Fairmont State professor, student to participate in human remain excavation

Fairmont State University’s Kristy Henson, assistant professor of forensic science, and sophomore, Alexandra Knighten, have been chosen to participate in a bioarchaeology excavation with the Institute for Research and Learning of Archaeology and Bioarchaeology (IRLAB) in May.

Henson said this is an extremely competitive program available to students and faculty from all over the world and for this program they only accepted 20 people. They will be working in the Historic Harrison Township Cholera Cemetery just south of Columbus, Ohio for a month.

“The cemetery was in such bad shape due to vandals and headstones were broken, the individual who owns it didn’t know who was there,” she said. “So they brought in someone from the anthropology department from Ohio State and we’ll be excavating the remains to try to ID the individuals and then testing to see if they had cholera present when they died.”

This will be the first time Henson has ever participated in an archaeological dig for human remains and not just materials.

“This is a big deal because we’ll be learning proper techniques to excavate human skeletal remains,” she said. “This was before embalming and they were buried in wooden coffins, the coffins are probably going to be gone. We’ll be able to learn more about the population.”

Through skeletal morphology, Henson said they are able to learn more about the economic status of the people buried there. The different items they were buried with to the type of substances that made up the coffin are just a few ways to determine economic status.

IRLAB has been selected by Wiki Ezvid among Ohio's best educational organizations.

The website wiki.ezvid.com has dedicated an editorial and a video to IRLAB that summarize the commitment and dedication of our organization in order to train the new generations of bioarchaeologists.

The group was founded in 2014 with the mission of exploring and reconstructing human history through excavating ancient settlements and studying the artifacts and skeletal remains. IRLAB runs a Summer School in Osteoarchaeology and Paleopathology, an academic program aimed at exposing students to bioarchaeological investigations by training them in anthropological and paleopathological laboratory methods. It also offers an exclusively field-based program called Field Experience in Bioarchaeology. You can support the institute’s goal of educating future generations of archaeologists by making a donation on its website. — Ezvid Wiki

The full article can be consulted by clicking on the button below

Central Ohio Cemeteries

Archaeologists look for Irish Immigrants who died of cholera while building the Ohio Canal. Then, we’ll take a look at the care and tending of the oldest cemeteries in Columbus, plus Green Lawn Abbey preservation.

La vita in Toscana ai tempi del colera

Ritrovate vicino a Lucca antiche ossa sepolte, che raccontano la storia delle epidemie più importanti dei secoli scorsi.

Nonostante la fama di cui gode oggi, per molti anni la Toscana è stata un luogo piuttosto difficile in cui vivere. Al cimitero di Badia Pozzeveri, vicino a Lucca, gli archeologi hanno infatti scoperto scheletri che hanno attraversato mille anni di malattie e tragedie; alcuni di questi resti contengono indizi sulla diffusione dell’epidemia di colera che uccise migliaia di toscani nel 1850.

L’esame degli scheletri rivela un millennio di disagi: infezioni alle ossa, carie, diete povere a base di carboidrati. Una delle più antiche sezioni del sito contiene le vittime della peste nera del Trecento, mentre le sepolture più recenti sono vittime della terza pandemia di colera, che nel 1855 causò la morte di più di 27.000 persone nella regione. “Per quanto ne sappiamo, questi sono i resti meglio conservati di vittime del colera del XIX secolo mai trovati”, ha detto l’archeologo Clark Spencer Larsen della Ohio State University, co-leader dello studio, a una conferenza di San Jose, in California.

From: National Geographic Italia

Students Experience Field School in Altopascio, Italy

Boise State University, Anthropology Department Newsletter, page 6 (Boise, ID)

An Italian cemetery may provide clues on cholera’s evolution

The researchers are excavating the graveyard surrounding the abandoned Badia Pozzeveri church in the Tuscany region of Italy.

