green. The New Haven Museum will host the free, virtual presentation, “Forensic Analysis of the Lincoln Oak Skeletal Remains,” on Thursday, October 28, 2021, at 6 p.m. Register here.

In October 2012, winds from Hurricane Sandy toppled the Lincoln Oak on the Green. A partial human skeleton was visible within the historic tree’s exposed roots, creating an enigmatic story that captured the imagination of the entire country and a unique opportunity to study a colonial burying ground. In an initial presentation at the New Haven Museum in 2013, a panel of researchers including Bellantoni and Aronsen revealed they had identified the remains of six individuals: three adults, two children and one unidentifiable.

In this updated presentation, Bellantoni and Aronson will revisit the Lincoln Oak discovery and fieldwork and discuss the latest findings from the forensic analyses of the skeletal remains. “This project is intriguing on a couple of levels,” says Bellantoni. “There’s the the discovery story, and how we excavated the remains from the tree root mat (ironically, on Halloween), and then there’s the forensic analyses of the skeletal remains and associated artifacts which tell us about the lives of the early settlers of the New Haven Colony, and health and disease in the late 1700s.”

The research team examined the biological and archaeological evidence using a multidisciplinary approach that combines the expertise of municipal historians and academic researchers. The research was supported by the Committee of the Proprietors of the Common and Undivided Lands of New Haven and the Yale University Department of Anthropology.

The New Haven Museum—which hosted apanel discussion unveiling the research team’s initial findings in 2013—received a donation of the contents of two time-capsules uprooted by the Lincoln Oak from the Committee of the Proprietors of the Common and Undivided Lands of New Haven. One of the capsules, buried on the Green in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, included a grapeshot cannon ball and a musket ball taken from the battlefield at Gettysburg.

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