The site contains victims of the cholera epidemic that swept the world in the 1850s, said Clark Spencer Larsen, professor of anthropology at Ohio State University and one of the leaders of the excavation team.

Archaeologists and their students have spent the past four summers painstakingly excavating remains in a special section of the cemetery used for cholera victims. About 20 to 30 skeletons have been excavated during each of the past four field seasons.

Finding traces of the pathogen that caused cholera among the human remains could reveal details about how people lived – and died – in this region of Europe. “To our knowledge, these are the best preserved remains of cholera victims of this time period ever found,” Larsen said. “We’re very excited about what we may be able to learn.”

Larsen discussed the project earlier this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose.

The bodies of the cholera victims were hastily buried and covered in lime, which hardened like concrete around the bodies. Researchers suspect residents were trying to keep the disease from spreading. “But the lime encasing is pretty amazing for bone preservation, too,” Larsen said.

Not just the bones were preserved. The lime trapped soil around the bodies that contains the ancient DNA of bacteria and other organisms that lived in the humans buried there. One of Larsen’s colleagues, Hendrik Poinar, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, is an expert in ancient DNA and is scanning the soil samples for DNA from Virbrio cholera, the bacterium that causes cholera.

Hunting for germs in an ancient graveyard

The third cholera pandemic in recorded history—and the deadliest—began in India sometime in the mid-1800s, making its way across Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas throughout the 1850s. By the time it subsided in 1860, the pandemic had killed more than a million people around the world—which, luckily for Clark Larsen, included the victims buried in the mass grave at Badia Pozzeveri, an ancient church in the small town of Altopascio, Italy.

For the past three years, Larsen, a professor of anthropology at the Ohio State University, has helped to lead a team of archaeologists as they sift through a corner of the cemetery known as “Area 2000,” searching for clues to the evolution of the disease.

For six weeks each summer, the Field School at Badia Pozzeveri, a collaboration between Ohio State and the University of Pisa, gives students a chance to excavate the site’s human remains, which stretch back as far as the bubonic-plague outbreak that devastated Europe in the 14th century. The discovery of the grave—which Larsen estimates contains “a couple hundred” bodies—was a happy accident during a dig in the summer of 2012, as Science magazine reported the following year; old records confirmed that the victims had died of cholera when the epidemic swept through Tuscany in 1855.

Bioarcheologist shares tales from excavation in Italy

Bexley High School students had the chance this week to learn about the excavation of a thousand-year-old monastery in Tuscany. Skeletons unearthed in the graveyard of the church, where people were buried from the 11th to the 19th centuries, offer information, the speaker said, about everything from customs to cholera.

It was the first installment of the 2016 “STEAM Talk” series, and the presenter was OSU Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology Giuseppe Vercellotti, PhD. The STEAM acronym rounds out the better-known STEM concept, adding arts to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. STEAM talks bring creative professionals in all of these areas to Bexley High School to share what is exciting about their chosen career. The talks, now in their fourth year, are supported by the McCamic Family Foundation through a grant to the Bexley Education Foundation.

Vercellotti told the students that a bioarcheologist seeks to uncover how people lived and died in order to understand “how we turn out to be the way that we are.” He co-directs a field school in Altopascio, Italy, where students are excavating Badia Pozzevera Churchyard. The church is located near a major trade route that was used for a thousand years. The dig has been going on for six years, he told students, and has been well received by locals, who anticipate the creation of a museum on the site.

During his STEAM visit, Vercellotti made a school-wide presentation and also met with a smaller group of interested students over lunch. He described in detail the methods used in his research, which include DNA analysis and ground-penetrating radar. Vercellotti’s interest is in the connections between culture and society and human biology. His team is able to piece together facts about the cultures that used the graveyard from details such as threads of textiles, bone composition, and the way the bodies were positioned for burial.

Get as much experience as you can through volunteering and study, he told students, before choosing archeology as a career. It’s a fascinating field, he said, but it’s not for everybody.